Board of Directors
Our Board of Directors includes a mix of PB participants and experts.
- Erin Sanborn (Secretary) – Independent consultant – Taos, New Mexico
- Joey Lake – ZEISS – Vallejo, CA
- Ilana Berger – New York
- Joanna Duarte Laudon– City of Toronto – Toronto
- Gabriel Hetland – University at Albany -Albany, NY
- Isaac Jabola-Carolus – CUNY Graduate Center – New York
- Daniel Schugurensky – University of Arizona – Tempe, Arizona
- Donata Secondo – Democracy Fund – Washington, DC
- Marina Spindler – Group of 50 – New York
Board of Directors
Michael Menser (Chair) – New York
Menser is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Brooklyn College and Earth and Environmental Science and Environmental Psychology at the CUNY Graduate Center, and he is the Chair of the Board of The Participatory Budgeting Project. His current research focuses on participatory democracy, urban environmentalism, food sovereignty, and the “solidarity economy.” Menser is an active member of the PSC-CUNY faculty union and has worked with a range of labor, neighborhood and direct action groups including the NYC and World Social Forum, US Solidarity Economy Network, Brooklyn Food Coalition and the Participatory Budgeting 45th District Committee in NYC.
Erin Sanborn (Secretary) – Taos, New Mexico
Erin has worked throughout the US to improve communities’ economic resiliency, through the integration of environmental stewardship, social justice and economic development. For 30 years she has provided conflict resolution and organizational development support to help organizations tackle complex problems. She has served as a consultant, leadership coach, project and program manager, conference organizer, trainer, public speaker, facilitator and mediator for the US Environmental Protection Agency, MIT, Intel, the Alliance for Community Care, the Taos Community Foundation, and dozens of other organizations, institutions, and businesses. Erin specializes in the design and management of complex multi-stakeholder (government agencies, nonprofit/NGOs, communities, businesses) collaborative processes focused on the quality of education, transportation, healthcare and sustainable development.
Vishal Gujadhur (Treasurer) – Washington D.C.
Vishal is a Senior Program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He has been a Director in Standard Chartered Bank’s public sector client coverage group, which works with entities such as Ministries of Finance, central banks, and sovereign wealth funds. Prior to that, Vishal worked in Liberia as an advisor to the Finance Minister, as an economist at U.S. Treasury’s Office of International Affairs, and at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. He holds a Masters in International Development from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and has a strong interest in public financial management both in the US and abroad.
Nikita Airen – New York
Nikita is the Head of the Operations & Technology Risk Management (OTRM) Business Office at Citi. Her responsibilities include planning, budgeting, executing, tracking and reporting Key initiatives across the organization. Her team is responsible for establishing best practices and ensuring compliance with relevant standards and policies, along with driving the communications and Voice of the Employee strategies across the function. Nikita joined Citi in June 2000 as an Associate in the Business Training Program. Since then, she has held various positions helping implement global strategic initiatives for the company. Nikita is a graduate of SUNY Stony Brook with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems and is a certified Project Manager (PMP). She’s an active volunteer for several internal organizations at Citi and the New York Women’s Bond Club.
Alina Chatterjee – Toronto
Alina is Senior Director of Redevelopment and Innovations at Scadding Court Community Centre in Toronto. She has extensive experience in the community sector with a strong background in equity work, fundraising and program development. Some of her past work includes senior management positions with United Way Toronto and York Region, Toronto Community Housing, the City of Toronto, and she also served as Executive Assistant to City Councilor Kristyn Wong-Tam. While at Toronto Community Housing, Alina managed the housing authority’s participatory budgeting process, the first housing process in North America. With a BA from the University of Toronto in international relations, she has been a volunteer member of several nonprofit Boards, from Social Planning Toronto, Council of Agencies Serving South Asians to Urban Alliance on Race Relations. Alina currently sits on the Board of Drum Arts Canada in addition to PBP.
