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Our team

Ted Howard

President & Co-Founder

Ted Howard is the Co-founder and President of The Democracy Collaborative. Previously, he served as the Executive Director of the National Center for Economic Alternatives.

In July 2010, Ted was appointed the Steven Minter Senior Fellow for Social Justice at The Cleveland Foundation, a position he held for four years. Working with the Foundation, he was a member of a team that developed the comprehensive job creation and wealth building strategy which resulted in the Evergreen Cooperative Initiative.

Ted lectures frequently about community wealth building, most recently at the Clinton Global Initiative-America, the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, the Co-operatives United World Conference (Manchester, England), various regional Federal Reserve Banks, as well as at universities including the University of Pennsylvania, Yale, MIT, Georgetown, Oberlin, Michigan State and the Ohio State University.

Gar Alperovitz

Co-Founder, The Democracy Collaborative and Co-Chair, Next System Project

Gar Alperovitz has had a distinguished career as a historian, political economist, activist, writer, and government official. For fifteen years, he was the Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland, and is a former Fellow of Kings College, Cambridge University; Harvard’s Institute of Politics; the Institute for Policy Studies; and a Guest Scholar at the Brookings Institution.

Gar is the author of critically acclaimed books on the atomic bomb and atomic diplomacy. As a well known policy expert, he has testified before numerous Congressional committees and lectures widely around the country.

Among his many achievements is having been the architect of the first modern steel industry attempt at worker ownership in Youngstown, Ohio.  In addition, Gar was nominated to be a member of the Council of Economic Advisers by leading national consumer, labor, and environmental organizations.

Marjorie Kelly

Executive Vice President & Senior Fellow

Marjorie Kelly is the Senior Fellow and Executive Vice President of The Democracy Collaborative, a non-profit research organization founded in 2000. Marjorie is lead author of the new report, “A New Anchor Mission for a New Century: Community foundations deploying all resources to build community wealth,” which profiles an “Innovative 30” community foundations pursuing impact investing and economic development strategies. The report was recently featured in Stanford Social Innovative Review, Forbes, and elsewhere. Marjorie is also a consultant with the current “Community Foundation Circle,” a peer learning project for 14 foundations interested in adopting impact investing strategies. 

Marjorie is Project Director of The Learning/Action Lab for Community Wealth Building, a year-long collaboration spearheaded by The Democracy Collaborative and supported by the Northwest Area Foundation. She is also an Associate Fellow at the Tellus Institute, a 35- year old nonprofit research organization based in Boston. Marjorie advises private businesses on ownership and capital design for social mission. Marjorie is also on the Advisory Board of Boston Public Bank Working Group. Additionally, she is on the National Board of Advisors for CUNY School of Law's Community Economic Development Clinic.

Read more about Marjorie Kelly...

Valerie Piper

Vice President of Engaged Practice

Valerie Piper is the Vice President of Engaged Practice at The Democracy Collaborative, where she oversees and provides strategic coherence and direction to TDC's community wealth building projects and services across the country, including direct consulting and advisory services with cities and institutions, cohort learning and engagement with anchor institutions, practitioner resources and toolkits, and advancing and documenting best practices in community wealth building programs. 

From 2011 to 2017, she served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic Development at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, where she led the development and launch of President Obama’s Promise Zones Initiative, a cross-agency and cross-sector effort to accelerate place-based inclusive economic and community development, as well as leading the creation of new interagency initiatives like the Small Contractor Initiative, the Rural Community Capital Initiatives, and the Community Development Marketplace.

Gus Speth

Distinguished Fellow & Co-Chair, Next System Project

James Gustave "Gus" Speth joined the faculty of the Vermont Law School as Professor of Law in 2010. In addition to his position as Senior Fellow at the Democracy Collaborative, he is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Demos and Associate Fellow at the Tellus Institute. In 2009 he completed his decade-long tenure as Dean, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. From 1993 to 1999, Gus was Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme and chair of the UN Development Group. Read more about Gus Speth...

