Melissa Hoover is the founding Executive Director of the Democracy at Work Institute, the think-and-do-tank that expands worker cooperatives as a strategy to address economic and racial inequality. A leader in the worker ownership movement for over fifteen years, Melissa helped start and grow the United States Federation of Worker Cooperatives, the national grassroots membership organization for worker-owned businesses. She was a cooperative business developer for many years with the Arizmendi Association of Cooperatives in Oakland, doing business and capital planning for two startups, training cooperative members, and serving as CFO in the first year of each startup's operations. In 2018, Melissa was named an Executive Fellow of the Rutgers Institute for the Study of Employee Ownership and Profit Sharing. She currently sits on the Board of Directors of The ICA Group, Fund for Jobs Worth Owning, The Working World, Certified EO, and Safe Passages of Oakland. She serves as a strategic advisor to foundations, investors, nonprofits, local governments and other organizations that want to incorporate worker ownership into their economic development and community wealth-building programs. Originally from Kansas City, Melissa attended Stanford University on a full scholarship, earning a BA in History with a research focus on immigrant women's role building cooperative movements in the U.S.
Email: mhoover [at] institute.coop | Phone: (415) 379-9201 Ext. 1
Rebecca Bauen directs DAWI’s training and education program, which includes fellowships, workshops, and our School for Democratic Management. She has long-standing experience in worker cooperative development and adult education. As Executive Director of WAGES in Oakland, California from l999-2003, Rebecca directed the organization toward scaling green cleaning cooperatives. Prior to this, she supported the start-up of an interpreting coop and led a workplace conversion project of a union cabinet making company in Washington State. Working for the Northwest Cooperative Federation, she organized the first four years of the annual Western Worker Cooperative Conference, and taught courses on worker cooperatives and popular education at UC Berkeley and The Evergreen State College. She has published multiple articles and reports on community development and cooperatives for GEO, the ICA Group and Dollars & Sense. She is a member of the Cooperative Charitable Trust, participating in study trips of Argentine recuperated factories, Cuba, Emilia Romagna, and Mondragon. Rebecca holds a M.P.A. with a focus on regional economic development and environmental sustainability. She is also a multi-media artist whose story-sculptures have been shown in exhibits throughout the west coast www.rebeccabauen.com.
Email: rbauen [at] institute.coop | Phone: (415) 379-9201 Ext. 5
La-Tasha leads the DAWI's collaborative national work to support business transitions to employee ownership. She is a servant leader who is passionate about underrepresented communities, serving on a number of boards, including Board Treasurer of The Collaborative, Board Treasurer of Self-Help Credit Union, and Executive Team for City of Durham Small Business Advisory Committee, Treasurer & Co-Founder of NC Employee Ownership Center, Treasurer of The Collaborative, OIGO Advisory Board and Treasurer of Rebuild Durham. La-Tasha is a lifelong learner and certified facilitator in multiple entrepreneurship curricula. She holds Master of Public Administration and Bachelors of Business Administration degrees from North Carolina Central University. She has a certificate from The College of Insurance in New York. She is a NDC certified Economic Development Financial Professional. She is a graduate of NC Rural Economic Development Institute, Leadership North Carolina and Leadership Triangle. La-Tasha is a passionate thought leader and entrepreneur. She is raising the next generation of entrepreneurs by supporting her two teenagers' business ventures.
Email: lbest-gaddy [at] institute.coop | Phone: (415) 379-9201 Ext. 4
Vanessa Bransburg is the Senior Managing Director at the Democracy at Work Institute (DAWI), supporting staff professional development and building strong organizational culture. Vanessa also leads the Rapid Response Cooperative Development Project and provides training and consultation to cooperative developers working with vulnerable workers and immigrant communities. Previously Vanessa was the Director of Cooperative Development at the Center for Family Life (CFL) in Brooklyn, NY for 8 years. While at CFL she expanded the program's capacity by tripling the number of staff, spearheaded the worker cooperative incubator program for hundreds of immigrant and low-income residents, established the NYC Cooperative Development Initiative to support NGOs looking to become cooperative incubators, and was one of the founders of the NYC Network of Worker Cooperatives. She also has a background in community organizing and clinical social work. Vanessa has an MSW from Columbia University, a BA in Sociology from UCLA and is an immigrant from Argentina.
