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Meet Matt

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Matt Haggman: A New Leader for Miami’s 27th Congressional District.

Matt is a community leader who has been deeply and uniquely engaged in Miami, driving key change, supporting new ideas, and creating opportunities across South Florida.  

Most recently, Matt served as Miami Program Director at Knight Foundation for more than five years, spearheading a groundbreaking program focused on empowering innovators and entrepreneurs across the community to increase opportunity for everyone.

For this work, Matt has been called in The Miami Herald a "pioneer in Miami [who] has spearheaded the entrepreneurial movement" and "the cornerstone of a renaissance" in Miami.

When Matt joined Knight Foundation in 2011 he brought new thinking to what Knight should focus on in Miami. At the time, there was much concern across the community about Miami's ongoing "brain drain" and lack of quality jobs. Matt launched a new effort focused on connecting and propelling Miami’s entrepreneurs and civic innovators as a way to build community. The initiative focused on building Miami's startup and entrepreneurial ecosystem by creating resources that help dreamers and doers of all kinds better develop their ideas and solve problems.

Many of the programs funded under Matt's direction during his five years at Knight Foundation are now pillars of Miami's growing innovation community and have opened the doors to opportunity across the region. This includes The Idea Center at Miami Dade College, eMerge Americas, Endeavor Miami, Black Tech Week, Babson's Women Innovating Now LAB, LaunchCode South Florida, Startupbootcamp Miami, Social Entrepreneurship Bootcamp, Miami Maker Faire, Girls Who Code Miami, The LAB Miami, NewMe, Refresh Miami, Digital Grass and Waffle Wednesday.

Under Matt’s leadership, the Singularity Global Impact Competition Miami was launched, asking residents for their best ideas to address sea level rise. Matt twice brought South Florida entrepreneurs to Tel Aviv to learn about how Israel - nicknamed "Startup Nation" - has become a global leader in innovation. He joined Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez on a tour through Silicon Valley with leading Miami entrepreneurs.

The work led to many impacts. Following the inaugural visit to Israel, The Idea Center at Miami Dade College and Tel Aviv University Entrepreneurship Center formed a partnership. In the wake of launching Babson WIN Lab, Babson College expanded its presence in Miami. LaunchCode South Florida was the program's first expansion city after starting in St. Louis, and today it is growing across the country and President Obama called it a national model.

To do this work, Matt made more than 200 grants at Knight Foundation totaling more than $28 million in Miami.

Prior to joining Knight Foundation, Matt was an award-winning journalist for nearly a decade. He worked at The Daily Business Review from 2001 to 2004 and then The Miami Herald from 2004 to 2011 when he left to join Knight Foundation.

Over the course of a decade, Matt covered stories of local and national importance. His work included exposing self-dealing by leading local politicians, shining a light on environmental protection and the importance of Miami-Dade County's Urban Development Boundary. He drew attention to worrisome findings with touchscreen voting systems that were ultimately scrapped and detailed how state regulators were looking the other way as mortgage fraud schemes exploited hard-working home buyers.

Matt won numerous local and national awards, including a Gerald Loeb Award, the highest honor in business journalism. In his last two years at The Miami Herald, he twice won the President's Award, which honors the best work in the McClatchy newspaper chain. In his last full year as a journalist, the Miami New Times named him as the Best Miami Herald Reporter in its annual "Best of Miami" awards.

Matt is deeply involved in the community in other ways, too. He has been a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Miami for a decade. Matt started mentoring a young man, Joshua, when he was nine years old. Now Joshua is preparing to attend college on a full scholarship. Matt additionally has sat on a range of boards of local community organizations, including Endeavor Miami, New World Symphony, The Underline and The LAB Miami.

Matt and Danet Linares met in Miami and have been married for nearly 12 years. Danet's family is originally from Cuba and her parents came to the U.S. through Miami's Freedom Tower, as many families did across the community. Danet is a leader in commercial real estate in South Florida and a leader in the community, sitting on the boards of organizations that include Habitat for Humanity of Greater Miami and the Miami Downtown Development Authority.

Matt grew up in Boston and earned degrees at Tulane University and Vermont Law School, before moving to Miami. He and Danet live in Coconut Grove.