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Meet the 2023 CLS Cohort

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Laura Bechard (she/her) works as the chocolate supply chain coordinator for Equal Exchange, a worker-owned cooperative that is a national leader in the fair trade movement. Laura is responsible for the chocolate chip and hot cocoa supply chains. Prior to the pandemic, she traveled frequently to meet with cacao and sugar cooperatives in Ecuador, Peru, Paraguay, and the Dominican Republic. She has been with Equal Exchange for six years, and in the last two years has become further involved as a board director and co-chair of the governance committee. Before Equal Exchange, Laura served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Paraguay from 2014-2016 where she supported the local school and farmer committee in environmental initiatives. While in Peace Corps, Laura was concurrently enrolled with Cornell University in a Master's International Program. She conducted and analyzed surveys on land use values in rural Paraguay and completed her master's degree in international development in 2017.

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Lesly Calle (she/her) serves as the Manager of Alumni Relations at the Office of Student Success at the City College of New York where she manages program development and outreach strategies to engage a growing network of alumni of the social science division. Prior to this work, Lesly served as Manager of Member Engagement at the Drivers Cooperative where she supervised driver engagement, leading to the growth of the driver network from 2,000 to 6,000. In this role, she supported the implementation of educational workshops on cooperative principles and tracked major milestones for driver leadership development. In 2020, Lesly served as the Communications and Research Intern with the Community and Worker Ownership Project, where she worked closely with the program director to develop the organization's communications strategy focusing on promoting the understanding of cooperatives and economic democracy through virtual panel discussions, monthly issue-based working groups, and blog management.


Lesly has dedicated herself to learning about cooperative economies locally and internationally. Recently, she was part of a cohort that visited the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation in the Basque region in Spain. Following this research, Lesly participated in the 51st Contingent of the Venceremos Brigade in Cuba in December to learn about solidarity movements of justice between Cuba and the US.


A graduate of the Macaulay Honors College at the CUNY City College of New York, Lesly holds a bachelor's degree in Economics and International Studies and a graduate-level certificate in Workplace Democracy and Community Ownership from the School of Labor and Urban Studies.



Gabrielle Chapman (she/they) is the Program Manager for Shared Capital Cooperative. Chapman is a proud Black Appalachian from West Virginia with a passion for organizing rural, working-class people and cares deeply about prison abolition, labor and environmental movement struggle, building worker power and transforming narratives about race in Appalachia. She uses the knowledge she has acquired across the fields of racial and economic justice; food and land advocacy; and solidarity economics to ground and inform her equity analysis to teach others about how systemic racism, heterosexism, ableism, ageism, environmental justice and economic disenfranchisement impact organizational growth and wellbeing. Chapman was the formerly the director of Call to Action for Racial Equality Coalition, West Virginia’s first statewide intersectional racial equity organization and the Membership Director for the United States Federation of Worker Cooperatives. Additionally, she was selected as a 2018 Justice Fellow with the Open Society Foundation and was awarded the ‘West Virginia’s Community Organizer of the Year’ Award. Gabrielle holds a BS in Applied Biology from Russell Sage College and currently resides in Knoxville, Tennessee.



Tomi Chung (she/her) is a student, educator, organizer, and co-operator. At the time of writing, she serves as the President of the Berkeley Student Cooperative and is responsible for coordinating the development of next fiscal year's $13 million operating budget along with a three year Strategic Plan for the organization. She serves on the Board of Directors of North American Students of Cooperation as Treasurer. Tomi is passionate about developing the cooperative movement and the Solidarity Economy movement in all realms of her life. She lives with 37 beloved housemates and a 16 year old cat.


Tomi studied Ethnic Studies and Sociology at UC Berkeley and will start a PhD program in Fall 2023.

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Crystal Davis (she/her) has been working with children and families for 15 years. She currently serves as the Community Engagement Associate with The Beloved Early Education & Care (BEE) Collective, in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. As part of BEE's Birthing a Community Coalition she is a Childbirth Educator and Full Spectrum Doula, working to reduce maternal and infant mortality and morbidity. Crystal is passionate about initiating efforts for birthing and healing justice that will result in positive solutions for women of color and their babies. Through education, support, and advocacy she wants to empower the community to engage in the work that will help eliminate the disparities in maternal health care. 

A graduate of Columbia College, SC Davis holds a BA in Child and Family Studies and recently returned to pursue a Master of Arts in Healthcare Administration.

