Andrea Batista Schlesinger
Andrea Batista Schlesinger designs strategies that make cities more inclusive and growth more equitable.
Andrea has dedicated her career to advancing economic equality and justice. As a former leader in government, think tanks, philanthropy and political campaigns, Andrea uniquely understands the capacity and role of government, advocacy, and philanthropy in making cities just and dynamic places. Since joining the firm in 2017, Andrea has taken on projects that grapple with some of the most pressing challenges to inclusive cities.
Andrea helps cities diagnose challenges and identify opportunities, translating the ideas of communities and their advocates into meaningful systems change:
- Led the team hired to assist the City of New York on a critically important organizational redesign of the New York City Department of Education’s Division of Early Childhood Education to improve childcare and Pre-K service delivery for New York City’s parents and children. Currently guiding the process of implementing new racial equity initiatives to advance equitable professional development opportunities for Division staff and equal access to quality care for diverse families and children.
- Assessed the potential impact of establishing a city-owned public bank in Seattle, WA in order to provide both better banking services to residents, including those who have been historically underserved by the banking industry, and capital for public priorities like affordable housing and infrastructure.
- Assessed the potential economic and community benefits of the Memphis Riverfront Concept, a plan for the city’s six-mile riverfront along the Mississippi River; developed an equity framework for the potential plan that uses the development of the park to serve all of Memphis’ residents in an equitable manner across the design, construction, operation, and programming of the renewed riverfront.
Andrea assesses, develops, and makes recommendations that address the obstacles to inclusion for the most vulnerable residents and communities:
- Led a feasibility analysis and developed an implementation strategy for the deployment of community resource centers, a model of neighborhood-based one-stop centers that offer holistic education, workforce, and other social services for justice-involved populations in Philadelphia, PA.
- Supported the city of Tulsa as strategy partner with the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities program, guiding the creation of Resilient Tulsa, an actionable roadmap to achieve a more equitable and resilient Tulsa, focused specifically on justice-involved communities.
- Oversaw the creation and implementation of workforce development initiatives in Colorado and Indiana that will support workers without four-year degrees (over 50% of the U.S. adult population) in accessing quality jobs and training.
- Working with Here 2 Here, a non-profit, to create the Bronx Private Industry Council, which would convene employers to develop and invest in the Bronx-based talent pipeline to close the gap between quality employment opportunities and young Bronx-based employees who historically have had limited access to quality jobs.
Andrea helps urban leaders advance their visions for just and inclusive cities:
- Supporting the historic transition plan for Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo – the first woman and first Latina to hold this position in the largest county in Texas. Providing strategic guidance on Judge Hidalgo’s first 100 Days policy agenda, which includes launching a “Talking Transition” campaign to engage the 4.6 million County residents in shaping Judge Hidalgo’s equity, transparency, and resilience platform.
- Designed and executed a pioneering mayoral exchange program to support Puerto Rico’s recovery after Hurricane Maria, pairing 27 Puerto Rican mayors with U.S. mainland mayors to facilitate the exchange of disaster recovery best practices. The program not only equipped Puerto Rico’s mayors with an unprecedented direct line to counterparts for advice, consultation, and sharing of technical expertise to address fiscal, economic, and rebuilding challenges; but also leveraged Exchange matches to establish visibility and urgency behind support for Puerto Rico on the U.S. mainland. The Exchange led to the formation of the Liga de Ciudades de Puerto Rico, a first-of-its-kind nonpartisan platform for mayoral collaboration, launched in November 2018. The Liga is designed to unite mayors in creating a community-focused strategy for Puerto Rico’s long-term reconstruction and beyond.
- Developed a comprehensive understanding of the ways that cities are incorporating racial equity into their governing for the United States Conference of Mayors.
Prior to joining HR&A, Andrea served as Deputy Director of the United States Program of the Open Society Foundations (OSF), George Soros’s global philanthropy, where she managed program operations and grant-making portfolios including investments to advance equitable economic development in Southern cities. Her projects included efforts to tackle state preemption of local laws, raise the minimum wage, improve the wages and working conditions of child care workers, and support progressive local elected officials throughout the country. While at OSF, Andrea also launched the innovative civic engagement initiative, “Talking Transition.” Working with local partners and HR&A Advisors as program manager, the New York City and Washington D.C. initiatives transformed the usual closed-door process between the mayoral election and inauguration into an opportunity for broad public engagement through public conversations about policy issues and their effect on communities.
Previously, Andrea served as a Special Advisor to New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. In this role she coordinated the Young Men’s Initiative, a comprehensive package of policy reform and programmatic initiatives designed to reduce the disparities challenging Black and Latino young males, which informed the development of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative. Andrea also served as Executive Director of the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, a think tank focused on increasing economic equality that was originally founded by an advisor to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Andrea began her career in public policy at age 16 as the Student Advisory Member on the New York City Board of Education, for which she was the subject of an award-winning documentary, “Hear Us Now.” She is the author of the book The Death of Why: The Decline of Questioning and the Future of Democracy (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2009).
Andrea received her Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy from the University of Chicago and holds Masters degrees in History from Columbia University and the London School of Economics, where she focused her studies on how global cities have constructed their responses to inequality during the latter half of the 20th century. Andrea also serves on the board of The Nation and the New York Women’s Foundation.