Mel King Community Fellows

Class of 2016-2017: Transnational Economic Democracy

Asier Ansorena
Instituto Banco Palmas - Palmaslab

I'm originally from Spain, graduated with a B.A in Economics and Political Science from the University of Michigan in 2006. After that I worked for the international youth run organization AIESEC in several projects for youth empowerment and social entrepreneurship in the Middle East, and Latin America. In 2009, I joined the microcredit team at Instituto Banco Palmas, the first community bank in Brazil. Since 2013 I'm coordinating efforts to establish Palmaslab, a research and innovation lab that aims to transform the urban periphery of Fortaleza by empowering communities through software development and research produced by young people in those communities.


How does your work relate to economic democracy?

Banco Palmas is the first Community Bank in Brazil, created in one of the poorest communities of Brazil (Conjunto Palmeiras in the city of Fortaleza). Banco Palmas was established not only to bring financial services to an impoverished community, but also to create a new model for banking. The residents of Conjunto Palmeiras were aware that accessing services in the existing system wasn’t sufficient, and that it was necessary to create a different model of banking for the population that was inspired by the principles of the solidarity economy. Since Banco Palmas was founded nearly 20 years ago, we have created spaces for more than 100 communities in Brazil to decide what model of socio-economic development fits their priorities. For four years I worked as the Director of Microcredit at Banco Palmas.


In the last three years I’ve had the opportunity, together with other colleagues, to create PalmasLab, a laboratory for innovation and research within Instituto Banco Palmas, which develops Information Technology tools and produces research, starting from the experience of marginalized communities. PalmasLab’s objective is to build the capacities of young people and incubate their initiatives so that they become protagonists in processes to create new solutions. We work with youth who are community leaders, programmers, designers, hackers, researchers, and entrepreneurs, to strengthen their capacities and promote the protagonism of human beings who have been unable to access opportunity within the capitalist economic system.

Alvaro Javier Arroyo Garcia
Rio Yurumangui (Yurumangui River) Community Concil

I was born in the rural area of the pacific region of Colombia. Where I have learned to value the biological diversity of the region, and the Afro-Colombian, and black communities cultural practices, which are connected to solidarity, the search of the equilibrium between individual and collective well being. Alone with the conservation of biodiversity through its sustainable use. In other words it’s conserved while used. Being open minded is a key aspect of my thinking stille. Given that we need to learn from other people, cultures and civilization that will allow us to improve, through complementing our knowledge without losing or overlooking our cultural and ancestral knowledge.


How does your current work relate to economic democracy:

Is related in that I am in the search for alternatives of economic institutions that allow to improve economic and productive processes, with the goal of generating more social and economic equality, mainly strengthening communities and groups that have being exploited and excluded. Currently I work in the strengthening of productive and economic alternatives for ethnic communities: Black, Afro Colombian, that inhabit the rural areas of the Colombian pacific region.

Patricio Belloy
Adjunct Professor, School of Economic and Administrative Sciences at the Austral University of Chile

Patricio earned a Master of Arts in Global Studies from Leipzig University (Germany) and Wroclaw University (Poland), and is currently a doctoral student at UMass Boston's PhD program in Public Policy. He is an adjunct lecturer at the Institute of Economics and Associate Researcher at the Transdisciplinary Center for Environmental Studies, both at Austral University of Chile. His work and research interests intend to close the gap between the needs of underserved communities in terms of renewable energy services and the related capabilities that can be locally developed through formal and non-formal education

How does your current work relate to economic democracy:
Economic democracy is something we promote in the Los Rios region, in southern Chile, from an anchor institution position in the territory. As a team inside the university, more than competing for international rankings, our goal is to understand the impact that we have with local communities, with whom we engage with as partners, and the changes this brings in the relationship of the university with them. We try not to act as experts, but as partners, and is in this relationship where economic democracy is coherent with our philosophy of  human centric development, where the ever growing levels of self determination and collective intelligence in the territory are the pillars of a different type of development. A productive development, local and that looks with equality the several stakeholders of the community. Currently we are making an emphasis in people's access to electricity, and the democratization of the means of electricity production, alone with the opportunities that this brings for the youth. We want for the solutions of energy production, to be in the hands of the people, and not only in the hands of outside corporations, or of the government’s “du jour”  generosity.

