Staff

Our main office is in New York City, and we also have an office in Oakland (California) and field staff based in Chicago and Greensboro. See full bios at the bottom of the page.

  • Lize Mogel, Development Manager – New York – lize [at] participatorybudgeting [dot] org

Bios

Josh Lerner, Executive Director – New York
staff_josh-lernerJosh is co-founder and executive director of the Participatory Budgeting Project. He has over 15 years of experience developing, researching, and working with leading community engagement programs across North America, Latin America, and Europe. His work on participatory budgeting has been recognized by The White House as a model for open government, and by the Brown Democracy Medal as the best practical innovation advancing democracy around the world. He completed a PhD in Politics at the New School for Social Research and a Masters in Planning from the University of Toronto. He is the author of Making Democracy Fun: How Game Design Can Empower Citizens and Transform Politics (MIT Press, 2014), Everyone Counts: Could Participatory Budgeting Change Democracy? (Cornell University Press, 2014), and over 20 articles. joshlerner.net | @joshalerner
Jennifer Godzeno, Deputy Director – New York
staff_jenheadshotsept2016Jennifer is a nationally-recognized expert at building interdisciplinary coalitions and initiatives that effect equitable community development. She is a 2016 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Leader, and a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. At PBP,  she leads organization-wide strategic planning to ensure our programs and internal operations reflect the qualities that make participatory budgeting uniquely effective: empowerment, transparency, and radical inclusion. Jennifer brings over a decade of experience in nonprofit management, grassroots advocacy, and community-grounded research. As a researcher at Seattle Children’s Research Institute and as Planning Director at Transportation Alternatives, she advanced the field of active design through innovations in community outreach and data-driven infrastructure investment, including engagement with low-income communities of color. She holds Master of Public Health and MS Urban Planning degrees from Columbia University, and double-majored in neuroscience and music at Amherst College. Jennifer resides with her husband and daughter in Stamford, CT, where she serves as an appointed member of the city planning board and is active in her local church.
Shari Davis, Director of Strategic Initiatives – Oakland
staff_shariShari is responsible for the strategic development and management of PBP’s network-building work and for launching new high impact participatory budgeting processes. She joined PBP staff after nearly 15 years of service and leadership in local government. As Director of Youth Engagement and Employment for the City of Boston she launched Youth Lead the Change, the first youth participatory budgeting process in the US, which won the US Conference of Mayors’ City Livability Award. Shari first got involved in city government in high school, serving as the Citywide Neighborhood Safety Coordinator on the Boston Mayor’s Youth Council and working at the Mayor’s Youthline. Shari is a graduate of Boston University’s Sargent College for Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and holds a master’s degree in anatomy and physiology.
Maria Hadden, Midwest and South Senior Project Manager – Chicago
staff_mhaddenprofile2Maria Hadden is a founding board member of the Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP). Maria first became involved in PB as a budget delegate during the very first PB cycle in the US in 2009 and is currently the Senior Project Manager for the Midwest and South. Maria’s expertise in public participation is grounded in grassroots organizing efforts for social change. In both her professional and civic life, she creates space for effective public engagement and the implementation of transformative processes. Maria has years of facilitation and training experience previously working as a mediator and mediation trainer with the Interfaith Center for Peace in Columbus, Ohio. She earned her B.A. in International Peace and Conflict Studies from The Ohio State University before moving to Illinois to serve as an AmeriCorps*VISTA. Maria’s interests in community voice and the role of civil society were the focus on her graduate studies at DePaul University where she earned an M.S. in International Public Service Management. Maria lives with her partner in Chicago, IL and works nationally and abroad.
Ginny Browne, West Coast Project Manager – Oakland
staff_ginny-browneGinny manages PBP’s West Coast projects. She completed her Master’s in Urban and Regional Planning at UCLA, where she did extensive research on participatory budgeting in North America. With PBP, she coordinated the first city-wide PB process in the US, in Vallejo, CA. Prior to joining PBP, Ginny worked as a community organizer with the grassroots New York organization Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES), a researcher with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in the Bay Area, and an AmericorpsVISTA associate with Fifth Avenue Committee, a community development corporation in Brooklyn. She has collaborated with a wide range of agencies and organizations, from LA’s Strategic Actions for a Just Economy to the Federal Transportation Administration, to engage local communities on issues such as workforce development, affordable housing preservation, and transportation equity. Ginny also has a background in community media and has reported news for National Public Radio and the Pacifica Network.
Melissa Appleton, East Coast Project Manager – New YorkMelissa HeadshotMelissa manages the implementation of PB projects and innovations on the East Coast. With over eight years of experience supporting group and inter-personal dialogue as a facilitator, mediator, and trainer at the largest community mediation organization in the US (New York Peace Institute), she brings a passion for collective decision-making to participatory budgeting. Melissa is happy to be supporting group deliberation with diverse communities more locally after doing conflict resolution work internationally in Timor-Leste, Kosovo, and Israel. She received a graduate degree in Peace Education from Columbia University and, though a proud Vancouver native, has called New York City home for over 11 years
Francesco Tena, West Coast Project Manager – OaklandFrancesco guides and grows PB on the West Coast. He started his career as a teenager in City Hall, surrounded by adults who actually listened. Since then, Francesco has been dedicated to addressing youth employment disparities, developing meaningful civic engagement in local government, and empowering people to take control of their future (and their budgets). Prior to joining PBP, Francesco worked in youth development for 10 years. At the Boston Public Health Commission, he supported programming designed to diversify the pool of health professionals in Boston. Francesco then went on to lead youth civic engagement for the City of Boston as the Manager of the Mayor’s Youth Council. In this capacity, he oversaw the first three cycles of Youth Lead the Change, the nation’s first youth exclusive PB process and winner of the 2016 Guangzhou International Award for Urban Innovation. Francesco is also a tech enthusiast and wannabe chess master.
Lize Mogel, Development Manager – New York
staff_lizemogel_smLize manages PBP’s grants and institutional giving. She is a grantwriter and development consultant who has been fundraising for cultural and social justice organizations for more than a decade, including for organizations such as the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) and Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES). Lize is also an artist and counter-cartographer who works with the intersection of art, geography, and popular education. She is co-editor of the book/map collection “An Atlas of Radical Cartography” and has presented her work internationally.