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Mathew Forth (he/him) is a Cooperative Developer with Keystone Development Center, a mission driven organization strengthening the cooperative movement in the Mid-Atlantic who provides key technical assistance services to businesses in a varied number of industries. Being an advocate for food sovereignty Mathew has a particular interest in promoting farmer or food systems based coops and brings a unique skill set to the position having worked on farms for several seasons both nationally and internationally. He has an extensive background in grassroots community organizing and developed much of those skills focusing on environmentally driven campaigning with Greenpeace and agricultural development with the Peace Corps in Madagascar. Most recently, he received his graduate degree in Food Studies at Chatham University where he helped contribute to the scholarship surrounding the governance structure of agricultural multi-stakeholder cooperatives by doing a multi-case study analysis of two food hubs in the United States. Through a holistic lens, Mathew continues that momentum with KDC because he is confident the cooperative model supports equitable outcomes for users, most importantly for underserved communities, compared to other business models and is therefore dedicated to the proliferation of cooperative values that advance circular economies. 

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Joann Lo (she/her) started in April 2022 as the new Director of Development and Strategic Initiatives for UDW and as a board member of the UDW Resource Center. She is very happy to be a part of a social justice union. She is a member of the Local Labor Outreach committee of the Union Co-ops Council of the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives. Joann came to UDW with 14 years of experience as Co-Executive Director of two union-worker center coalitions, including 10 years at the Food Chain Worker Alliance, and overall more than 2 decades in the labor movement. She started her career as an organizer on two different campaigns with SEIU locals in Los Angeles and then, after traveling around Mexico and Central America and learning Spanish, she helped to start the Garment Worker Center in Los Angeles in 2000 and was its lead organizer until 2005. Joann graduated with a degree in environmental biology from Yale University and is the daughter of immigrants from Taiwan.

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Ashley Long (they/them) is a loan and investment associate with Shared Capital Cooperative where they manage the loan closing process, work with investment advisors to support a smooth investment process and monitor the document distribution, review, and approval processes. Prior to Shared Capital, they worked for 8 years in residential title and escrow. Ashley holds a Bachelor’s in English from the University of Iowa. They love to spend time with their friends adventuring around the Twin Cities- concerts, gardening, and crafts. Ashley enjoys meeting new people and fellowship with their community.

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Robinson Markus (he/they) is a founding worker-owner and the General Manager at Evanston Development Cooperative (EDC), a worker-owned cooperative focused on designing and building sustainable, inclusive neighborhoods. Robinson played an integral role in Evanston's accessory dwelling unit (ADU) code reform. Since then, the cooperative has built Evanston's first affordable ADU, secured one million dollars for a two-year pilot to perform climate-resilient retrofits of affordable housing, and is currently leading an initiative to implement pre-approved, model ADU plans in partnership with the City of Evanston. Previously, Robinson researched the effects of the Great Recession on historically redlined Evanston neighborhoods at Northwestern University.

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Rosa Poirier-McKiggan (she/her) is an Acadian-Scottish settler person living in Kjipuktuk on unceded Mi’kmaq territory. A passion for social and ecological justice and solidarity economics drives her work. She is a Program Assistant at the International Centre for Co-operative Management and a member and board member of the Glitter Bean Cafe worker co-operative. She is an organizer of mutual aid and solidarity initiatives. She has a BA in Political Science and Environmental Sustainability Studies (Dalhousie University), a Certificate in Indigenous Studies (Dalhousie University), a Graduate Diploma in Community Economic Development (Concordia University) and is currently pursuing a Certificate in Co-operative Management (Saint Mary's University). She loves hosting gatherings, cooking for loved ones, contemplating over espresso and swimming in the ocean.

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Maggie O'Connor (they/them) is a long-time co-oper from northern Michigan. After relocating to Ann Arbor, MI for school, Maggie became involved with the Inter-Cooperative Council (ICC) where they have continued to grow personally and professionally in their love for cooperatives and the power they have for radical transformation. Maggie has served in many positions at the ICC, from food & supplies steward at their house to board president and finally to a staff position where they lead fundraising efforts for their home co-op. In early 2021, Maggie joined the North American Students of Cooperation board of directors; they are currently serving a 3-year term and act as the board's vice president.  Maggie received a BA in Psychology and German from the University of Michigan in 2018. They are an avid rollerblader, bonfire starter, rat lover and casual river stroller. Ask them about their rock collection!

