Pierre Omidyar created Democracy Fund out of deep respect for the U.S. Constitution and our nation’s core democratic values. While no democracy is perfect, the American system has endured through times of severe stress and dramatic social change. This system has proven its value and continues to hold the promise of effective, representative governance. Today, technologies and innovations offer new opportunities for public engagement in a more vibrant democracy — even as serious challenges including hyper-partisanship, money in politics, and struggling media threaten the health of our political system.
We believe the best days of American democracy lie ahead. Bipartisan solutions can modernize our elections. Digital advances can help people engage in civic life. New incentives can encourage political leaders to find principled compromise and address our country’s greatest challenges.
Democracy Fund is a resource for those who want to strengthen our nation’s democracy. We invest in change makers whose ideas and energy can make a difference. We advocate for solutions that can bring lasting improvement to our political system. We build bridges that help people come together to serve the nation, moving us closer to the ideal of a government of, by, and for the people.
The Democracy Fund aims to play a catalytic role in improving our political system through grantmaking. We typically make a substantial investment in the success of our grantee organizations. The Democracy Fund DOES NOT accept unsolicited proposals. We proactively seek new grants based on strategic priorities and typically identify new grantee partners from within our network of allies and contacts. We work closely with grantee partners to help them achieve their goals. To have the greatest impact, we invest according to the following criteria:
Please note that Democracy Fund policy allows up to 10 percent of university project expenses to be for indirect costs.
Joe Goldman is the President of the Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. He is also the President of Democracy Fund Voice, previously Democracy Fund Action. Before joining the Democracy Fund, Joe was an Investment Director at Omidyar Network, where he incubated the Democracy Fund for three years.
Joe has spent his career working to strengthen democratic institutions through public deliberation and policy reform. Previously, Joe was Vice President of Citizen Engagement at AmericaSpeaks, where he directed and facilitated large-scale public deliberations across the country, including the Unified New Orleans Planning Process after Hurricane Katrina and the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site after 9/11. Joe has written extensively about the theory and practice of deliberative democracy and spoken about the value of public deliberation in venues around the world.
Joe has also engaged the public from inside government. He managed Mayor Anthony Williams’ Neighborhood Action initiative in Washington, DC, which engaged thousands of residents in shaping the city’s budget priorities. Neighborhood Action was named Program of the Year by the International Association of Public Participation. Joe also managed the Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission’s Common Ground regional planning process in Chicago, which later received the Outstanding Planning Award from the American Planning Association for its innovative use of technology and broad community outreach.
Joe was a Public Service Fellow at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, where he received a master’s degree in public policy. He graduated with honors in political science from Vassar College.
Follow Joe on Twitter @joegoldman
Yasmeen Ajdari is the Grants Associate at Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. As a member of the Operations team, she is responsible for supporting Democracy Fund’s investment and grants management systems in order to streamline and innovate the grantmaking process to increase firm impact.
Prior to joining Democracy Fund, Yasmeen worked as a Program Associate on the Managed Organizations team at Arabella Advisors. In this role, she provided financial, consulting, and operational support to hosted projects at the New Venture Fund, Hopewell Fund, and Windward Fund, all 501(c)(3) public charities, and the Sixteen Thirty Fund, a 501(c)(4). Yasmeen’s portfolio included projects concerning climate reform, women’s rights, and political advocacy.
She was also a 2014 Baltimore corps member with Teach For America and later worked on staff for the organization as an Operations Director for the Philadelphia institute team. In this role, she planned the logistics and operations behind large-scale projects and systems, including distribution of national curriculums and materials for over five hundred corps members and thousands of students in the Philadelphia area.
Yasmeen graduated from Catholic University with a Bachelor’s in philosophy pre-law. She also holds a Master’s in the Science of Education, Policy from Johns Hopkins University and is currently pursuing her MBA from the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University.
Program Director, Elections
Adam Ambrogi is the Director of the Elections Program at the Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. Focusing on modern elections and the role of money in politics, Adam leads the Democracy Fund’s mission to invest in organizations working to ensure that the views and votes of citizens come first in our democracy. Current grantees of the Elections Program include Pew’s Election Initiatives, TurboVote, MIT’s Voting Technology Project, the Piper Fund’s Communications Collaborative, Fund for the Republic, Demos, and Cato’s Deepbills Project.
Adam previously worked as Chief Counsel for the US Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, addressing a wide range of issues related to election law, campaign finance, and legal matters facing the administration of the Senate. Adam was the lead staffer for the Rules Committee on passage of the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, the DISCLOSE Act of 2012, and led the Committee’s legal team in examining and making changes to the Senate Rules related to the filibuster.
Before his work on the Rules Committee, Adam served as Special Assistant and Counsel for Commissioner Ray Martinez of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) where he helped to build that agency. He worked in a litigation practice prior to joining the EAC.
He received his law degree from the University of Texas-Austin, where he served as the Editor-in-Chief of the Texas Journal on Civil Liberties and Civil Rights. Adam received his bachelor of arts in Government with high distinction from the University of Virginia. He has served on the board of the Washington Council of Lawyers and has worked with other public service organizations in the Washington, D.C. area.
Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamAmbrogi
Meredith Bird is the Communications Coordinator at the Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. Meredith provides project management assistance and support to the Communications and Network team’s mission to expand the organization’s reach, networks, and influence.
Meredith joined Democracy Fund in 2018, bringing experience in philanthropy, conflict resolution, and process development. Prior to joining Democracy Fund, Meredith worked at Global Impact, where she facilitated access to workplace giving programs for over 100 international relief and development NGOs, including CARE, Doctors Without Borders, Heifer International, International Rescue Committee, and World Vision.
Meredith earned her Master of Arts in Conflict Resolution at Georgetown University, after graduating from the Cook Honors College at Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a B.A. in History and a B.A. in Asian Studies in 2011.
Director of People
Perry Brown is the Director of People at Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. With Democracy Fund, Perry will support the operations of the organization by delivering and strengthening efficient Human Resources processes.
Perry brings extensive experience managing a full spectrum of HR functions across association, commercial, and tech industries. Most recently, Perry served as Global HR Manager for Afiniti, a global A.I. and software development company. Previously, Perry worked at CoStar Group as an HR Business Partner and served in a change agent role to implement HR initiatives that were aligned with business needs.
He attended North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, NC where he received his Bachelors (BA) in Journalism.
Isaiah Castilla is Senior Counsel for the Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. Isaiah oversees the Fund’s legal affairs and provides expertise and guidance for its strategy development, grant making, contracting, and other areas. Previously, Isaiah served as Bolder Advocacy Counsel at Alliance for Justice. As Counsel at Alliance for Justice, Isaiah advised nonprofit and foundations on strategies to maximize their advocacy capacity and provided workshops and legal guidance on federal tax and campaign finance law.
Prior to joining AFJ, Isaiah was founding partner of The Castilla Law Group. In private practice, Isaiah managed a caseload of civil and criminal matters and provided legal guidance to nonprofits and political organizations. Before practicing law, he served as Deputy Finance Director for the Musgrove for United States Senate Campaign, North and Central Regional Finance Director for the Alex Sink for Governor Campaign in Florida, and Finance Director and Counsel for the Bill Luckett for Governor campaign and Progress for Mississippi PAC. During his tenure as a finance staffer, Isaiah built and executed robust fundraising plans and gained a wealth of knowledge in state and federal campaign finance law.
Isaiah holds a J.D. from Mississippi College School of Law and a graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Music from Tougaloo College.
Chief Operating Officer
Laura Chambers is the Chief Operating Officer for the Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. She guides the organization’s overall systems to maximize Democracy Fund’s impact in its work.
Laura’s previous role was the Chief Operations Officer for the Democratic National Committee (DNC), where she managed various programs and initiatives while running the DNC’s daily operations. Prior to the DNC, Laura’s career spanned several distinguished NGO and advocacy organizations. She was the Chief of Staff at the United States Peace Corps, where she oversaw operations for the $410 million federal agency for three years. She previously served as the Director of Field Services for AARP’s Experience Corps program and also held leadership roles at the Global AIDS Alliance and Civic Ventures. Laura held the role of Vice President at the Advocacy Institute where she directed a $23 million Ford Foundation signature program, Leadership for a Changing World, focused on recognizing social justice leadership.
Laura earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the College of William and Mary. In addition, she received a Leadership for the 21st Century program certificate from Harvard University.
Strategy and Learning Manager, Governance
Winny Chen is the Strategy and Learning Manager for the Governance Program at Democracy Fund, an independent foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. She helps guide the development of program strategies and works with the Governance Program team to refine, develop, and assess the progress of programs and grantmaking.
Winny brings extensive experience in management consulting, advocacy, and public policy. Prior to Democracy Fund, she was a Manager at Monitor Deloitte, where she advised federal agencies and social sector organizations on enterprise strategy, strategic planning, performance measurement, and communications. She also served as a Senior Associate in the Crimes Against Humanity Program at Human Rights First and as a Policy Analyst on the National Security team at the Center for American Progress.
Winny earned a Bachelor of Arts from Georgetown University and holds a Master’s degree in Security Studies from Georgetown’s Walsh School of Foreign Service.
Program Associate, Governance
Chris Crawford is a Program Associate at the Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. Focusing on principled leadership and effective governance, Chris supports the Governance Program in its mission to invest in approaches that help our elected leaders deliberate, negotiate, and serve the American people. Current grantees of the Governance Program include the Bipartisan Policy Center, the Aspen Institute’s Congressional Program, and the Faith & Politics Institute.
Prior to joining the Democracy Fund, Chris worked as a government affairs associate at Susan B. Anthony List. During the 2014 midterm elections, Chris was Assistant National Field Director for the organization’s Super PAC, leading a Get Out The Vote operation that made over 1 million live voter contacts across four states. Chris has worked on multiple campaigns at the local and federal level in his home state of New Hampshire.
Chris graduated from The George Washington University with a B.A. in Political Science.
Associate Director, Elections
Lindsay Daniels is the Associate Director of the Elections Program at the Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. Focusing on state and federal solutions, Lindsay leads the Elections Program’s strategy to expand modern, inclusive, and secure voter registration systems. Current grantees of the voter registration modernization strategy include the Bipartisan Policy Center and Texas Civil Rights Project.
