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The second cohort of the Good Work Fellowship

“Transition is inevitable. Justice is not.” — Quinton Sankofa, Movement Generation 

As the full extent of destruction wrought by an economic system that values the pursuit of profit and endless growth over the welfare of humans and the biosphere becomes clear, we believe that people are more ready than ever to usher in something radically different. More and more, we are reconnecting to our hearts, to our communities, and to the earth, and committing to building a future that works for all. Unlike the old system, with its top-down control, the next will be built from the bottom up, person by person, place by place, all working together for the common good.

Founded in mid-2015, The Good Work Institute is a non-profit organization working in the Hudson Valley of New York. Our aim is to turn this moment into a sustained movement by cultivating, connecting, supporting, and illuminating the work of local change agents who are fostering resilience and regeneration in their places. We offer a growing network of Hudson Valley organizations, initiatives, and community members tools, trainings, and connections to deepen and expand their Good Work. Inspired by the Just Transition framework as adapted and expanded by Movement Generation, our work is guided by the following five principles:

Advancing ecological restoration

The crises of climate change, biodiversity loss, and environmental contamination pose a threat to our existence and the foundations of our ecology, society, and economy. The root of the word “eco” comes from the Greek word “oikos” meaning “home.” We are committed to supporting people and projects that are caring for our home, preserving and restoring our fragile ecosystems, increasing biodiversity, eliminating environmental toxins, mitigating the causes of global warming, and fostering community resilience in its wake.

Democratizing communities, wealth and the workplace

We all suffer the destructive effects of an extractive economy, an extractive society, and an extractive system of power. Our time, our capacity to make decisions in our communities, and the fruits of our labor are all being taken out of our places. There is a deeply inequitable concentration of wealth, power, and other forms of capital that erodes our connection to ourselves, our places, and the natural world. Through democratizing communities, wealth, and the workplace, we see an opportunity to bring that value back and share it more equitably within our communities.

Driving racial justice and social equity 

Racial justice and social equity are more than just ideals. No society can claim to be healthy while it marginalizes any of its own members. Racial justice and social equity are critical to the health and sustainability of thriving communities because they allow space for all members in a community to participate fully. We work to dismantle systems of oppression, redress inequality, establish respectful relationships of mutual benefit, promote fairness, and practice equality. We strive to foster community resilience, and eventually, to help establish new rules of the game.

Relocalizing most production and consumption 

Globalized production and consumption lead to pace, scale, and power imbalances that make it virtually impossible for shareholders and executives to prioritize regard for ecological or social limits. Relocalizing most production and consumption is about building local self-reliance, resilience, and trust so that our land, life, and labor are part of a balanced web of stable, interdependent relationships focused on taking care of our places and each other. Drawing more money and power down to the local level, while practicing the other Just Transition principles described here, can lead us away from an extractive economy and toward a regenerative one.

Retaining and restoring cultures and traditions

As biodiversity is essential to the long-term survival of life on earth, cultural diversity is vital for the long-term survival and cultivation of the best of our humanity. Our country’s history of occupation and colonization, and the impacts of blind capitalism, have caused so much destruction and disruption to the cultures and traditions of many peoples. It has also forced many communities to sacrifice culture and tradition for economic survival. We seek to do and support work that honors, respects, and contributes to the restoration of the life-supporting traditions of the array of cultures connected to our region.

What we do:

Network: The Good Work Network is a community of people working towards Just Transition in the Hudson Valley.

Academy: The Academy offers learning experiences that co-create vision, deepen wisdom, and hone the skills needed to facilitate Just Transition.

Alliance: The Alliance is a cohort-based program that supports and empowers Hudson Valley initiatives working towards Just Transition.

Greenhouse: The Greenhouse is a hub and home base for Just Transition in the Hudson Valley.

Events and Workshops: Lectures, workshops, and events focused on the skills and wisdom needed to live and work in ways that make our lives, our communities, and the Earth thrive.

The Good Work Institute is a 501(c)(3), non profit organization. We rely on your financial support to keep our programs running. Please consider supporting us.

Our Team

Aja Schmeltz

Worker Trustee

Aja Schmeltz

Worker Trustee

Communications, General, Network Circles

“It is not enough to be compassionate. You must act.” – His Holiness The Dalai Lama.   I am a woman, a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother and a friend. I am an artist, an activist, a musician, a hiker, a kayaker, a gardener, a music lover, a sports fanatic and a damn good cook. I am an agent of change. We all must act!

