Jennifer Brandel

CEO and Co-founder of Hearken, Award-Winning Journalist, Serial Entrepreneur, Innovator

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Jennifer Brandel is an award-winning journalist, founder and organizer whose work spans journalism, civic engagement, democracy, and entrepreneurship. She’s a dynamic, sought-after keynote speaker and workshop facilitator. The process innovations she’s created have spread globally, inspiring new practices, new units in organizations and even new organizations.

Brandel began her career in journalism reporting for outlets including NPR, CBC, WBEZ, The New York Times and Vice, picking up awards along the way. After launching the most successful experimental news series in WBEZ Chicago’s history, she founded Hearken in 2015, which helps institutions better listen and respond to their stakeholders.

Hearken took home the prize for "Best Bootstrap Company" at SXSW and won the News Media Alliance Accelerator. Brandel is a recipient of the Media Changemaker Prize by the Center for Collaborative Journalism.

In 2020 & 2022 she turned her attention to journalism’s role and relationship with democracy, launching the groundbreaking collaborative called Election SOS, and furthered the journalism systems change work through creating the Democracy SOS fellowship program.

She is a Columbia Sulzberger Fellow, RSA fellow, member of the Guild of Future Architects, and was named one of 30 World-Changing Women in Conscious Business. In her hometown, Brandel co-founded Civic Exchange Chicago which brings together civic startups in a collaborative learning community.

Brandel is also co-founder of Zebra’s Unite, a global movement and network of entrepreneurs, funders, investors, and allies creating a more ethical, inclusive and collaborative ecosystem for mission-based startups.

She’s been a voice and character actor for stories on This American Life, Wiretap, and Love + Radio. For fun, she co-founded Dance Dance Party Party, a worldwide women’s only freestyle dance gathering.

Her career has included grape-picking in Tasmania, ghost-writing for the late film director John Hughes, and traveling around the country interviewing Baha’i communities for the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States.

Brandel holds a BA in Art History and certificate in Integrated Liberal Studies from University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a certificate from Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism, and studied at the Université de Montréal and University of Melbourne, Australia.

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Healing Systems

From Transactions to Relationships: Optimizing Trust and Revenue through Engagement

The Radical Acts of Asking and Listening

Zebras Make Resistance Dazzling (Workshop)

A Corner Office of One’s Own (Workshop)

Let’s Rethink Funding Models for Companies and Startups Alike (Workshop)

TRAILER: People-Powered Journalism by Hearken CEO Jennifer Brandel
Hearken's Jennifer Brandel speaks at Digital Innovators' Summit 2017
Jennifer Brandel presents Hearken
Jennifer Brandel: The Radical Acts of Asking and Listening
Newsgeist 2016 Ignite Talk by Jennifer Brandel


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“She’s the Nikola Tesla of journalism.”

Kristen Muller, Chief Content Officer

“We are so happy with the success of Brandel’s consulting and workshops. All of our participants expressed great satisfaction, both with the interaction and with the lively presentation. Brandel’s methodologies represent how news organizations are obliged to change in the coming years.”

Per C. Magnus, Director of The Center for Investigative Journalism
University of Bergen, Norway

“Zebras Unite founders @JenniferBrandel & @marazepeda blew our minds!”

Techfestival Copenhagen