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Visionary Leader Taifa Smith Butler Named President of Demos

Georgia Budget and Policy Institute CEO Will Begin Tenure As Head of Think Tank in July 2021

New York, NY —Demos, a progressive think tank aimed at creating a just, inclusive multiracial democracy and economy, on Tuesday announced Georgia Budget and Policy Institute CEO Taifa Smith Butler will serve as the organization’s new president. Butler, a leader and advocate for racial equity and economic justice, has been a member of Demos’ Board of Trustees since 2017. She will succeed former president K. Sabeel Rahman, who in January transitioned into a senior role in the Biden administration.

“At this time of great change and great challenge in the country, I am elated to take on the role of president of Demos. As a movement-powered think tank, this organization is well-equipped to meet this moment with people-centered solutions that ultimately will change systems,” said Butler. “In the midst of calls for us to go back to normal, I will lead with the recognition that ‘normal’ never has worked for Black and brown Americans. Now is the time for Demos, a think tank in tireless pursuit of a more inclusive democracy where we all can thrive, to push this country forward, and it will be my great honor to serve as president while we do so.”

In nearly 10 years of work at GBPI, where she has served in the organization’s top role since 2015, Butler has advocated for economic opportunity for working families and children in Georgia. At GBPI, she launched People-Powered Prosperity, a proactive campaign that works to help Georgia leverage the economic power of its people, and grew the organization to a staff of 19 from a staff of nine. Under her leadership, GBPI became a model organization in the national State Priorities Partnership (SPP) network, where Butler serves as chair of the SPP steering committee. Prior to joining GBPI as deputy director in 2011, she served as the policy and communications director for the Georgia Family Connection Partnership, where she co-managed the Georgia KIDS COUNT project, a non-partisan effort to raise awareness of the issues that most affect the state’s children.

“Throughout her four years on Demos’ Board, Taifa Smith Butler has brought her policy expertise, vision for an America to reach its full potential, and passion for serving others to our team. She simply has one of the greatest minds and one of the biggest hearts in this field. Taifa knows in order to uproot systems perpetuating the oppression of Black and brown people, we have to keep an ear to the ground and our eyes on the movement. Taifa is the perfect leader for Demos at this time,” said Josh Fryday, chair of Demos’ Board of Trustees.

“Taifa Smith Butler is a remarkable leader who brings an essential combination of seasoned economic policy expertise and lived experience to her work,” said Trustee Emeritus and former Demos president Heather McGhee. “After years of facing roadblocks at the federal level, our country now is in a moment of extraordinary policy opportunity. In order to seize that moment, Demos will need sharp thinking grounded in sound policy analysis and a vibrant spirit connected to the movement. Taifa comes to this role with both, and I cannot wait to see how Demos evolves under her leadership.”

“Taifa Smith Butler is a visionary leader who brings tremendous experience to Demos,” said K. Sabeel Rahman, who served as president of Demos from 2018 through January 2021. “As a leader in public policy research and advocacy in Georgia, a fantastic partner and supporter of Demos on the Board, and as a friend and colleague in this work, she will bring so much to Demos and to the field as a whole. In this turning point moment for American democracy, Taifa’s voice and vision will be essential, and I’m so excited to see her lead Demos as a champion for an equitable and inclusive democracy.

A native of Philadelphia, Butler is a first-generation college graduate. She is an alumna of Mount Holyoke College and holds a master’s in public management and policy with a concentration in economic development and financial management from the Heinz School of Public Policy and Management at Carnegie Mellon University. Butler is a Class of 2017 Rockwood Leadership Institute “Leading from the Inside Out” Fellow, a member of the Leadership Georgia Class of 2016 and was a New Executive Fund fellow with the Open Society Foundation in 2015.

Butler will begin her work as president of Demos in July 2021.


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