Eddi Xavier Bermudez Marcelin
Manager for Youth and Cultural Diversity USAID Program for Afro Colombians and Indigenous people

Eddie is Colombian, born in the department of Chocho, graduated from the Rosario University in Bogota, Colombia with a degree in Political Science and Governance. He has conducted studies of political management and governance at the Rosario University, and George Washington University, as well as training on Previous Consultation Act at the National University of Colombia. Currently he is a candidate for a masters in Management and Practice of Development at the Andes University, in Bogota. He has experience in project management and implementation, for the strengthening and preservation of cultural and civic organizations of Colombia. Both at the regional and national level, designing empowerment, diversity and inclusion strategies for the youth. He has being assistant director for governmental relations and social responsability for the Colombo-American Chamber of Commerce. Coordinator for the Pacific Region Program of the Colombian Minister of Culture. And currently works as the Manager for Youth and Cultural Diversity of the USAID Program for Afro Colombians and Indigenous people, operated by ACDIVOCA.


How does your current work relate to economic justice?:

In the framework of the actions conducted by ACIP, related to economic democracy we can show the development of collective projects, related to production, productivity and income generation among ethnic communities in Colombia. We engage in the strengthening of public institutions, at the local and national level, as well as the preservation of identity and organizational strengthening. Therefore, the term “economic democracy” is known in the communities as “Mingas”. Mingas are a way of community organizing for the collective procurement of resources for the development of activities. It is important to highlight that, this activities (Mingas) that have been associated to culture and tradition, need technology and innovation that will allow them to obtain a major development, scale and impact. This to increase the scale and consolidation of the “Mingas” as “economic democracy”. To achieve this, ACIP has been investing in new technologies, strengthening of capacities and delivering more tools to support the communities who are partners with our program, so that their collective work and income generation, produce a higher impact in their social well being.  

Yumeka Burt Rushing
Denise Fairchild
President, Emerald Cities Collaborative

Denise Fairchild is the inaugural President of Emerald Cities. She has dedicated over 30 years to strengthening housing, jobs, businesses and economic opportunities for low-income residents and communities of color domestically and internationally. In 1995, Dr. Fairchild founded the Community and Economic Development (CED) Department at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College, as well as an affiliated nonprofit community development research and technical assistance organization, CDTech. She helped launch the Regional Economic Development Institute (REDI), an initiative of Los Angeles Trade-Technical College to provide inner city residents with career and technical education for high growth/high demand jobs in the LA region.

From 1989-1994, Dr. Fairchild directed the LA office of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and is credited with raising over $100 million in equity, grants and loans for community-based housing and commercial development projects and, generally, with building the non-profit housing and community development industry in the LA region.

Her civic and political appointments have included the California Commission on Regionalism, the California Economic Strategy Panel, the California Local Economic Development Association, the Urban Land Institute National Inner City Advisor, the Coalition for Women’s Economic Development and the Los Angeles Environmental Quality Board. She recently served as Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s special advisor for South LA Investments.

How does your current work relate to economic democracy? :  

ECC is committed to building sustainable, economically just and inclusive metropolitan economies.  We pursue this work through multi-stakeholder collaborations. pushing boundaries of understanding towards shared interests, values and work.  Core to this mission is my personal quest to transform the dominant western cultural values with the traditional values of non-western societies in which the commons and community are central to well-being and quality of life.

Ester Fecci
Director, Program Entrepreneurship Center at Austral University

I grew up with my mother and grandmother at a copper mining camp, which has marked my identity. I’m interested in collaborating to strengthen communities and support the empowerment of leaders, women and youth, through their capacities and skills to generate development projects that allow them to lead community groups. I believe in a territorial development, with synergy coming from the citizens, with the strengthening of the governance capacities of grassroots organizations.


How does your current work relate to economic democracy?:

Our work at the at the university’s CEM (Entrepreneurship Center) program is to generate dialogue with content, in a context with freedom of thought which is a catalyst for the generation of collaborative projects, that gives value to society and people, with a human center development.

Laura Gonzalez
Impact Manager, Conservatorio SA

Gonzalez recently joined Conservatorio, a Sustainable Urban Revitalization company, as Impact Manager. She has a background in research and consulting for the World Bank and the United Nations Economic Commission on Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) with a focus on economic and social policy as well as sustainable development. She has spearheaded projects in Colombia, the US and the Philippines on stakeholder engagement, sustainability and corporate social responsibility. Gonzalez is passionate about the linkages between environment and poverty, the role of the private sector in sustainable development, community empowerment and urban resiliency. She holds a B.A in Economics from Los Andes University and a Masters in Public Administration in Development Practice from Columbia University.

