USC Social Work
Innovator in Residence

Since 2014, Leitner has served as the inaugural resident innovator at USC Dworak-Peck School of Social Work, the largest and most influential institution of its kind in the world. With his colleague, he designed and helped launch several groundbreaking programs with potential to significantly expand the reach and impact of the social work discipline.

Among his efforts are the field's first professional doctorate in leadership, innovation and management; first graduate nursing program to emphasize both bio-medical and social factors related to health; first academic conference on innovation; a graduate fellowship program in social innovation; and new pedagogies for teaching problem-solving and social innovation. 


Law 2023

In 2013-2014, Leitner and his colleagues collaborated with legal industry executives to explore the probable futures of the law firm model. The findings of Law 2023 have been explored in industry press, debated at industry conferences and used to guide development of R&D groups within multiple law firms.


Chicago Wonk

In 2007, Leitner and a colleague created and launched a public policy website, where visitors voted on substantive issues facing Chicago and Illinois.

Sadly, Chicago Wonk predated social media, making it now-unimaginably difficult to share, promote and report daily policy challenges.


Copley Newspapers

From 1990 to 1996, Leitner authored more than 1,500 by-lined articles, almost exclusively about government and politics in suburban Chicago.

His articles were carried by newspapers throughout northeast Illinois - all of which have changed ownership many times since. His home paper, The Naperville Sun, is now part of The Chicago Tribune.


Kibbutz Hazorea

In 1989, Leitner lived, studied and worked on a communal settlement in Israel. Kibbutz Hazorea, located southwest of Haifa, is one the nation's largest and most successful collectives, supported by its own publicly-traded plastics manufacturing company and more traditional agricultural businesses.

In addition to working as a carpenter's assistant, Leitner studied Middle East history, public policy and Hebrew.

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UX for Good

Launched in 2012, UX for Good was the first effort in the world to leverage experience design to solve social problems. Since then, it has partnered with the Dalai Lama Center for Peace + Education to advance social-emotional learning in public schools; with Aegis Trust to boost the impact of genocide memorials in Africa and Europe; and with the GRAMMY Foundation and Clinton Global Initiative to raise the standard of living for professional musicians in New Orleans.



Leitner holds a master’s degree in journalism from The Ohio State University and an undergraduate degree in government from the University of Texas.

He lives in the Chicago suburbs with his wife and daughter.



Named innovation of year by the National Restaurant Association, Schmacon is an all-beef bacon available in grocery stores and restaurants in the Midwest and, by the end of the 2017, the balance of the US and select countries.

Leitner is also a director of the Chicago-area Schmaltz Deli, where the product was originally developed to serve consumers who don't eat pork.


Leitner Public Affairs

Between 2003 and 2008, Leitner launched and ran his first company, a Chicago-based public affairs consultancy.

Leitner Public Affairs represented fewer than a dozen corporations, institutions and non-profits. But because neither Leitner nor his colleagues were from Chicago or part of the political establishment, they succeeded by developing innovative models for public-private partnerships - many of which are still in use today.


Job 1
Lead Developer

In partnership with the world's first Rotary Club, Leitner created and launched a program to find and prepare disadvantaged Chicago high school students for their first jobs.

Introduced in 2005, Job 1 is still running. Directed by the Rotary Club of Chicago, in collaboration with the City of Chicago and Chicago Public Schools, the program has trained and placed hundreds of students. 


The Oaks
Mental Health Worker

From 1985 to 1988, Leitner assisted in the treatment of patients in a long-term psychiatric facility in Austin, Texas.

Under guidance of the medical staff, he supervised and facilitated daily activities for a dozen in-patient, adolescent girls - nearly all of whom had been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder.


SDGs In Order
Lead Researcher

SDGs in Order is the first-ever sequencing of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and their 169 associated targets. In partnership with OECD and New America, Leitner surveyed 85 economists, political scientists and social scientists working in public institutions, international organizations, foundations, universities, think tanks and civil society groups around the world. 

The sequence was developed to inform the development of national and international policy, and of large-scale, long-term investment strategies.


New America

In 2015, Leitner was named a Bretton Woods II Fellow at the non-partisan think tank and social venture, founded to nurture the next generation of public intellectuals. The Bretton Woods II initiative is an ambitious, international effort to leverage $250 billion in long-term investment for social impact.


Insight Labs
Founder & Dean

From 2010-2014, Insight Labs partnered with more than 50 governments and institutions to advance complex social initiatives, including U.S. Department of State, Walter Reed National Military Medical Hospital, National Endowment for the Arts, Harvard Medical School, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, TED Conferences, Ashoka, NASA, US National Holocaust Memorial Museum, and Community of Democracies.


Greenhouse Fellowship
Lead Developer

In 2014 and 2015, Leitner and his colleagues partnered with the Foundations of East Chicago, Indiana, to pilot a new kind of community development program.

The Greenhouse Fellowship was predicated on the idea that, in addition to physical and economic infrastructure, struggling communities need to invest in human infrastructure - specifically in the training of the community's future activists and leaders.


Haymarket Group
Vice President

From 1997 through 2003, Leitner managed and consulted to more than 30 political and public affairs campaigns with Chicago's Haymarket Group.

He guided incumbents and challengers for federal, state, judicial, county and municipal office - holding senior posts in high-profile campaigns for Illinois Governor and Illinois Supreme Court. Leitner also led more than a dozen institutions and corporations through the maze of government and public approvals.

Now Haymarket Public Strategies, the firm was founded by the political strategists behind the 1983 election of Harold Washington, Chicago's first African-American mayor.


Emerald City Theatre
Board President

Between 2005 to 2008, Leitner built and chaired the board of directors for Chicago's fifth-largest theater company - now with a $2.2 million budget and 80,000-plus annual audience. 

Through 2014, the Leitner Award was presented annually to the volunteer who had made the greatest contribution to the theater.