Lindsay brings more than 15 years of non-profit experience in policy development, capacity-building, advocacy campaigns, and electoral organizing. Prior to the Democracy Fund, she managed Economic Policy at UnidosUS (formerly National Council of La Raza), the nation’s largest Latino civil rights and advocacy organization. She developed and led UnidosUS’ state and federal policy agenda to advance the economic mobility of Hispanics in the areas of employment, housing, banking, consumer protection and retirement security. Previously, Lindsay also served as a Field Strategist for Civic Engagement at UnidosUS, where she trained and supported a network of 15 community-based grantees in their efforts to integrate voter registration into their social service agencies.
Between her positions at UnidosUS, Lindsay owned a consulting business focused on program evaluation and campaign strategy for non-profit clients including the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and Mi Familia Vota. In that period she also ran a two-county voter mobilization campaign for the 2009 Virginia gubernatorial election with the goal of increasing AAPI and Latino voter turnout.
Lindsay is the author of nearly a dozen reports on Hispanic economic opportunity and civic participation, including Small Dollars for Big Change: Immigrant Financial Inclusion and Access to Credit (2017), Banking in Color: New Findings in Financial Access for Low- and Moderate-Income Communities (2014), Puertas Cerradas: Housing Barriers for Hispanics (2013), and Engaging the Latino Electorate (2011). She holds an MBA from the Georgetown McDonough School of Business and a B.A. in Speech Communication and Spanish from Augustana College-Rock Island and originally hails from Iowa.
Senior Program Associate for Engaged Journalism
Angelica Das is the Senior Program Associate for Engaged Journalism in the Public Square Program at the Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. The Democracy Fund invests in innovations and institutions that are reinventing local media and expanding the public square to ensure that people can access diverse sources of information - and different points of view. Angelica is leading the Engaged Journalism strategy, which supports projects and organizations that enable journalists and newsrooms to build trusted, meaningful relationships with their communities through audience-centered storytelling, inclusion, and transparency.
Angelica joined the Democracy Fund in 2019 after working independently as a strategist, researcher, writer, educator, and producer. She was previously a senior associate with Dot Connector Studio, who collaborates with funders, journalists, and experts to research and develop social impact media projects. Angelica specialized in helping develop and foster communities of practice for documentary film, public media, investigative journalism, engaged journalism, and others.
From 2010 to 2015, Angelica served associate director of the Center for Media & Social Impact at American University, drafting resources and hosting programs to support media makers and share strategies for social impact media. She also previously held positions at Wild Earth Allies, Machik, and National Geographic, and has over 15 years of experience in nonprofit management, communications, and administration.
Angelica holds an M.A. in International Media from American University and a B.A. in Political Science and History from the University of Rochester.
Operations & People Team Coordinator
Alex is the Team Coordinator for the Operations & People Team at Democracy Fund, an independent foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. As Team Coordinator, she sits at the hub of the Operations & People Team, connecting and working with every part of Democracy Fund to encourage open communication and collaboration. Alex is responsible for designing and managing internal team processes that not only ensure our systems run smoothly and efficiently, but also focus on the overall employee and candidate experiences.
Before joining Democracy Fund, Alex was a Program Instructor at the Close Up Foundation. Using Washington, DC as an experiential classroom, she worked with young people from across the United States, aiming to inform, inspire, and empower them to exercise their rights and accept their responsibilities as citizens in a democracy.
Alex developed a deep appreciation for democracy while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guizhou, China from 2012 to 2013. Since then, she has worked in local government for a councilwoman in Long Beach, California and volunteered on Beto O’Rourke’s U.S. Senate campaign in Houston, Texas. Alex also worked at Peace Corps Headquarters where she co-led legislative efforts on the Sam Farr and Nick Castle Peace Corps Reform Act, which was signed into law in 2018.
Outside of Democracy Fund, Alex serves on the Board Of Directors of Hostelling International USA, a nonprofit organization founded on an enduring belief in the power of travel to foster a deeper understanding of people, places and cultures for a more tolerant world. She is also a 200-hour certified yoga teacher and is currently working to complete a 500-hour Dharma Yoga certification.
Alex holds a Bachelor of Business Administration in Entrepreneurship from Loyola Marymount University and is an alumna of the Latino Leadership Initiative at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
Nick is the Design Associate at the Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. He works with the Communications and Network Team to elevate the organization’s brand through publications, presentations, and collateral.
Nick joined the Democracy Fund in September 2017, after serving as the digital communications manager for Grantmakers for Effective Organizations. GEO is a community of more than 6,000 grantmakers working together to lift up the grantmaking practices that matter most to nonprofits and truly improve philanthropy. In this role, Nick designed and launched a successful email marketing strategy, served as creative lead for a brand video series, and led a brand refresh and redesign of geofunders.org.
Previously, Nick specialized in digital marketing and design for political campaigns. He served as the digital marketing manager for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and as the deputy digital director on the campaign for Senator Chris Murphy, from his home state of Connecticut. Nick has served on other local, state and federal campaigns in a variety of roles. He began his career at APCO Worldwide, a public affairs and strategic communications firm, in Washington, DC.
Nick graduated from The George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs with a bachelor’s degree in political communications.
Senior Advisor for Talent Acquisition
Lise Woods Fink is the Senior Recruiter for the Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. As part of the People team, Lise supports the Democracy Fund with a focus on talent attraction across the organization and our National Advisory Committee, diversity and inclusion, organizational design, and other community and brand expansion efforts.
Lise joined the Democracy Fund in 2016 , and has 20 years of blended experience across recruiting, human capital, publicity and production. Most recently she oversaw talent and community curation at First Look Media, where she also had responsibility for recruiting across all levels of the organization and worked to clarify and nurture narrative strategies to grow FLM’s overall community and brand.
Prior to FLM, Lise served as a member of Omidyar Network’s Human Capital team where she focused on executive search, talent management, and organizational design and development. Additionally, she provided support and advice to ON’s grantee network, partner organizations, and in the formation of Civil Beat, Democracy Fund, and First Look Media.
Prior to joining ON, Lise spent six years at Apple, first as a member of the executive recruiting team, then as a product development manager where she spearheaded company-wide human capital initiatives, including the creation of “Getting Started” — its global employee onboarding portal; and finally as a senior HR manager for the Hardware Engineering team, supporting an ever-growing and complex workforce. Prior to Apple, Lise spent six years at Twentieth Century Fox working first as a part of their award-winning International Publicity team and then in the office of the President at Fox 2000, its premier women-led production unit.
Associate Director, Just and Inclusive Society
Nadia Firozvi is the Assistant Director for the Just and Inclusive Society Project at the Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. Nadia oversees strategy development, grant making and provides expertise and guidance to grantees and more.
Prior to joining the Democracy Fund, Nadia most recently served as a Policy Advisor in the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. She also served as Domestic Policy Coordinator at the Arab American Institute and as a Staff Attorney at the Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center, where she provided direct legal services in immigration, language access, civil rights, and more.
Nadia was also a founding board member of Many Languages One Voice (MLOV) which fosters leadership and facilitates community-led initiatives to increase the meaningful inclusion of immigrants in the District of Columbia who do not speak English as their primary language.
Nadia received BA from Loyola University in Maryland, her JD from the University of Baltimore School of Law, and her LL.M. in the International Protection of Human Rights from American University Washington College of Law.
Director, Governance Program
Lara Flint is Director of the Governance Program at Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. Focusing on principled leadership and effective governance, Lara leads the Governance Program, which works to bolster Congress’ capacity to fulfill its constitutional responsibilities, strengthen our system of checks and balances, and foster more constructive political engagement. Current grantees of the Governance Program include Congressional Management Foundation, Project On Government Oversight, R Street Institute, and Issue One.
Lara is a skilled advocate with more than 15 years of legal, public policy and government experience, including a decade on Capitol Hill. She brings experience in long-term congressional oversight and the ability to develop and maintain bipartisan coalitions across government, civil society, industry, and other stakeholders. Most recently she served as chief counsel for national security to then-Chairman Patrick Leahy of the Senate Judiciary Committee, where she led the committee’s work on national security, privacy, and technology, and was instrumental to enactment of the bipartisan USA FREEDOM Act of 2015 — the first major surveillance reform legislation in decades. Previously, Lara served as senior counsel on the Judiciary Committee to Senator Russ Feingold. Her expertise included national security, privacy, immigration, and criminal justice.
Between her Senate positions, Lara joined the State Department Office of the Legal Adviser, where she advised senior State Department officials on cutting-edge counterterrorism, law of war, and use of force issues. In that role she also provided international law expertise to counterparts in the White House, Defense Department, Justice Department, and Intelligence Community. Prior to her government service, Lara worked on policy at the intersection of technology and national security at the Center for Democracy & Technology. She also conducted a broad range of litigation at the law firm of Jenner & Block, and clerked for The Honorable Milton I. Shadur of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
Lara is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, and Harvard Law School.
Managing Director of Program
Tom Glaisyer is the Managing Director of Program at the Democracy Fund, an independent foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. Tom leads the Democracy Fund’s Program Team and supports their work to invest in innovations and institutions that help people understand and participate in the democratic process.
Tom brings to the Democracy Fund a background in media research and policy, as well as social media advocacy consulting. He led the Media Policy Initiative at the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute where he sought to track and influence media efforts at the local, community, and national levels. During his time at New America, Tom’s efforts centered on policies that support the open Internet and innovation in media, strengthening independent reporting on issues of public interest, and helping citizens access and engage with high-quality information. Prior to this, he was a consultant and analyst focused on leveraging online platforms for knowledge management and building and sustaining advocacy networks. Tom also brings more than 14 years of international experience in information technology implementation and organizational change to the Democracy Fund.
Tom received his bachelor of engineering and economics from the University of Birmingham, England. He holds a master’s of international affairs from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University as well as an M. Phil and Ph.D from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, where he wrote his dissertation on the future of the public square. He serves as board secretary for the Outward Bound Center for Peacebuilding.
Follow Tom on Twitter @tglaisyer
Program Assistant, Governance
Anne Gleich is a Program Assistant at the Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. Focusing on principled leadership and effective governance, Anne supports the Governance Program in its mission to invest in approaches that help our elected leaders deliberate, negotiate, and serve the American people. Current grantees of the Governance Program include the Bipartisan Policy Center, the Aspen Institute’s Congressional Program, and the Faith & Politics Institute.
Anne joined the Democracy Fund in 2017 bringing experience in politics, government, and advocacy having worked on local and state electoral campaigns in her home state of Minnesota. She has interned at local and national non-profit organizations, including the League of Women Voters of the United States, as well as for a member of the United States Senate.
Anne graduated magna cum laude from the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University in St. Joseph, Minnesota with a BA in Political Science, where she also studied theology.