K.C. Hardin
President, Conservatorio SA

K.C. Hardin,  has been president of Conservatorio since 2004. He is also a Fellow of the Aspen Institute's Central American Leadership Initiative. Prior to moving to Panama, KC was a corporate lawyer in New York and Tokyo with Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison where he focused primarily on mergers and acquisitions and private equity. He graduated from Fordham University School of Law in 1998 and from the University of Miami in 1994 with majors in Motion Pictures and Political Science. (taken from:


How does your work relate to economic democracy?:

Urban revitalization is traditionally associated with displacement and cultural homogenization. Our company's business model seeks to  contain those externalities by increasing ownership of homes and businesses by low income residents.

Sandra Lobo
Executive Director, Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition

Sandra Lobo currently serves as the Executive Director of the Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition (NWBCCC), a 42 year old member led organization that unites diverse people and institutions to fight for racial and economic justice through intergenerational organizing.  The NWBCCC organizes around health justice, energy democracy, school to prison pipeline, equitable economic and community development, and safe affordable housing within a racial justice and economic democracy framework.  A first generation immigrant and resident of the Bronx for over 20 years, Sandra’s areas of focus are developing leadership of color, creating long term organizational sustainability, and building community shared wealth and ownership and collective governance over local assets through an anti-racist lens.  Before this role, Sandra was trained in anti-oppression organizing and leadership development incorporating a restorative justice framework and served as Director of the Dorothy Day Center for Service and Justice at Fordham University for 17 years, shifting the focus of the Center’s work from a charity to a justice model.  Sandra has served on several board of directors, currently on the Simon Bolivar Foundation, Robert Sterling Foundation Advisory Council and is currently Vice President at the Bronx Cooperative Development Initiative.  Sandra has a Masters in Social Work and a BA in Urban Studies from Fordham University.  She lives, works and worships in the Bronx raising her two children, Amelia and Tiago.


How does your current work relate to economic democracy?:

The NWBCCC, a 42 year old grassroots member-led organization, was transformed by its partnership with BCDI and therefore a lot of our work is a collective effort at creating initiatives and projects in the Bronx that embody economic democracy—that build shared wealth and ownership and collective governance over local assets.  While we still employ traditional community organizing, with an emphasis on building grassroots leadership of color and having those most impacted by issues at the center of decision making, the NWBCCC goes beyond responding to negative policies and practices to create alternative models that build a sustainable and generative community that works for all.  The NWBCCC also aims at embodying economic democracy principles wrestling with issues of collective governance and decision-making within the organization.

Wendoly Marte
President, CommonWise Education/ Bronx Cooperative Development Initiative (BCDI)

Wendoly is currently the President of CommonWise Education/ Bronx Cooperative Development Initiative (BCDI) hoping to develop the infrastructure pieces for economic democracy in the Bronx. Her daytime job is as field organizer with the Center for Community Change, a national organization that works to strengthen, connect and mobilize grassroots groups to enhance their leadership, voice and power. In her role as a field organizer, she’s working to advance economic, racial and gender equality in low-income communities across the country by providing training on leadership development, coordinating and assisting with strategy for local campaigns, and organizational development.


She traces her roots to the Bronx, where she has been fighting for economic justice, education reform and progressive political engagement for over 14 years. Before working at the Center, she coordinated local, state and federal campaigns with the goal of building political power for young people, immigrants and low income communities of color in the Bronx and beyond.


She was born and raised in the Dominican Republic and moved to the Kingsbridge neighborhood in the Bronx to live with her mother when she was 10. She started organizing when she was 13 with Sistas and Brothas United and the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition. The Bronx is where she calls home. She believes that in order to eradicate intergenerational poverty in the Bronx we need to invest in building grassroots leadership, shared wealth and ownership, and truly participatory democratic models. She is committed to building a progressive political movement in New York City that is founded on the principles of economic democracy and that places the value of people over capital.


How does your current work relate to economic democracy?:

Wendoly is currently engaging in conversations with folks in the Bronx about shared wealth and democratic decision-making. She also have extensive organizing experience in the Bronx and across the country working on various economic justice issues.


