To nurture the systemic shifting of power to constituencies and leaders who support an inclusive, educated and democratic society.
To nurture the systemic shifting of power to constituencies and leaders who support an inclusive, educated and democratic society.
Maria and Greg Jobin-Leeds founded the Partnership for Democracy and Education in 2006. With expertise in education and social justice, Maria and Greg have dedicated their careers to launching and nurturing successful high-impact social change organizations.
We are instigators and incubators of webs of change. We connect leading thinkers and change makers to passionate philanthropists and influential political leaders who share a common vision: a vibrant, inclusive society where every person participates in and steers the decisions that affect their lives.
Maria Jobin-Leeds is the Chair of The Partnership for Democracy and Education, whose alliance of projects, partners, and staff includes: Access Strategies Fund, Maria’s List, the Schott Fund, When We Fight, We Win, and our Impact Investments with the endowments. Together we support frontline organizations’ leadership and organize funders towards shared values and vision of a vibrant, thriving, and inclusive democracy and economy.
Maria is rooted in the belief that we will only have justice and see permanent change if our communities are at the forefront of the fight for agency over their lives. This belief is evident in our partner organizations’ leadership teams; composed of women and people of color from frontline communities. And our work and priorities, which are continuously informed by our grassroots partner-grantees. Together we are focused on supporting advocacy and organizing efforts that leverage resources toward sustainable, socially responsible investing while challenging dominant institutional power structures.
As a systems-level thinker, Maria addresses the shift in fundamental institutions of power- particularly: policymaking, public leadership, education, and finance; towards the following pillars of change:
Where community organizations drive shared budget and policy priorities for the common good, especially for under-resourced communities and families
Where government is representative and responsive to communities; accountable, transparent, and composed of an accurate mix of interests
Where educational opportunities, a primary tool for equity; are available to all students with care given to each gender, race, class, and native language speaker
Where the economic structures that impede democratic participation are recreated, so community is repaired
Where wealth and prosperity are created in low-income communities
Maria's Story: At the age of 18, I became aware of my relative privilege in an airport in Sudan. My father, a hydraulics engineer, specializing in public health, was experienced with the challenges of being an American working in the tropics. Anticipating an unpleasant encounter with the customs soldiers, he prompted my sisters and me to walk ahead as my brown-skinned stepmother trailed behind with her head down. As we girls passed by, the soldiers smiled and let the family through. I understood that my light skin, blond hair, and blue eyes helped the family navigate the soldiers, guns, bribes, and potential confiscation of luggage. But looking back at my stepmother, I realized she was playing another crucial role of trying to pass as our maid. It was a long-lasting lesson in power, racism, and sexism.
In Massachusetts, I saw my parents attempt to change these power dynamics and create change through their feminist, civil rights, political work. From picketing Boston Woolworth lunch counters to refusing federal taxation in protest of the Vietnam War and participating in non-violent demonstrations alongside Martin Luther King, Jr., I witnessed their consistent acts of courage. And whenever possible, I joined them. Some of my fondest memories are of enjoying my parents and community members delivering surprise care baskets to each other's doorsteps during the winter. These moments taught me what it looks like to listen, respond, and create a powerful, loving community.
And that's exactly what I attempted to do in my second year at Colby College. The campus felt empty as students started going home for summer break. My friend was outside her dorm in broad daylight, about to enter her room, when she was sexually assaulted. I was incredulous that the college wanted to keep it quiet. I had imagined they would care for her and protect the rest of us. And I was further hurt by the dean of students, a woman, who had not stood up for us. While I understood her nuanced position as the first female dean, we had no tolerance for inaction. We rallied and occupied her office until she heard us. For the first time, I saw the undeniable need and power of local organizing. The dean of students and the whole administration addressed what we all know today to be an issue that expands beyond college campuses. My friend dropped out of college. And I had a newfound feeling of indignation, determination, and evidence that we could change policy and culture.
That feeling emerged again when I traveled to Sudan with my parents, where female genital mutilation and other forms of oppression of women took place. And again, when I began teaching Health and Biology at a catholic high school. I remember trying to respect the institutional values of the Sisters I was teaching with. But I also wanted to respect my students' need for care and information, so they wouldn't be having sex or becoming pregnant before they were ready. Around this time, the HIV/AIDS epidemic was just starting.