Email: vbransburg [at] institute.coop | Phone: (415) 379-9201 Ext. 13
Shevanthi (Shev) is Senior Program Director of DAWI. Shevanthi provides strategic support on program implementation and growth for DAWI's conversion work with city municipalities, technical assistance providers, legacy business owners and consulting services. Shevanthi comes to DAWI after successfully launching and implementing worker cooperative management certificate programs, as well as a city focused cooperative education and incubation program at the Center for Inclusive Entrepreneurship. Shev is passionate about the intersection of sustainable business and economic development with particular emphasis on direct impacts for people of color. Before entering into worker ownerhip sector, Shev led large-scale labor organizing and worker justice campaigns with SEIU1199 NW and organizing civil rights. And organized social justice leadership work in rural and urban centers across the country. Shevanthi co-founded the O’Dell Education Center, a nonviolence direct action and leadership academy in Washington State, owned and operated by the Institute for Community Leadership. She currently serves on the board of Refugee Women’s Alliance (ReWA) and served as Executive Board President at the Center for Women in Democracy, strengthening women's capacity and leadership in public and private sector. Shevanthi has an MBA in Sustainable Business from Pinchot University and BA in History and Anthropology from University of Washington.
Email: sdaniel [at] institute.coop | Phone: (415) 379-9201 Ext. 11
Annie Danger, Finance Manager
In her work as the Finance Manager at the Democracy at Work Institute, Annie Danger acts as the beating heart of financial responsibility for the organization. Annie works closely with all DAWI staff to help create a transparent, collaborative understanding of our finances and how best to utilize them for the maximum benefit of cooperatives. Born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico to an engineer and a science teacher, Annie showed an early knack for organizational thinking. She was trained in bookkeeping on the job at Modern Times Collective Bookstore in San Francisco beginning in 2006 and has been an independent bookkeeper for a variety of social justice organizations since, using her bookkeeping skills and teaching abilities to support these organizations in developing long-term financial literacy and stability.
Email: finance [at] institute.coop | Phone: (415) 379-9201 Ext. 3
Yadira Fragoso, Rapid Response Cooperative Program Coordinator
Yadira Fragoso is from Mexico City and she came to the United States in 2000. She is a former worker-owner at Si Se Puede women's cooperative for eight years, where she participated in different committees and served as president in 2012. She has served on the New York City Network of Worker Cooperative's board of directors for two years and attended the USFWC conferences and has advocated for immigrant cooperatives in DAWI's Lideres de Cooperativa en Action. Yadira left SSP in 2016 to continue working in developing the project of creating a line of natural and non-toxic cleaning products at the BKLN Clean LLC cooperative. She is currently interested in becoming a cooperative developer and bringing the worker cooperative model to Tulsa, OK to empower the Latinx community affected by social and economic inequality.
Email: yfragoso [at] institute.coop
Madeleine has been a Business Developer at DAWI since October 2021. She is a marketing, business, and communication professional. Madeleine has worked in the nonprofit world for over 12 years in different areas such as community development, arts, culture, and business.She has worked closely with entrepreneurs, supporting them in growing their businesses for more than 10 years, and she has always been interested in the co-op world. She is passionate about creativity and giving back to society by sharing what she has learned. Madeleine has been an entrepreneur herself and has worked with a variety of different populations throughout her career. She was born in Mexico City and in her free time, she loves to play basketball, read, and study philosophy.
Email: mhernandez [at] institute.coop | Phone: (415) 379-9201 Ext. 21
Todd Leverette is the Program Manager of DAWI’s Legacy Business Initiatives, where he works with business owners, economic developers & community members to expand the world of employee ownership across the U.S. Todd is a former Wall Streeter and co-founder of the start-up Your Financial Lane. He received his JD/MBA from Columbia University and his undergraduate degree from Morehouse College. Todd also has experience in residential real estate and enjoys writing sketch comedy.