Steve Dubb

Senior Fellow

Steve Dubb is a Senior Fellow at The Democracy Collaborative and has been with the Collaborative since 2004. Current projects include leading the Collaborative's Anchor Dashboard Learning Cohort team and promoting the development of community wealth building policy. In addition to his research and project-based work, Steve regularly represents the Collaborative at public events and conferences.

At the Collaborative, Steve has written a wide body of work. In 2005, Steve was the lead author of Building Wealth: The New Asset-Based Approach to Solving Social and Economic Problems, published by The Aspen Institute. This report also served as the basis for the original Community-Wealth.org website, which has expanded greatly since in its initial launch in May 2005. In 2007, Steve wrote a report on the role of universities in community economic development (Linking Colleges to Communities: Engaging the University for Community Development). Since then, Steve has been the author or co-author of reports on many topics, including community wealth building public policy (Rebuilding America’s Communities) and the importance of community wealth building in meeting sustainability goals (Growing a Green Economy for all and Climate Change, Community Stability and the Next 150 Million Americans). Steve has also co-authored a number of articles on political economy with Democracy Collaborative cofounder Gar Alperovitz and has written extensively on the role of anchor institutions (often known as “eds and meds”) in community wealth building. This includes being a co-author (with Rita Axelroth Hodges) of The Road Half Traveled: University Engagement at a Crossroads (published by MSU Press in 2012) and, in 2013, leading the research team that produced The Anchor Dashboard, which aims to provide a framework for hospitals and universities to assess and improve their impact in low and moderate-income communities.

Jessica Bonanno

Chief Financial Officer & Director, Employee Ownership Programs

Jessica Bonanno is the Democracy Collaborative’s Chief Financial Officer and Director of Employee Ownership Programs, working out of the Cleveland office. In addition to her role with internal financial managment, she serves as a consultant and project lead in TDC’s advisory practice, oversees research and outreach related to employee ownership projects, and she also provides as needed business development support to the Evergreen Cooperatives. Read more about Jessica Bonanno...

John Duda

Director of Communications

John Duda started working for the Democracy Collaborative as Communications Coordinator in 2011.  He holds a B.A. in lingustics from the University of Pennsylvania, a Master's degree in Logic from the Universiteit van Amsterdam, and a PhD in Intellectual History from Johns Hopkins University, where his dissertation examined the genealogy of the idea of "self-organization" in politics and the sciences. Read more about John Duda...

Joe Guinan

Executive Director, Next System Project & Senior Fellow

Joe Guinan is a Senior Fellow at The Democracy Collaborative and Executive Director of the Next System Project. Having first worked with Gar Alperovitz and The Democracy Collaborative ten years earlier, he returned in 2012 to help design, launch and implement the Collaborative’s work on alternative political-economic systems. A former journalist, he was previously a program director at the Aspen Institute and a fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States and has served as a consultant to the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation. Read more about Joe Guinan...

Thomas Hanna

Director of Research

Thomas M. Hanna joined The Democracy Collaborative in 2010 as a research assistant to Gar Alperovitz. He received his M.A. and B.A. degrees in History from Virginia Commonwealth University. His areas of expertise include public ownership, privatization, utilities, energy, housing, and banking, among others. He has published articles in popular and academic journals including The New York TimesThe NationTruthoutYes! Read more about Thomas Hanna...

Sarah McKinley

Manager, Community Development Programs

Sarah McKinley is Manager of Community Development Programs for The Democracy Collaborative.