I quit my job as a teacher and went back to school to study Teaching and Learning at Harvard Graduate School of Education. For a while, I cleaned apartments to help make ends meet and pay off my college debt. Then, a few months into what we now call the HIV/AIDS epidemic, I got a job with the Department of Public Health. It was during this time that I began to understand the need to organize around politics and money. The virus didn't discriminate based on race, age, gender, income, national origin, or sexuality. But the treatment lines did, and the sense of deserving care and treatment did too. The only justice I was seeing came from naming the brutality. Justice came from communities standing up for each other, from those with privilege using it to insist on better conditions, from so many acts of love and anonymous donations helping to maintain our struggling programs afloat. I learned so much about what it takes to move hearts, minds, policy, and budget.
My life partner Greg and I joined forces to raise our children in bicultural, bilingual public schools; as world citizens and caring social justice advocates—following the best of what our parents had modeled—using our privilege and passion to construct better conditions for each other. After the family sold the publishing business, it was clear from the stacks of direct mail appeals on my dining room table that—no matter how I organized them—giving money to each was scattershot and not effective. In fact, each appeal for the environment, scholarships, advocacy, women's rights, racial equity weren't obviously connected. When I think about all the women in my life—my stepmother, college friend, students, anonymous women donors, and people with HIV waiting for substance abuse treatment—they are the ones that helped shape my understanding of these everyday intersecting disparities.
It became clear that money alone could not help the cause of all these people. I needed to think about root causes and transform my money into political power. With this realization, we started Access Strategies Fund to harness the power of under-resourced communities, so they could create the conditions to thrive.
A parallel process was to figure out how to invest this endowment well. I felt prepared and excited. We had done our research, I had a new suit on, my partner by my side, and I was ready to interview advisors. The feeling of excitement quickly disappeared and was tempered with the heartbreaking reality that the financial sector makes money by extracting wealth from working-class people and the earth, with no care for our collective humanity. We interviewed male accountants and advisors, who would immediately greet my husband and begin talking to him. It was hard to overcome my lack of financial training and their lack of interest. But my loved ones supported me. We hired some great people, and I knew that my vision to use the investments to create true, lasting change in line with the community's needs, would eventually work. Our advisors are pioneers in injecting values into this system, but it's an ongoing effort.
These past decades I have been immersed in community with the people who make this world better; long friendships, shared successes, groaning failures, personal and professional growth, mutual commitments to keep working at it, and a huge disruptive phase in which to bring it home.
Access Strategies Fund
In 2000 Maria and Greg founded Access Strategies Fund to develop frontline movements to wield more power and help each community secure what they need to thrive, using our democracy. For 20 years, Access has helped develop civic leaders, organizations, and public policies that build power and create justice framed around race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and immigration status.
After a decade of addressing the racialized gap in neighborhood voting rates, Maria noticed more diverse candidates winning public office. However, the rates of elected Women of Color were still low. Frustrated with the lack of women's leadership in local, city, state, and national political offices, Maria collaborated with many politically astute leaders and Access Strategies Fund to incubate the Women's Pipeline for Change.
The Women's Pipeline for Change addresses the institutional barriers in our democratic systems that exclude low-income grassroots women of color. The Pipeline analyses, encourages, prepares, and supports women to enter public leadership and run for elected office. Thanks to our communities and organizers within Women's Pipeline for Change, women like Sonia Chang-Diaz, Ayanna Pressley and others have risen to powerful elected positions. They are now able to make more just policies.
In 1991 the Schott Fund was co-founded by Greg and Maria Jobin-Leeds, with Lilo and Gerry Leeds. Following the tradition of honoring our ancestors upon whose shoulders we stand, the foundation is named after Greg's grandparents/Lilo's parents, Caroline and Sigmund Schott, German-Jewish immigrants who escaped Nazi Germany with their daughter. Lilo was a fierce fighter against injustice and a passionate champion for equity throughout her lifetime. Lilo often spoke about how that resolve was instilled in her as a young girl when she fled Nazi Germany and the painful signs that dictated "No Jews," only to arrive in the United States to the pain of the Jim Crow culture of "No Coloreds."
The Schott Foundation for Public Education emerged because our vision for change held that those most affected must lead the way in advocating for change. In 1999 Schott became a public charity. The family sustained their funding commitment while giving up more control until the Schott Foundation for Public Education became an independent organization with an inclusive broad-based Board of Directors.
The Schott Foundation for Public Education supports the movement for high-quality public education in an era when there is pressure to dismantle the largest civil rights project in the country: our free system of local public education. