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From the left: Nikola (me), Zeljko (dad), Mirjana (mom), and Srdjan (brother). 

This photo was taken four months after coming to the U.S. with two large bags. For years, both of my parents worked extremely labor intense jobs and learned to speak English through their sheer will and drive. To this day, they strived to sustain our language, cultural norms, traditions, and food as much as possible. 

Nikola Pavelić has dedicated the past decade to collaborating with local government and nonprofit leaders in launching and re-designing programs, with the goal of measurably enhancing the quality of life for community members from diverse backgrounds.

Nikola's personal journey as a refugee from Yugoslavia (Bosnia and Herzegovina), coupled with his Serbian and Croatian heritage, profoundly influences his understanding of how anchor organizations, leadership, and individual actions shape our well-being. This awareness took root when Nikola and his family were granted relocation to Des Moines, Iowa. Throughout his experiences, Nikola witnessed firsthand the discrimination faced by his parents, the racism endured by his friends, and the homophobia he encountered. These encounters exposed the systemic disparities in quality of life based on appearances and identities, reinforcing his dedication to systems design and his mission to assist anchor organizations in eliminating identity-based disparities across multiple social determinants of health.

By prioritizing programs and services within anchor organizations, Nikola acknowledges their crucial role in conjunction with leadership commitment to bridging the divide between organizational intentions and tangible impact. Guided by this career trajectory, Nikola is dedicated to driving substantial and purposeful change, fostering a seamless alignment between organizational goals and the outcomes they achieve.

As Senior Advisor at the Bloomberg Center for Public Innovation within Johns Hopkins University, Nikola Pavelić spearheaded the strategic re-design of activities and management practices of a Cities of Service coalition made up of over 290 international cities. He also successfully re-designed and launched a legacy grant program and expanded an existing partnership with AARP. 

Prior to joining the Bloomberg Center, Nikola served as Director of Engagement and Programs at Cities of Service. In this role, he co-launched several successful programs, including the Love Your Block and Experience Matters grant programs, as well as the Engaged Cities Award program.


Nikola's extensive experience and leadership in civic engagement and program design have made him an invaluable asset to both Cities of Service and the Bloomberg Center for Public Innovation. Through his work, he has helped countless cities improve their engagement practices and strengthen their communities.


Prior to joining Cities of Service, Nikola Pavelić served as the Community Engagement Coordinator for the City of Dubuque, where he established the city's first community engagement planning and evaluation process. This resulted in increased resident participation in policy and resource decisions, as well as over 200 program alumni from the inaugural semi-annual academy, which continues to operate successfully.

Nikola received his M.S. in Adult Learning and Organizational Development from Drake University, where he focused on the intersection between identity, systems design, and engagement. Based in New York City, he is passionate about connecting with leaders and staff from anchor institutions committed to reducing quality-of-life disparities through strategic programs and services. In his free time, Nikola enjoys attending various borough-wide events, volunteering with several organizations in New York City, exploring the great outdoors, and experiencing the arts.

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