team hearken

If engagement was a heist, this team would be Ocean’s 11.
— Kristen Muller, Chief Content Officer, KPCC

All of our engagement strategists can help you build out a successful public-powered project. If you’re looking for additional expertise in designing an event, developing a newsletter campaign, operationalizing engagement, monetizing engagement (Hearken-powered or not) we have brilliant staff who can coach and support those efforts. See the specific subject matter expertise of our staff below by clicking into their bios, and let us know how we can help!

Hearken is building a team of top tier talent from across the globe that should make any newsroom (or business) jealous.
— Jessica Strelitz, Head of Partnerships, Online News Association


Hearken helps keep its books up thanks to Afable Consulting

Hearken improves its culture and teamwork with Malii Carolyn from Engage Between

Hearken is represented by the "there's no such thing as a dumb question" counsel of Darren Green


Hearken's roots began with WBEZ's Curious City, which Hearken Co-founder and CEO Jennifer Brandel founded as part of AIR's innovative Localore initiative in 2012.  Curious City was made possible by AIRWBEZ Chicago and with seed funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Additional funding for Curious City came from The Knight FoundationThe McCormick Foundation, and the Doris and Howard Conant Fund for Journalism. (Huge thanks go out to Torey Malatia for believing that the public had the right to play a role in journalism beyond consuming it, or having it happen to them. And for giving Brandel the opportunity to test her thesis at WBEZ.)

Hearken got its start with support from The New Enterprise Fund for StoryMakers from AIRWBEZ Chicago and Matter. Hearken is also funded by New Media Ventures.

Our business model is simple: media companies pay us for our consulting and technology. We help our partners better design and execute successful strategies to better connect with the public. Unlike other many other engagement companies, we do not sell or profit off of the data our customers collect or advertising.



  • Serving the public’s curiosity

  • Sound, fact-based reporting principles

  • Accountability and responsiveness to the public

  • Transparency with one’s audience about financial support

  • Transparency with one’s audience about one’s mission and ethical guidelines

  • Information created and delivered according to your community’s stated information needs


  • Organizations who see their role (or are transforming toward seeing their role) as one of serving a community’s self-identified needs.

  • Organizations committed to building trusting and loyal relationships with their audience, through the creation of content in response to audience members’ identified information needs.


  • Any organization that advocates or enables the advocation of (including by providing a platform to those who do) bigotry, violence, or hatred. This includes prejudice based on race, religion, ethnicity, sex, gender identity, sexual preference, reproductive choices, age, military status, citizenship, ability or impairment.

  • Any organization that is in conflict with facilitating an informed and empowered citizenry; increasing divisions in society, decreasing civic and community involvement; and contributing to a lack of trust in relationships.

Hearken is a founding member of Civic Exchange Chicago, a co-working space and learning community centered on how news, information and technology can increase democracy and freedom.

We share our office and collaborate with awesome news, information and tech organizations Block Club ChicagoBrightHiveThe Center for Technology and Civic LifeChalkbeat ChicagoCHANGE IllinoisDataMade and mRelief.