Our Team

Aaron Tanaka  (he/him)

Executive Director

Aaron is a Boston-based community organizer, economic development practitioner, philanthropic advisor, and impact investor. As the Director of CED, Aaron stewards funding and capacity building programs to social movement collaboratives that advance alternatives to capitalist economics in the US. Previously, Aaron served as the startup manager for the Boston Impact Initiative, Boston's first place-based impact fund investing in Boston’s working class communities of color. Until 2012, Aaron was co-founder and executive director of the Boston Workers Alliance, a grassroots organization nationally regarded for its statewide Ban the Box policy victory in 2010.

Aaron is a former fellow with BALLE, Echoing Green, Green For All, and Tufts Department of Urban Planning, and serves on the boards of the Foundation for Civic Leadership, Neighborhood Funders Group and the New Economy Coalition. He is a graduate of Harvard College.

Contact Aaron: aaron [at] economicdemocracy.us

Amrita Wassan (they/them)
Director of Education Programs

Amrita is the Director of Education Programs at CED. As an educator, organizer and solidarity economy practitioner, they situate themself in the interstices between individual and collective liberation. This focus has led to projects as diverse as cultural campaigns promoting healthy relationships in LGBTQIA communities, collectivization of resources for hyper local grant making, building multiple cooperative businesses, working to support youth both inside and outside schools with their creative and political desires, and creating spaces and economic opportunities for survivors of sexual and domestic violence.


As an educator and economic alternatives builder, they are constantly honing their craft with an ever expanding repertoire of tools as well as networks of learning communities. Amrita holds an Economics and International Relations degree from Agnes Scott College in Atlanta, GA and a Masters in Community-based Education from the George Washington University in Washington, DC.  They enjoy biking, camping, poetry and porch sitting.

Contact Amrita: amrita [at] economicdemocracy.us


Alex has lived in the Boston area 30+ years, organizing locally since high school. His areas of focus have ranged from political repression to immigrant rights to tenant organizing–with the common goal of addressing structural causes of injustice.  He has worked with grassroots community, environmental and labor groups statewide towards ‘energy democracy’, including community-controlled energy microgrids and an accessible green economy. 


As the Political Director at CED, he is helping coalesce a broad set of partners to develop collective strategy and build out infrastructure for a democratic and ecologically viable economy rooted in justice.

Contact Alex: alex [at] economicdemocracy.us

Alex Papali (he/him)

Political Director


Ariel is an educator and organization builder.  She loves messy problem solving, strategic thinking and DIY hacking whether she is upcycling cashmere baby clothes, or helping grow an organization through the bootstrapping phase. As the Director of Capacity and Operations for CED, Ariel partners in stewarding strategy, operations and culture for CED, and is the lead program manager for the Solidarity Economy Initiative, and the organization’s training and technical assistance work.


Prior to her time at CED, Ariel worked in social justice education, at the intersection of nonprofits and higher education, and supported local economic development work as a volunteer in Somerville, MA and Southeastern Vermont. Ariel practices solidarity economy in daily life through cooperative community gardening, collective child care, and experiments like “a year of no shopping.”

Contact Ariel: ariel [at] economicdemocracy.us

Ariel Brooks (she/her)

Director of Capacity and Operations


Armani is determined to create the “better world” we dream of in the future, now. Armani is a third generation Bostonian.  He was born and raised in Boston between Bromley Heath, a housing development in Jamaica Plain, and Lower Roxbury.


Armani is a community organizer whose life's work has been about transforming the structures that cause inequity and injustice to create stronger communities, and supporting people in their development into critically conscious leaders. Armani currently serves as Director of Campaigns at the Center for Economic Democracy where he advances strategies to educate and further the movement for a just transition from extractive, harmful corporate, financial and government organization to a more democratically controlled, regenerative and sustainable planet.

Contact Armani: armani [at] economicdemocracy.us

Armani White (he/him)

Director of Campaigns

Libbie Zhang Cohn (she/her)

Manager of Communications

Libbie develops narratives in support of community self-determination, racial and economic justice, and democratic governance. As a co-founder of the Boston Ujima Project, she researched and helped develop Ujima’s early neighborhood assemblies with a focus on designing for democratic accountability, transparency and accessibility.


