photo: Evo Flash. CC BY-SA license (see about page for links)

About Us

Topos has as its mission to explore and ultimately change the landscape of public understanding where public interest issues play out.

When traditional tools aren’t enough

The Topos approach is designed to go beyond conventional research and strategy — which has often led advocates to a “plateau” of support that they can’t seem to get beyond — by taking into account the cognitive and cultural foundations of a public interest issue. Our unique and innovative approach to developing framing strategies synthesizes new methods adapted from the cognitive and social sciences with the more familiar methods and perspectives of public opinion research and communications practice, in a single process that leads to new insights, uncovers hidden directions, and provides advocates with new options for success.

The Topos Partnership has as its mission to explore and ultimately change the landscape of public understanding where public interest issues play out. Founded by Axel Aubrun and Joe Grady of Cultural Logic and Meg Bostrom of Public Knowledge, Topos was created to bring together the range of expertise needed to understand existing issue dynamics, explore possibilities for creating new issue understanding, develop a proven course of action, and arm advocates with new communications tools to win support.

For more resources outlining the Topos approach go to Resources.

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Axel Aubrun – Co-founder

Axel Aubrun, PhD, is a psychological anthropologist who focuses on long-term culture change. He has authored articles in publications ranging from the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute to Non-Profit Quarterly. Aubrun is a graduate of Amherst College, Oxford University, and the University of California, San Diego, where he spent a year lecturing in cultural anthropology before co-founding Topos.

Meg Bostrom – Co-founder

Meg Bostrom is a veteran communications strategist with a unique perspective resulting from her rich and varied experiences as communicator, public opinion analyst, advertising agency executive, and political consultant. As co-founder of the Topos Partnership, she has researched public opinion and analyzed communications strategies on a wide range of social issues.

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Joe Grady – Co-founder

Joseph Grady, PhD is a cognitive linguist whose academic research and publications have focused on the role of metaphor in thought and communication. Before founding Topos, Grady taught linguistics at Georgetown University and the University of Maryland, and also spent a number of years as a consultant helping to analyze and develop brand names. He received his PhD from the University of California at Berkeley.

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Andrew Brown – Research Director

Andrew Brown, PhD is a cultural anthropologist whose research has looked at the interaction between culture, rhetoric and public discourse. His work has included cross-cultural research in the US, Ireland and the former Soviet Union. He has taught at Colby College and the University College Cork and serves as Research Director.

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Asilia Franklin-Phipps – Analyst

Asilia Franklin-Phipps, PhD is a researcher studying the sociocultural and historical contexts of education and how future teachers learn about race and racism in and out of the classroom. Asilia received her doctorate in Critical Sociocultural Studies in Education from the University of Oregon where she has also taught courses in Education Studies.

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Diane Garbow – Analyst

Diane Garbow, PhD is a cultural anthropologist whose research examines Colombian and Latino immigration to the US, federal and local immigration policies, race and citizenship. She has taught courses in both Anthropology and Latin American Studies.

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Charles Lord – Analyst

Charles Lord, PhD began his academic training in cultural anthropology, exploring the interactions of culture and education in North Africa, and ultimately received his doctorate in Higher Education from the University of Michigan, based on ethnographic study of US community colleges.

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Stephanie Maez – Senior Fellow for Race and Ethnicity

Stephanie Maez brings more than 15 years of public policy, strategic communications, civic engagement, issue advocacy, campaign management, and non-profit management experience to the Topos team. A dynamic and thoughtful leader, Maez gained experience working in various capacities including with former New Mexico Governor Richardson’s administration and as the Chief Executive Officer for the Center for Civic Policy.

As a state legislator in New Mexico’s House of Representatives, Maez had the opportunity to sponsor and support a slate of innovative social justice policy proposals. Maez holds a Master’s Degree in Public Administration and a Bachelor of Arts in Communications and Political Science from the University of New Mexico.

