Headshot of Makani Themba in black jacket over red shirt in front of brick wall

Chief Strategist at Higher Ground Change Strategies

Makani Themba

Makani Themba is Chief Strategist at Higher Ground Change Strategies based in Jackson, Mississippi. A social justice innovator and pioneer in the field of change communications and narrative strategy, she has spent more than 30 years supporting organizations, coalitions, and philanthropic institutions in developing high-impact change initiatives. Higher Ground Change Strategies provides her the opportunity to bring her strong sense of history, social justice and organizing knowledge, and strategic know-how in support of change makers seeking to take their work to the next level. Higher Ground helps partners integrate authentic engagement, systems analysis, change communications, and more for powerful, vision-based change. 

Previously, Makani served as the founder and executive director of The Praxis Project, a national intermediary dedicated to building movement infrastructure and capacity in communities of color to advance health justice. Under her leadership, The Praxis Project raised more than $20 million for advocacy organizations working in communities of color and provided training and technical assistance to hundreds of organizations and public agencies nationwide. These initiatives include Communities Creating Healthy Environments (C-CHE), an initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to support policy advocacy to advance food and recreation justice in communities of color; Building Capacity Building Power, a partnership with Ford Foundation to support grassroots civic engagement; and Policy Advocacy on Tobacco and Health (PATH).

Her publications have helped set the standard for policy advocacy work and contributed significantly to the field of public health’s current emphasis on racial justice, equity, and media and policy advocacy to address root causes of health problems. Today, her work focuses on applying the lessons and breakthroughs of the past, and emergent practice in the present, to inform how we imagine and forge a transformative future. 

Makani has published numerous articles and case studies on race, class, media, policy advocacy, and public health. She is co-author of Media Advocacy and Public Health: Power for Prevention, a contributor to the volumes We the Media, and State of the Race: Creating Our 21st Century, along with many other edited book projects. Makani was chosen as one of “Ten Black Thinkers” asked to comment on Black conditions as part of the NAACP Crisis magazine’s 60th anniversary commemoration of the landmark article What the Negro Wants. She is author of Making Policy, Making Change, and she has also co-authored with Hunter Cutting Talking the Walk: Communications Guide for Racial Justice and Fair Game: A Strategy Guide for Racial Justice Communications in the Obama Era (under The Praxis Project).