Gonzalo Mercado
Founder and Executive Director, La Colmena Community Job Center, New York Coordinator, National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON)

Mercado is the executive director and founder of La Colmena Community Job Center and the New York coordinator of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON). Gonzalo has over ten years of experience working with low wage immigrant workers through grassroots organizing, leadership and workforce development.  In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy he led efforts to organize “Day Laborer Volunteer Brigades” which helped thousands of New Yorkers impacted by the storm. He was instrumental in achieving the first ever NYC Council Day Laborer Workforce Initiative aimed at providing basic resources to NYC’s day laborer population. Gonzalo has also established the first transnational project with immigrant workers from Puebla, Mexico living in Staten Island, NY that has resulted in the reunification of over 20 families after over 20 years of separation. and the creation of the New York Alan Transnational Festival. Most recently he facilitated the incubation of the first worker owned cooperative on Staten Island.Gonzalo serves on the board of the New York Immigration Coalition, the North Star Fund, the Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union and is a trustee of the Ghanaian Association of Staten Island. He earned a BS degree in Business Management from Touro College and is a graduate of Columbia University’s Non-profit Management Institute, CORO NY Leadership Center and the Aspen Institute for Emerging Nonprofit Leaders.


How does your current work relate to economic democracy:?  

For over more than 10 years I have been working with the working undocumented migrant community of New York. I have been able to see how the corporative system abuses and exploits in unimaginable ways migrant laborers, and dispose of them when it has no more need of them.  In response to this reality I have been working to create spaces where workers can analyze their current reality, and think about economic alternatives, that range from the development of artistic skills as income generator, to create a deploy construction workers’ center, that guarantees a minimum wage of $15. Furthermore, we are also in the initial stages of a worker's coap of child care, with 25 migrant women that currently work cleaning houses.


David Fernando Murillo Mosquera
Corporación Manos Visibles


I’m a 23 year old young afro descendant, the youngest of four brothers. I was born in Bogota, but with Choco roots. My parents were born in Istmina and Andagoya, two mining municipalities, located in the department of Chocho. Even though I was borned in Bogota, my connection to the Pacific region of Colombia, the people who belong to ethnic minorities and their surrounding, is stronger every day. I studied Governance and International Relations at the Externado University of Colombia. In my ninth semester of studies, I had the opportunity to be an intern at the Colombian permanent mission to the United Nations in Geneva, where my worked focused on human rights. I have also worked with the “Manos Visibles” corporation for over 18 months. During this time I had have the opportunity of coordinate and work with diverse programs where community leaders from the Pacific region of Colombia work. The following are some of the programs that I have coordinated: The Economy School, The Laboratory for Political Innovation for Peace, Strengthening of Community Organizations, The School for High Government, and a Public Policy and Governance Masters.  


How does your current work relate to economic democracy?:

In Manos Visibles, we have been working in the strengthening of community leaders and the grass roots organizations they belong to, with the goal of generating from the base, actions that transform the local realities and to improve the wellbeing of the inhabitants of the region. We have done these though: 1. The Economy School, where we engage in the challenge of encouraging community leaders to re-think the economy of the Colombian pacific region, focusing on local development with the aim for it to be sustainable. The current local economy relays on the extractive industry, which is not sustainable. 2. We see that from a democratic point of view is imperative to renew the region’s political and institutional powers, due to its weak institutional structure. This is why we strengthen local and community leaders that are involve in the public sector. And 3. Through strategies such as “MingaLab”, we seek to strengthen social and community organizations, because these organizations fill in the gap left from the lack of institutional presence of the Colombian state in the region, and ensure accountability from the public sectors. In conclusion for us to make economic democracy a reality we need three pillars: 1. An economy based on the region’s reality, 2. A strong state, 3. Strong community organizations, that can be the bridge between the state and civil society.

Francisco Napoleon Pacheco
National Day Labor Organizing Network (NDLON), Red Nacional Salvadoreña en el Exterior (RENASE)

Most of my life I have worked with the popular movement in El Salvador and with community organizations in the United States, I am an organizer and educator. With NDLON I work in the program management area with workers, in the southern estates of the United State, affected by anti-immigration law, organizing grassroots communities and networks. With “RENASE” I am a volunteer, working with the topics of culture and identity. I arrived to the United States as many do, crossing rivers, fronteers and deserts. Before my involvement with the pro-immigrant movement I worked in construction. I like working with communities, and my dream is for communities to have POWER through their leadership, and of course with economic and social development.


How does your current work relate to economic democracy?:

I do transnational work with El Salvador, I work with workers in the southern states. About the work with the workers, the hiring centers are an economic experience with the relation between worker and boss, at the national level we have conducted some efforts for cooperation, but we have not being able to have a deep impact with those efforts. I think the worker’s center  should transform to cooperatives, to improve the workers’ quality of life, as well as a space for them to learn to make collective decisions for the benefit of the cooperative and of the community. I have always thought about the importance to contribute to create power from a participatory economy point of view, that allows people to be self-sustainable. In the southern states, through the “Comites de Base” (based committees), we could conduct sustainable projects, as well as with the community in El Salvador, to establish a healthy economic democracy that benefits the community.

