liz mckenna

Liz McKenna

Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School

Bloomberg Center for Cities


Liz McKenna, an assistant professor of public policy at HKS, is a political sociologist who studies the influence of civil society on democracy. Her research employs a range of methods, from ethnography to social network analysis, to examine the role of organizations, political power, and social movements in Brazil, the United States, and globally. Liz is a co-author of two books on democratic organizing (published by Oxford University Press and the University of Chicago Press) both of which examine how organizations cultivate constituency bases that successfully shift political power. Her dissertation on political terrain shifts in Brazil won the 2021 American Sociological Association’s Best Dissertation Award, and her work has been published in numerous outlets including Perspectives on Politics, International Sociology, the¬†Journal of Community Psychology, Social Science Research Council, and the¬†Washington Post.

Her research is supported by organizations like the Democracy and Power Innovation Fund, Fulbright, and the National Science Foundation. Before her academic career, Liz worked as a political and community organizer in Ohio and Rio de Janeiro. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in social studies from Harvard College and a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California, Berkeley.

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