She manages the Learning/Action Lab for Community Wealth Building, a multi-year initiative supported by the Northwest Area Foundation, assisting five organizations in Indian Country to create social enterprises and employee-owned companies. She co-authored Cities Building Community Wealth, The Anchor Dashboard: Aligning Institutional Practice to Meet Low-Income Community Needs, and Raising Student Voices: Student Action for University Community Investment. She has a background in community development and has worked with a number of community groups, including the Greater Southwest Development Corporation, a Chicago-based community development corporation, and the National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations. While earning her master degree in urban and regional planning at Cornell University, McKinley was a co-author of “A People’s Plan for New Orleans” a bottom-up community development plan for the 9th Ward after Hurricane Katrina.

Alex Rudzinski

Director of Advisory Services

Alex Rudzinski was pleased to join The Democracy Collaborative in September 2015 as Senior Economic Development Consultant, and has since transitioned to the position of Director of Advisory Services. Read more about Alex Rudzinski...

Dana Brown

Deputy Director, The Next System Project
Dana comes to the Democracy Collaborative with 15 years of experience in community organizing, project management and human rights advocacy. She has worked throughout the US, Latin America and the Middle East supporting communities organized in resistance to neoliberal economic reforms, imperialism and structural violence. 
She joined the Democracy Collaborative in 2015 for the launch of the Next System Teach-Ins drawing on her experience with the Democracy Teach-Ins of the 90s and other popular education efforts related to the peace and social justice movements she has participated in for the last two decades. 
Read more about Dana Brown...

Justine Porter

Senior Associate, Engaged Practice Division

Justine Porter is a social enterprise operations professional with experience in creating and implementing social programs and a passion for finding systems-level solutions to inequality through community building and resident engagement.

Read more about Justine Porter...

Nicole Brown

Community Development Associate

Nicole recently joined The Democracy Collaborative as an Associate for the Community Development Programs. She has a background in adult education, workshop facilitation and community organizing. Nicole has worked with community based organizations for a decade, in roles that supported educational, social, and economic programming that served residents of distressed neighborhoods in her hometown of New York City. Read more about Nicole Brown...

Cecilia Gingerich

Research Associate, Next System Project

Cecilia Gingerich joined The Democracy Collaborative as a Research Associate with the Next System Project in October 2014 having completed a Master’s degree in Politics from New York University in 2013. Her thesis argued that capitalism is, at a structural level, incompatible with ecological sustainability. She is an activist and organizer who has worked on a variety of social and economic justice campaigns. 

Read more about Cecilia Gingerich...

Will Flagle

Research Assistant

Will Flagle first worked with the Democracy Collaborative in the summer of 2015 as a Junior Research Fellow conducting research on regionalism in the United States before returning as a Research Assistant in 2016. He received a B.A. in political science from Grinnell College and a master of public affairs from the University of Texas, at Austin. Academically, Will has enjoyed researching movements for shorter hours, guaranteed annual income proposals, worker cooperatives, and the Solidarity Economy. Read more about Will Flagle...

Erin Kesler

Senior Communications Associate

Erin Kesler works to promote the Democracy Collaborative's work as a Senior Communications Associate. Before joining our staff, she managed press outreach for the Center for Progressive Reform, a network of over 50 progressive legal scholars expert in the regulatory process. Erin worked with the scholars to educate the public about threats to environmental, public health and worker health and safety standards.  Read more about Erin Kesler...

Jarrid Green

Research Associate

Jarrid Green joined the Democracy Collaborative as Research Associate in March 2016 after three years at the Center for Social Inclusion (CSI), a national public policy strategy organization based in New York that aims to dismantle structural racial inequity.  At CSI, Jarrid provided research, policy analysis, advocacy, partnerships and administrative support across CSI’s programs. Jarrid also authored two case studies profiling cooperative ownership in the sustainable energy sector including a profile on the worker-owned solar installation company, Namaste Solar, and a profile on the mult Read more about Jarrid Green...