Senior Program Associate for Local News
Teresa Gorman is the Senior Program Associate for Local News in the Public Square Program at the Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. Focusing on a vibrant media and the public square, Teresa supports the Public Square Program’s mission to invest in innovations and institutions that help people understand and participate in the democratic process. Current grantees of the Public Square Program include the Institute for Nonprofit News, the American Press Institute, and the Engaging News Project.
Teresa joined the Democracy Fund in 2016. Previously, Teresa spent her career working at the intersection of public media, local news, and digital media. At AIR (the Association of Independents in Radio), Teresa was the Supervising Producer for Localore: Finding America, an independent public media production of 15 independent producer-led teams. The teams incubated new storytelling models with communities to tell the story of all of America at public radio and television stations across the U.S. Prior to AIR, Teresa was a digital news specialist with NPR’s training team. Training included a Knight Foundation funded digital news training program that served dozens of NPR local member stations and hundreds of member station staffers. Previously, Teresa was one of PBS NewsHour’s first ever social media editors. She received her BS in Journalism from Boston University.
Follow Teresa on Twitter: @gteresa
Research Director, Voter Study Group
Robert Griffin is a Senior Research Advisor at the Democracy Fund as well as the Research Director, and participating author for, the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group. He is the co-author and lead data analyst for the “States of Change” project - a collaboration between the Center for American Progress, demographer William Frey of the Brookings Institution, and the Bipartisan Policy Center.
He also serves on the editorial committee of PS: Political Science and Politics, the journal of record for the American Political Science Association. His research has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Yorker, The Economist, and NBC News, and has been featured on CNN and Meet the Press.
Before joining the Voter Study Group, Robert was the Associate Director of Research at the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), focusing on demographic change and American political behavior. He also served as a Director of Quantitative Analysis at the Center for American Progress. Robert has taught courses on research methodology, statistics, public opinion, and political advocacy for The George Washington University, Pennsylvania State University, and Loyola University Chicago. He received his Ph.D. in political science and research methodology from The George Washington University.
Director of Partnerships
Lauren is the Director of Partnerships at Democracy Fund, an independent foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. As part of the Communications and Network team, she will lead implementation of its emerging Philanthropic Partnerships strategy to bring new resources and leadership to the field.
Lauren joined Democracy Fund in 2019, and has 14 years of progressive experience in partnerships, resource development, and donor strategy. Prior to joining Democracy Fund, Lauren served as the Director of Partner Services at the Democracy Alliance where she managed Partner membership, marshaling resources to investment recommendations, and the membership committee of the Board of Directors.
Additionally, she’s worked for ZERO TO THREE as the Senior Development Manager, where she led foundation fundraising efforts to ensure that all babies and toddlers have a strong start in life. Throughout her career, she has supported her interests in creating a just and inclusive society, by working for organizations like the Kirwan Institute and the Poverty and Race Research Action Council.
Lauren holds a B.A. in political science and women’s studies from the Ohio State University.
Senior Communications Associate
Anna Kegler is a Senior Communications Associate at Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. She leads communications for Democracy Fund’s Public Square Team, which invests in innovations and institutions that are reinventing local media and working to ensure people can access diverse sources of information - and different points of view. The team supports efforts to ensure media has the tools to engage communities and hold the powerful accountable. Current grantees of the Public Square Program include the Institute for Nonprofit News, the American Press Institute, and the Engaging News Project.
Anna joined Democracy Fund in 2019 after two years working on strategic communications in the human trafficking field at Polaris in Washington, D.C. As a Strategic Communications Specialist, she developed and managed the yearly strategic communications plan in support of the Disruption Strategies team’s work to end human trafficking in illicit massage parlors. Prior to joining Polaris, Anna held various communications roles in the private sector including Social Media Manager for Clarivate Analytics (formerly the Intellectual Property and Science business of Thomson Reuters) and Content Marketer at RJMetrics, a data-driven tech startup.
In 2013, Anna created an issue-framing transit ad campaign for an anti-street harassment organization in Philadelphia that got considerable press attention, went viral across multiple social media platforms, became a finalist for an Avon Innovative Campaign Award, and secured tenfold the original funding to be replicated the following year.
Anna holds an M.S. in Criminology from the University of Pennsylvania and a B.A. in Latin American Studies/Portuguese-Brazilian Studies from Smith College.
Stephanie Krongos is the Staff Accountant at Democracy Fund, an independent foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. As a member of the Operations team, she is responsible for processing all payments for Democracy Fund and Democracy Fund Voice, and providing support for grant payment management systems.
Before coming to Democracy Fund, Stephanie was the Staff Accountant at Jobs With Justice, where she worked for three years. Before moving to the nonprofit realm, Stephanie amassed ten years of finance and accounting experience in the private sector. She has a broad range of knowledge, and extensive experience with Fund and Project Accounting, Budget Management, 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) compliance guidelines and requirements, and tax preparation.
In addition to the work she does at Democracy Fund, Stephanie serves on the Executive Committee of the Fair Budget Coalition, a local coalition that enables DC residents to engage in the city’s budget process, and craft the policy solutions that impact their communities. She is also an active with a number of national and local organizations that have a key focus on poverty and injustice.
Stephanie has a BA in Political Science from Humboldt State University. She has completed additional coursework in Accounting at University of California Davis Extension, and is a member of the Institute of Management Accountants.
Charlie Lobeck is the Partnerships Associate at Democracy Fund, an independent foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. As Partnerships Associate, Charlie supports the emerging Philanthropic Partnerships department’s efforts to foster collaboration within philanthropy that drives resources to programs that protect and expand American democracy.
Prior to joining Democracy Fund, Charlie worked as Partner Services Program Manager for the Democracy Alliance, a network of progressive funders. In this role, he managed prospect research, onboarded new members, and developed engagement plans for new and prospective members. He has also served as Elections and Electoral Processes Project Associate at the National Democratic Institute, where he coordinated outreach with the NDI-funded global network of civil society activists and prepared for NDI’s international election observation missions in Afghanistan and Ukraine. Additionally, Charlie has experience mentoring teenagers and children living in high-risk environments and affected by a parent’s cancer.
Charlie graduated from The George Washington University with a B.A. in Political Science.
Associate Director, Governance Program
Laura Maristany is the Associate Director for Constructive Politics at the Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. Focusing on constructive politics, Laura leads the Governance Program’s strategy to help ensure governing institutions develop more representative policies and look more like America. Current grantees of the Governance Program include the Women’s Public Leadership Network, Reflect Us, Millennial Action Project, the CATO Institute, Welcoming America and Pepperdine University’s American Project on the Renewal of Conservatism.
A seasoned advocate with extensive Capitol Hill and legislative experience, Laura previously served as chief federal advocate and Director of the Washington, D.C. office for the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO). Laura also served as Executive Director of Legislative Affairs for the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU). At both organizations, Laura played a key role in developing and implementing their respective legislative agendas and developing relations with Congress, the Administration, federal agencies, and other national and international organizations.
Laura began her career on Capitol Hill as Legislative Assistant to former Congressman Luis G. Fortuño. In this capacity, she counseled Congressman Fortuño on a range of issues including education, labor, housing and faith based initiatives. In 2009, Laura continued as Legislative Assistant and Public Affairs Liaison for Congressman Pedro Pierluisi. Laura has also served as the President of the Hispanic Leaders Association, and an appointment as Commissioner in the Arlington Commission on the Status of Women.
Laura is a recipient of the Grand Cross of the Order of Civil Merit bestowed by the Spanish Crown. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez Campus and a master’s degree in international commerce and policy from George Mason University.
Executive Assistant to Chief Operating Officer
Tyneshia McCray is the Executive Assistant for the Chief People Officer and Managing Director of Operations at the Democracy Fund. A highly organized assistant with over 5 years of experience with expertise in staffing meetings, scheduling, client services, strategic communications, documenting and maintaining office processes. Tyneshia has the unique ability to focus on the details while still being able to see the bigger picture. She brings to the team a wealth of experience in entrepreneurship, tasks and logistics management.
Before joining the team, she served as an Account Management Specialist at the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) assisting C-Level Executives, Managers and Directors across different business units and industries. Tyneshia currently works part-time with the Washington Wizards assisting NBA Owners and NBA Season Membership holders.
Tyneshia originally hails from Northeast Washington, DC. She graduated from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore with a B.A in English (Non-Teaching) and holds a Master’s Degree in Media Management from Morgan State University.
Diversity Equity Inclusion Fellow
Jocelyn R. McDaniel is the DEI Fellow at Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. As the DEI Fellow, she serves as an advisor and guide to Democracy Fund, helping to center equity and inclusion in all facets of their work. She has a particular focus on internal organizational policies and practices, programmatic work with grantees, and external stakeholder engagement.
Prior to coming to Democracy Fund, Jocelyn served as the Director of Federal Funding for Teach For America where she was responsible for securing and managing the organization’s federal dollars. She is the Founder and Principal Consultant of Beyond Inclusion, a full service organizational development consulting firm. She is particularly passionate about politics and ensuring our country’s most respected leaders and institutions have the knowledge and skills to create equitable change.
Jocelyn holds a Bachelors Degree in Political Science and Communications from the University of Arkansas and a Masters Degree in Education Policy and Management from Harvard University. She serves on several boards including New Leaders Council-Washington, DC, Harvard Black Alumni Society-DC and Teach For America’s PRISM Board.
Executive Assistant, President and Vice President
Claudia Mejia is the Executive Assistant for the Vice President and President. She provides administrative and project support for external constituencies, Strategy Council and other meetings or events while enhancing the productivity of her principals. Claudia served a variety of needs for five partners at BDO USA, a large accounting and consulting firm, and previously worked the fast-paced front office of Hilton Worldwide’s goal headquarters, where she managed VIPs and other activities in a customer-service focused environment. Claudia received bachelor’s degrees in Theology and Philosophy from St. John’s University, Queens, NY, and is fluent in Spanish.
Evaluation and Learning Assistant
Arslan Muradi is the Evaluation and Learning Assistant at Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and respects the inherent dignity and inalienable rights of each individual and empowers each person to pursue and achieve the common good. As part of Democracy Fund’s Strategy, Impact, and Learning team, he supports the organization in developing impactful strategies and nurturing a vigorous and systematic learning culture for the organization, our grantees, and for the broader field.
Arslan joined Democracy Fund in 2018. Previously, he worked extensively with Monitoring and Evaluation teams with USAID contractors in Afghanistan. He collaborated with donor agencies and multiple stakeholders in data gathering and analysis, translation and interpretation of various languages spoken in conflict zones, as well as serving the key point of contact for the evaluation teams.