During her career, Aja has held a number of professional positions from Art Director to Distillery Consultant, and has spent more than twenty years volunteering throughout the Hudson Valley. While she enjoyed all of these jobs enormously, she knew there was something missing. Aja was yearning for a position that combined her passion for social justice reform, her absolute love for the Hudson Valley, and her unique skill set. GWI has given her that opportunity to bring her values, drives, and talents together in her work. She strongly believes that a successful community is not made up of individuals working separately, but of individuals working collaboratively on all fronts. That is why her roles at GWI are so meaningful to her. Creating avenues for people to come together to build healthier, thriving, more sustainable communities benefits us all. 

aja@goodworkinstitute.org

Caitlin Dourmashkin

Worker Trustee, Operations Steward

Caitlin Dourmashkin

Worker Trustee, Operations Steward

Alliance, Greenhouse, General, and Development Circles

As one of my favorite human beings, Zadie Smith, says “time is how you spend your love” and every day I choose to spend my time thinking of ways I can support the work of my colleagues, and therefore the work of this beloved, and important organization. 

Caitlin brings a passion for process to everything she does at the Good Work Institute. One of the original employees of the organization, she has spent the last five years working to support each member of the team through compassionate, human-centered organizational design. 

Caitlin comes to the GWI with over fifteen years experience working in local economic development. Most recently, as the Director of Planning and Community Development at a Brooklyn-based industrial development nonprofit, she worked to strengthen economic resilience through collective learning and action. She re-launched a merchants association that had been dormant for over a decade and also founded a network of emerging food entrepreneurs focused on building the skills and relationships necessary to power a local renaissance in urban food manufacturing. 

After a career spent working on the program side of community-based initiatives, Caitlin has now found her calling supporting the work of others through her love of policy, strategy, design, and (surprisingly!) administration. She is the go-to on the team on issues of internal policy and operations design, and she also leads our Fiscal Sponsorship offering. She is a great resource if you are curious about the operation of our Worker Self-Directed Nonprofit, but she is also just as happy to talk about dogs, parenting strategies for toddlers, skiing, and craft brewing in the Northeast. 

caitlin@goodworkinstitute.org

Hélène Lesterlin

Worker Trustee, Communications Steward, Development Steward

Hélène Lesterlin

Worker Trustee, Communications Steward, Development Steward

General Circle

I am a pragmatic optimist, a voracious reader, and a hope-filled instigator, working towards a vision of the future that is joyful, abundant, and equitable.

Hélène is inspired in all she does by the values outlined by Italo Calvino at the end of his life: lightness, quickness, exactitude, visibility, multiplicity, and consistency. She has deployed those qualities in a variety of roles – as artist, manager, curator, director, and founder – across the US, France and Taiwan. Currently she fosters connection, business development, social impact, and access to capital for community leaders, startups, entrepreneurs, activists and artists, to help build healthier economic and social ecosystems in the Hudson Valley. In addition to her role as Worker Trustee focused on organizational sustainability and communications at the Good Work Institute, she supports social innovation startups at Idealabx, an early-stage venture fund, and is a co-founder of CO, a co-working co-op and community center. She is also on the planning board of Start.coop, an accelerator for cooperative startups, and volunteers her time with the Saugerties Democratic Committee and Primrose Hill School. To her work, she brings fifteen years experience as a producer, curator and interdisciplinary contemporary artist, devoted to nurturing creativity and experimentation in media, art, dance and theater. A dual citizen of France and the US, she is raising two daughters with her husband in the Catskills, grateful to be rooted in these mountains.

helene@goodworkinstitute.org

linkedin.com/in/hlesterlin/

Micah

Worker Trustee

Micah

Worker Trustee

Academy, Alliance, Development, General, Greenhouse, Network Circles

I am working on expanding my definition of self, in everything I do, and in all the ways I do it, so that when I act selfishly it will be for the betterment of the whole. 

Micah grew up in Mt.Vernon, NY with a family of strong women who guided him and showed him how to work with purpose and love while serving community, as well as a father who taught him to always widen his perspective. But even with this strong foundation, he struggled with fear of the world, a lack of motivation, and what would have most likely been diagnosed as depression.

Through time, deep self-work, fatherhood, and connection, Micah learned to discard the self-defining term “shy”, understanding that he doesn’t need to define himself at all, but rather is free to feel and act as he chooses in the present. With this new awareness, Micah began forging a new path. It was still at the early stages of this process that Micah joined GWI as a Fellow and discovered ways to step more boldly into his own voice and work towards Just Transition.

micah@goodworkinstitute.org

Susan Grove

Worker Trustee

Susan Grove

Worker Trustee

Academy, Alliance, General, Learning, Operations Circles

“If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. If you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” Used by Lilla Watson, Aboriginal Elder, and many other activists, these words guide me as I strive to contribute toward justice in the Hudson Valley and express callings and longings to facilitate learning, support collaboration, organize information, engage conflict, connect across difference, and create lasting conditions for greater equity.

