Katie Orenstein

Ashoka Fellow
United States
Fellow Since 2016


This profile was prepared when Katie Orenstein was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2016.
The New Idea
Katie founded the OpEd Project to create a sea change in our public conversation by empowering a wave of new voices to join the important discourse of our age, take their equal place as narrators of the world, and then encourage and refer others to do the same—creating a multiplier effect that will alter the patterns of under-representation in media and other influential outlets. What began as an initiative to increase the number of women thought leaders in key commentary forums (such as the OpEd pages of major newspapers) has grown into a national movement dedicated to making our public conversation more inclusive and more intelligent.

They systems by which ideas flow into the world have historically been exclusive and narrow, perpetuating a culture whereby a small and demographically narrow group of people have a monopoly on voice. But today the massive media technology moment we live in is causing tectonic shifts beneath our feet and creating opportunities for a much wider range of voices to be heard. Through the OpEd Project, Katie hopes to ‘hijack the system’ and change the culture so that good ideas, regardless of where they originate, have a chance to be heard and ultimately to shape policy and social progress.

To do so, the OpEd Projects partners with universities, think tanks, foundations, nonprofits, corporations and community organizations across the nation, scouts and trains under-represented experts (especially women) to take thought leadership positions in their fields; connects them with an international network of high-level media mentors; and vets and channels the best new ideas and experts directly to media gatekeepers in all media platforms. The OpEd team offers customized multi-day and multi-week programs for organizations as well as day-long programs open to the public in major US cities. They also run yearlong fellowship programs for faculty and other influencers within key institutions – from Yale and Princeton to the Ford Foundation – who then become ambassadors for the work at the institutional level.

Ultimately Katie hopes to build, together with a network of collaborating institutions, an ‘open-source think tank’ that taps into and disseminates expertise and perspective across a wide range of ideas that matter via high leverage, high visibility channels.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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