Arslan was a Henry J. Leir scholar at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, where he earned his Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy (MALD). He completed his BA in International Relations at Hampshire College, where he was the AMZ Renaissance Foundation Fellow.
Senior Systems, Research, and Learning Associate, Governance
Chris Nehls is the Senior Systems, Research, and Learning Associate for the Governance Program at the Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. Focusing on principled leadership and effective governance, Chris supports the Governance Program in its mission to invest in approaches that help our elected leaders deliberate, negotiate, and serve the American people. He leads the Governance Team’s grantmaking efforts to improve how Congress communicates with constituents and gathers information needed to legislate effectively. Current grantees include the OpenGov Foundation, Congressional Management Foundation, Demand Progress, TechCongress, Lincoln Network, and Popvox LegiDash Fund.
Chris spearheads the Governance Program’s investigations of the Congressional system to understand where work by grantees and partners may be most effective in producing meaningful improvements. He also works with the Democracy Fund’s Learning and Impact team to coordinate the organization’s approach to strategy and impact assessment. Chris began working for the Democracy Fund as a consultant to the Governance Initiative in May 2015, contributing to a strategic planning project. He joined the foundation’s full-time staff in December 2015.
Before joining the Governance team, Chris worked for CQ Roll Call in Washington, DC. He was the founding editor of the digital advocacy blog Connectivity, authored pieces for CQ Weekly and Politics in America, and provided research support to a variety of products. Prior to moving to Washington in 2009, Chris taught history courses at colleges in Virginia, Arkansas, and Rhode Island. He holds a PhD in 20th Century U.S. History from the University of Virginia, specializing in American political culture. He received undergraduate degrees in English and History from the University of Virginia in 1999.
Senior Program Associate, Elections
Trevor Ostbye is a Senior Program Associate for Elections at Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. Focusing on modern elections and voter registration, Trevor works with the Elections Program in its efforts to ensure that the views and votes of citizens come first in our democracy.
Prior to joining Democracy Fund, Trevor was a National Coordinator at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, where he worked on Election Protection, the nation’s largest nonpartisan voter protection coalition. He managed Election Protection efforts and outreach in key states, as well as core components of the national program. He has previously served as Manager for Jobs and Project Planning at Hope Street Group, coordinating the creation of a bipartisan coalition around innovative strategies for workforce development.
Trevor is also interested in exploring issues of identity and inclusion through dialogue. He has consulted with the Sustained Dialogue Institute, with a focus on bringing more open dialogue to college campuses and workplaces.
Trevor holds a J.D. from the Wake Forest University School of Law, and a B.A. in Public Policy from Duke University.
Senior Advisor, Elections
Tammy Patrick is a Senior Advisor to the Elections program at the Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. Focusing on modern elections, Tammy helps lead the Democracy Fund’s efforts to foster a voter-centric elections system and work to provide election officials across the country with the tools and knowledge they need to best serve their voters.In May of 2013 she was selected by
President Obama to serve as a Commissioner on the Presidential Commission on Election Administration which led to a position at the Bipartisan Policy Center to further the work of the PCEA. Prior to that she was the Federal Compliance Officer for Maricopa County Elections Department for eleven years, Tammy was tasked with serving more than 2 million registered voters in the greater Phoenix Valley. She collaborates with community and political organizations to create a productive working relationship with the goal of voter participation and efficient election administration and serves as an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Policy.
Senior Program Associate, Elections
Viviana Pérez is a Senior Associate at Democracy Fund, an independent foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. Focusing on election administration, she works with the Elections Program to enable elections officials to use data, technology, and best practices with the end goal of providing citizens a more voter centric experience.
Prior to joining Democracy Fund, Viviana was the Civics Program Director at Democracy Prep Public Schools (DPPS), a national network of high performing charter schools. While there, she directed the DPPS’s voter registration & education campaigns, which led to a 16% increase in the voter registration rates of its students and a 12% increase in the voting rates of its students. Additionally, she spearheaded DPPS’s volunteerism, advocacy, and lobbying efforts. From 2007-2009 she was a Teach for America corps member, teaching middle school history at the Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School, where she continued to teach until 2011. During her teaching career, she was a 2010 recipient of a Fund For Teachers grant, which enabled her to travel to Bangladesh to research the country’s liberation war.
Viviana graduated from Boston University with a B.A. in Sociology and minor in Philosophy, and also holds an M.S.T. from Pace University.
Director, Voter Study Group
Alicia Kolar Prevost is Director of the Voter Study Group, an initiative of the Democracy Fund. The Voter Study Group is a collaboration of public opinion experts, analysts and scholars from across the political spectrum whose goal is to help policy makers and thought leaders better understand the evolving views of American voters.
Alicia has devoted her career to the study and practice of campaigns and elections. Before joining the Democracy Fund, Alicia was the founding Executive Director of We Vote, a volunteer-driven civic tech startup that is creating a personalized digital voter guide to help voters make decisions based on the policy issues they care about most. Alicia was also the founding Executive Director of Defend Our Future, an initiative of Environmental Defense Fund and a groundbreaking campaign to organize young voters around climate change. Defend Our Future was honored as a “Political Game Changer” by the Pluribus Project, an initiative of the Aspen Institute, for its pioneering work using vote pledges to increase turnout among first time voters. Alicia has also worked at the Democratic National Committee, where she helped the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee write the rule that governs online voting; the 2004 Democratic National Convention Committee in Boston; the Michigan Democratic Party; and the Institute of Politics at Harvard University.
Her first and favorite campaign job was working as staff assistant and driver for the longest serving member of Congress, John D. Dingell. Alicia has also been an adjunct professor at American University’s School of Public Affairs and an instructor and lecturer at the Campaign Management Institute. She is the author of “The Ground Game: Field Organizing in Political Campaigns” in the fifth edition of Campaigns and Elections, American Style, and is co-author of “Walking the walk? Experiments on the effect of pledging to vote on youth turnout”, an analysis of the randomized controlled experiment that she led in the 2016 elections.
Alicia serves on the Advisory Board of the All In Campus Democracy Challenge, an initiative to increase voter turnout among college students.
Program Associate, Governance
Sean Raymond is a Program Associate at the Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. Focusing on principled leadership and effective governance, Sean supports the Governance Program in its mission to invest in approaches that help our elected leaders deliberate, negotiate, and serve the American people. Current grantees of the Governance Program include the Bipartisan Policy Center, the Aspen Institute’s Congressional Program, and the Faith & Politics Institute.
Sean joined the Democracy Fund in 2016 bringing extensive experience in politics, government, and advocacy having worked on local campaigns and on Capitol Hill. Most recently he worked in the Campaigns & Elections office of the National Education Association, where he coordinated staff and volunteers on the ground in crucial primary states like New Hampshire and Iowa and served as a point of contact between the NEA and presidential campaigns throughout endorsement selection proceedings. Other areas of focus during his time at the NEA included conducting research about NEA programs, developing databases to record data about members and their political activity, and monitoring education-related legislation and executive actions. He has interned in two different Congressional offices during his time in D.C., in addition to several roles in local government and on campaigns in his home state of Pennsylvania.
Sean graduated magna cum laude from The George Washington University with a BA in Political Communication and American history.
Director of Grants Management
Kelly Reed is the Director of Grants Management at the Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. She oversees the administration of all Democracy Fund grants, and partners with program staff to incorporate philanthropic best practices into grantmaking strategies.
Kelly joined the Democracy Fund in 2018, and has nearly a decade of experience working at the intersection of philanthropy and advocacy, with extensive experience managing grantmaking processes, funding policy campaigns, developing advocacy strategies, and supporting the implementation of lobbying and political activities. Most recently, she was a Director at Arabella Advisors where she oversaw dozens of 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) campaigns that spanned social justice issues and helped manage several nonprofits that serve as fiscal sponsors, including the New Venture Fund, a 501(c)(3) public charity, and the Sixteen Thirty Fund, a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization.
Prior to joining Arabella, Kelly served as a program officer at Ploughshares Fund, where she led a multi-year grantmaking campaign to advocate for the nuclear deal between the United States and Iran. As part of this campaign, Kelly funded the development of policy ideas for negotiations, and designed and implemented a grantmaking strategy to urge Congress to withhold sanctions that would have resulted in the deal’s collapse. She has also held internships at the State Department, BusinessWeek, and in the office of US Senator Herb Kohl. Kelly graduated magna cum laude from Northwestern University with majors in journalism and political science. She is a member of Kappa Tau Alpha, a journalism honor society.
Director of Communications
Najma Roberts is Director of Communications at the Democracy Fund. She develops communications strategies to support the Fund’s four programmatic priority areas to expand its reach, influence and increase engagement. She joined the Democracy Fund in 2018, bringing over 13 years of experience in developing fully integrated communications programs, campaign development, supporting social responsibility and diversity and inclusion platforms. She has extensive experience in positioning thought leadership programming to elevate policy, business and CSR objectives. She has spent a significant portion of her career developing public relations campaigns targeting diverse communities, re-branding organizations and implementing strategic communications plans.
Most recently she served as Director of Communications and Patient Advocacy for AstraZeneca, overseeing external communications, including traditional media, social media, brand milestones, cross-functional corporate initiatives and developing external strategies to highlight the intersection of patient advocacy and commercial objectives.
Previously she worked for the global public affairs agency APCO Worldwide, where she managed multi-service consulting assignments including Hyundai Hope on Wheels, GlaxoSmithKline, and Johnson & Johnson, where she developed reputation management campaigns designed to support and elevate diversity engagement. Najma also served as a communications director and spokesperson for the DC Department of Health under Mayor Vincent Gray where she led a team of communications professionals to promote public health in Washington DC. She has experience working with leading non-profits such as the Truth Initiative (formerly known as the American Legacy Foundation), and creators of the award-winning teen smoking prevention campaign, truth®, where she led diversity communications efforts to reach priority populations with innovative public health messaging.
Najma holds a B.A. in public relations from Hampton University and lives in Maryland with her husband and two children.
Senior Program Associate, Elections
Stephanie Román is a Senior Program Associate for Elections at Democracy Fund, an independent foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. Focusing on building trust in elections, Stephanie works with the Elections Program in its efforts to ensure that the views and votes of citizens come first in our democracy.