Libbie is also an independent documentary filmmaker. Her first feature film, co-directed and produced with JP Sniadecki in Southwest China, has been screened around the world.  She previously worked as a researcher on the environmental impacts of real estate development in Southeast Asia, and as a paralegal providing bilingual legal support to Chinese immigrants facing housing and immigration issues. A music nerd and lover of plants and animals, Libbie was raised between Hong Kong, Beijing, and New England. She studied political philosophy and architecture at Yale University, regenerative ecological design at the Ecosa Institute, and urban planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Contact Libbie: libbie [at] economicdemocracy.us


María Christina Blanco is a Bolivian-American mother, organizer, and health worker who has engaged in human rights and social/economic justice activism over the past 20+ years in the Boston area. As CED's Administrative & Fiscal Sponsorship Manager, she provides administrative capacity to CED and its projects, in English and Spanish. She was a community organizer at City Life/Vida Urbana from 2011-2016, helping hundreds of her neighbors resist displacement due to predatory lending and evictions for the profit of corporate landlords.  For over a decade prior to entering the organizing field, she did maternal-child community health work. María Christina studied public health as an adult learner at UMass Boston. Her history of involvement in cooperatives dates back to her first job, stocking groceries at the Harvest Co-op.  She serves on the Governing Board of the Boston Community Leadership Academy high school and advised their Immigrant Youth Leaders chapter during a successful 2018 student deportation-defense campaign.

Contact Maria Christina: maria [at] economicdemocracy.us

Maria Christina Blanco (she/her)

Administrative &

Fiscal Sponsorship Manager

Martin Familia (he/him)

Martin is the Director of Finance and Human Resources at CED. He has been working in finances in different capacities since graduating from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 2009. Originally born in the Dominican Republic, Martin came to Boston at the age of two where he has resided ever since. Martin demonstrates a commitment to community with his involvement at different organizations including his former school Codman Academy Charter Public School where he is an active member of Codman Academy's Board of Trustees. Martin also holds financial literacy seminars for different groups of high school students, including current students as they prepare for life after high school. After beginning his career in commercial banking, Martin was the Director of Finance and Administration at the College for Social Innovation, a startup where he played a major part in building systems around financial administration, compliance, internal controls, and human resources.

Contact Martin: martin [at] economicdemocracy.us

Director of Finance and Human Resources

Our Board


Elena brings more than 20 years of working with grassroots organizations, her experience ranging from organizational development and public policy to fundraising, finances and developing grassroots boards. She is the former executive director of Neighbor to Neighbor, a grassroots membership organization building power in working class communities of color across Massachusetts. Before joining Neighbor to Neighbor, Elena served as Executive Director of Centro Presente, a Boston-based immigrant rights organization. Her leadership transformed Centro Presente from a direct service organization to a stable member-led immigrant rights force.


Elena holds a Master’s degree and a Ph.D. in Public Policy from the University of Massachusetts. She is the author and co-author of numerous articles and reports on a variety of topics related to organizational and community capacity building.

Elena Letona 

Kalila is a Climate Resilience Program Officer at the Barr Foundation. Kalila has over a decade of experience in community organizing around affordable housing, land development, and environmental justice. She served as the Executive Director at Alternatives for Community and Environment (ACE) for eight years. Before joining ACE in 2009, she worked as a Senior Organizer at Community Labor United.


Kalila has a Bachelor's degree from Bates College, where she studied American Studies and Spanish, and a Master of Public Policy from the Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning School at Tufts University. Kalila currently lives in Roslindale and enjoys walking in the Arboretum, listening to podcasts, and cooking for friends.

Kalila Barnett 
Khalida Smalls 

As the Organizing Director for the Boston Teachers Union (BTU), Khalida works with an incredible team to organize and support the needs of its’ 10,000 members and to ensure that public education is a priority for the city. Before joining BTU, Khalida was the Director of Organizing at Community Labor United (CLU) also based in Boston.

Born and raised in Boston, Khalida is a queer Black woman of African and Caribbean descent.  She's also mom to young adult activist, Ziquelle G Smalls who was active in the youth justice movement in Boston before moving to Miami Florida and joining Power U the Center for Social Change as their organizing director – organizing runs in the family!  Khalida began organizing in 1997 with Alternatives for Community & Environment (ACE) a community based environmental justice organization based in Roxbury, MA. She has experience in labor with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) building community/labor partnerships.


Khalida attended Springfield College School of Human Services, (Boston Campus) completing a bachelor’s degree in science in Human Services.  She hopes to soon return to Tufts University’s Urban Environmental Policy and Planning program (UEP) to complete her master’s degree in public policy.


