The Vanguard conference is a gathering of the top urban innovators 40 and younger working to make change in cities. Designed to bring together professionals working across disciplines and sectors, each Vanguard class includes policymakers and politicians, architects and urban planners, artists and mediamakers, all selected through a competitive application process.
Lena P. Afridi is the Policy Coordinator for Equitable Economic Development at the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development. Lena has extensive experience merging data, policy, and grassroots organizing. Lena integrates quantitative research, geographic analysis, and coalition-based campaign planning to inform ANHD’s goal of economic justice in New York City.
Ashley Atkinson is a planner with an economic development focus and a decade of experience in LA-area agencies. She serves as both Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Senior Planning & Development Manager and volunteer director of the American Planning Association’s Los Angeles section. She received a master’s degree from USC in 2007.
Rotem works as a food and planning consultant for Québec en Forme. She advises, creates, and implements strategies, action plans, programs and policies to encourage healthy eating and physical activity in cities in Québec. Recently, she has been helping with the development of a food strategy in Montréal.
Demelza Baer is a Policy Counsel for the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, where she directs the Economic Mobility Initiative. She previously worked as a Policy Counsel for the Washington Legislative Office of the American Civil Liberties Union, and as an Assistant Counsel for the U.S. House Judiciary Committee.
Imron Bhatti is the Presidential Management Fellow at the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. His career has focused on how urban planning can ameliorate or exacerbate inequities in access to opportunity.
Frederic Bourrely is the General Manager of Soder, a family of 4 not for profit organization active in three fields: education to environment, supporting citizen in their local green projects and companies/States in their sustainable development.
Kirby is the Beam Fellow of Placemaking + Equity at Western Reserve Land Conservancy, working with residents to green and repurpose vacant lots and activate spaces in the community. She’s a former elementary school teacher, a trained mediator, and an organizer with her local “artivist” group called Bridging The Tracks.
Natalie is a Sustainability – Sr. Consultant, with a focus on Urban Resiliency, for AECOM in Texas. Natalie also co-founded Green Money Search to inspire sustainable city development by leveraging incentives to encourage citizens to implement sustainable practices on their projects. She also leads Advocacy for USGBC Texas Gulf Coast Region.
Antionette D. Carroll is the Founder and CEO of Creative Reaction Lab, a civic engagement and design social enterprise addressing building healthier and more inclusive cities. Throughout her career, Antionette has worked for social justice, human rights, and diversity and inclusion nonprofits. She is AMEX/Ashoka Emerging Innovator.
Jonathan Cha is an Urbanologist, Landscape Architect and Doctor in Urban Planning. He teaches at the University of Montreal, UQAM and McGill. Specialist of public space, he is co-founder of MTL ville en mouvement, vice-president of the Association of Landscape Architects of Quebec and member of a several Boards of Administration.
Elizabeth Bowie Christoforetti is design director and co-founder of Supernormal, a design and research collaborative built to explore the potential of big data for the design of small urban places. Supernormal bridges the disciplines of architecture, urban design, and planning to bring increased sensitivity and systematization to urban development.
Kate Clark, MPA is the Assistant Director of the Center for Population Health Innovation at Thomas Jefferson University. Prior this position, she worked in local governments and organizations managing initiatives, such as Age-friendly Philadelphia and GenPhilly, that aim to address the social and environmental determinants of health.
Betty Cruz founded Change Agency, a social enterprise that elevates civic initiatives, in September 2016 where she leads implementation of a countywide immigrant integration plan. Previously, Betty was Deputy Chief of Special Initiatives for City of Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto. Originally from Miami, Betty is the daughter of Cuban immigrants.
Lyndsay Daudier seeks to find ways to make cities more livable through inclusion. With a background in urban planning, law, and project management, she is a dot-connector creating innovating partnership through Amplifier Montréal a movement within The Maison de l’innovation sociale – MIS (Social Innovation Centre). She aims to bring together entrepreneurs, citizens, academics, technology experts and investors across the province of Quebec with the purpose of maximizing the collective impacts of initiatives for equitable and sustainable development.
Naomi Doerner is a racial justice advocate and urban planner. She recently co-founded Seneca Planning, a transportation equity consultancy. For over a decade, her work has centered on building cultural competency and galvanizing national support for inclusive advocacy and equitable mobility planning practices. Naomi co-organizes the Untokening, a new mobility justice leadership development network. She earned her M.U.P. from NYU, serves on the Boards of ioby and PlayBuild, and lives in New Orleans, LA.
Stephanie Duncker is a digital strategist currently working as a freelance designer and consultant. She’s passionate about designing positive change in society, whether that be by increasing digital & economic access or promoting accessibility in design.