Prior to joining Democracy Fund, Stephanie was a Policy Advisor with the Policy Analysis Center at UnidosUS, the nation’s largest Latino civil rights and advocacy organization. There, she worked on multiple policy issues including civil rights, higher education, and economic security and served as the in-house policy expert and bilingual spokesperson on civil rights and student debt issues. Stephanie started her career as a Fulbright Scholar in Mexico City, Mexico, prior to joining the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. She also served as a William R. Hearst Fellow with the Aspen Institute’s Program on Philanthropy and Social Innovation.
A Los Angeles native, Stephanie has a Master’s of Public Policy degree from the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Pomona College.
Director of Strategy, Impact, and Learning
Elizabeth Ruedy is the Director of Strategy, Impact, and Learning at the Democracy Fund, an independent foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. She oversees the organization’s ongoing efforts to design and implement evaluations that capture Democracy Fund’s impact, as well as provide greater insights into the political and civic systems in which the Democracy Fund works.
Prior to joining the Democracy Fund in 2017, Liz was the director of the Office of Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning at the International Republican Institute, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that advances democracy and human rights worldwide. At IRI, Liz oversaw an evaluation practice that emphasized the use of evidence to both assess and inform programs to support responsive political and government institutions, engaged citizens, and inclusive political and civic processes, with a focus on complexity-aware approaches and participatory methods. She has more than 15 years’ experience in democracy assistance in both program management and evaluation.
Liz has taught a graduate-level course on monitoring and evaluation for foreign assistance programs at the George Washington University since 2011. She holds a master’s degree in European and Eurasian Studies from the George Washington University and a bachelor’s degree from the College of William and Mary.
Program Assistant, Elections
Freddie Salas is a Program Assistant at the Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. Focusing on modern elections and the role of money in politics, Freddie supports the Elections Program in its mission to ensure that the views and votes of citizens come first in our democracy. Current grantees of the Elections Program include Pew’s Election Initiatives, TurboVote, MIT’s Voting Technology Project, the Piper Fund’s Communications Collaborative, Fund for the Republic, Demos, and Cato’s Deepbills Project.
Freddie most recently served as an AmeriCorps VISTA at the Fredericksburg Regional Continuum of Care where he worked to coordinate local nonprofits to reduce housing waitlists, creating tools to improve data accuracy for biannual Point in Time counts, and assisted with compiling HUD grant applications. He also ran the Homeless Veterans Working Group and successfully met the national goal of functionally ending veteran homelessness by the end of 2015 in the region. Before joining AmeriCorps, Freddie volunteered with the Greater Fredericksburg Habitat for Humanity.
Freddie graduated from Virginia Tech with a B.A. in Political Science and a minor in Urban Affairs and Planning.
Program Associate, Public Square
Christine is a Program Associate at Democracy Fund, an independent foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people.
As a member of the Public Square program, Christine focuses on Ecosystem News and Press Freedom. Christine brings experience from local newsrooms, community engagement, and digital media innovation. As a staff writer at NiemanLab, a media industry publication trying to figure out news in the digital age, she reported on editorial experiments and nonprofit news funding, among other tools, especially in local news. Previously she was part of The Dallas Morning News, KNBC in Los Angeles, and the Hartford Courant.
Christine received her BA in public policy from The University of Chicago.
Senior Associate, Office of the President
Donata Secondo is the Senior Associate in the Office of the President at Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. In this role, Donata supports the leadership of the Fund’s President, Joe Goldman, by developing and executing on new strategic initiatives, and by managing ongoing projects for the Office of the President.
Prior to joining the Office of the President, Donata served for three years on Democracy Fund’s Strategy Impact and Learning team. As Manager of Learning and Strategy, she supported the organization in developing impactful systems-based strategies and in fostering an active learning culture for the organization, its grantees, and the broader field. Donata previously worked as Program Associate with the Participatory Budgeting Project, a Democracy Fund grantee, where she managed the PBNYC process and engaged thousands of New York City residents in directly allocating a portion of the city’s budget. Her research and experience working on PB has lead to several publications, including in the Journal of Public Deliberation.
Donata holds a Masters of Science in Global Politics from the London School of Economics and Political Science and graduated magna cum laude from Brown University with a BA in International Development.
Program Director, Public Square
Josh Stearns is the Program Director of the Public Square Program at the Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. Focusing on a vibrant media and the public square, Josh leads the Public Square Program in it’s mission to invest in innovations and institutions that help people understand and participate in the democratic process. Current grantees of the Public Square Program include the Institute for Nonprofit News, the American Press Institute, and the Engaging News Project.
A journalist, community builder, and civic strategist, Josh joined the Democracy Fund from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, where he served as the Director of Journalism and Sustainability and worked to support and expand community-driven local news. Josh also helped found the Local News Lab at the Dodge Foundation, which invests in creative experiments in revenue and community engagement in journalism.
Previously, Josh served as press freedom director at Free Press, where he spent seven years running national advocacy campaigns in support of digital rights, freedom of expression, and media diversity. Before that Josh managed communications and policy for Campus Compact, a national coalition of more than 1,000 college campuses committed to renewing the democratic purposes of higher education. He is a nationally recognized leader in public participation and civic innovation and has won numerous awards for digital storytelling and online campaigns.
Josh is a founding member of the First Draft Coalition and the Freedom of the Press Foundation. His articles have appeared in the Guardian, Columbia Journalism Review, PBS MediaShift, Orion Magazine, BuzzFeed, and Boing Boing. Josh is a visiting scholar in the Journalism and Communication Departments at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and has taught at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. He has a BA in writing from St. Lawrence University and an MA in American studies from the University of Massachusetts.
Follow Josh on Twitter @jcstearns
Senior Communications Associate
Rebecca Stewart is a Senior Communications Associate for the Elections Program at Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. Focusing on modern elections and the role of money in politics, Rebecca supports the Elections Program in their mission to ensure that the views and votes of citizens come first in our democracy.
Prior to joining Democracy Fund, Rebecca worked for SKDKnickerbocker with a variety of litigation and political advocacy clients, and served in the Obama administration at the Department of Justice as deputy press secretary for the attorney general and media affairs coordinator. Rebecca joined DOJ’s Office of Public Affairs as a press assistant in 2014 and started with DOJ in 2012 as an honors paralegal. Prior to DOJ, she worked in the flagship institution of Meeting Street Academy, an independent school in Charleston, South Carolina, that was developed as a prototype for educational change.
A Virginia native, Rebecca now lives in Washington, D.C. She holds a master’s degree from George Washington University and a bachelor’s degree from College of Charleston.
Managing Director of Communications and Network
Lauren Strayer is Managing Director for Communications and Network at the Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. She develops and manages the Fund’s efforts to expand the organization’s reach, networks, and influence.
Lauren joined the Democracy Fund in 2014, bringing ten years of experience to the team in communications, media, and advocacy. Most recently, Lauren was an independent consultant specializing in communications and strategy for non-profit and philanthropic enterprises. At various points in her career, her clients have included Inside Philanthropy, Hand in Hand, the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute, and Free Press among others. Previously, she was Associate Director of Communications at Demos, where she focused on media outreach, coalitions, and campaigns for a range of economic and democracy reform issues. She was also Associate Director for Institutional Giving for both Demos and The American Prospect magazine.
From 2004-2009, Lauren was the executive director of the New Democracy Project, where she was a co-editor of Change For America: A Progressive Blueprint for the 44th President, which was published in collaboration with SourceBooks and the Center for American Progress. She is also co-author of Defend Yourself! How to Protect Your Money, Your Health, and Your Rights in 10 Key Areas of Your Life (Newmarket Press, 2006). She was associate producer of 7 Days in America with Mark Green and Arianna Huffington at Air America Radio.
Lauren earned an MBA from Georgetown University and holds a B.A. in political science and economics from the University of Michigan.
Photo Credit: Lori Cannava
Robin Thompson is the Controller at Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. As part of the Operations team, Robin supports the Democracy Fund by overseeing and planning the Fund’s financial resources. She is responsible for implementing and managing new, efficient systems for the growing and complex organization.
Robin joined the Democracy Fund in 2017, bringing an extensive background in financial management, auditing, compliance, and operations management. Prior to joining Democracy Fund, Robin worked at other nonprofit organizations managing their finance departments, preparing financial reports, developing and implementing budgets, streamlining processes, and implementing new systems.
Robin holds Bachelor’s degrees in Accounting and Business Information Systems from Stevenson University, as well as the CPA designation in Maryland.
Program Associate, Public Square
Lea Trusty is a Program Associate at the Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. Lea supports the Public Square Program in its mission to invest in innovations and institutions that focus on creating audience-centered, inclusive, and trusted newsrooms that reflect the diversity of their communities.
Lea leads Democracy Fund’s Engaged Journalism strategy. This work centers on three main areas of focus: Audience-driven storytelling; diversity, equity, and inclusion; and trust and transparency. Current grantees include organizations like the Listening Post Collective, the Maynard Institute, and the Trust Project.
Lea joined Democracy Fund in summer 2017. Prior to joining the team, Lea was a Newman’s Own Foundation Fellow, a program for recent graduates interested in philanthropy and social impact. She was placed at WSHU Public Radio, an NPR affiliate in Connecticut. She covered a wide breadth of stories, from minority teacher recruitment to the first family suing ICE for detention center abuses.
Lea is currently a member of the EPIP DC steering committee. She graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University, where she studied politics and Latin America.
Program Associate, Governance
Nathaniel Turner is a Program Associate at the Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. Focusing on checks and balances and the rule of law, Nathaniel supports the Governance Program in its mission to strengthen safeguards that ensure our government is transparent and accountable to the public. Current grantees of the Governance Program include the Project on Government Oversight and Issue One.
Prior to joining the Democracy Fund, Nathaniel worked as a legislative assistant at the American Civil Liberties Union. There he advocated before Congress on issues including surveillance reform, privacy, and cybersecurity. Before joining the ACLU, Nathaniel was a policy analyst at the Charity & Security Network, where he worked to reform national security policies that impacted the work of charitable organizations and peacebuilders.
Nathaniel graduated from American University with a B.A. in Political Science and a Masters of Public Administration.
Associate Director, Public Square Program
Paul Waters is an Associate Director at Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. Paul works with newsrooms and stakeholders to help them authentically connect with and involve community members, better represent the perspectives of diverse audiences in newsroom stories, sources, & staff, transform reporting practices, and produce more relevant and valued news.
Paul co-leads Democracy Fund’s Engaged Journalism Strategy with Lea Trusty, which is focused on building trust and diverse perspectives. The Engaged Journalism Strategy is centered around three tracks of work (I) Audience-Driven Storytelling; (II) Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion; (III) and promoting Transparency. Current grantees of the strategy include the Center for Media Engagement, Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, and the Trust Project. Paul also is developing frameworks and funding mechanisms to explore the increasing power of tech platforms in our democracy through the lens of civic information.