Penn is Senior Lecturer and Director of the Master of Public Policy Program and Community Practice at Tufts University’s Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning. From 1996 to 2009, he served in various roles, including Executive Director at Alternatives for Community & Environment (ACE), a Roxbury-based environmental justice group. Before joining ACE, he was Research Associate at the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security in Oakland, California and a Research Analyst at the Tellus Institute for Resource and Environmental Strategies in Boston. 


He holds an M.S. in environmental science and policy from Energy and Resources Group of the University of California at Berkeley and a B.S. in electrical engineering from MIT. He has published broadly on environmental and social justice issues and is currently a trustee of the Hyams Foundation.

Penn Loh 

Our Fellows


Francisco Perez is a solidarity economy activist and has worked as an economic development professional with frontline communities in Senegal, Sierra Leone, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. Francisco is currently a PhD student in economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and Executive Director of the Center for Popular Economics. His research focuses on international political economy. He holds a BA from Harvard College and an MPA from Princeton University.

Francisco Perez


Gopal Dayaneni


Gopal has been involved in fighting for social, economic, environmental and racial justice through organizing & campaigning, teaching, writing, speaking and direct action since the late 1980’s. Gopal currently serves on the Planning Committee of Movement Generation: Justice and Ecology Project, which brings a strategic understanding of ecological crisis and transition to racial and economic justice organizing. Gopal is also a trainer with the The Ruckus Society and serves on the boards of The Center for Story-based Strategy, The Working World, ETCgroup.org (The Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Corporate Concentration), and Occidental Arts and Ecology Center. He is on the advisory board of the Catalyst Project and Adjunct Faculty for the Masters in Urban Sustainability program at Antioch University, Los Angeles, where he teaches Ecological Systems Thinking.

Gopal was an elementary and early childhood educator, working formerly as a teacher and as the co-director of the Tenderloin Childcare Center, a community based childcare center supporting children and families forced into homelessness. He has worked in teacher education and education organizing in the US and in India. Most importantly, Gopal is the father of Ila Sophia and Kavi Samaka Orion. He lives in Oakland in an intentional, multi-generational community of nine adults, eight children and a bunch of chickens.


Jessica Norwood is founder of the Runway Project. She is also the executive director of the Emerging ChangeMakers Network, an organization dedicated to working with inspiring leaders and innovative ideas that end economic inequality. As a leading social entrepreneur in her region, she supports strengthening social enterprise and social investing as a way to build community resiliency. Jessica previously spent years in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere as a political fundraiser and consultant, raising millions of dollars for various campaigns. 


Jessica is a past member of the board of directors for the Highlander Research and Education Center, a former Emerging Leaders Fellow at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, and the Political Power Fellow with the Hip Hop Archive at the Du Bois Institute at Harvard University.

Jessica Norwood



Kali Akuno is a co-founder and co-director of Cooperation Jackson.  Kali served as the Director of Special Projects and External Funding in the Mayoral Administration of the late Chokwe Lumumba of Jackson, MS. His focus in this role was supporting cooperative development, the introduction of eco-friendly and carbon reduction methods of operation, and the promotion of human rights and international relations for the city.

Kali also served as the Co-Director of the US Human Rights Network, the Executive Director of the Peoples' Hurricane Relief Fund (PHRF) based in New Orleans, Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. And was a co-founder of the School of Social Justice and Community Development (SSJCD), a public school serving the academic needs of low-income African American and Latino communities in Oakland, California.

Kali Akuno


Nwamaka Agbo


Restorative Economics practitioner Nwamaka Agbo, brings a solutions-oriented approach to her project management consulting. With a background in organizing, electoral campaigns, policy and advocacy on racial, social and environmental justice issues, Nwamaka supports projects that build resilient, healthy and self-determined communities rooted in shared prosperity. In addition to her consulting practice, Nwamaka is also a Senior Fellow at the Movement Strategy Center and a 2017 Fellow for the RSF Integrated Capital Fellowship Program. Nwamaka previously served as the Director of Programs at EcoDistricts leading Target Cities—a program to support 11 neighborhood-scale sustainable urban regeneration projects across North American committed to equitable economic development.

She currently serves as an Advisory Board Member to Oakland Rising Action and a Board Member to Thousand Currents, Center for Third World Organizing and the Schumacher Center for New Economics. She graduated from UC Davis with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and African American Studies and holds a Master’s of Public Administration specializing in Financial Management from San Francisco State University. Nwamaka lives in Oakland with her husband, where she can be found geeking out on the latest sci-fi, Afrofuturism novels or cheering for the Golden State Warriors. She likes her bourbon neat and her sake chilled.