Julian leads DAWI's communications initiatives in support of its work to expand worker ownership. He is a passionate and mission-driven storyteller with deep roots in community empowerment and economic development, previously leading organizational storytelling and strategic communications around community and systems-level economic change at United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut and Capital Institute. He began his career as a community news editor in Connecticut, where he founded and managed operations of multiple hyperlocal news websites. Julian is also a certified Master Composter and founder of Rockaway Waste Ed, a community organization helping local nonprofits and community gardens divert food waste, rebuild soil, and increase access to nutrient-dense food through compost management, education, and consultation. He lives in the Rockaways, Queens, New York, and holds a bachelor’s in communications from Springfield College (Mass.).
Email: jmckinley [at] institute.coop | Phone: (415) 379-9201 Ext. 10
Anh-Thu leads and supports market development initiatives, innovations, and strategic partnerships for worker cooperative creation, scale and growth. She supports DAWI’s NYC work through the NYC Council-funded Worker Cooperative Business Development Initiative, providing consulting, education and technical assistance to emerging worker cooperatives and developers. She was named a 2022-23 Coro New York Immigrant Civic Leadership Fellow. Her work has encompassed international human rights, social enterprise, and sustainable fashion. She began her career with the UN Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials (UNAKRT), and has launched and consulted on several conscious beauty and fashion brands, including being on the founding team of MAKE Beauty. She studied Classics and Government at Georgetown University and received her JD from the University of Texas School of Law.
Email: atnguyen [at] institute.coop | Phone: (415) 379-9201 Ext. 16
Jamie Pockrandt, Data Architect
Jamie Pockrandt supports DAWI's organizational initiatives through data management and systems design. She recently received a BA in Social Psychology from Portland State University, with a focus on applications at work and in community. Previously, Jamie has supported research addressing the impacts of access to community resources on individual opportunity and well-being, the development of a respectful workplace climate, and has coauthored work in occupational health psychology regarding mistreatment and stress in the workplace. Prior to her work in research, Jamie worked in relationship management and education in the context of sustainable supply chains in the coffee industry, during which time she assisted in the development and management of small-scale client-funded economic development initiatives with coffee-producing partner organizations around mostly Latin America and East Africa. She also holds a BA in Creative Writing from Naropa University and enjoys listening to science fiction audiobooks in her free time.
Email: jpockrandt [at] institute.coop | Phone: (415) 379-9201 Ext. 19
Olga Prushinskaya, Metrics and Impact Analyst
As DAWI's metrics and impact analyst, Olga works to understand and communicate impact in the growing field of worker ownership. Olga is a dynamic and mission-driven data scientist with a background in public health and a focus on health equity. Her work has spanned a variety of fields in addition to worker ownership, including youth housing services, pulmonary medicine, chronic disease management, and maternal and infant health. Olga has an MPH in Health Behavior and Health Education from the University of Michigan and a BS in Microbiology from Michigan State University. Olga is a 2021/22 Executive Fellow at Rutgers University's Institute for the Study of Employee Ownership and Profit Sharing at the School of Management and Labor Relations. When not thinking about data, she can be found working on an art or sewing project.
Email: olga [at] institute.coop | Phone: (415) 379-9201 Ext. 17
Jason works closely with the Executive Director and program leadership to set up the organization for sustainability and growth. He is an experienced program manager and sales professional with expertise in grant writing, database management, program development, and customer service. He has written grants at the foundation, city, and county levels and is a Certified Green Belt in Lean Six Sigma—a process improvement methodology designed to increase customer satisfaction by improving the quality of an organization's systems and processes. He enjoys supporting organizations that serve marginalized populations, having done so professionally for the past nine years. Jason graduated from The Evergreen State College in 2017 with a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies. In his free time, he reads (a lot), watches all things World War II, and practices Filipino martial arts. He owns a home in Des Moines, Washington.