Paul joined the Democracy Fund in 2014. Previously, he served as a Legal Fellow at the Federal Communications Commission in the Office of the Chairman and Wireline Competition Bureau. At the FCC he used his legal training to help draft policies supporting the deployment and adoption of high speed Internet in the United States. Paul earned his Juris Doctorate at George Washington University Law School. Paul graduated magna cum laude from the George Washington University, receiving a B.A. in political communication and international affairs.
Senior Advisor for Leadership Development
Margaret is Senior Advisor for Leadership Development at the Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people.
Margaret has played instrumental roles throughout Democracy Fund’s growth from three to 50 employees in its first five years. She coordinated Democracy Fund’s launch as an independent 501(c)3 in 2014, established its values-driven culture, led its diversity, equity, and inclusion work, and served as Chief People Officer. In 2019, Margaret’s focus shifted to leadership development.
She passionately believes that the way each of us chooses to lead in an increasingly complex, volatile, and uncertain environment is more critical than ever to organizational success. As an ICF-certified coach with a career devoted to organizational change, Margaret brings deep commitment to Democracy Fund’s staff and stakeholders in supporting their leadership development.
Prior to joining Democracy Fund, Margaret advised not-for-profit and government leaders through her organizational consulting practice of 16 years, winning her clients national recognition for innovation, performance improvement, and public engagement. Her own public service includes a stint as Deputy Vice President for Administration and Finance at the Millennium Challenge Corporation. Margaret was a contributor to Diversity at Work: the Practice of Inclusion (2013) and to Memos to the President: Management Advice from the Nation’s Top Public Administrators (2001).
Margaret has been a student of leadership and change management since the earliest days of her career. She started as a staff reporter for The Wall Street Journal, co-founded an automotive innovation start-up, and earned “reinventing government” and other leadership awards while advising the Deputy Director for Management in the U.S. Office of Management and Budget.
A graduate of the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland’s coaching program, Margaret holds an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin and a BA in Economics from the University of Michigan.
Associate Director, Strategy and Learning
Devon Ysaguirre is an Associate Director at Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people.
Devon is most recently from Humanity United, where she stewarded the Strategy, Learning and Impact practice. During her tenure at HU, she operationalized its systems practice, led the development and implementation of its monitoring, evaluation, and learning approach, and built out complexity-enabled impact frameworks. She believes that complex systems require creative approaches to impact assessment and that continuous learning enables adaptability in strategy, and designed and facilitated strategy and learning conversations toward this end. Prior to HU, she worked on post-conflict and refugee issues and human rights for the U.S. government, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, UNHCR and NGOs working on M&E, leading and developing programmatic strategy, and building partnerships. She serves as a pro bono partner to the Buffet-McCain Institute Initiative to Combat Modern Slavery, where she led the creation of the program learning infrastructure.
She received her MA of Law and Diplomacy from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and her BA in Political Science from Wellesley College.
Nina Zenni is the Grants Associate at Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people. She works with the Operations Team, where she is responsible for supporting all of Democracy Fund’s investment and grants management systems to help scale and optimize grantmaking strategies for more impactful and effective philanthropy.
Nina joined Democracy Fund in October 2018, after serving as the Program Officer for the Susan Crown Exchange in Chicago, IL, where she supported the advancement of strategic grantmaking for digital learning and social and emotional learning programs. She has extensive experience across the nonprofit sector, working in corporate social responsibility, direct social service, case management, youth development, and foundation grantmaking.
Previously, Nina worked at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in Miami, FL for the journalism and media innovation departments, managing a portfolio of nonprofits, social startups, and civic innovators building digital solutions for more informed and engaged communities. She also managed the Knight News Challenge, the department’s largest grantmaking competition, funding projects in civic tech, library innovation, democracy, elections, and open data.
Nina has also worked as a private nonprofit consultant and adviser with several organizations, developing and managing grant competition programs, stewarding grants administration, coaching organization leaders on development initiatives and Foundation partnerships, and conducting comprehensive emerging funder market research.
She holds a Bachelor of Science in social work from New York University.
Founder and Chairman
Pierre Omidyar is an entrepreneur and philanthropist who is best known as the founder of eBay. Built on Pierre’s strong belief and trust in humanity, eBay was created in 1995 and today provides more than 150 million people around the world with equal access to information, opportunity, and tools to pursue their goals.
As a philanthropist, technologist, and innovator, Pierre is driven by the idea that change is possible given the right combination of insight, innovation, talent, and timing. This perspective helped inform his creation of the Democracy Fund, which he guides with his strategic vision, values, and unique approach to catalyzing social change.
Pierre and his wife Pam are active philanthropists working around the world in areas ranging from financial inclusion, technology to improve children’s health, human rights, journalism, sustainability, democracy, and in the U.S., protection of the First Amendment. They have pioneered many new approaches to philanthropy, investing 1.5 billion dollars over the last two decades. In 2011, Pierre and Pam were honored with the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy for the lasting impact of their work.
The Omidyars are deeply engaged in the organizations and companies they’ve founded through The Omidyar Group, including: Democracy Fund, Hopelab, Humanity United, Omidyar Network, and Ulupono Initiative. While each organization has a specific focus, they are all united in their aim to spark social impact and empower individuals.
Pierre is the founder of First Look Media - a new-model media company devoted to supporting independent voices. He is also the publisher of Honolulu Civil Beat, a local news service in Hawaii that encourages greater civic participation through media. Pierre serves on the board of directors for eBay and is a trustee of Tufts University, Santa Fe Institute, and Punahou School.
Pat Christen joined the Democracy Fund board in 2014. Pat is a managing director of The Omidyar Group, serving as a senior advisor to philanthropists Pierre and Pam Omidyar. Pat brings curiosity, a sense of humor and a commitment to high accountability to her role, which focuses on cultivating environments of learning, innovation and impact across all Omidyar Group organizations and initiatives.
Prior to joining The Omidyar Group, Pat served as President and CEO of HopeLab, a non-profit harnessing the power and appeal of technology to improve human health and well-being. Under Pat’s leadership for more than a decade, HopeLab’s work centered on the development of specially designed technology to drive positive health behavior among youth. HopeLab is currently focused on the research and development of new social technologies to promote human resilience.
Prior to HopeLab, Pat was President and Executive Director of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation for 15 years, where she worked with her counterparts nationally to craft the federal Ryan White C.A.R.E. Act. This precedent-setting legislation now generates more than $2 billion annually in funding for AIDS care in the United States.
Pat also served as President of the Pangaea Global AIDS Foundation, establishing AIDS clinics and playing an active role in AIDS-planning efforts globally. As president of Pangaea, she was responsible for the construction of the Infectious Diseases Institute at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, a state-of-the-art AIDS clinic, research, and training center which opened its doors in August of 2004. Pat has written, studied, and lectured on social and health issues both in the U.S. and abroad. She was a Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya, East Africa from 1982–1985. She was a member of the Young Presidents’ Organization and is now a member of the Exiles Chapter because she is too old to be considered a “young” president any longer! She is a graduate of Stanford University, where she studied biology and political science. She is also a mother of four, a role that deeply inspires her work.
Since 2008, Sarah Steven has held a variety of marketing, communications, and program management roles across the organizations and initiatives of The Omidyar Group (TOG).
Sarah works closely with Pierre and Pam, their advisors, and leadership teams, to imagine, incubate, and develop new areas of interest, facilitate cross-TOG collaborations, and lead special projects for the family. A highlight of this work was the leadership role that Sarah played when the Omidyars hosted His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Hawaii for an historic three-day visit in 2012, filled with twelve life-changing events. More recently, Sarah was appointed to the Democracy Fund’s board of directors in 2016.
Sarah also leads a team of marketing and communications experts who provide a wide range of services to TOG executives, entities, and partners. One of the most rewarding aspects of this work is the convening role Sarah plays in bringing together marketing and communications professionals across TOG to build community, leverage smart ideas, and challenge each other to think differently.
With a career spanning more than two decades, Sarah draws from a diverse set of professional experiences beginning in Washington, D.C., where she managed public affairs efforts and developed influence campaigns for clients including Home Box Office, Microsoft, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Silicon Valley, she worked with Fortune 500 companies such as Hewlett-Packard as well as technology startups where she provided counsel on a range of areas from senior executive communications support; litigation and crisis response; mergers and acquisitions; corporate responsibility and environmental sustainability; to, consumer and enterprise products, technologies and services.
Throughout her career, Sarah has been recognized for her expertise and aptitude for managing crisis situations and developing large-scale programs that are global in reach and impact. She believes that the unique and exciting challenges inherent in each of these areas bring greater energy and creativity to her work.
Sarah holds a B.A. in communications from George Mason University. She loves her Southern Virginia roots, but is equally grateful for her home in Honolulu where she and her husband can be found trying to teach their toddler son how to shaka.
Lanhee J. Chen, Ph.D. is the David and Diane Steffy Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution; Director of Domestic Policy Studies and Lecturer in the Public Policy Program at Stanford University; and Lecturer in Law at Stanford Law School. Chen is also a Counsel at the law firm of Arent Fox LLP.
A veteran of several high-profile political campaigns, Chen has worked in government, the private sector, and academia.
He has advised four presidential campaigns, including Senator Marco Rubio’s 2016 bid. Chen was the policy director of the Romney-Ryan campaign in 2012, where he served as Governor Mitt Romney’s chief policy adviser; a senior strategist on the campaign; and the person responsible for developing the campaign’s domestic and foreign policy. He was also the domestic policy director of Governor Romney’s first presidential bid in 2008, and a health policy adviser to the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign in 2004.
Chen serves as a presidentially-appointed and Senate-confirmed member of the Social Security Advisory Board—an independent, bipartisan panel that advises policymakers on matters related to the Social Security program. He is a Senior Adviser to the Aspen Economic Strategy Group, an Aspen Institute program that draws together a diverse range of distinguished leaders and thinkers to address significant structural challenges in the U.S. economy. Chen is currently a Senior Adviser on Policy to the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), a role he also played during the 2014 campaign cycle.
Chen was honored in 2015 as one of the POLITICO 50, a list of the “thinkers, doers, and visionaries transforming American politics.” He earned a similar honor in 2012 when he was named one of POLITICO’s “50 Politicos to Watch.”
His writings have appeared in a variety of outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. He was a CNN Political Commentator and has provided political analysis and commentary on nearly every other major television network. Chen is also a member of the Editorial Board of the Salem Media Group.
