Steven Olikara has been named as president of Bridge Entertainment Labs, a downtown nonprofit organization whose stated mission is bringing Americans together through storytelling.
Olikara brings two decades of experience in media, political and nonprofit leadership roles to the organization as it launches a suite of new programs this fall.
Olikara has been involved with nonprofits previously as the founder of the Millennial Action Project, the largest nonpartisan organization of young legislators in the country. He ran for the U.S. Senate from his home state of Wisconsin last year and is a speaker and on-air political commentator with the Washington Speaker’s Bureau.
No stranger to working with entertainment leaders, he has advised two multiplatinum recording artists, including Akon’s Lighting Africa initiative, which electrified more than 1 million homes in Africa with solar power. Olikara also hosted the Meeting in Middle America podcast, featuring guests such as Oscar-winning screenwriter John Ridley, former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold and Emmy-winning comedian Charlie Berens.
Ann Reidy, director of strategic initiatives with Civic Health Project, the Palo Alto-based funding organization that incubated Bridge Entertainment Labs, said that the entertainment industry needs a “center of gravity” like Bridge Entertainment Labs, adding that Olikara is the best person to lead that effort.
“No one is better suited to help flip the script on our pervasive ‘us versus them’ narratives, and we’re confident that fellow funders will see the extraordinary opportunity for impact that BEL represents,” Reidy said in a statement.
Dave Caplan, a member of the lab’s advisory council and head writer and executive producer of “The Conners,” said he has seen the large-scale impact of popular entertainment in humanizing Americans across their divides.
“With Steven’s leadership and national presence, as well as his bridge-building experience and creative ability, we will launch a new chapter for Bridge Entertainment Labs,” Caplan said in a statement.