Hadassah Damien, Manager of Engagement Technology – New York
Hadassah Damien develops and designs digital and analog technologies that are human-centered, accessible, and grow communities. As a technologist with nine years experience building within grassroots movements, and a community organizer for over a dozen years, she intersects functionality with agility, practicality, and the democratic politics of open-source cultures in her work. At PBP, Hadassah develops and manages Participation Lab projects, works with other civic technologists to better the ecosystem of digital PB tools, and builds interfaces to deliver data to humans. Hadassah Damien is also a multimedia artist, LGBTQ community art curator, and economic justice writer. Before joining PBP, she was a worker-owner at Openflows Community Technology. She holds a MA in American Studies from the CUNY Graduate Center, and a HBA in English & Semiotics from the University of Toronto. She blogs at femmetech.org, tweets @hadassahdamien, and absolutely wants to hear about your relevant ideas and tech projects. When not hacking for a more equitable world, she can be found on her bicycle.
Elizabeth Crews, Development Manager – New York
elizabeth_crewsElizabeth manages PBP’s institutional fundraising. Elizabeth brings over 10 years in nonprofit management, research and fundraising. She started her own consulting firm, Mockingbird Strategies, where she has consulted political parties, candidates, nonprofits, and foundations on political organizing, advocacy campaigns, and community outreach strategies. Most recently, she founded and led UnifiEd, a public education advocacy organization in Chattanooga, TN focused on improving public education by expanding public participation in the school system, from the class room to the board of education.
Bitsy Bentley, Community Data Hub Manager – New York
bitsy_bentleyBitsy crafts meaningful data experiences that facilitate well-informed decisions. She supports PBP's mission with the design and development of a Community Data Hub that makes data on community needs and public spending accessible to non-profits, advocates, and residents of communities using participatory budgeting processes. Bitsy comes to PBP after a decade in the market research industry where she was recognized as a leader in audience-focused data communication. She is thrilled to leverage her experience with data visualization and research communication strategy to building a more equitable democracy. When not occupied with her work as a data practitioner she is an artist and climate activist that creates genetically diverse, resilient ecosystems using indigenous farming and plant breeding techniques.
Harvir Kaur, Individual Giving Coordinator – New York
staff_harvir-kaur-headshot-1Harvir leads the growth of an individual donor base that can support PBP’s work to empower thousands of people and reinvent democracy. Previously, Harvir worked with Brandworkers as their Development Coordinator leading their fundraising efforts and helping key allies engage with local food-making workers to escalate the effort for a just food system. Before Brandworkers, Harvir worked with the Brooklyn Movement Center as their food sovereignty organizer where she partnered closely with local residents to challenge racial inequity in the food system. She has also worked on several other social justice projects, including an analysis of the barriers to low income people’s access to dental health care services, and interviews with detainees in the Baltimore City Detention Center to evaluate health care services inside the jail. In 2011-2012, Harvir worked as a Bill Emerson Fellow through the Congressional Hunger Center in Jackson, Mississippi, where she analyzed food insecurity issues faced by senior citizens, and in Washington, D.C., where she analyzed the racial wealth gap in the United States. Harvir got her undergraduate degree from Johns Hopkins University and completed her Masters of Public Administration from NYU’s Wagner School.
Valerie Warren, Greensboro Community Engagement Coordinator – Greensboro
staff_valerieheadshot
Valerie supports the development of participatory budgeting processes in the South. As a community organizer, facilitator, and strategist with more than two decades of experience, she has been involved in a variety of campaigns and projects to address issues of racial, economic, gender and environmental justice while building community power. For the past four years she has worked with the Organize 2020, the social justice caucus of the North Carolina Association of Educators, working on campaign planning, strategic communications, and parent organizing. In her professional life she has acted as a project manager in a variety of settings including refugee resettlement, supply chain management, purchasing, sales, marketing, and publishing. She has never met a project she wasn’t curious about or an issue she didn’t want to understand and explore. She is extremely excited about the potential of participatory budgeting as a tool to organize the south. When she is not plotting and scheming for how to make a better world, she loves to spend time with her partner, two kids and magnificent cat, go for a run, or engage in the fine art of porch sitting with friends.
Olga Bautista, Community Engagement Coordinator – Chicago

