Alexis Grenell, Co-founder of Pythia Public
“You really can’t be successful without the three pillars of politics, policy, and press, which is what we uniquely combine and bring them together. Oftentimes we figure out the problem we want to solve, we think about the solution, and we go find the client. It’s a backwards business model.”
Meet Alexis Grenell. Alexis is a co-founder of Pythia Public. A columnist for The Daily News. She is a ten-year veteran of New York City and State politics, working at the intersection of politics, policy, and press. Follow her on Twitter.
What Does She Do?
As the co-founder of Pythia Public with partner Evan Thies — Pythia is named for the High Priestess of the Oracle of Delphi, fellow Greek mythology nerds — Alexis frequently designs
and executes public affairs agendas for issue organizations, while sometimes working with candidates to help them get elected. Crafting a strategy for clients is at the core of Pythia’s
work. Its clients include organizations that fight for survivors of child sex abuse, immigration reform, electoral campaign finance reform, and criminal justice reform.
“You really can’t be successful without the three pillars of politics, policy, and press, which is what we uniquely combine and bring together. Oftentimes we figure out the problem we want to solve, we think about the solution, and we go find the client. It’s a backwards business model.”
What Project Is She Working On?
Alexis is passionate about seeing more women in public office. Last year she worked on Zephyr Teachout’s congressional run. While Alexis makes it clear that her connection to Zephyr was based on her policy platform, she could not be more determined to create the pipeline necessary for more women to succeed. Alexis believes that Jennifer Lawless’ research has been misconstrued to elevate a discussion around a perceived “confidence gap” among women, when in fact women are highly rational actors who decide to run based on a rational assessment of the obstacles.
“If you are registered to vote in New York City you need to look at who your district leaders are. You need to vote in your hyper-local elections and support women who are running at this really granular level. That will aid in the pipeline development so that they’re ultimately running for Congress and Senate.” Learning about, reading about, and considering voting for these candidates, she believes, “is probably more important than worrying about why there are not more women running for office.” (Pythia is currently working with Ama Dwimoh for Brooklyn District Attorney.)
How Did She Get Into This Work?
“I grew up in NYC. When I was in high school I would scan the Village Voice for the usual things — concerts, Dan Savage columns — but mostly for interesting meetings which were going on. I would go and I would sit with my notebook and I would kind of draw characters. I think that’s where I got the idea that politics was live-action theater. It was this fundamental expression of human drama and being able to participate in that performance of need, of emotion, of goal, of desires and wants. It was both thrilling and fascinating.”
“Ideas and the written word have always mattered very much to me. They are incredibly powerful tools to shape ideas in public discourse and make change.”
How Did She Come to Civic Hall?
Alex and her partner Evan joined Civic Hall in 2016. “I can’t remember how I first found out about it – but it aligned with the kind of people we are, and the way we conceive of our work.”
What is Her Ask of the Community?
Alexis is wistful that “[Civic Hall] is a factory of very good ideas. I wish we had an overflow room where could all go and look at it each other’s discarded materials.”
On a more pragmatic note, Alexis offers, “If you have an idea that requires a political or government piece to it, we can help you actualize it, or explain to you how to do that.” Folks who work in civic engagement, she has found, “can sometimes do their work disconnected from the target audience – or from the official machinations of that process – so that it’s not getting seen enough, or being integrated in a way that would capture a broader audience if they knew how to do that.” If you have an app, for example, which is about helping people code, consider connecting to the source of power. “There’s obviously huge power in connecting to your user population, but consider that there are official channels that might also be interested.”