Mary McKinley

Executive Director,
Heartland Democracy

Mary McKinley is executive director of Heartland Democracy, a nonprofit based in the Midwest that promotes deep civic engagement. For 10 years, Heartland has worked to develop sustainable community connections, weaving questions of identity and empowerment into an educational curriculum of exploration, discussion, and civic participation.

Since 2014, Heartland has been instrumental in the development of programs to counteract ISIL’s recruitment of young people from the Twin Cities—mainly young Somali-American men. Working with community leaders, educators, parents, youth, national and international experts, and law enforcement officials, McKinley has incorporated current research and nascent best practices into Heartland’s existing curriculum, finding ways to help Minnesotans address these complex issues. Heartland has been at the center of multiple cutting-edge efforts to address prevention, intervention, and rehabilitation.

Before joining Heartland, McKinley worked for the Open Society Institute in Budapest and Washington. She spent several years at the Aspen Institute working on foreign and defense policy programs, and was associate director of the Markle Foundation’s Task Force on National Security in the Information Age. Born, raised, and educated in the Midwest, McKinley lived in Eastern Europe, Washington, and New York before returning to Minneapolis with her family in 2010.