Susan has dedicated more than twenty-five years to supporting diverse mission-driven organizations – anti-poverty, food system change, economic and rural development, holistic adult education and faith-based. Her work has involved participatory facilitation; strategic planning; program design, implementation and evaluation; resource development; financial management; and governance. She served for five years as the first Executive Director of the Poughkeepsie Farm Project, coordinated the grassroots Poughkeepsie Plenty food justice initiative, and managed the cross-departmental community engagement strategy of the Omega Institute. Before moving to the Hudson Valley in 2008, she worked in Romania, India, Ecuador, Cambodia, Laos, Kenya, Mali, the Philippines, Ethiopia and China as a consultant to Oxfam America, director of the US Office of the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction, and Peace Corps Volunteer. She holds a graduate degree in international affairs from Columbia University and a bachelor’s degree in accounting. Partner to Chris and parent to Sebastian, her place is Poughkeepsie, where she involves herself in a variety of efforts, including those focused on public history, storytelling, local politics, spirituality, preventing displacement, and racial unity, and was awarded a Community Leadership Award from New Horizons Resources in 2019. She replenishes her reserves alone or with dear ones on trails in the woods, in backyard hammocks, over or along the Hudson, reading, reflecting, and journaling.   

susan@goodworkinstitute.org

Terri Hall

Worker Trustee

Terri Hall

Worker Trustee

Academy, Communications, General, Learning, Network Circles

As a romantic who strives to be a realist, this is a  favorite quote of mine: “We’re trying to create a better world, not a perfect one. It cannot ever be perfect.” –  Kapil Sibal

Terri joined GWI after many years working at Omega Institute, first as an independent contractor in their Development department, and later as the Omega Women’s Leadership Center’s Community Engagement Specialist.  A native of New York City, Terri has been a Hudson Valley resident for fifteen years and brings with her a diverse professional background including the worlds of modern dance (Nanette Bearden Contemporary Dance Theater) and public television and radio (Thirteen/WNET, Children’s Television Workshop, Public Radio Management). The mother of two teens, Terri has served on the board of CultureConnect, a Rhinebeck-based non-profit committed to preparing youth to interact with their local and global communities with intelligence, compassion, and cultural competence. She also served on the Rhinebeck CSD’s Wellness Committee and helped lead fundraising efforts for a local student cohort to the World Summit of Nobel Laureates in Bogota. She’s a graduate of the University of Michigan. Special loves include getting her hands in soil, experimenting in the kitchen, building fruitful connections, exploring near and far, and, ever and always, dancing.

terri@goodworkinstitute.org

Board of Directors

Austin DuBois

Board Member

Austin DuBois

Board Member

Austin DuBois is an attorney who helps primarily middle-class families protect their assets from long-term care costs.  He also serves as general counsel to a select group of triple-bottom-line businesses and entrepreneurs. Most recently, Austin opened the DuBois Law Group based in Newburgh. He is a seventh-generation resident of Orange County, and multiple generations beyond that of the Hudson Valley. Austin serves on a variety of civic and charitable boards of directors, and in his spare time enjoys the outdoors, music, wine and craft beer, or preferably some combination thereof with his family, friends and neighbors. Austin and his family reside in the beautiful City of Newburgh.

Matthew Stinchcomb

Board Chair

Matthew Stinchcomb

Board Chair

Before founding and heading up the Good Work Institute, Matt was the longest serving employee and the VP, Values and Impact at Etsy.com. In that role he oversaw the stewardship of the company’s vision mission, and values, and worked to give all employees the means and the desire to maximize the benefit their work has on people and the planet.

In 2013, he was named a GOOD Magazine ‘Figure of Progress’. The next year he was named as one of the Purpose Economy 100. In 2016, He became a BALLE Local Economy Fellow. In addition to chairing the board at GWI, Matt also serves on the Board of Directors for the Schumacher Center for New Economics (Chair) and the Hawthorne Valley Association. He is a graduate of Oberlin College and a candidate for a Master’s degree in Climate Science and Policy at Bard College. He lives in Rhinebeck, NY with his wife and three children.

Vonda Brunsting

Board Member

Vonda Brunsting

Board Member

Vonda lives in Beacon, and works with the Initiative for Responsible Investment at the Center for Public Leadership of the Harvard Kennedy School. In partnership with the Grantham Institute at LSE, she is launching a project on Investing in the Just Transition, which aims to build a clean energy economy that works for communities and working people. Previously, she was director of the Capital Stewardship Program Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Vonda served as a trustee on the SEIU Master Trust Pension Plan and on the board of the Council of Institutional Investors. Prior to joining SEIU‚ Vonda co-founded two community organizations devoted to leadership development and community change and worked on community finance initiatives at the University of New Hampshire and the Harvard Business School. She currently serves on the SRI and Investment Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Common Endowment Fund. She received her B.A. from Calvin College and holds a Master’s degree in Public Policy from the University of Chicago.

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