Silaka Cox – New York
Silaka serves as the Chief Operations Officer at the Rockaway Youth Task Force (RYTF). She joined RYTF in 2011 as a junior in high school in order to become more engaged and active in her community. In 2014, she was appointed as the youngest member of Community Board 14, and currently sits on the Transportation and Youth Services/Education committee. Silaka first become involved with PB in the first year of PBNYC in Council District 32. She has consistently stood up for PB in the Rockaways and beyond, working to ensure that youth and low-income communities of color are at the forefront. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Public Affairs at Baruch College.
Biola Jeje – Washington, DC
Biola is currently at the American Postal Workers Union doing social media and communications. Biola was previously the Statewide Coordinator of New York Students Rising, a statewide network of students dedicated to defending public higher education in New York State. A graduate of Brooklyn College with a degree in Political Science, she got involved in Participatory Budgeting in New York City during its first cycle in September 2011, as an intern for Council Member Brad Lander in the 39th Council District.
Rachel Laforest – New York
Rachel directs the Retail Action Project, a member-based organization with the mission of building worker power, elevating industry standards, and promoting family-sustaining jobs. She was previously the Executive Director of the Right to the City Alliance, and she spent eight years working with progressive labor, directing the Organizing and Public Policy departments of the Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 100 and Actors Equity Association (AEA). Rachel organized and led multiple mobilizations of thousands of TWU members to City Hall and the state government; conducted extensive research and designed education and training in public policy for union members and officers; and was a lead coordinator for TWU during the 2005 New York City transit strike, after which the union leadership was jailed. Prior to her career with TWU and AEA, Rachel served as Lead Organizer/Co-Campaign Director for Jobs with Justice/ New York, building community-labor solidarity and joint action and co-coordinating the campaign that won an increase of $2 per hour in the minimum wage for New York State. Rachel holds a BA from Hunter College/CUNY in Political Science (Black & Puerto Rican Studies) and Education. She has served on the Steering Committee for Participatory Budgeting in New York City.
Joey Lake – Vallejo, California
Joey is a Senior HR Business Partner for medical technologies at ZEISS in Dublin, CA. He chaired the PB Vallejo Steering Committee in its initial years representing Better Vallejo, a civil and civic nonprofit. As chair, Joey helped design the PB process, spoke on behalf of the Steering Committee to the media, guided the idea generating assemblies, facilitated two budget delegate committees, and staffed expos and voting locations throughout the city. He has acted as an ambassador for PB at conferences, in the Bay Area, and elsewhere. Joey chairs the personnel committee for PBP, having served as a Sr. HR Business Partner for over 15 years for both public and private companies within urban and environmental planning, architecture and engineering, and medical technology industries. Joey is a certified Senior Human Resources Professional (SPHR) and has a Bachelor’s degree from Loyola University New Orleans and an MBA from San Francisco State University.
Joe Moore – Chicago
Alderman Joe Moore is a member of Chicago City Council. Since 1991 he has represented the city’s 49th Ward, which includes the Rogers Park neighborhood. He has been named the “Most Valuable Local Official” in the country by The Nation magazine, in recognition for his successful sponsorship of a resolution against the war in Iraq, measures requiring living wages for employees of big box retail stores, and environmental restrictions on Chicago’s coal-fired power plants. Starting in 2009, he launched the first participatory budgeting process in the US, inviting residents of his ward to directly decide how to spend his $1.3 million discretionary budget.
Christopher Wilson – Deerfield, Massachusetts
Christopher is Head of School at The Bement School, a K-9 day and boarding school in Deerfield. He believes that participatory budgeting can foster parental and student engagement, while helping parents and students advance their education and skills. He was previously head of Esperanza Academy, an independent, tuition-free middle school for underserved girls in Lawrence, Massachusetts. In an effort to increase parental school involvement (typically low among the school’s almost 90% Latino population), he created a parents’ Participatory Budgeting Committee to identify and select educational opportunities for Academy parents. Christopher also worked as the principal of Saint Ignatius Loyola Academy in Baltimore, Maryland, a tuition-free middle school for low-income boys. While at Saint Ignatius, he was named one of Baltimore’s most effective urban educators by researchers at Baltimore’s Loyola University. Christopher is a graduate of the University of Maryland Honors Program and Stanford University.
Gianpaolo Baiocchi – New York
Gianpaolo is Associate Professor at New York University’s Gallatin School. He has been involved with PB since 1997, when he began his dissertation research on the topic in Porto Alegre. He has written widely on participatory democracy and participatory budgeting, in publications ranging from the American Sociological Review to the Boston Review and Labor Notes. His comparative research on multiple cities with PB is the topic of his book Making Spaces for Civil Society (with P. Heller and M.K. Silva, 2008). His book on Porto Alegre’s PB (Militants and Citizens, 2005) has been taken up widely in planning and activist circles.
Ilana Berger – New York
Ilana has been organizing since 1996 – her first organizing job was with Californians for Justice, fighting the anti-affirmative action Proposition 209. After that, she served as Lead Organizer with People Organized to Win Employment Rights in San Francisco, organizing families in welfare-to-work programs. From 2000-2010 Ilana was the co-founder and Executive Director of Families United for Racial and Economic Equality, working on issues including welfare rights, child care, affordable and public housing and community-led development in Brooklyn. Most recently, she was Director of Capacity Building at the Center for Popular Democracy. She has consulted for local and national organizations including the Caring Across Generations, National People’s Action, Teachers Unite, the North Star Fund, and Health GAP.
Marti Brown – Sacramento, CA
Marti was elected to the Vallejo City Council in 2009. During her four-year term, she successfully spearheaded bringing Participatory Budgeting (PB) to the City of Vallejo, California, and launching the first city-wide PB process in North America. Currently, Marti is the Community Development Director of the City of Arvin, CA. She oversees the day-to-day operations and administration of the Planning, Building, Code Enforcement, Maintenance and Infrastructure, and Parks and Recreation Divisions. She also pitch-hits with the City Manager on Economic Development. Prior to joining the City of Arvin, she was the Executive Director of the Franklin Boulevard Business Association – a nonprofit corporation representing 640 business owners and more than 150 property owners in the “Latino District” of South Sacramento—and the Franklin Neighborhood Development Corporation—a community development corporation. She also has 10 years of project management experience in redevelopment and urban planning in the Cities of Berkeley and Sacramento, California.
Yves Cabbanes – London
Yves is Professor and Chair of Development Planning at the Development Planning Unit, University College London. From 2004 to 2006, he was a lecturer in Urban Planning at Harvard University Graduate School of Design. From 1997 to 2003, he was the Regional Coordinator of the UN Habitat/UNDP Urban Management Program for Latin America and the Caribbean. Prior to joining the UMP, he worked for ten years in Northeast Brazil, for various NGOs, grassroots groups, and local governments on low-income housing, income-generating activities, and slum improvement in very poor communities. He has coordinated numerous research and development programs with Asian, Latin American, African and Arab partners on urban and municipal governance issues such as participatory planning and budgeting, municipal poverty reduction, social inclusion innovative practices, revitalization of urban centres, community based micro finance, urban agriculture, low income housing, and appropriate technologies for local development. He has acted as Chair for the UN Advisory Group on Forced Evictions (2004 -2010) and as a senior advisor and member of various development initiatives and networks, such as the International Alliance of Inhabitants and the International RUAF Foundation (Resource Centres for Urban Agriculture and Food Security).
Karen Dolan – Washington DC
Karen is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, where she has worked since 1996. She holds an M.A. With Highest Distinction in Philosophy and Social Policy from the American University in Washington DC. At IPS she directs the Cities for Progress and Cities for Peace projects, which link community-led organizations with policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels. Her work focuses on local democracy/empowerment, peace, anti-poverty and economic equality. She helped pilot participatory budgeting in Chicago’s 49th Ward, the first municipal participatory budgeting process in the US. She is currently collaborating with NY-Times Best-Selling Author Barbara Ehrenreich to tell the stories of the millions of Americans affected by the Great Recession. Karen regularly appears in print and broadcast media, and some of her publications include: Battered By Storm: How The Safety Net Is Failing Americans and How to Fix It; Our Communities are Not for Sale; Paying the Price: The Mounting Costs of War in Iraq, Unleash Democracy in Mandate for Change, and Foreign Policy Goes Local. She also serves on the boards of The Backbone Campaign, The Liberty Tree Foundation, and the Jobs With Justice Worker Rights Board.
Joanna Duarte Laudon – Toronto
Joanna is a Senior Policy and Research Officer at the City of Toronto. She is a graduate of the University of Toronto who completed her Master’s degree at York University in urban planning. She has researched and facilitated public participation programs in Venezuela and her hometown of Toronto. In 2009 and 2010 she co-facilitated two participatory evaluations of Toronto Community Housing’s PB process, working with a team of public housing tenants and staff to research and improve the process. Joanna has also worked with community organizations such as Barrio Nuevo, Manifesto Community Projects, and the Hispanic Development Council.
Jonathan Field – New York City / Boston
Jonathan runs Fieldwork, a branding consultancy that delivers qualitative research and strategic insights for growing organizations. His customer explorations have helped launch long term messaging campaigns for brands like L.L. Bean, seeded new business development for leading ad agencies, and contributed to product innovation in sectors everywhere from entertainment to professional health care. More recently he has turned to using user-focused research to the world of service-design, helping organizations evolve and align their customer-facing services. Growing up with parents who both worked for the city of New York (librarian, urban planner), he has long been interested in the way community development (economic and cultural) so often reflects the positive or negative level of local involvement.
Jez Hall – Lancaster, UK
Jez is a member of PB Partners, and he was a long-time associate of the UK based PB Unit. He has worked on promoting Participatory Budgeting (PB) in England, Scotland and Wales since August 2000. As well as his work establishing the PB Unit, supporting the early English pilots and advising local authorities, he is now focusing on a new project of PB with children and young people as a way to develop citizenship skills and create new opportunities for personal empowerment. Jez was previously employed by Lancaster University Management School as a social enterprise business analyst. Between 2005 and 2007 he was a non-executive director of Central Manchester Primary Care Trust, with oversight of community engagement and children services. Jez also spent 10 years working for a community architecture charity advising community groups on project development, community organizing and community led regeneration. In 2009 he established Shared Future CIC, a not for profit company specializing in supporting Social Enterprise.
Sandy Heierbacher – Boston, MA
Sandy is the director of the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD), which brings together people and groups across the US who actively practice, promote and study inclusive, high quality conversations. Sandy has consulted for such organizations as the Corporation for National Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Kettering Foundation in the areas of intergroup dialogue, public participation and deliberative democracy. Sandy has an M.A. in International Management from SIT Graduate Institute.
Gabriel Hetland – Albany, NY
Gabriel is assistant professor of Latin American, Caribbean and Latino Studies and Sociology (by courtesy) at University at Albany, SUNY. He completed his PhD in sociology at the University of California, Berkeley. His dissertation examined participatory budgeting in Venezuela and Bolivia, looking at the similarities and differences in how PB is implemented in municipalities run by Left and Right parties. He has also conducted research on PB in Vallejo, CA, and is a member of the Research Advisory Board for PB Vallejo. Gabriel has written about PB, social movements, and politics in Latin America and the US for The Nation, NACLA, CounterPunch, Dollars and Sense, and ZNET and his work appears in several edited volumes on Latin America, social movements, and the Occupy movement.
Isaac Jabola-Carolus – New York
Isaac is a PhD student at the City University of New York. From 2012 to 2014, he served as a PBP Project Assistant, supporting PB processes in New York City and Boston. Prior to joining PBP, he worked with the New York Hotel Trades Council and the Community Development Project at the Urban Justice Center. A graduate of Brown University with a degree in Development Studies, he has also researched and written about participatory democracy in social movements.
