Engage. Better.


The Mannakee Circle Group is a virtual team of providers and thinkers, led by president Brad Rourke.

Brad Rourke, President

Rourke At SorensenBrad Rourke is a writer, consultant, and essayist based in Rockville, MD. He is a leader in understanding how public-facing organizations can engage better.

Rourke has been blogging about public life since before the term "blog" was invented, has designed and executed successful national and local engagement projects, consulted in online engagement initiatives, been tapped to develop strategy for organizations of all sizes, written a wide array of discussion materials, and is a sought-after speaker on civic engagement. He is an Associate of the Kettering Foundation and executive editor of its issue books library, the premier research organization on community engagement in the nation. His blog is read by thought leaders in the nonprofit and philanthropy sectors.

Rourke was a core member of the design team for the Washington Times Communities, an innovative social journalism effort at a top-20 media outlet that launched in November 2009, and oversaw the Public Good section, a section featuring authors writing on various aspects of public life.

Rourke is the founder of Rockville Central, a site he began in June 2007 to serve as a test bed for different methods of engaging the public. Rockville Central has become the second most-read local blog in Maryland. It is a key civic destination for people throughout Rockville. Political leaders routinely turn to Rockville Central to talk directly to citizens and discuss important issues facing the city. Community members regularly comment and take part in a wide-ranging, robust discussion. In February 2011, Rockville Central made international news by being among the first local news sites to move entirely to Facebook as a publishing platform.

He helped design and regularly participates as a lecturer in the bipartisan candidate training program of the University of Virginia's Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership.

Rourke was senior project manager and then director, external initiatives at The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation and vice president for public policy at the Institute for Global Ethics. He has served on the staffs of then-Controller of California Gray Davis and Congresswoman Jane Harman, and as deputy California campaign manager for the National Health Care Campaign.

Rourke has spoken at the National Press Club, the Brookings Institution and the Chautauqua Institution. He has written and co-written a number of articles and op-ed pieces, appearing in print publications such as The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, Foundation News and Commentary, Campaigns & Elections, and the Cleveland Plain Dealer. He contributed a chapter on the ethics of citizenship to Shades of Gray (Brookings Institution, 2002).

Rourke received his B.A. in comparative literature from U.C. Berkeley. He is listed in Who's Who in America. Rourke is a Los Angeles native who grew up in Detroit, went to school in Berkeley, met his wife in Los Angeles, moved to Maine, and now lives in Rockville, Maryland with his wife, Andrea Jarrell, and two children.

Partners And Collaborators

At the Mannakee Circle Group, we work with a range of collaborators, depending on the needs of the project and client:

John Creighton, Strategy and Project Design

jc_squareCreighton is a public leadership consultant based in Colorado. He is writer, speaker, and adviser to public leaders who are working to activate citizens to take action. Creighton is founder of Conocer and previously served as Director of The Harwood Institute, and as Vice President of The Harwood Group.

Creighton is a graduate of the University of Kansas and holds a Master's of Public Policy degree from Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. He lives in Longmont, Colorado with his wife Joni and three children.

Andrea Jarrell, Message Strategy and Development

aj_squareAndrea Jarrell is a higher education communications strategist. Her work marries an institution's distinctive story and marketing. Jarrell works with independent schools, colleges and universities on overall institutional messaging and student recruitment and capital campaign communications. She has worked with Bowdoin, Carnegie Mellon, Dickinson, Hotchkiss, Kenyon, NYU, Penn, Phillips Exeter, Swarthmore, Stanford, and Yale among other clients.

Jarrell holds a B.A. in British/American Literature from Scripps College and an M.F.A. in Writing and Literature from Bennington College. She is a graduate of the New York University Publishing Program and a recipient of a Martin Dibner Writing Fellowship.

Ellen Knutson, Project Management and Research

ellen1Ellen Knutson is a Chicago-based research associate of the Charles F. Kettering Foundation. She works with college and university faculty members who want to include elements of civic engagement in their teaching and research, and who want to encourage their students to become more civically engaged. She has also worked with community groups who want to use research to help them learn from their experiences and tell their story more effectively.

Ellen holds a PhD in library and information science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is the author of several book chapters including, “Libraries and Ecology in Post-Soviet Russia” in Advances in Library Administration and Organization: Culture, Context and History in the Post-Soviet World of Information Institutions, Resources and Practices, and co-authored with John Dedrick “Citizen Research: Lessons Learned and Community Applications” in Constructing and Sharing Memory: Community Informatics, Identity and Empowerment.

Lori Miller, Editing


Myriah Pahl, Research

myriahMyriah Pahl lives and keeps busy in Brooklyn, New York. She is a student in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at Hunter College. She works as a freelance researcher for numerous organizations focusing on issues of democracy, community building, and health care. She also is one of the owners of Big Tree Bottles, a boutique wine and spirits shop in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Myriah previously worked for Demos: A Network for Ideas and Action in their Democracy Program as well as Everyday Democracy in a number of capacities. She holds a BA from Eugene Lang College: The New School for Liberal Arts with a concentration in Religious Studies.