Danny R. Peralta
Executive Managing Director, THE POINT

Danny R. Peralta was born in The Bronx, New York City of Dominican parents. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Education from New York University in 2000. Since then he has dedicated his life to building community with youth and families, using the arts and leadership programming as a tool addressing marginalization. Aside from being the Executive Managing Director of THE POINT, he is also an accomplished documentary photographer and artist in the community he works in, Hunts Point in the South Bronx.


How does your current work relate to economic democracy? :

THE POINT is an asset-based community development corporation that works to revitalize the Hunts Point section of the Bronx. To rebuild this community after years of underdevelopment, the community has to use its inherent passions and talents to address the marginalization it faces. After 22 years of working with artists and activists of all ages to envision and lead necessary changes, THE POINT has seen some significant gains in addressing inequality in Hunts Point - Hunts Point Riverside Park breaking ground in 2006 and the recent effort to de-commission the Sheridan Expressway - to name two. How does our community continue to benefit from the changes led from within? How are these gains leveraged to end economic poverty, and ultimately racism? These are some the questions we grapple with on a daily basis in our community via our programs and community organizing efforts.

Zoyla Salazar Bermudez
Arrocera La Esmeralda Sas

Zoyla is an economist specializing in finance, with over 20 years of experience. For the past 6 years, Zoyla has worked from the private rice-production sector in the Colombian  south west to help develop projects and proposals that promote opportunities for entrepreneurship, education, wealth production, and environmental protection. She has also focused on establishing a better way of life for the vulnerable populations of the Choco, Nariño, Cauca & Valle del Cauca Departments (divisions of territory similar to US states).


How does your work relate to economic democracy?:

Arrozera La Esmeralda, where I work, has as a general policy to support all of the farmers that provide us with our raw materials, regardless of their economic capacity, under a principle of equality. Those farmers who do not have economic means are given special support. We begin with technical training, transferring of technology, financing seeds and agricultural materials, community lowans without interest, for the purchase of machines. These farmers are also provided with free technical assistance. We created a fund for the development of organic production, we offer a higher purchasing price to the farmer for their products, quality to the consumer, clean agriculture, environmental programs, and irrigation systems. Currently we are offering innovative practices like the use of biomass, a by-product as a result of rice processing, for the fertilization of soil. We also offer housing projects, and sport programs for the communities.

Veronica Soto
Emerald Cities Collaborative

Veronica has over 19 years of experience developing economic and workforce development programs that increase the capacity of small, minority businesses to compete in mega-building programs and establish career paths for minority students and adults to enter the architecture, engineering and construction industry sectors. Veronica leads the Southern California Regional Energy Network workforce pilot program and implemented the E-Contractor Academy Program that prepares small, minority contractors to compete for energy efficiency projects. She also implemented the workforce development strategy that establishes pipelines to high-road careers in the energy sector. Veronica also oversees ECC’s involvement in the LA-based ACES (Architecture, Construction and Engineering Students) Pathway Program, which allows young people from diverse backgrounds to explore and get a head start on careers in science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM). Veronica led the ECC team’s partnership with the City of New Orleans on workforce and business development programs to maximize economic opportunities for local residents and businesses as the city invests in over $4 billion in major capital improvements.


How does your current work relate to economic democracy?:

I create programs to increase the capacity of small, minority businesses to compete for work on mega building programs and establish career paths for minority youth and disadvantaged adults in the fields of architecture, engineering and construction. My program designs capitalize on the economic opportunities created by natural disasters; public investment in transportation infrastructure that bifurcate communities of color; investment in school facilities to improve local access to education and eliminate the bussing of 16,000 children to schools outside their neighborhood; and programs that create inroads and capacity in sectors, such as energy and sustainability, that lack representation by people and businesses of color.

My work in Los Angeles serving disadvantaged youth and adults is challenging but rewarding.  Our constituents suffer through poverty, homelessness, limited education, abandonment, discrimination due to past incarceration, and/or violence.  However, I am overjoyed each time one of them begins a career because I know they will have food to eat and a roof over their head.  Most importantly, I know they will enlist others to join them on their new path, engage themselves in the community, and that the generations that follow them will have a bounty of opportunity.  

Similarly, when one of our contractors wins a contract, their company will continue to operate, create and retain jobs, and grow within the community.  Their success and wealth is shared among their employees and by extension their families.

