Person of Interest: Marshall Ganz

By Brigid Sweeney | Boston Magazine |

In 2007, when Barack Obama—a one-time community organizer of some renown—needed someone to help marshal volunteers for his fledgling presidential campaign, he called Marshall Ganz. Known for his work with the likes of César Chávez and Howard Dean, Ganz, a lecturer in public policy at Harvard, oversaw numerous "Camp Obama" retreats across the country, where volunteers learned how to move beyond the usual door-knocking to woo potential voters. Ganz is credited with helping Obama win the Iowa primary, a victory that set the candidate on his path to the White House.

At Harvard, where attendance for Ganz’s classes has tripled, he now offers a course, Public Narrative, based on the lessons of the campaign. And this fall he launches the Leading Change Project, which gives groups like the Sierra Club the same grassroots-based kick in the pants he delivered to the Obama organization. "This is the best shot we’ve had in 40 years to really strengthen our democracy," Ganz says. "The challenge is to make the most of it."

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