Program Director, Economic Justice
Wellspring Philanthropic Fund
Our work is focused on supporting efforts to transform our nation’s economic systems, cultural norms, and beliefs so we can build an economy where all people living and working in America can meet their basic needs, realize their aspirations, and live in dignity.
What is the mission of your foundation and how does addressing economic equity and opportunity fit in?
Wellspring’s mission is to support the effective advancement of social justice, and the realization of human rights and social and economic justice for all people. The Economic Justice program’s work is focused on supporting efforts to transform our nation’s economic systems, cultural norms, and beliefs so we can build an economy where all people living and working in America can meet their basic needs, realize their aspirations, and live in dignity.
We’re still finalizing our grantmaking strategy for this new program and will begin grant-making against the strategy in 2023. What I can tell you is that we’ll be supporting efforts to build worker power, improve job quality and to shrink corporate power and the financialization of the economy. To help achieve these goals, we’ll also be investing in building multi-racial working-class power through organizing as well as narrative and cultural change efforts to reshape and rebuild support for public goods.
As you think about your work, what excites you? What is some of the work you are most proud of?
I am so inspired and excited by the brave workers across the country who are fighting for respect, from the Fight for $15 to the Amazon warehouse workers to Starbucks baristas and more. These movements have shifted the playing field and helped usher in a new wave of support for unions in the workplace. I’m energized by their fighting spirit and excited to make sure our philanthropic dollars are helping fuel this historic moment of growing worker power. I grew up in a blue-collar, union household and know first-hand the difference unions make not only for their members but for society at large by building solidarity and fighting for the common good.
I’m new to philanthropy, so the work I’m most proud of stems from my 17 years at Demos—writing, advocating, and fighting for economic justice, especially for working-class and young people just starting out. After raising money for nearly two decades, I’m keenly aware of the power and privilege that comes with being on this side of the table. If you ask me what I’m most proud of one year from now, I know what the answer will be: the brilliance and impact of our grantees. And that makes me happy to get started in this new role.
What do you see as the biggest barriers or challenges in your work?
Building solidarity is hard. If it were easy, we’d have a different economy and a different social contract in the United States. White supremacy and the exploitation of white anxiety by politicians and corporate elites has always been a major obstacle to a progressive economic agenda, and to the fulfillment of the promise of democracy. And those threats are very much with us today. Compounding the challenge is that our political system, especially Congress, so often fails to respond to the demands and wishes of the people—so that far too many people feel their votes and their voices don’t matter. I like to be clear-eyed about the challenges and also remember that there are people across this country who are organizing their communities and making a difference. At the end of the day, I believe in the power of people. I have to believe that in 50 years when I’m no longer here, the record will show that the power of ordinary people stopped the rise of authoritarianism and rooted out systems of inequality and inequity.
How does participating in the EOF network benefit your work?
The EOF network has been invaluable to me as someone new to philanthropy. EOF is a great place to learn from other funders and get a sense of the philanthropic landscape. It’s been a source of inspiration and connection for me.
What is one question you would like to engage your funder colleagues in?
Since I’m new to philanthropy, I’m in deep listening and learning mode. If I had to name one question for my colleagues it’s the same one I will continue to ask of myself: how can we make sure our combined efforts are greater than the sum of our parts? Are we, as funders, doing the best we can to align and amplify our efforts? There is a great deal of power invested in maintaining the divisions and inequality in our society. Are we doing everything we can to match and shift that power with our investments?
Who is someone who has inspired you?
There have been so many inspirational people in my life—I’ve been lucky to work with some truly amazing, brilliant, kind, and caring people. But at the end of the day, I am inspired by the extraordinary commitment and grit of ordinary people willing to fight for something better for themselves and for our society. What I’ve done in my career is nothing compared to the contributions of hundreds of thousands of people whose names we may never know, but whose belief that something could be better actually made it so.