Our Mission

Inform the public about important city policy, budget and operating issues and associated decision-making processes. This will promote transparency in city government and better communication between policy makers and the public.

Inspire more people to participate in public policy and budget decision-making, creating new models of communication and engagement to foster positive and productive dialogue.

Influence the ideas and decisions that can take our city forward and make a Better Providence.

About Us

The Need: Well-informed and broad public participation in Providence’s governing process and civic life is needed now more than ever, as hard economic times force lawmakers to make tough budget decisions, challenging government and citizens alike to hone our priorities for our city.

The Solution: BetterProvidence was formed as a non-partisan, nonprofit grassroots initiative to raise public awareness about important city policy issues and promote greater public participation in our city’s governing process and civic life.

Our Vision:A city with broad civic engagement, where Providence residents have shifted their view of themselves from customers of government to active participants in, and partners with, government, making Providence a standout model of participatory democracy in action.

Three Initiatives for 2011:

  1. Open the Government: BetterProvidence will work with the Taveras administration and City Council to create a more open and transparent city government, and help residents learn to navigate city agencies and processes. We will create new mechanisms of information sharing through website, blogs, social media, and streaming video coverage of meetings.
  2. Lively Experiment Campaign: BetterProvidence will bring together government representatives, policy experts and the public for productive conversations and lively debates via public forums and online chats, open meetings, participatory budgeting exercises, and public comment at hearings. Topics include education reform, tax policy, and budget priorities and process.
  3. City Charter Review Campaign: BetterProvidence will examine the City’s “operations manual” in anticipation of the approaching 2012 Charter Review. Reviews happen only once every ten years and this is an enormous opportunity to enact positive changes in the way we run City government for decades to come.

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Lorne A. Adrain, Co-Founder, Chairman

Lorne Adrain, is Managing Director of Ballentine Partners, LLC, a national wealth advisory firm. Lorne is an avid adventurer, author of inspirational books, philanthropist and volunteer leader, who works to foster innovative approaches that merge the interests of business with benefits to society, as well as a sense of civic duty and responsibility to one’s neighbors. Lorne served as chairman of Special Olympics - Rhode Island, president of URI’s Alumni Association, and serves or served on the boards of The Rhode Island Foundation, Big Picture Learning, Business Innovation Factory, Harvard Business School Alumni Board and The Genesis Center. Lorne is the founder of National Neighborhood Day, a nationwide effort seeking to build neighborhood connections and to increase civic, social and service engagement. He also co-founded Social Venture Partners Rhode Island. He has received numerous awards including The Rhode Island Foundation’s Inspiring Partner Award; the Leadership Rhode Island David E. Sweet Leadership Award; the Jefferson Award for Public Service and Northwestern Mutual Life named him Most Exceptional Volunteer in the nation. In February, 2011, Governor Chafee appointed Lorne Adrain as Chairman of the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education. Lorne lives in Providence with his wife, novelist Ann Hood. They have four children – Ariane, Sam, Grace and Annabelle

Meredith Pearson, Co-Founder

Meredith has over 20 years experience working on a wide range of domestic and international policy issues. Most recently she worked with a major private consulting firm to develop their government accountability strategy. Previously, Meredith has worked on improving global child labor standards for the International Labour Organization (ILO), on challenges related to children, education and economic competitiveness in the Dominican Republic, on fundraising and organizational development strategies for a Boston-based home ownership non-profit, and on human rights and police reform issues in Central America and Mexico for the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA). She is the author of a number of reports and case studies dealing with questions of education, social enterprise, child labor standards, government accountability, privatization, and corporate-nonprofit partnerships. Meredith has a Master in Public Policy, with a focus on social enterprise and political and economic development, from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from Tufts University. Meredith lives in Providence with her husband Geoffrey Kirkman and their three young children.

Damian Ewens

Damian is the Director of High School Initiatives & The Hub at the Providence After School Alliance (PASA). The Hub is a citywide approach to building sustainable, high-quality out-of-school time opportunities for high school-aged youth. Damian previously worked at Big Picture Learning where he managed the development and communications strategies while working directly with the founders on all strategic initiatives. Damian's education career began in the classroom where he taught for 7 years in all grades from 6th through 12th. He holds an MA in Education from Stanford University and a BS in Economics from Santa Clara University. A native of Providence, Rhode Island, Damian is also an avid surfer, local DJ and events producer. He lives in Providence with his wife, photographer Stephanie Alvarez Ewens, and their daughter.