In the Bush administration, Chen was a senior official at the US Department of Health and Human Services. He was also the Winnie Neubauer Visiting Fellow in Health Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation and worked as a health policy advocate for a major business group in Washington, DC.
In 2017, Chen was the William E. Simon Visiting Professor in the School of Public Policy at Pepperdine University. At Stanford, he is also an affiliate of the Freeman-Spogli Institute for International Studies and a member of the Faculty Steering Committee at the Haas Center for Public Service. An eight-time winner of Harvard University’s Certificate of Distinction in Teaching, Chen’s scholarship has appeared or been cited in several of the nation’s top political science journals.
Chen serves in a variety of leadership roles in nonprofits and community-based organizations. He is Chair of the Board of Directors of El Camino Hospital in the Silicon Valley, a Director of the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity (FREOPP), serves on the Board of Trustees of the Junior Statesmen Foundation and is on the Advisory Board of the Partnership for the Future of Medicare. He is also a member of the Committee of 100, an organization of prominent Chinese Americans.
Chen earned his Ph.D. and A.M. in political science from Harvard University, his J.D. cum laude from Harvard Law School, and his A.B. magna cum laude in government from Harvard College. He is a member of the State Bar of California.
A native of Rowland Heights, California, he currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and children.
Francis Fukuyama is Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI), and the Mosbacher Director of FSI’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law. He is professor (by courtesy) of political science.
Dr. Fukuyama has written widely on issues in development and international politics. His book, The End of History and the Last Man,was published by Free Press in 1992 and has appeared in over twenty foreign editions. His most recent book, Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy, was published in September 2014. Other books include America at the Crossroads: Democracy, Power, and the Neoconservative Legacy, Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution, and Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity. He will publish a new book, Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment in Sept. 2018.
Francis Fukuyama received his B.A. from Cornell University in classics, and his Ph.D. from Harvard in Political Science. He was a member of the Political Science Department of the RAND Corporation, and of the Policy Planning Staff of the US Department of State. He previously taught at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) of Johns Hopkins University and at George Mason University’s School of Public Policy. He served as a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics from 2001-2004.
Dr. Fukuyama is chairman of the editorial board of The American Interest, which he helped to found in 2005. He is a senior fellow at the Johns Hopkins SAIS Foreign Policy Institute, and a non-resident fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Center for Global Development. He holds honorary doctorates from Connecticut College, Doane College, Doshisha University (Japan), Kansai University (Japan), Aarhus University (Denmark), and the Pardee Rand Graduate School. He is a member of the Board of Governors of the Pardee RAND Graduate School, the Board of Directors of the National Endowment for Democracy, and a member of the advisory board for the Journal of Democracy. He is also a member of the American Political Science Association, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Pacific Council for International Affairs. He is married to Laura Holmgren and has three children.
Cherie Harder serves as President of The Trinity Forum. Prior to joining the Trinity Forum in 2008, Ms. Harder served in the White House as Special Assistant to the President and Director of Policy and Projects for First Lady Laura Bush.
Earlier in her career she served as Policy Advisor to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, advising the Leader on domestic social issues and serving as liaison and outreach director to outside groups. From 2001 to 2005, she was Senior Counselor to the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), where she helped the Chairman design and launch the We the People initiative to enhance the teaching, study, and understanding of American history. Prior to that Ms. Harder was the Policy Director for Senator Sam Brownback and also served as Deputy Policy Director at Empower America.
Ms. Harder has contributed articles to publications including Policy Review, Human Events, the Harvard Political Review, and various newspapers. Her ghost-written speeches and articles have appeared in Vital Speeches of the Day, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, USA Today, and others.
She holds an Honors B.A. (magna cum laude) in government from Harvard University and a post-graduate diploma in literature from the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, where she was a Rotary Scholar. She serves on the board of Gordon College, the Convergence Center for Policy Resolution, and Faith and Law; on the advisory boards of the National Civic Art Society and the National Museum of American Religion; and on the Board of Reference for Global Scholars and the Geneva School.
Ms. Harder was raised in New Mexico and currently lives in Northern Virginia.
Lisa Leingang has worked in the media and entertainment business for over 25 years. With senior executive roles ranging from production to development executive, she has held posts at various media companies including HBO, NBC, CBS and Viacom, discovering, nurturing and developing creative talent from all over the world.
Since 2015, she has served as Senior Vice President, Programming and Content at First Look Media/Topic Studios, developing television, documentary film and digital content focused on innovative and independent voices. From Academy Award-winning films (Spotlight) to critically acclaimed documentaries (Risk) from Oscar-winner Laura Poitras, to television, audio and digital, the mission of First Look Media is to explore a wide range of subject matter, both fiction and nonfiction. The approach – challenging, compelling, and unconventional – reflects FLM’s commitment to discovering and amplifying independent new voices, and supporting established ones.
Topic Studios projects include an array of feature documentaries including XY Chelsea, the story of former US Army analyst turned whistleblower and trans woman, Chelsea Manning, directed by Tim Travers Hawkins and produced by Pulse Films; Nobody Speak (Netflix), about the landmark trial between Hulk Hogan and Gawker, directed by Brian Knappenberger; Dark Money (Sundance 2018), about a bitter campaign finance fight in Montana, directed by Kimberly Reed; The Blue Wall, about the Chicago PD killing of Laquan MacDonald, directed by Oscar-nominee Rick Rowley; No Man’s Land (Tribeca 2017), following the Patriot movement’s occupation of a remote Oregon wildlife refuge, directed by David Byars; and Missing Richard Simmons, which became one of the top podcasts in history after being released in February 2017 to critical acclaim.
Early in her career, Lisa was selected as one of Variety’s Top Women in TV to Watch and was featured as a top 50 member of Variety’s Comedy Impact Report in 2006. She is currently a mentor to young executives in the HRTS (Hollywood Radio and Television Society), advising and coaching members beginning their careers in entertainment.
Lisa sits on the board of One Kid One World, a non-profit organization that provides a foundation for education in impoverished communities throughout Kenya, El Salvador and Guatemala by giving children from primary school up through secondary school the opportunity for a better and brighter future.
Melissa Mark-Viverito is Senior Advisory to the Latino Victory Fund (LVF). In her current capacity, Mark-Viverito works with LVF to identify and recruit progressive Latino candidates, expand the Political Action Committee’s fundraising and state infrastructure, and help launch state chapters in Florida, Georgia, Arizona and Nevada. Her work will focus heavily on the 2018 midterm elections.
Prior to LVF Mark-Viverito served as Speaker of the New York City Council, the first Puerto Rican and Latina to hold citywide office, and represented the 8th District, which includes El Barrio/East Harlem and the South Bronx. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, she worked for over a decade in local activism, nonprofit organizations and grassroots labor organizing before being elected to the City Council in 2005.
Melissa Mark-Viverito was unanimously elected to serve as New York City Council Speaker in January 2014. As Speaker, she focused on transparency in government and policies that generate socioeconomic opportunity and combat systemic inequality.
In 2014, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito implemented sweeping rules reforms that increased transparency in city government and streamlined the legislative process to better serve New Yorkers. Melissa also established budget reforms to ensure City Council resources are more equitably distributed across districts based on poverty levels.
Due to the Speaker’s leadership, New York City emerged as a national leader in the fight for comprehensive immigration reform. In 2014, Mark-Viverito announced a groundbreaking public -private partnership to fund legal representation for unaccompanied immigrant children facing deportation in New York City. Melissa and the Council passed legislation in 2014 limiting the City’s compliance with detention requests issued by United States immigration authorities without a warrant from a federal judge. In 2015, New York City launched the IDNYC municipal identification card open to any resident of the City regardless of immigration status. Speaker Mark-Viverito proudly supported the New York Family Unity Project, the nation’s first government-funded legal representation program for detained immigrants which provides high-quality, holistic representation to New Yorkers detained and facing deportation who cannot afford an attorney.
Speaker Mark-Viverito is also an outspoken advocate for local and national criminal justice reform. Under her leadership, the New York City Council initiated a citywide bail fund that assists low-income individuals in qualifying cases to post bail rather than spend needless time in jail while awaiting trial. Speaker Mark-Viverito sponsored and passed the Criminal Justice Reform Act (CJRA) which provided the framework for the use of summonses instead of arrests for certain low-level, non-violent offenses, a policy shift that has decreased the volume of individuals detained and jailed unnecessarily.
As the first person (and woman) of color to serve as Speaker of the City Council, Melissa Mark-Viverito focused on increasing opportunity and equality for young women across New York City. In 2015, Speaker Mark-Viverito launched the Young Women’s Initiative to address disparities faced by women in such areas as education, workforce development, healthcare, and the criminal justice system. In 2011, she was one of four Council Members to pioneer the first-ever Participatory Budgeting process in New York City.
Kierna Mayo is the Senior Vice President of Lifestyle Content + Brands at iOne Digital, Inc. A veteran culture writer/editor and brand architect, Mayo has been recognized by Folio, The Root, and the NAACP among others as a modern media trailblazer.
Mayo’s editorial career began in the early 1990s as an editor at The Source magazine. With cultural criticism as her foundation, she went on to become an urban affairs reporter at the NYC award-winning publication, City Limits. Soon after, Mayo and a creative partner pitched the concept for Honey magazine to publishers—and in 1998, the brand launched to critical acclaim at Harris Publications. New York Magazine opined, “Honey feels right on time.”
As Honey founding Editor-in-Chief, Mayo fostered an uncharted visibility for millions of young, multicultural women of the hip-hop generation—and a name for herself as a journalistic maverick and formidable media brand creator.
In 2000, Mayo joined the digital “1.0” content wave and developed LikePepper.com, with early digital player Urban Box Office. In the years following, she stacked deeper publishing experience: Mayo was tapped to reimagine Essence Girl, a special interest publication for teens. A four-year foray at Hearst Magazines followed: named Cosmogirl, Senior Editor, Mayo also served as a founding member of the Hearst Magazines Diversity Council.
Post-Hearst, Mayo consulted on multimedia projects for BET Networks and became a popular staff writer for CafeMom.com, a general-market parenting site. By 2009, Mayo was chosen by model and mogul Tyra Banks to be Editorial Director of her daily platform, TYRA.com.
As a veteran culture writer, Mayo has penned provocative commentary, articles, and cover stories for several national publications including Essence, Marie Claire, Glamour, Seventeen, Vibe, Uptown, and many digital outlets. Her early writings are oft-referenced and excerpted in academic and commercial text including the seminal “And It Don’t Stop: The Best American Hip Hop Journalism of the Last 25 Years.”