Kia Ervin is a branding expert with nearly 15 years of experience. She specializes in developing unique opportunities for industry leaders in a myriad of professions. Her work expands their brand by developing strategic partnerships and increasing their philanthropic engagement. Currently she is the Executive Director of Accelerate Delaware where she is responsible for retaining millennials in the state through social and professional engagement strategies.
Diana Flora is a Kresge Mayor’s Fellow for the City of Detroit, working specifically with the Detroit Police Department to implement strategic initiatives that advance the department’s crime reduction, operational efficiency, and community service goals. In her role, she uses data-driven strategies to stimulate a discussion about the needs and challenges of public safety in Detroit.
Seyron Foo leads public policy and government relations at Southern California Grantmakers and Philanthropy California, bringing best practices learned from philanthropy’s investments to better inform policymaking that strengthens communities. Previously, he spent time in state and local government, successfully enacting banking reforms to protect vulnerable Californians, managing citywide infrastructure projects, and overseeing press and community relations.
Cristina Garza, as Program Director of the Mission Economic Development Corporation, curates and leads all STEAM and entrepreneurship initiatives for the City of Mission, Texas, which is located along US/Mexico border. Cristina is committed to fostering community and economic development through technology and art.
Darnell Grisby is an expert on the emerging urban mobility landscape and its impact on economic development. He is a sought-after speaker whose work has been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio and numerous other media outlets. He is an experienced practitioner of the complete set of tools to influence policy: thought leadership, independent expenditure campaigns, philanthropic giving, political action committee strategy, diversity initiatives, direct lobbying, and grassroots and grasstops organizing. He was named among the “Top 40 Under 40” by Mass Transit magazine, and has degrees from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and the University of California, Los Angeles. He is a native of Riverside, California and currently resides in the walkable core of Washington, DC.
Mauricio, a Mexican architect, works at the Municipal Planning Institute (IMPLAN). Through interinstitucional planning and sustainable interventions, he works to accomplish a better city for all while preserving regional heritage and traditions for future generations. As co-director in binational urban labs between Matamoros and Brownsville, he pursues tearing down barriers and promoting a vibrant and competitive region.
Mojan is an urban planner and public engagement specialist driven to find opportunities where planning can support cultural development. She designs and facilitates participatory workshops, and is passionate about the intersection between psychology and built form. Prior to the City of Mississauga, Mojan directed large-scale public art installations in Toronto.
Allie serves as a Mayor’s Neighborhood Advocate for the City of Indianapolis where she leads collaboration efforts between local government, community stakeholders and residents to create safe, connected and inclusive neighborhoods where all residents can thrive. Driven by a passion for community development and engagement, Allie has also worked on neighborhood streets and the halls of Washington on issues from quality of life planning to education policy.
Matthew’s is the co-owner of Studio North, an emerging design + build practice (www.studionorth.ca). His ambitious nature as a designer, artist, and maker has driven him to realize projects of a variety of scales across Canada. His process of designing and making facilitate a logical process of composing ideas into built works.
Derek Kitchen is a Council Member in Salt Lake City. He is using collaboration and collective impact to help direct sustained solutions to the complicated urban problems of homelessness & affordable housing, transportation & connectivity, and urban development. He operates two small businesses, and views economic development as a tool to help drive social justice.
Micah Kotch serves as the Managing Director for Urban-X: an accelerator by MINI and SOSV that makes equity investments in early-stage startups shaping the future of cities through technology, passion and design. Headquartered within A/D/O in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, Urban-X is dedicated to helping entrepreneurs turn compelling ideas into viable solutions for urban life. Micah previously served as the Director of NY Prize and Strategic Adviser for Innovation at the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), where was responsible for the design and execution of the nation’s first community microgrid competition and worked to transform the electric utility business model and help commercialize new clean energy technology.
Laurent Levesque cofounded and coordinates UTILE, a nonprofit business developing self-financed, affordable student housing. He is also a radio columnist on economics and Chair of the youth wing of the social economy movement. He is an organizer of Transformer Montréal, a conference on democratizing the economy. He has studied urban planning, urban economic development and management.
Marian Liou is the Founder of We Love BuHi, a social enterprise that supports a livable, inclusive, thriving Buford Highway corridor, the diverse, multicultural heart of metro Atlanta, through community-based creative placemaking.
Jeremy Loveday is a performance poet, community builder, and Victoria City Councillor. Jeremy is the founder of the Victorious Voices youth spoken word festival and he has toured internationally as a performer and public speaker. Jeremy is a passionate advocate for people-centred communities which are affordable, sustainable, and vibrant.