Steve Larosiliere – New York
In 2005, Steve founded Stoked, a mentoring organization with the purpose of promoting personal development, academic achievement, and healthy living to underserved youth through action sports culture. Prior to founding Stoked, Steve worked at Mentoring USA as a mentor recruiter where he advocated for foster care youth by presenting the benefits of mentoring to corporations and government officials. He holds a BA in History from Stony Brook University and an MPA from Baruch College School of Public Affairs.
Matt Leighninger – Hamilton, ON
Matt is Director of Public Engagement at Public Agenda, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that helps diverse leaders and citizens navigate divisive, complex issues and work together to find solutions. Public Agenda coordinates local research and evaluation for Participatory Budgeting in North America. Before joining Public Agenda Matt served as the Executive Director of the Deliberative Democracy Consortium (DDC), an alliance of the major organizations and leading scholars working in the field of deliberation and public engagement. Matt is a Senior Associate for Everyday Democracy, and serves on the boards of E-Democracy.Org, the National School Public Relations Association, and The Democracy Imperative.
Tiago Peixoto – Washington, DC
Tiago is currently an open government specialist with the ICT4Gov program of the World Bank Institute (WBI)’s Open Governance cluster. Prior to joining the Bank, Tiago managed projects and worked as an advisor and consultant for various organizations in the field of participation and technology, such as the European Commission, OECD, the United Nations, and the Brazilian and UK Governments. He is also a research coordinator of the Electronic Democracy Centre, a joint venture of the European University Institute, the University of Zurich and the Oxford Internet Institute of the University of Oxford. Tiago is one of the leading experts on online and digital engagement in PB.
Daniel Schugurensky – Tempe, Arizona
Daniel is a professor in the School of Social Transformation and in the School of Public Affairs at Arizona State University. He is particularly interested in the connections between participatory democracy, citizenship education and community engagement. Daniel has helped organize three international conferences on citizenship learning and participatory democracy (Toronto 2003, Toronto 2008, Rosario 2010). He has conducted research on Participatory Budgeting in Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and Canada, paying special attention to the educational dimension of participatory budgeting. He co-edited the book “Learning citizenship by practicing democracy: International initiatives and perspectives” (Cambridge Scholarly Press, 2010). Other recent publications include “The Tango of Citizenship Learning and Participatory Democracy”, “’This is our school of citizenship’: Informal learning in local democracy”, “’I took a lot of stuff for granted’: Participatory budgeting and the Neighbourhood Support Coalition” (with Elizabeth Pinnington), “Who Learns What in Participatory Democracy? Participatory Budgeting in Rosario, Argentina” (with Josh Lerner), and “Participatory Budgeting in North America: The Case of Guelph, Canada” (with Elizabeth Pinnington and Josh Lerner).
Donata Secondo – New York
Donata is a Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning Associate at the Democracy Fund, and a graduate in Development Studies and Latin American Studies of Brown University. From 2011 to 2012 she served as PBP’s Project Coordinator for PBNYC. Her past professional experience includes work with the Watson Institute for International Studies as well CENDA, a leading Chilean political think tank, and CEDEM, a women’s studies research institute. She has been researching the diffusion of participatory budgeting and its impact on social justice in practicing communities for several years.
Marina Spindler – New York
Marina Spindler is the executive director of the Group of Fifty (G50) and recently launched the Millennium Leaders (ML50), a new group composed of top Latin American entrepreneurs under 40 years of age. As executive director Marina supervises all aspects of strategy, programming, development, and direction for the G50 and has organized high-level business summits in China, Chile, Mexico, Spain, Singapore, and Washington, D.C. She is currently enrolled in the Executive Master of Public Administration (EMPA) program at Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University. Previously, Marina was the Latin America corporate program manager for Foreign Policy Magazine and served as a special advisor to the Ashoka fellow and founder of the Pan American Collaborative Emergency Medicine Organization. Marina earned her degree in international affairs from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. after spending many years abroad.