In 2011, Mayo became Editorial Director of EBONY.com, soon after garnering a Min/Folio “Best of the Web” honorable mention. The impressive reintroduction of the venerable brand to a millennial audience led to her quick ascension to EBONY Editor in Chief. During Mayo’s reign, she was heralded for noteworthy covers that created a swell of new interest in the 70-year-old title. Chicago Magazine called her EBONY creations “bold and confrontational.”
Throughout Mayo’s two-decade career, she has most notably helped to launch numerous media careers of other people of color. She is the recipient of the “Veteran Award for Extraordinary Leadership and Lasting Contribution in Media” from Women in Media Meet Up, and of distinguished honors from the ROOT 100, NAACP, GLAAD and others.
Mayo currently serves on the American Heart Association, Diversity Leadership Committee, and she is a founding member of the Kennedy Center Hip Hop Culture Council.
Mayo can be frequently seen on CNN Tonight with Don Lemon and has appeared on numerous radio, podcasts and cable TV shows. She has been an invited guest speaker at colleges and universities including NYU, Harvard, Howard, Wellesley and Syracuse. A graduate of Hampton University with a B.A. in Mass Media Arts, Mayo is a recent recipient of the school’s Esteemed Alumna Trailblazer Award for Digital and Print Media. A Brooklyn native, Mayo now resides in Long Island, NY with her husband and two sons.
Raju Narisetti is the new director of the Knight-Bagehot Fellowship in Economic and Business Journalism and professor of professional practice at the Columbia Journalism School. He was most recently the CEO of Gizmodo Media Group, a portfolio of digital journalism sites that included some of the web’s most beloved and authentic brands, including Gizmodo, Jezebel, Deadspin, Lifehacker, The Root. A media executive with a track record in creating, rethinking and managing major media organizations in North America, Europe and Asia, Raju was also previously Senior Vice-President of Strategy at News Corp. Prior to that, he was Managing Editor of The Wall Street Journal Digital Network, where he is responsible for WSJ’s digital/mobile content strategy and execution; the Managing Editor of The Washington Post, where he led the integration of its digital and print businesses; the Editor of The Wall Street Journal Europe; and Founder of Mint, the second-largest business newspaper/website in India. He serves on the Board of the Wikimedia Foundation. His home is in Brooklyn, NY, though he is often found, rather plainspoken, @raju.
Sonal Shah is an economist and entrepreneur. She has spent her career focused on economic policy and actionable innovation in the public and private sectors. Ms. Shah is a global leader on social innovation policy, including impact investing, data and technology for social good, and civic engagement through government, business, philanthropy, and civil society. She has led policy innovations at the White House for President Obama and the Treasury Department for President Clinton. Ms. Shah brings a unique and diverse background. She started her career at the U.S. Department of Treasury where she was an international economist working on timely development issues, including setting up the central bank in Bosnia, working post-conflict reconstruction in Kosovo, implementing poverty reduction strategies in Africa, and working on the financial crises in Asia and Latin America.
Ms. Shah served as Deputy Assistant to the President for President Obama and founded the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation. She served on President Obama’s transition board leading the Technology, Innovation, and Government Reform group. In the Administration, Ms. Shah led efforts to set up innovative finance mechanisms for service delivery, leveraging technology and partnerships to solve some of the nation’s toughest challenges. She also supported and trained leadership throughout government (political and civic service) to institutionalize innovative practices. In the private sector, Ms. Shah led technology for civic engagement and impact investing initiatives at Google as the head of Global Development Initiatives. She also set up and ran the environmental strategy as a Vice President at Goldman Sachs, Inc.
One of Ms. Shah’s most proud accomplishments is working with her siblings to create a nonprofit organization, Indicorps, to build a new generation of socially conscious global leaders. They worked with some of the leading nonprofit and social organizations throughout India to work on issues in healthcare, education, farming, and women’s development. Indicorps created the service movement in India, inspiring and incubating new social enterprises like Teach for India and Sarvajal.
Ms. Shah is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and serves on the board of the Case Foundation, Social Finance, Inc., Urban Alliance, Nonprofit Finance Fund, and the GSMA Foundation. She also serves as an adviser to the Washington Area Women’s Foundation and the Future Project.
Follow Sonal on Twitter @SonalRShah
Chip Sullivan serves as Executive Vice President, Communications, at NBC Entertainment where he is responsible for strategy, development and execution of public and media relations for the network and Universal Television. In addition to overseeing program publicity, talent relations, photography, events and awards campaigns, Sullivan also serves as liaison to the larger NBCUniversal community as well as parent company Comcast, overseeing press relations pertaining to industry issues and public affairs on behalf of NBC Entertainment.
Joining DreamWorks in 1995 as Head of Special Projects, Sullivan worked on award-winning films including “Saving Private Ryan,” “American Beauty,” “Gladiator,” “Shrek,” and TV series including “Spin City,” “Boomtown,” “Las Vegas,” and “Father of the Pride.” Following the animation studio’s IPO in 2004 and Paramount Pictures’ acquisition of DreamWorks Studios in 2005, Sullivan played a role at both companies overseeeing corporate communications for the live action studio on films including “Sweeney Todd,” “Dreamgirls,” and “Transformers,” as well as TV series including “Into the West” and “On the Lot,” as well as consulting on special marketing projects for DreamWorks Animation on films including “Kung Fu Panda” and “Madagascar.”
After DreamWorks Studios partnered with The Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group in 2009, Sullivan worked on films including “The Help,” “War Horse,” and “Lincoln.” He has contributed to the campaigns for DreamWorks Animation films including “The Croods” and “How to Train Your Dragon.” He has also been involved with DreamWorks television series including “DreamWorks Dragons,” “King Julien,” and “Puss in Boots,” which debuted on Netflix in 2014. He also played a role in the studio’s annual TV network holiday specials such as “Shrek the Halls,” “Kung Fu Panda Holiday” and “Madly Madagascar” among others. Prior to joining DreamWorks, Sullivan served as Director of Special Projects at Walt Disney Studios.
A graduate of Bentley College, Sullivan is involved in several philanthropic causes. He currently serves on the National Board for the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and the Advisory Board of the Los Angeles Sports & Entertainment Commission. He has also served on the boards of Project Angel Food and LifeWorks Mentoring.
Charles J. Sykes is one of the most influential conservatives in Wisconsin. The author of eight books, Sykes is a senior fellow at the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute and is founder and editor in chief of the website Right Wisconsin, and is the editor of the Wisconsin Interest magazine. He recently stepped down as a talk show host at WTMJ radio in Milwaukee and as host of “Sunday Insight” on the local NBC affiliate
During the 2016 campaign, Sykes was a prominent and outspoken critic of Donald Trump, confronting the Republican candidate in a widely discussed interview in March. Sykes has been featured on ABC, NBC, CNN, Fox News, PBS, BBC, and NPR for his political commentary, including his views on the future of conservativism and the media. He is currently a regular contributor to NBC News and MSNBC.
Sykes’s books include A Nation of Victims, Dumbing Down Our Kids, Profscam, The Hollow Men, The End of Privacy, 50 Rules Kids Won’t Learn in School, A Nation of Moochers, and Fail U: The False Promise of Higher Education. Sykes has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Politico, USA Today, National Review, and other national publications. He has also spoken extensively on university campuses.
He is currently working on a book for St. Martin’s Press tentatively titled “How The Right Lost Its Mind.” It will be published in the fall of 2017.
Follow him on Twitter @SkyesCharlie
The Reverend Starsky D. Wilson is a pastor, philanthropist and activist pursuing God’s vision of community marked by justice, peace and love. He is pastor of Saint John’s Church (The Beloved Community), president & CEO of Deaconess Foundation and chair of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.
Deaconess is a faith-based grant making organization devoted to making child well-being a civic priority in the St. Louis region. Since 1998, Deaconess has invested nearly $80 million to advance its mission. With Rev. Wilson’s leadership, the Foundation is building a movement for child well-being through philanthropy, advocacy and organizing. In 2016, Deaconess broke ground on a 20,000 square foot Center for Child Well-being to serve as a collaborative hub for child advocates to open in December 2017. With the Children’s Defense Fund, the Foundation opened three new Freedom Schools in the Summer of 2017 hosted by local United Church of Christ congregations.
Saint John’s Church (The Beloved Community) is an inter-racial, inner-city congregation in St. Louis, affiliated with the United Church of Christ. Through Saint John’s, Wilson has led activism on myriad issues, including youth violence prevention, Medicaid expansion, public school accreditation, voter mobilization, capping payday lending and raising the minimum wage, while more than quadrupling worship attendance and annual giving. He established The Beloved Community Conference to resource social justice ministries and Sojourner’s Truth: Celebration of Preaching Women.
In 2014, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon appointed Rev. Wilson to lead the Ferguson Commission, a group of citizens empowered to study the underlying conditions and make public policy recommendations to help the region progress through issues exposed by the tragic death of Michael Brown, Jr. In 2015, they released the ground-breaking ‘Forward Through Ferguson: A Path Toward Racial Equity’ Report, calling for sweeping changes in policing, the courts, child well-being and economic mobility.
Wilson was elected chair of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy in 2017. He also serves boards for Chicago Theological Seminary, Deaconess Center for Child Well-Being, Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, Let America Vote, Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference and the Chancellor’s Council for the University of Missouri St. Louis, where he leads the Governance Committee. Under his leadership, the Urban League Young Professionals established St. Louis’ annual Young Blacks Give Back community service blitz.
Rev. Wilson earned a bachelor of arts in political science from Xavier University of Louisiana, master of divinity from Eden Theological Seminary and is currently completing his doctoral thesis, entitled The Truth of Reconciliation: Leadership for American Apartheid, at Duke Divinity School. For his public theology and ministry, Wilson was awarded doctor of public service and doctor of divinity degrees honoris causa by Saint Louis University and Eden Theological Seminary. A member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. and Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, Starsky is married to Dr. LaToya Smith Wilson, a dentist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. They are raising four children in St. Louis.
Democracy Fund has committed more than $50 million to support a healthy democracy. Established by philanthropist and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar in 2011 and incubated inside Omidyar Network, Democracy Fund launched as an independent foundation in July 2014 and is a member of The Omidyar Group. We also support and make our grantmaking data available to the Foundation Center’s Foundation Funding for U.S. Democracy tool.
We take seriously our commitment to transparency and will continue to share additional financial information as it becomes available.
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