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Adrián Román (he/él) is a Co-op Organizer at BCCO parallel to his work as a mediator and mindfulness instructor. His work as a co-op organizer focuses on creating and facilitating curriculum in cooperative education, assessing interpersonal dynamics to design organizational systems that support shared ownership and facilitating the process of developing a cooperative. He believes in growing through conflict, empowering individuals through ownership and co-creating inclusive spaces. He studied Human Resources and Philosophy while at college, obtained an alternative MBA for Social Entrepreneurs, is certified in Conflict Resolution and Mediation and is authorized to teach mindfulness through the Center for Creative Inquiry. Adrián is of Cuban and Chilean descent; his culture and family history inform his consulting/instruction style.

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Francesca Santos (she/they) is a new economy builder and advocate for rural resiliency; leading projects that decolonize wealth and advance economic opportunity for low-income, rural, communities of color across America. In her daily work as a Program Officer, Francesca cultivates programs, partnerships, and funding sources that invest in community-led economic development projects focused on racial, economic and climate justice issues.


Throughout her career, Francesca has consistently worked on high-impact equity issues. Previously, as a Corporate Accountability Advocate and Economic Researcher, Francesca supported several economic divestment campaigns challenging public and private financing of fossil fuels, border occupations and immigrant surveillance. Prior to that, she was an active Living Wage Organizer; fighting for economic justice and actively campaigning to reverse income inequality. Additionally, Francesca is a PhD student, specializing in solidarity economy models, and currently serves as a Graduate Intern for the California Center for Cooperative Development, where she supports a range of worker and home care coop development projects.


Francesca is dedicated to building diverse, equitable, and sustainable economies that safeguard people and the planet. She also brings lived experience to her economic justice work as a Chicana, formerly homeless youth, survivor of domestic violence and daughter of a single-parent and immigrant household growing up in rural & urban California.

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Camila Tapia-Guilliams (they/them) is a mixed media artist, educator, and community organizer. Through their work, they weave together narratives of community care, cooperation, and solidarity. They are a founder and Worker-Owner of Transverse Cooperative, a democratic artist-owned co-op dedicated to labor organizing and mutual aid in and through the arts as a means of collective liberation. As a Trainer and Facilitator for the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives, Camila works with grassroots and non-profit organizations to advance anti-oppression and democracy within their workplaces. Camila is a board member of Guilded, a multi-stakeholder co-op committed to empowering freelance workers through financial and administrative services. In their work with Anticapitalism for Artists, Camila created and led the Cooperative Arts Cohort, a collaborative class where artists learned to educate each other about how to wield art as a form of political power. They graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park, where they were a Worker-Owner of the Maryland Food Collective and studied art and entrepreneurship.

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Karen Tyler-Ruiz (she/her) serves as the Executive Director of the Center for Community-Based Enterprise, Inc, in Detroit Michigan. C2BE supports the creation of people-centered businesses, cooperatives, community, and worker-owned enterprises where worker-owners and members have a say in all financial and strategic decisions.


Tyler-Ruiz has spent the last 20 years of her career catalyzing community wealth-building collaborations and programs and building practical frameworks and strategies in support of Detroiters and Metro Detroiters. Her goal is for individuals and families to be able to work, earn, and be housed with dignity, while enjoying a good and sustainable quality of life within their local communities.


Tyler-Ruiz has experience working in an affordable housing CDFI, leading a financial stability portfolio and workforce collaborative fund; she’s been a intermediary grant-maker, fundraiser, and has developed collaborative programs that have been replicated and/or embedded into the public sector. She is principal consultant of Tyler-Ruiz & Associates, LLC; is fully bilingual English-Spanish with significant international work experience.



Rebecca J. H. White (she/they) is the Public and Government Affairs Associate at the Hanover Co-op Food Stores and Auto Service Centers of New Hampshire and Vermont. Her work includes local and national advocacy for child and day-care legislation; regional fisheries; soil health and waste diversion.



Riley Wong (they/them) researches distributed cooperatives and community governance models, with interests in public goods and the commons, solidarity economies, peer-to-peer systems, interdependence, and emergence. They have previous lives in machine learning at Google, investigative journalism at ProPublica, and QTBIPOC community organizing. They are based in NYC and enjoy painting, making music, and reading and writing speculative fiction.

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