Celina Su – New York
Celina is an associate professor of political science at the City University of New York and co-founding executive director of the Burmese Refugee Project, which employs participatory models to foster community development among Shan Burmese refugees in northwest Thailand. Her research focuses on civil society and the cultural politics of education and health policy. She has written numerous articles and two books on civic engagement and education policy: Streetwise for Book Smarts: Grassroots Organizing and Education Reform in the Bronx (Cornell University Press, 2009), and, co-authored with Gaston Alonso, Noel Anderson, and Jeanne Theoharis Our Schools Suck: Young People Talk Back to a Segregated Nation on the Failures of Urban Education (New York University Press, 2009). She serves on the Steering Committee for PBNYC.
Rachel Swaner – New York
Rachel is a principal research associate for the Center for Court Innovation, focusing on youth programming at the Red Hook Community Justice Center. She is also working on a national portrait of the commercial sexual exploitation of children, and the evaluation of Defending Childhood, the U.S. Attorney General’s multi-site initiative to address children’s exposure to violence. Prior to joining the Center, she was a research associate at the Harlem Children’s Zone, where she evaluated social, educational, and health programs for children and youth. Ms. Swaner received her B.S. and Master’s of Public Administration from New York University, and her Ph.D. in Sociology from the CUNY Graduate Center. She has served as a budget delegate in the 39th District in PBNYC.
Aaron Tanaka, Center for Economic Democracy – Boston
Aaron is the Director of the Center for Economic Democracy in Boston, and Co-Chair of the Board of the New Economy Coalition. He worked with PBP as the part-time lead organizer for the first youth participatory budgeting process in the US, in Boston. He was previously the founding Executive Director of the Boston Workers Alliance (2005-2012), where he built a grassroots organization that serves thousands of Boston residents with job search and CORI sealing services. He was co-chair for the Commonwealth CORI Coalition, a statewide network of over 135 labor, youth, community, faith and criminal justice organizations. Aaron has been intimately involved in policy and public program design at both city and state levels, including with the Boston’s CORI Ordinance, the Boston Residents Jobs Policy, and the Renew Boston program. In 2010, the BWA incorporated municipal Participatory Budgeting as an organizational goal, and began a grassroots education campaign to popularize the idea in Roxbury and Dorchester.
Erik Olin Wright – Madison, Wisconsin
Erik is Vilas Distinguished Professor of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. His academic work has focused on social stratification, class relations, and egalitarian social, economic, and political systems. Since 1992 he has directed The Real Utopias Project, which explores a wide range of proposals and models for radical social change. His books include Deepening Democracy: Institutional Innovations in Empowered Participatory Governance(with Archon Fung, Verso, 2003); Envisioning Real Utopias (Verso, 2010); American Society: How It Really Works (with Joel Rogers, W.W. Norton, 2010).
Meg Wade – At-Large
Meg managed PBP’s operations until May 2015. Before joining staff, she served on the PBP Board of Directors for two years. She first participated in PB during the inaugural year of participatory budgeting in Chicago’s 49th Ward, serving as a co-chair of the transportation committee. A freelance writer, facilitator, and organizer, she has been active in numerous efforts for local democracy and sustainability. She holds both a B.A. and M.A. from the University of Chicago.
Sondra Youdelman, Community Voices Heard – New York
Since March 2007, Sondra has served as Executive Director of Community Voices Heard, a member organization of low-income people, predominantly women with experience on welfare, building power in New York City and State to improve the lives of families and communities. Sondra has worked both in the United States and abroad to achieve social and economic justice through organizing. She has over 15 years experience as an organizer and activist with grassroots groups including farm workers, Native Americans, public housing residents, and low-income workers in the United States, and abroad for various populations throughout Latin America and in several African countries. She obtained a Master’s Degree in Public and International Affairs from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School.