Jennifer Montalbano is the Development Steward at GWI focused on the design and implementation of development strategy, including institutional funder and individual donor cultivation. Jennifer began her journey in fundraising as part of the Advancement team at Sarah Lawrence College while pursuing a Masters in Women’s History. She believes wholeheartedly that we are living in a historical moment where inequities and destruction have come to the forefront of our collective consciousness and that the answers lie in people — in democratizing communities, wealth and work. For the past decade and a half, she has helped organizations fund these good and important collaborative efforts. She is passionate about connecting the people doing work toward a Just Transition with those who want to support it. Jennifer grew up in the Mahicantuck Valley and currently resides in Saugerties, NY with her wild spirited 10-year-old son and stubborn but loveable black labrador. She also practices yoga and was trained and certified at Shakti Yoga in Woodstock, NY.
After twelve years working as a private wealth advisor on Wall Street, in 2002 David miraculously extricated himself from this soul-deadening work and came home to New Paltz with his family to realize a life dream – fully sharing in the care and parenting of his three children and creating a small family farm. Over the years, the Brownstein family (Three Suns Farm) have raised dairy cows, goats, chickens, bees, and fruits and vegetables in season. In 2004 David co-founded Wild Earth, a local nonprofit with a vision toward regenerating a living community culture centered around nature connection. David served as its Executive Director for nearly 20 years until 2023. Today, David continues reaching toward his vision, now through his Root Connections (rootconnections.org) practice; he offers mentoring, coaching, and collaboration rooted in place-based, relationship-first and village-making work and life ways.
Massoumeh Emami (she/her) was born in Iran and fled the Revolution shortly after with her family. She went from London, to Las Vegas, to Northern Virginia, to Lexington, KY, to NYC, and eventually to Kingston in 2013, where she lives with her husband, two daughters and two pups. She played tennis at the University of Kentucky, and moved to New York after college where she set out on a 20+ year career in the film and TV industry. Mass (pronounced like the unit of measure) has produced feature films, commercials, and web series, and has worked on countless films and TV shows as a script supervisor, including The Squid and the Whale, and The Kite Runner. Whether it’s a film, a tennis match, her work at GWI, or a busy day chasing around her girls, she is passionate about the work in front of her, but not nearly as much as she is about the people around her. She is thrilled to have the opportunity to work locally in her community, bringing people together, as the Greenhouse Manager at GWI.
Allison attended Montserrat College of Art, where she found her love for Design and Illustration. Over the last 10 years, Allison’s various positions have prepared her with a firm, well-rounded knowledge of the branding and marketing world. In 2013, Allison left her position as Creative Director with the Royal Bank of Scotland to join the multi-use skincare company, LIMEGREEN. With LIMEGREEN, Allison had the amazing opportunity to utilize her branding knowledge and showcase her driven personality to develop a successful business. In recent years, Allison primarily lent her creativity to organizations focused on social impact, entertainment, politics, and the arts. Allison lives in Newburgh, NY, but remains strongly connected to her roots in Brooklyn, NY, and North Carolina.
Kate is Director of Development for the Bard Prison Initiative and has been with BPI since 2019. Prior to BPI, Kate worked as Capacity Building Advisor for the New York Council on Nonprofits and spent many years supporting community and national public radio and other story-telling endeavors. Kate completed a Masters in Social Work from Tulane University in 2017 and has 2 decades of experience across the non-profit sector- in philanthropy, capacity building, strategic planning, and project management.
Grace is committed to creating thriving places by ensuring the people who live in them have the power to design their own futures. Grace is the Director of Communications and Development at a Colorado-based nonprofit called Community Builders. Prior, she worked as the Communications and Community Engagement Specialist at the City of Aspen. Before moving to Colorado, Grace was the Community Engagement Manager at the Good Work Institute where she helped develop a network of over 150 local entrepreneurs, public servants, artists, nonprofit leaders and activists working to build a more equitable and regenerative region in the Hudson Valley. Grace is most inspired when working with communities to create a collective vision and plan to drive just and lasting change in their place.