Olga has dedicated her professional career and efforts to improving the lives of her community members. Olga has been a Local School Council Parent Representative at John L. Marsh School, a YWCA Crisis Intervention Specialist, a Board Member of the Immigrant Defense Alliance, a board member of the Southeast Environmental Taskforce (SETF) and a member of the Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE). She is trained in Restorative Justice Conflict Resolution, DIY Balloon Mapping and was nominated to present the balloon mapping project for the White House Makers Faire. Olga previously worked as the State Recruiter for the Illinois Migrant Education Program and the Adult Education Coordinator at Association House of Chicago where she honed her skills at responding to the needs of diverse communities.As one of the lead organizers for the Southeast Side Coalition to Ban Pet Coke Olga led the fight that forced state and local politicians including Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s Office, the City Council, and the Governor’s Office to address the pressing environmental issues in the 10th Ward. Olga’s work has been featured in the Chicago Tribune, Vice News, and Al Jazeera.
Ashley Brennan, Program Associate – Oakland
staff_brennanAshley transforms public school systems so that they empower students with real power over the real money that impacts their lives. She strengthens local civic engagement efforts across North America by supporting a Network of civic leaders and co-coordinating convenings to connect government officials, researchers, young people, and community leaders. To elevate this work, and the work of her team, Ashley manages PBP’s communications and curates how we tell our stories. She is a graduate of Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University, where she synthesized the first formal evaluation of youth PB in Romania as her honors thesis using interdisciplinary training in psychology and human rights—and with a focus on ways to apply social science research towards social change. In-between reshaping democracy and hiking across Northern California, find her leading group fitness classes; she thrives in communities that challenge each other to be stronger in all definitions of the word, together.
Jake Carlson, Research Fellow – New York
staff_jakeJake supports PBP’s efforts to build shared research and evaluation tools across North America. He is a PhD student in Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he has already completed his Master’s Degree. Previously, he was the transportation equity coordinator at WE ACT for Environmental Justice, and the New York State Transportation Equity Alliance. He helps coordinate the Research Committee for the Right to the City Alliance, and is a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 3220. His research is on urban transformation, and how communities can pursue development without displacement. Jake’s work has been focused on what happens when people have a say in the decisions that affect their lives.
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