Rhonda Lewis

Manager, Administration, Accounting and HR

Joining the Democracy Collaborative in December 2011, Rhonda Lewis serves as Operations Director and Executive Assistant to Ted Howard. Before her time here, she spent 15 years in administration with the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, and more recently, two years as a health program coordinator/director with the Lorain County Urban League. Rhonda has a long history with various, local non-profit organizations including serving on the boards of the Lorain County Community Action Agency, the Oberlin Race Relations Committee, Parents for Public Schools and others. Read more about Rhonda Lewis...

Katie Parker

Research Associate

Katie Parker joined The Democracy Collaborative as a junior fellow in December of 2014. As a Research Associate, Katie's primary focus is on how hospitals and health systems can better support their surrounding communities. Katie has a B.A. in environmental studies from Brown University, where she focused on the political economy of food systems and natural-resource based industries. Prior to moving to DC, she worked for a community-based conservation non-profit in the Swan Valley of Montana. Read more about Katie Parker...

Dylan Petrohilos

Design & Media Associate

Dylan Petrohilos is a graphic designer, storyteller, and activist based in Washington, DC. Previously the staff designer at ThinkProgress, an online organizer at Energy Action Coalition, and web developer for PC Creative Group. Dylan is excited about community organizing and using art and design to tell the stories of organizing.

Read more about Dylan Petrohilos...

Adam Simpson

Program Associate, The Next System Project

Adam Simpson joined The Democracy Collaborative as a Program Associate with the Next System Project in October 2016. He has a Master’s Degree in Middle East Studies from the American University in Cairo, where he focused on understanding authoritarian institutions and popular movements. Read more about Adam Simpson...

Carla Skandier

Research Associate, Next System Project

Carla Skandier joined The Democracy Collaborative as a Research Associate with the Next System Project in October 2015 having completed a LLM (Master of Laws)'s degree in Energy from Vermont Law School in 2015. She has a background in international environmental law, climate change, renewable energy and sustainable development, particularly in developing countries as Brazil and China. Read more about Carla Skandier...

Emily Sladek

Research Assistant

Emily joined the Democracy Collaborative in November 2015 as Research Assistant to Steve Dubb working on the Community Wealth Building program. With a background in research and evaluation for academic bridge programs (Department of Education TRiO) as well as the Gateways for Incarcerated Youth (Gateways) program, which provides education pathways to youth in the juvenile justice system, Emily collaborates with communities to collect culturally relevant data that strengthens organizational and policy development. Most recently, she interned with the Peace Economy Transitions program at the Institute of Policy Studies identifying best practices to convert the defense industry to more community-determined economic models.

Read more about Emily Sladek...

Kaylee Thornley

Special Assistant to the Co-Founder, Gar Alperovitz

Kaylee Thornley began working at the Democracy Collaborative in August 2016 after graduating from Northland College with a degree in Sustainable Community Development. Her interdisciplinary degree focused on the intersections between environmental, social, and economic systems. During college, Kaylee worked for three years as a Research Assistant at Northland College’s Center for Rural Communities (CRC). Read more about Kaylee Thornley...

Melissa Wood

Office Administrator
As office administrator of the Takoma Park office of the Democracy Collaborative, Melissa's keen eye for detail, dedication to all things organized, and commitment to office efficiency made a long-overdue and welcome addition to the team. Read more about Melissa Wood...

David Zuckerman

Manager, Healthcare Engagement

David Zuckerman joined The Democracy Collaborative team in 2012 and serves as Manager for Healthcare Engagement for the organization’s Anchor Institution Initiative. David is the author of Hospitals Building Healthier Communities: Embracing the Anchor Mission and a contributor to Can Hospitals Heal America's Communities: "All in for Mission” is the Emerging Model for Impact. Read more about David Zuckerman...

Sarah Stranahan

Senior Editorial Associate

Sarah Stranahan has dedicated her career to community organizing, democracy reform, social change philanthropy, and mission-driven finance and investing. As a long time board member of the Needmor Fund, she helped design and oversee grant program in support of community organizing and an integrated mission related investment program.  Read more about Sarah Stranahan...