Marisa Denker is the founder and CEO of Connect the Dots, a WBE/DBE firm focused on inclusive public and stakeholder engagement. Evolving from Marisa’s Fulbright project, Connect the Dots Insights now operates primarily in the Mid-Atlantic region (with a sister branch in Ireland) where the firm is known for designing and delivering strategic, innovative and inclusive engagement processes to meet people where they are. Connect the Dots specializes in community-informed decision making in large-scale transportation, planning, and economic development projects with clients including SEPTA, DVRPC, City of Philadelphia, Jersey City, NJTPA, and many more. Keystone projects include SEPTA’s Comprehensive Bus Network Redesign, SEPTA’s Regional Rail Master Plan, Jersey City Alternative Transportation Modes, City of Philadelphia Engagement On-Call, DVRPC Racial Mobility Choices Study, Downtown Dover Master Plan, Lancaster City Citizens Planning Committee, amongst many others.
Marisa brings deep expertise in inclusive public and stakeholder engagement, strategic communications, stakeholder management, and participatory research. She holds an MA in Design Practice from Dublin University (via her Fulbright fellowship) and a BA Urban Studies from University of Pennsylvania where she graduated as Phi Beta Kappa. Marisa is also an adjunct Professor at the University of Pennsylvania where she has developed and teaches a course on public engagement entitled Participatory Cities. She also co-founded A Playful City, a nonprofit in Ireland focused on co-creating playful, inclusive public spaces for all ages. Marisa’s most recent publications include: ‘Lessons from Transportation Planners’ Pivot to Virtual Engagement’ in the APA National Planning Magazine and ‘It’s Time for Public Participation to Evolve with Transportation Planning’. In 2020, Marisa was nominated as Urban Changemaker of the Year in Philadelphia.