In 2008, Nejla Liias founded Global Health Visions (GHV) to provide strategic guidance on the formulation and implementation of global health and development initiatives that aim to improve the lives and livelihoods of women and children. Prior to starting Global Health Visions, Nejla was an independent consultant for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in its Global Health Policy and Advocacy division. Before her work in global health and development, Nejla spent five years as a public finance professional at the Wall Street firms of Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan. Nejla recognized a need in the industry to provide access to exceptional consultants who could provide guidance on a range of development issues for short and long term projects. With GHV, she built a team of consultants with a wealth of expertise, skilled in a variety of areas from advocacy and communications to proposal formulation and in-depth research and analysis. GHV partners with and serves NGOs, governments, foundations, development agencies, and the private sector.
Nejla holds a Master of Public Policy with a concentration in International Policy and Development from Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy Institute, and a Bachelor of Science from Bates College.
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.
Native to Kingston, Erica believes that the strength of a community lies in the empowerment of its individuals. The Community Engagement Coordinator for Radio Kingston, Erica is passionate about working with nonprofits, focusing her energies on access, inclusion, and diversity. Erica is inspired by the development of interdisciplinary collaboration between local organizations serving as a Board member of the Kingston Farmers Market, committee member of Kingston Midtown Rising Connect, a member of the Ulster County Housing Advisory Committee, and an organizing member of the Kingston Community Land Trust.
Erica is twice a graduate of SUNY New Paltz, holding a Bachelor’s Degree in Business (2010) and in Psychology (2016).
Community Engagement, Democratizing Work, General, and Learning 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 my work.
Susan (she/her) is a white, working/middle class, cisgendered parent who is energized by opportunities to learn and facilitate learning; to design participatory gatherings and organize information; to tap into the power of effective collaboration and the generative potential of conflict; to connect across differences and contribute toward more equitable futures in her communities based in Poughkeepsie, NY and the wider Mahicantuck Valley.
Susan has dedicated her working life to advancing mission-driven organizations with diverse foci: Just Transition / regenerative economies, food system change, holistic adult education, anti-poverty, economic and rural development, and faith-based. Her work has involved participatory facilitation; strategic planning; program design, implementation and evaluation; resource development; financial management; and governance. Prior to beginning her work with the Good Work Institute, first as a contracted facilitator in 2017 and then as a team member in 2018, 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. She was awarded a Community Leadership Award from New Horizons Resources in 2019. Before moving to the Mahicantuck 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, she replenishes her reserves alone or with dear ones over food, on trails in the woods, in meditation, in backyard hammocks, over or along the river, reading, reflecting, and journaling.
Academy, Development, Fiscal Sponsorship, 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 (he/him) is of mixed race (black and white) and mixed religion, and grew up in two different socio-economic homes. He is a cisgendered, working/middle class parent of two living on Munsee/Lenape land in the Mahicantuck Valley, commonly referred today as Kingston, NY, working to prove possibility and to liberate the imagination in order to see a Just Transition. He serves on the boards of Radio Kingston, Wild Earth, O+, and CCE as well as being a member of the Stewardship Circle of Rise Up Kingston. He also teaches mindfulness and is a workshop leader of TMI Project as well as host of Hip Hop 101 on Radio Kingston.
Circles: General, Communications, Community Fund, Development
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 (she/her) is inspired by the values articulated by Italo Calvino: lightness, quickness, exactitude, visibility, multiplicity, and consistency. She has deployed those qualities in a variety of roles across the US, France and Taiwan. Currently she fosters connection, social impact, and access to aligned capital, working with community leaders, entrepreneurs, and activists to help build healthier economic and social ecosystems in the Hudson Valley. Her role as Worker Trustee at GWI is focused on the community fund, organizational strategy, and communications. She is a co-founder of CO, a co-working co-op and community center, and enjoys acting as a mentor and coach to mission-led entrepreneurs. She serves on the boards of Start.coop, an accelerator for cooperative startups and Co-op HV, a loan fund that is a project of Seed Commons. 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.