Dr. Barbara J. Nelson

Professor Emerita of Public Policy; Founder, The Concord Project, School of Public Affairs
Los Angeles, California
United States

Focus Areas

Community & Civic Engagement
Political Science
Higher Education
Organizational Development / Management
Social Justice
Gender Issues


Barbara J. Nelson is Professor Emerita of Public Policy and Social Welfare, Urban Planning and Political Science Public Policy at the UCLA School of Public Affairs. She served as the school's first permanent dean from 1996-2008. Prior to her appointment as Dean and Professor of Public Policy, she was Vice President and Distinguished Professor of Public Policy at Radcliffe College where her portfolio included academic programs and strategic planning. Her fields of expertise include conflict mediation in civil society, social and economic policy, organizational theory and behavior, and social movements. She is the author of six books and over 60 articles and book chapters. Leadership and Diversity: A Case Book (2004) (PDF) demonstrates how linking leadership and diversity improves policy education and policy making. The Concord Handbook: How to Build Social Capital Across Communities (written with Linda Kaboolian and Kathryn A. Carver, 2003) (PDF) provides the ideas and best practices for starting and sustaining organizations that successfully bring together people from groups with historic conflicts. Nelson and co-author Najma Chowdhury won the 1995 Victoria Schuck Award for Women and Politics Worldwide, bestowed by the American Political Science Association for the best book in the field of women and politics. In 1989, Nelson and historian Sara Evans won the Policy Studies Organization’s prize for the best book in the field of policy analysis for Wage Justice: Comparable Worth and the Paradox of Technocratic Reform. Nelson is also the author of Making an Issue of Child Abuse: Political Agenda Setting for Social Problems (1984) and American Women and Politics (1984). Nelson has worked or done research in 24 countries, and has made major contributions to policy making and civic life in the United States and abroad. She is the Director of The Concord Project, which conducts research and provides executive education on building bridging social capital—the human and organizational resources that span social differences. She was a founding member of the Minnesota Supreme Court’s Task Force on Gender Equity in the Courts. She consulted with the Swedish Government on its Parliamentary Commission on Power and Democracy, and has worked with several United Nations organizations on questions of economic development and political participation. She is a Member of the Board of the Public Policy and International Affairs Program, and the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration, and is a former board member of the Community Investment Cabinet of the Los Angeles United Way, the Center for the New West, Radcliffe College, the American Political Science Association, and the National Council for Research on Women. She was a Kellogg National Leadership Fellow and has held visiting fellowships at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Villa Serbelloni in Bellagio, Italy and the Russell Sage Foundation. Before her appointment at Radcliffe, Barbara Nelson served on the faculties of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University and the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, where she was Director of the Center on Women and Public Policy. She earned her B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in political science at the Ohio State University, where she was elected to Pi Sigma Alpha, the political science honorary society. She is the founder and principal investigator of The Concord Project, an international research, teaching, and action program whose mission is to strengthen “concord organizations,” which bring together people with fundamentally opposing views or identities for the purpose of promoting civil society while recognizing group differences.