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Faatimah Saarah Monawvil – Analyst

Faatimah Saarah Monawvil holds an MS in Global Affairs from New York University and has conducted fieldwork in Rwanda, Qatar, the UAE and Sri Lanka. She has advised on a range of global issues including helping Parliamentarians for Global Action in the launch of a 2016 campaign and working with Global Fishing Watch on campaigns for transparency and for the protection of our oceans.

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Michelle Munyikwa – Analyst

Michelle Munyikwa is an MD/PhD student in anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, where she studies the intersection of race, gender, and migration in the United States.

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Julia Offen – Analyst

Julia Offen has a PhD in cultural anthropology, an MA in Sociology and an MFA in English, and has conducted ethnographic research among circus performers in central Europe.

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Dianne Stewart – Senior Fellow

Dianne has created and led several nonprofit social and economic policy organizations and served on the founding board of several others. She was the founding Executive Director of the highly regarded Texas think tank, the Center for Public Policy Priorities. Since 2002, Dianne has been a client and close collaborator of Topos partners, helping to envision, fund and utilize their culture change research and recommendations. Dianne joins Topos Partnership in 2018, working with its leadership to maximize the company’s impact as it transforms its work and extends its capacity to meet the challenges of the current moment.

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Mariya Taher – Narrative Liaison

Mariya Taher, MSW, MFA, worked in the anti-gender violence field for ten years in the areas of research, policy, program development, and direct service. In 2015, she cofounded Sahiyo to empower Asian communities to end female genital cutting. She is a prolific writer whose articles have appeared on NPR, Ms. Magazine, Huffington Post, Brown Girl Magazine, Solstice Literary Magazine, The San Francisco Examiner, Cecile’s Writer’s Magazine, and more.

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Amy Tennant – Research Assistant

Amy is a research assistant and transcriber for Topos Partnership. She has a BFA in painting with experience in classical realism and mural painting. Her work history includes accounting, tech support and training for both nonprofit and corporate entities such as an open and inclusive church organization, a travel association dedicated to responsible tourism in the Pacific Asia region, and a major cruise line. She is interested in holistic health and healing and is a certified health coach.

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Greg Tennant – Filmmaker

Greg Tennant is an award-winning filmmaker and videographer whose work includes dramatic fiction, feature-length documentary, nonfiction television, and ethnographic research. He is a graduate of the USC School of Cinematic Arts and of the Department of Philosophy, Cosmology and Consciousness at the California Institute of Integral Studies.

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Sara Tomczuk – Analyst

Sara Tomczuk, PhD is a sociologist who studies interethnic relations and culture. She has conducted fieldwork on Roma-Majority relations in Slovakia and the Czech Republic and has been an instructor at University of Washington and North Seattle College.

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Remy Trupin – Senior Fellow

Remy Trupin is a creative, strategic and entrepreneurial leader with extensive policy advocacy experience.  Remy was the founding executive director of the Washington State Budget & Policy Center, an organization which he led and grew into a national model.  He brings strategic insight from working with organizations and coalitions developing and implementing legislative advocacy, communication and ballot campaigns. Remy volunteers board leadership and strategic advice to social service, civic and human rights organizations and is an American Marshall Memorial Fellow.

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Margy Waller – Senior Fellow

Margy Waller is a veteran policy advocate and communicator whose past work has included serving as Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution, Senior Advisor on domestic policy in the Clinton-Gore White House, Senior Fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute, and Director of Public Policy at United Way of America.  She joins Topos as a Senior Fellow and will use her expertise to help expand the reach and impact of our work.

Collaborating with the Topos team is an inspiration and a pleasure. Their creativity, versatility, and integrity would be assets to any communications or public engagement project. They consistently produce research findings that are both profoundly illuminating and genuinely useful. In fact, Meg, Joe, and Axel are among a small handful of innovators whose work is transforming the way progressive advocates approach messaging and movement-building challenges. They are also exceptionally generous, supportive colleagues – a joy to work with.
Priscilla Lewis
Director, the U.S. in the World project of Dēmos

Header photo credits