Email: jreddock [at] institute.coop | Phone: (415) 379-9201 Ext. 2
Philip Reeves, Legacy Business Program Consultant
Philip Reeves works with DAWI’s Legacy Business Initiatives Program where he is focused on developing sustainable financing models for employee-ownership broadly. Philip has more than ten years of experience in the private, public and non-profit sectors focused on successfully advising businesses. His previous work includes serving in local government, managing corporate development inside a small business and investment analysis at a global private equity firm. Philip is on the board of the Greater Washington Black Chamber of Commerce and the former President (Curator) of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shaper's Washington, DC Hub. He is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Morehouse College.
As DAWI’s Operations Administrator, Laylee works with the Operations Team to ensure that staff members have the tools and supports necessary to do their work effectively and efficiently. Before joining DAWI, she provided administrative, operational, and programmatic support to mission-driven nonprofits in Texas for over a decade. Laylee studied at Occidental College in Los Angeles, California prior to moving to Austin in 2009. In her spare time, she enjoys reading nonfiction, traveling with her wife, and snuggling up with her two cats.
Email: lsafa [at] institute.coop | Phone: (415) 379-9201 Ext. 22
As an Education and Training Manager, Yarissa works with the Education and Training director to ensure DAWI program partners, members and developers learn the tools necessary to start and sustain democratic workplaces. Before working at DAWI, Yarissa was a curriculum manager at PHI, an organization that works with long-term care executive leaders and frontline staff to create fundamentally new care systems. She worked with home care agencies to develop adult-centered in-person and online skill-building training. And she also facilitated the PHI signature Coaching Supervision®, a curriculum that strengthens teams and builds relational skills. Yarissa is a certified online training professional. She graduated from CUNY City College of New York with a BA in Sociology.
Email: ysoriano [at] institute.coop | Phone: (415) 379-9201 Ext. 6
Nina Stender manages the Rapid Response Cooperative Development Project, which creates pathways to entrepreneurship and stable, career-building work for vulnerable workers and immigrant communities. Her passion for worker ownership was shaped by her work at the Brownsville Community Justice Center in Brooklyn, where she learned about worker co-ops as a tool for economic self-determination. Previously, Nina was the Senior Membership Manager at Certified Employee-Owned, where she supported employee-owned companies with communications, education, and marketing. She was raised in Hong Kong and is now based in the Mid-Hudson Valley, New York, where she serves on the board of the Kingston Food Co-op. Nina was a fellow in Public Affairs at the Coro New York Leadership Center and is currently a Social Change Fellow at the CUNY Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership. Nina holds a BA in Social Studies and Government from Wesleyan University and is currently completing her Graduate Certificate in Workplace Democracy and Community Ownership at the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies.
Email: nstender [at] institute.coop | Phone: (415) 379-9201 Ext. 23
Zen Trenholm builds capacity, partnerships, and resources to scale democratic employee ownership across the country. He currently leads the Shared Equity in Economic Development Fellowship program (SEED) where he convenes and equips city and community leaders with tools and support to build equitable economies using employee ownership. Prior to DAWI he was an organizer for fossil fuel divestment, a director at the California Student Sustainability Coalition, and a co-founder of the Student Environmental Resource Center at UC Berkeley. Zen has a Bachelor’s degree in Conservation and Resource Studies with a special focus on Cooperative Business Development.
Email: ztrenholm [at] institute.coop | Phone: (415) 379-9201 Ext. 12
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Maru Bautista is the Director of the Cooperative Development Program at the Center for Family Life in Brooklyn New York. For the past 6 years, she has worked with her team and the Sunset Park community to strengthen and scale immigrant-led worker cooperatives in New York City. Most notably, Maru has supported the development of the Brightly franchise (brightly.coop) and Up &Go (upandgo.coop). Maru has served on the Board of the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives since 2015, and for the past 4 years has served on the Board of the Democracy at Work Institute. Maru is originally from Puebla, Mexico. She moved to Brooklyn 8 years ago to pursue an M.A. in International Development from the New School. Loving all things cooperative, Maru’s family is in a babysitting cooperative, she is a member of a food cooperative, and has a car-sharing agreement with a friend. Maru is a firm believer in collaboration as the only path forward!
