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Martha McCoy

Executive Director

Headshot of Martha McCoyMartha McCoy, executive director of Everyday Democracy, has made important contributions to the fields of deliberative democracy, community problem solving, and racial justice. One of her greatest passions is to create close links among these fields. Her early life experiences doing community work in the rural South and in inner cities fueled her conviction that progress in all three fields is crucial to strengthening democracy in the United States.

McCoy began at Everyday Democracy in 1991, becoming its director in 1995. She helped take it from a small, start-up organization to its current strength, with 13 full-time staff members, associates across the country, and a network of hundreds of communities. Under McCoy’s leadership, Everyday Democracy has become respected as a national organization that excels in helping local communities build their own capacity to organize large-scale, diverse dialogue for problem solving. Much of McCoy’s energies are dedicated to guiding the strategic direction of the organization. Under her direction, Everyday Democracy is at the leading edge of connecting public dialogue to collective action and democratic governance, and of keeping race and inclusion at the forefront of practices to strengthen democracy.

McCoy and Everyday Democracy have won a number of awards. In June 1996, McCoy was awarded the YWCA of the U.S.A. Racial Justice Award for Civil/Human Rights. In 1997, the Los Angeles City Council recognized her and the center for assisting in the city’s ongoing dialogue efforts to build working relationships among the city’s many diverse cultures. Also in 1997, the center received the first Making Democratic Work Award from the League of Women Voters of Oklahoma, for a statewide study circle program on criminal justice that led to groundbreaking legislation. In 1998, McCoy and the organization were invited to work with President Clinton’s Initiative on Race, which named dialogue to change programs as one of the top four “best practices” in race dialogue.

McCoy has delivered speeches to many national and regional organizations on topics of civic engagement, leadership, diversity, democracy, racism, and education reform. McCoy has also served as the keynote speaker at many local civic events, including study circle program kickoffs and action forums. 

She has written extensively about community problem solving in national trade publications such as the National Civic Review; Principal Leadership; Public Art Review; Dispute Resolution Magazine, and has contributed to books such as The Deliberative Democracy Handbook; Intergroup Dialogue: Deliberative Democracy in School College, Community, and Workplace,and Governing Diverse Communities.

McCoy in 2004 was named president of The Paul J. Aicher Foundation, formerly known as the Topsfield Foundation. She serves on the advisory committee of the Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity, the executive committee for the Deliberative Democracy Consortium, the board of the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation, the national advisory board of the Center for Community Trustbuilding, the steering committee for the Campaign for a Stronger Democracy, and the racial justice advisory board for the YWCA of Greater Hartford. She is an advisory editor for the National Civic Review

McCoy’s academic background is in political science, with her master’s degree and doctoral work (A.B.D., University of Connecticut) in the fields of political theory and methods, international relations, and comparative politics.

Dialogue to Change

Our ultimate goal is to create positive community change that includes everyone, and we believe that our tools, advice, and resources will help foster that kind of change. Whether you’re grappling with a divisive community issue, or simply want to include residents’ voices in city government, Everyday Democracy's Dialogue to Change process, using a racial equity lens, can help.