STAFF

Karina Holyoak Wood, Executive Director

Karina is an experienced community and campaigns organizer and communications professional. In 2010, she coordinated the Rhode Island is Ready campaign which played a key role in passing - for the first time in fifteen years - legislation establishing an equitable education funding formula for Rhode Island. A partner at Cutler & Company, a Providence-based communications design firm, she also served on Angel Taveras' Campaign Education Advisory Team and his Education Transition Team. Karina was Sponsorship Manager for the Providence Sound Session music festival in ’07 and ‘08. She was Providence Coordinator for the 2006 National Congress for the New Urbanism; Co-Chair of the Million Mom March (for gun safety) of RI, 2000-2006; and U.S. Organizer for the international Hague Appeal for Peace, Netherlands, 1999, the largest-ever international peace conference, attracting 10,000 participants. She was Campaign Manager for Cliff Wood’s successful campaign for Providence City Council in 2006. Karina serves on the boards of the East Side Public Education Coalition and the Vartan Gregorian Elementary School PTO. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Sheffield University in her native England, and a Master’s Degree in English Literature from Clark University, Massachusetts. Karina has lived in Providence for 14 years, and has two daughters ages 11 and 9 who attend Providence public schools.

FUNDERS

BetterProvidence's work is supported by the following Foundations and Major Donors:

The Rhode Island Foundation

The Randleigh Foundation Trust

The Dexter Donation Trust

Arnold B. and Johnnie Chace

Lorne Adrain Fund for Community Leadership

Patricia A. Fuller

The Hassenfeld Foundation

Susan and Saul Kaplan

Arthur S. Robbins, Robbins Properties
 

  • BetterProvidence promotes open government

  • December 31st, 2011 by BetterProvidence
  •  In 2011, BetterProvidence promoted and encouraged the City of Providence to take steps for increased government transparency, and to make it easier for citizens to access municipal information.

    To this end, we worked collaboratively with staff in the Mayor's office and the City Council, and with Common Cause of Rhode Island, to develop a set of initiatives and action steps to make government more open and accessible to Providence residents.

    As a result of this collaboration, the Mayor and the City Council recently passed a resolution to create a 15 member "Open Providence Commission for Transparency and Accountability."

    Read more...

  • BetterPvd in the news

  • September 27th, 2011 by BetterProvidence
  •  BetterProvidence executive director Karina Holyoak Wood was quoted in Providence Journal columnist Ed Fitzpatrick's September 27 column regarding the Providence School Department's decision to delay the start of school by 2 hours on September 26.

    WPRO radio's Buddy Cianci Show picked up the story from the newspaper and interviewed Karina on their afternoon show  that same day.

  • Criterion-Based Hiring Agreement between City and PTU

  • September 23rd, 2011 by BetterProvidence
  • You can read the full text of the Criterion-Based Hiring (CBH) Agreement, which is a partner document to the 2011-2014 proposed Teachers Contract, here .

    The CBH agreement sets the teacher hiring policy for the Providence School District.

    Teachers will be hired via an interview process, which replaces the former hiring by seniority policy.  However, the CBH Agreement provides loopholes to the interview hiring process, whereby, at certain specified times of the year, the interview hiring process is suspended and Providence teachers who are displaced / currently without a position can be "matched" into an open position by the Human Resources department of the Providence School District.

  • New Providence Teachers Contract

  • September 23rd, 2011 by BetterProvidence
  • Read the full text of the new proposed Contract between the Providence Teachers Union and the City of Providence.

    The new Providence Teachers Contract was approved by the membership of the Providence Teachers Union on August 9, and was approved by the Providence City Council Finance Committee on September 21, 2011.

    The Providence City Council Finance Committee held a public hearing on the contract on September 21, and subsequently voted to approve the contract by a unanimous vote.

    The City Council will meet on Tuesday, September 27 to take a vote of ratification on the contract.

  • BetterPVD in the news

  • September 22nd, 2011 by BetterProvidence
  •  Karina Wood, executive director of BetterProvidence, quoted in the Providence Journal's coverage of the Providence City Council's public hearing on the proposed new teachers contract.

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