Our Team

From working with nonprofits and foundations to campaigns to Capitol Hill and the Obama Administration, our team has more than 30 years of experience building and executing high-profile and successful strategic communications campaigns.




Janel Forsythe specializes in media relations and digital communications. She is passionate about using these skills to advance progressive public policies, and she has extensive experience in using digital spaces to help organizations inform and engage their audiences.


Prior to joining UpShift Strategies, Janel was the Social Media Editor for the Project On Government Oversight where she used various social media platforms to connect with supporters, journalists, and decision-makers to push for a more open and accountable federal government. Janel was also a Digital Communications Manager at the National Academy of Social Insurance.


Janel believes using communications to help people understand the issues affecting them locally, nationally and internationally is critical for producing social change.




Doug is an experienced communications strategist who has spent his career at the intersection of politics and media, developing strategies to help organizations break through, define the issues, engage audiences and win.


Doug specializes in campaign development, strategic communications, media relations and paid media. He has developed winning communication strategies for some of the nation’s largest progressive advocacy organizations and coalitions.


Throughout his career, Doug has worked with organizations to develop winning campaigns that launch, advance and cement their brands, earn millions of dollars in “free” earned media, and develop engaged memberships.


Doug has helped lead campaigns to ensure congressional passage of the Affordable Care Act, Dodd-Frank financial reform and the Iran deal, as well as take on the NFL over domestic abuse, challenge Google for misleading anti-abortion ads, and raise wages for minimum-wage federal contract workers.


Prior to UpShift Strategies, Doug was managing director at FitzGibbon Media, the Washington director of Fenton Communications, chief of staff and communications director on Capitol Hill and on numerous campaigns.

Follow Doug on Twitter @dgordon52




Courtney Hytower brings a range of experience at the intersection of strategic communications and systems thinking to the UpShift team.


With an eye for cultivating best practices and a passion for innovation, Courtney approaches every project with the goal of expanding the reach and social impact of her clients.


As a consultant, Courtney has helped organizations design internal frameworks for diversity, equity and inclusion. She also advised national campaigns in the 2018 cycle on expanding voter registration and turnout efforts.


Prior to consulting, Courtney was a communications assistant with Democracy Fund, where she was a thought partner in building the foundation’s influence and researching opportunities to connect with audiences on the issues affecting our democracy.


Since her first communications job during the 2014 election cycle with the DCCC, Courtney has developed a deep commitment to progress and investing in the social power of audiences to spark positive change.




Michael has experience developing communications campaigns on progressive issues. He was most recently an executive vice president at Spitfire where he built the company’s digital division, ran its largest client account, and was the coordinator for the 2014-2015 national Net Neutrality campaign. The large-scale coalition campaign overcame the entrenched Washington telecommunications industry and was one of the most successful progressive campaigns of that year.


His clients at Spitfire included the Ford Foundation, Ultraviolet, United Nations Foundation, Union of Concerned Scientists, the reproductive health group PAI, and Running Strong for American Indian Youth.


Michael was vice president for communications at the reproductive rights group PAI from 2009-2012 and served as the organization’s interim co-director in 2010. He helped create the What’s Your Number app, which went viral in October 2011 when the world’s population hit 7 billion.


At Fenton Communications from 2004-2009, Michael was vice president and co-founder of its Washington online division. Previous to Fenton, he was the Washington representative for the Union of Concerned Scientists starting in 2001, where he developed online and offline strategies for its corporate and legislative campaigns and before that, lead campaigner for Greenpeace Canada.



Senior Advisor

Tracy Russo is a veteran communications and digital strategist who specializes in working at the intersection of progressive politics and technology. She is well known for her ability to integrate digital strategy with all aspects of a traditional organization.


She has worked with prominent nonprofit organizations and major foundations including the Center for American Progress, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford Foundation, NARAL Pro-Choice America, UltraViolet,, and many others.


During the Obama Administration, she served as a spokesperson and as the director of new media at the Department of Justice. Beyond digital strategy and media relations, her portfolio included leading the department's Open Government initiatives.


Russo has trained thousands of individuals at home and abroad in the best practices of online engagement in partnership with a variety of organizations. She has been a featured speaker at the Center for American Progress, the Personal Democracy Forum, the Netroots Nation Convention, and the Take Back America Conference. Tracy is the founder of Russo Strategies.