Jeff Thigpen
Register of Deeds, Guilford County, NC

How does your work current work relate to economic democracy?:

I'm the local elected official that tracks land records and real estate transactions in Guilford County NC. Register of Deeds offices were created to help determine who owns what, that people are who they say they are, and are essential to plainness and fairness in commerce. This goes to the heart of transparency in Democracy, Law, and Commerce.  The records are "public"--for the people. In my current position I sued 32 banks and mortgage services for fraud along with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to reimburse county governments for unpaid filing fees in 2011. I testified in US Federal Court at the sentencing hearing of one of the only people to go to jail during financial crisis, Lorraine Brown, former president of DocX.  I maintain connections to a network of bankruptcy and foreclosure defense attorneys. I have also engaged a number of issues involving race/racism, LGBT, and the need for immigration reform in US over the years.  Previous work included the Business/Pulpit Forum Work Group during national boycott of KMart and Servant Leadership that worked with a number of faith practices and traditions.  As former county commissioner, dealt with local economic development entities and worked with Uplift Inc in economically distressed areas.   Author of On Point: The Voices and Values of the Young Elected Officials (YEO) Network. Grew up in rural North Carolina working on a farm.  Wife Michelle is elementary school principal and have two children, Elle (13) and Aiden (9).

Ernst Valery
President, SA+A Development, Founder and President, Ernst Valery Investments Corp

Ernst is the founder and president of Ernst Valery Investments Corp. (EVI).  EVI invests in select underserved and undervalued key emerging domestic real estate markets, defined as urban transitional areas with high residential and retail demand. He has extensive experience in affordable and market rate housing development and investment, including providing due diligence capabilities and extensive skills in budget planning, design development, marketing, and the supervision and guidance of contractors, architects and engineers. He is responsible for the securing and structuring of financing, including expertise in securing Historic and New Markets tax credits. EVI focuses on a triple bottom line of solid financial returns, supporting communities, and environmental sustainability.


Since formation, EVI has expanded its focus to include investing in small businesses and innovative strategies for inclusive economic development. Mr. Valery collaborates with MIT’s Community Innovators Laboratory (CoLab) to formulate strategies for equitable and inclusive economic development. He is currently developing prototypes to assess real estate developer community engagement practices, to tighten local economies through innovative procurement and financing, and to attract investors committed to socially responsible development.  Ernst is dedicated to working with communities and implementing development strategies that prevent displacement, protect community legacy and generate community wealth.

Ernst Valery is also President of SA+A Development and shares overall responsibility for the day-to-day operation, underwriting, and execution of SA+A’s affordable and market rate, mixed-use and residential development projects and leads SA+A’s community relationship and benefits division. Ernst has successfully invested in and developed real estate in Maryland; Washington, D.C.; Pennsylvania; and New York. For the past 15+ years, he has been involved with development projects ranging from multi-tenant rental properties to the renovation and repurposing of historical real estate assets.

Corey Wiggins
Director, Hope Policy Institute

Dr. Corey Wiggins, a Mississippi native, is the Director of the Hope Policy Institute, the policy division of HOPE (Hope Enterprise Corporation and Hope Credit Union).  As director, Dr. Wiggins manages the strategic direction, sustainability, research training and advocacy agenda for the Institute. (taken form: I’m a person that helps build bridges amongst people. I have a diverse background, that includes spending time in academia, non profit, government and working with communities. I think that provides me with a unique perspective that allows me to bridge academic research with community practice and allows me to connect people with policy.  My diverse experiences also allows me to be in diverse environments, working with diverse stakeholders and moving people towards solutions while understanding that this solutions can be innovative, and should be innovative.  More importantly, I understand the value in communities have in answering the challenges that they are facing.  


How does your current work relate to economic democracy? :

My current work is focused on changing systems through policy change strategies. It is important to create systems that intentionally support communities and support families on their way to economic prosperity. So often we find those that are power making decisions based on their own assumptions, without really engaging families and people who interact and work around so many of the systems that people come in contact with, for example: food assistance programs, housing programs, other federal and state programs, that are designed to help uplift people of a given community, but how often do we stop, and ask members of the community and, families for their input? My work focuses on connecting communities and families to policy making process. I frame this work as being translational - translating community voices and community ideas into public policies and designing systems that create opportunity and not limit opportunity. In system design, I think is important to focus on who, so often find people talking about the how and what, but don’t spend time talking about the who, ensuring that the people we want to support, and work with are engaged and partners in the process.