Past Speakers

At SPA, we believe in inspiration.


James carras

James Carras is a member of the faculty at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of
Government and Graduate School of Design as well as Tufts University’s Department of Urban
Policy and Planning. He has been consulting with mission-driven organizations and government
agencies as well as financial institutions and developers for the past 30 years. James and his
consulting firm, Carras Community Investment, Inc., has facilitated the creation and capitalization of over fifty community development corporations (CDCs), development financial institutions (CDFIs) and public private partnership initiatives. He is the author of numerous affordable housing and equity studies and revitalization plans and has served as the Founding Executive Director of the National Association of Affordable Housing Lenders, the Founding President of the Broward Housing Partnership and the South Florida Community Land Trust. Prior to establishing his consulting business, he served as a Community Development Advisor to the Mayor of Boston and was the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Urban Reinvestment Advisory Group where he was awarded the John Hay Whitney Fellowship. Mr. Carras is recognized as a national development finance expert with a particular focus on New Markets Tax Credits, CDFI Fund, Opportunity Zones, the Community Development Financial Institution Fund and the Community Reinvestment Act.


Andy Burness

Andy Burness is founder and president of Burness, a mission-driven global communications firm supporting nonprofits and the people they serve. The company has partnered with more than 500 nonprofit and governmental organizations over its 30 years. Andy and his colleagues showcase solutions to the problems that cause poverty, hunger, disease and environmental degradation, often taking little-known ideas that can benefit humanity and developing strategies and tactics for taking these ideas to scale.His company has been named four times by Washington-area media as one of the best places to work in the region Andy is also Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, teaching “Strategic Communications for Policy Change: Practice Strategies for Influencing a Better World.”  He is also an Associate at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in the Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health. In 2014, Andy was selected as a Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center Resident Fellow, joining 15 other policymakers, nonprofit leaders, artists and public advocates from around the world.

Jason Furman.jpg

Jason Furman

Jason Furman is Professor of the Practice of Economic Policy at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS). He is also nonresident senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. This followed eight years as a top economic adviser to President Obama, including serving as the 28th Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers from August 2013 to January 2017, acting as both President Obama’s chief economist and a member of the cabinet. During this time Furman played a major role in most of the major economic policies of the Obama Administration. Previously Furman held a variety of posts in public policy and research. In public policy, Furman worked at both the Council of Economic Advisers and National Economic Council during the Clinton administration and also at the World Bank. In research, Furman was a Director of the Hamilton Project and Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution and also has served in visiting positions at various universities, including NYU’s Wagner Graduate School of Public Policy. Furman has conducted research in a wide range of areas, including fiscal policy, tax policy, health economics, Social Security, technology policy, and domestic and international macroeconomics. In addition to articles in scholarly journals and periodicals, Furman is the editor of two books on economic policy. Furman holds a Ph.D. in economics from Harvard University.


Dana chisnell

Dana is a pioneer and thought leader in civic design,  bringing deep experience to that space. After working with banks, insurance companies, and tech companies for decades to help them improve experiences for their customers and workers, Dana takes that knowledge to the government space.

She started with research at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) into the use of language in instructions on ballots (with Ginny Redish), and work on standards and testing for poll worker documentation for the Voluntary Voting System Guidelines (VVSG). She has applied this work in dozens of states, and even advised election commissions in other countries.

She teaches design in government at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government in the masters level Democracy, Politics and Institutions program. She also teaches with Whitney Quesenbery a course on design in elections that is part of the Election Academy at the University of Minnesota – the first university program to professionalize election administration.


Charles Glick

Charles Glick is the Founder and Principal of Charles Group Consulting. Charles has twenty years of experience in lobbying, policy analysis, political and media campaigns, and coalition and relationship building. He has successfully negotiated and lobbied on some of the most complex and controversial issues facing Massachusetts. During his time at CGC, Charles has spearheaded a number of successful legislative campaigns, some of which include comprehensive reform of bilingual education; passage of the state’s first genetic privacy law; preservation of the prohibition on for-profit adoption; passage of a requirement that employees receive treble damages for wage violations; a change in law recognizing physician assistants as primary care providers; a change in law granting dental hygienists the right to practice in public health settings without the supervision of a dentist; protection of housing co-ops in Massachusetts; procurement of professional licensures for both genetic counselors and behavioral analysts in Massachusetts; and passage of legislation requiring Massachusetts to divest from foreign companies doing business with Iran, while also successfully securing millions in state funding for various clients.Charles holds a B.A. in Political Science from UCLA, a Master of Public Policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, and a Master of Communal Service from Brandeis University.