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About Our Team

designing innovative community engagement
Tim Dawson

Tim Dawson

A writer, theater artist, and scholar, Tim collaborates with residents of diverse communities to design creative strategies for informed and inclusive public engagement. He has worked with the Kingsley Association, the League of Women Voters, the Pittsburgh Human Rights City Alliance, the Urban Green Growth Collaborative, and public television station WQED to organize deliberative community forums on charged topics such as gun violence, natural gas drilling, and strategies to improve equity and inclusion in the Pittsburgh region.  Since 2014, he has worked with the City of Pittsburgh to facilitate deliberative forums to involve and engage diverse residents on various topics, including selecting a new Chief of Police, revising the City’s climate action plan, and setting priorities for the City’s capital budget. Tim has been honored to share his hard-won practical wisdom by contributing to task forces, including those convened to develop the City of Pittsburgh’s Public Engagement Strategy and the Center for High Impact Philanthropy’s “We the People: A Toolkit for Strengthening Democracy”. He also regularly serves as a judge for the Coro Center for Civic Leadership and Public Allies annual fellows selection days.

A lifelong resident of Pittsburgh, Tim formerly worked as a program manager at Carnegie Mellon University’s Program for Deliberative Democracy. There, he helped develop Deliberative Theater as an innovative public engagement strategy, and he helped facilitate deliberative forums at fifteen university campuses across the United Sates, statewide forums in Pennsylvania and Maryland, regional forums in Allegheny County, and neighborhood-level forums throughout the Pittsburgh region. Tim earned a PhD from Carnegie Mellon University’s Rhetoric program, where his research focused on developing practical strategies that helped people engage their differences as a resource for civic innovation. 

Selena Schmidt

Selena Schmidt

Co-founder, Social Innovator
Social, civic and private sector entrepreneur, Selena Schmidt is known for leading organizations and spearheading initiatives to solve complex community problems. Her work built cross sector partnerships nationally and internationally as CEO of Common Impact and The Power of 32, Pittsburgh City Council President Chief of Staff, National Engagement Lead for PBS KIDS, and Leadership Development Director for the Coro Center for Civic Leadership. Upon returning to her hometown, Selena co-founded the Pittsburgh New Leaders Council Institute and was tapped to join the founding boards of the Latino Family Center and Collaborative Leaders Fellowship.

Committed to equity, inclusion, and public service, Selena served as Harvard Innovation Lab Social Innovation Coach for women founders and on boards including: Strong Women Strong Girls, Coro National Strategic Advisory Committee, Social Venture Partners, National Association of Women Business Owners PAC Board, Global Pittsburgh and El Sistema Pittsburgh. Selena is proud she was on the team that elected the first African American woman to Allegheny County office.

Alum of Chatham University and Women’s Campaign School at Yale, Selena was honored by appointments to the Mayor of Pittsburgh Consortium on Early Childhood Education, City of Pittsburgh’s Ethics Task Force, Buhl Foundation Northside Education Strategy Team, and the Allegheny County Executive Transportation Visioning Team. She has been recognized as one of Pittsburgh’s 40 Under 40, Woman of Achievement in Government, National Association of Women in Business Public Policy Advocate of the Year, and National Forensics League Alumni of the Year. Selena is currently Executive Director at Coro  Pittsburgh. 

Michael Arnold Mages

Michael Arnold Mages

Co-founder, designer
Bridging gaps between theoretical, creative, and business practice, Michael has led development of numerous successful design projects as the founder and Principal of Think Make Do, a research-based design consultancy. Clients have included: Oracle Systems, StorageTek, Seagate, Liz Claiborne, Denver Botanic Gardens, and NIIT Enterprises in Bangalore, India. Some of Michael’s past projects have included Systems Design and Branding for Case Logic, a Design Systems Audit and redesign for the Denver Regional Transportation District, and an extensive Experience Audit and redesign of all customer-facing business processes for the Denver District Attorney’s office.

For 10 years, Michael taught design research-based approaches to students at the University of Colorado-Boulder and -Denver, the University of Denver, and the Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design. Michael’s work has been exhibited at ACM SIGGRAPH, in galleries in France, the Netherlands and the United States. His work is part of the permanent collection of the New Museum in New York. Michael is co-founder of -empyre-, a web-based discussion group for Media Arts Practice, in collaboration with the University of New South Wales, Australia and Cornell University, NY, USA. Michael earned his PhD at the School of Design at Carnegie Mellon University, where his research focused on designing software, environments and objects that support high-stakes conversations.  He is currently Assistant Professor at Northeastern University College of Arts, Media and Design. 

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