Andréanne Maltais-Tremblay is an urban planner who advises Montreal City councilors on a diversity of urban planning issues: urban policies, town planning regulations, transportation issues, housing, commercial and public spaces projects.
Rev. Levon Manzie’s diverse district spans historic neighborhoods to the downtown Entertainment Quarter. Under his leadership, it’s undergoing a major renaissance with initiatives focusing on infrastructure and blight issues. He serves as Assistant Pastor of St. Joseph Missionary Baptist Church and previously served on the Mobile County School Board.
Carla Mays is Founder & CEO of Mays Civic Innovation, a San Francisco based advising and strategy firm on innovation economy and Smart Cities. Clients include various state agencies in California, public officials in California, Florida, Washington, DC; and impact funds. Singularity University Impact in the 2016-17 inaugural class of Impact Fellows focused on development of frameworks “Exponential Equity for Smart Cities”. She is currently a columnist for American Society of Public Administrators (ASPA) PA Times focused on 21st Century Public Administration: Managing the Smart City. She is an award winning civic-hacker and has been recognized by the California State Legislature for civic engagement and inclusive govtech platforms on affordable housing and voter protection.
Michael is a Pinchot Faculty Fellow and associate research scientist at Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. He has more than a decade of senior-level experience in urban sustainability policy. This included working for the California State Legislature as a senior consultant, lobbyist, gubernatorial appointee, and as vice chair of the city planning commission. Michael’s research agenda investigates how the built environment, policymaking process, and social movements influence sustainability and population health in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color.
Ryan E. Mielcarek is Director of Strategic Initiatives for Compass Housing Alliance, Chair of the King County Veterans Consortium, and proud member of the ShelterBox international disaster response network. He leads community resilience and empowerment initiatives powered through radical compassion, inclusiveness, and collective impact.
I was born in Medellín-Colombia in 1987. I studied architecture at the Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana where I also finished my master’s degree in architecture, criticism and project. Since 2011 I have been a member of the collective NN Project and have participated in projects related to local cultural circulation, ephemeral architecture and urban activism.
Victoria is an urban planner and researcher based in Accra, Ghana. As Urban Advocacy Specialist with the research-action network Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO), Victoria specializes in inclusive public space design, access and informal economy work. She’s also the founder of African Urbanism, which leverages research, planning and engagement to document, revision and revitalize community public spaces.
Jonathan Quarles is a serial entrepreneur, angel investor, and global citizen diplomat. As Founder and CEO of the BTL Group, Jonathan has helped transform organizations in the private and public sector by elevating their financial and social impact. One of country’s most well-known connectors, he has developed and managed strategic partnerships for multi-billion dollar corporations and social impact organizations alike, while also positioning them for sustainable growth.
Jessica Robinson is Director, City Solutions at Ford Smart Mobility where she works with cities to understand local priorities and to identify new mobility solutions to meet current and future transportation needs. Jessica previously scaled Zipcar’s innovative car sharing model as Marketing Manager, Locations Manager, and Market Launch Manager.
Kirk Rose is the CEO of the Anchorage Community Land Trust (ACLT) in Anchorage, Alaska, USA. Under his leadership, ACLT was named the National Development Council’s ‘Most Innovative Community Development Project’ in the United States. His family resides in Anchorage, but are equally at home exploring Alaska’s wild places.
Stephanie works to expand community development lending opportunities for small businesses, MWDBEs, and nonprofit organizations for TruFund Financial Services, Inc. She plays a key role in managing strategic relationships with various community stakeholders, municipal partners and elected officials to support financial empowerment and inclusion, capital access, and community development efforts.
Stratton Tingle is executive director of SoundCorps, a nonprofit focused on building the music economy of Chattanooga, TN through initiatives that help local music industry professionals start businesses, expand existing music industry infrastructure, and recruit new business to town. Tingle is also a musician who performs with many music projects.
Hani White, Deputy Director of Philadelphia’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. Economic development professional with 12 years of experience in asset building, business development, and nonprofit program management. Previously, Hani served as Director of Asset Building and Immigrant Services for Women’s Opportunities Resource Center (WORC). Indonesian immigrant, fluent in 3 languages.
Lilith is a co-founded of Roots of Renewal, a neighborhood development non-profit that provides construction work-training for formerly incarcerated young adults. Born in Munich, Germany, raised in Seattle, and currently living in New Orleans, Louisiana, Lilith has a deep interest in cities. She is trained in social policy and studio art and her research focuses on public housing, incarceration, and poverty.
Omar Woodard is the Executive Director of the GreenLight Fund Philadelphia working in philanthropy to end extreme poverty in Philadelphia.