Born in El Salvador, Eulalio grew up in a humble home. He arrived in Boston in January 1999. In 2008 he started working for A Yard and a Half, and in 2013, he started to collaborate and grow the idea of turning it into a cooperative after the owner Eileen Michaels gave the news of her retirement. At A Yard and a Half, Eulalio currently works as a sales manager. As an active member of the cooperative, Eulalio is the treasurer of A Yard and a Half's board of directors. He also serves on its executive and finance committees. As a USFWC member and long-time DAWI program partner and participant, Eulalio is a leader in effective democratic workplace practices, inspiring cooperative leaders, future worker-owners, and immigrant worker-owners alike.
Esteban Kelly is the Executive Director for the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives, and is an important leader and creative force in solidarity economy and co-op movements. He has served on numerous boards including the USFWC, the US Solidarity Economy Network, the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA-CLUSA), and the Cooperative Development Foundation (CDF). He is a co-founder of the cross-sector Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance (PACA), and recently worked at the New Economy Coalition as Development Director and then Staff Director. Esteban is a mayoral appointee to the Philadelphia Food Policy Advisory Council, following eight years as a worker-owner at Mariposa Food Co-op institutionalizing its staff collective and expanding food access in West Philly. He is a founder and core trainer with AORTA, a worker co-op whose consulting supports organizations fighting for social justice and a solidarity economy. He and his family live in the LCA housing co-op—a community land trust in West Philadelphia.
Rebecca Lurie is the founder of the Community and Worker Ownership Project at the City University of NY School for Labor and Urban Studies and the Murphy Institute where she also serves as faculty in the Urban Studies Department. She is a founding member of the worker-owned cooperative, New Deal Home Improvement Company. She began her working career as a union carpenter and transitioned into worker education through the union’s apprenticeship program and the construction industry. Using a sector approach for understanding industries and businesses and their employment needs, she has remained dedicated to inclusive community economic development. Rebecca has collaborated on numerous initiatives in NYC, including pre-apprenticeship programs, a Bronx green jobs network, a kitchen business incubator and the design of Best for NYC. She serves on the board of the Bronx Cooperative Development Initiative and chair of the buildings and grounds committee of the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture. She holds a Master’s in Organizational Change Management from The New School, a certificate in Adult Occupational Education from CUNY and is certified in Permaculture Urban Design. She is a native New Yorker raised with the spirit and passion of dedication to social justice.
Teresita Sattar is a caregiver, member of Filipino Workers Center, Southern California, and a co-owner of Courage Home Care Cooperative in Los Angeles, California. Teresita is an immigrant, mother, grandmother, worker leader, and a strong supporter of human rights and social justice. She has supported and participated in campaigns such as Immigrants are Los Angeles. She’s associated with the California Domestic Workers Coalition, the National Domestic Workers' Alliance, and is a volunteer outreach community health worker during the COVID-19 pandemic. She joined the board of DAWI to inspire people in her community, to be the voice of the many unheard domestic workers who have been excluded from the workforce benefits that others enjoy, and to help support the direction of the base organizations of co-op workers into a more progressive and democratic society. Teresita believes all people, citizens, and immigrants should be able to live, work, and thrive safely with dignity and respect. She supports human rights, social justice, economic sustainability, and progress. The quote that motivates her on her current path is from Franklin D. Roosevelt: “Human kindness has never weakened the stamina nor softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.”
Jess Zimbabwe is the Executive Director of Environmental Works Community Design Center in Seattle. Previously, she founded a consulting practice, Plot Strategies, and served for ten years as the founding Director of the Daniel Rose Center for Public Leadership—a partnership of the National League of Cities and the Urban Land Institute. Before that, Jess led the Mayors’ Institute on City Design, and was Community Design Director at Urban Ecology in Oakland. She serves on the boards of Next City, the National Main Street Center, and Colloqate. She is a licensed architect, certified city planner, LEED-Accredited Professional, and a member of the urban planning faculties at Georgetown University and the University of Washington.
Zen Trenholm, Director of Employee Ownership Cities and Policy
Vanessa Bransburg, Senior Managing Director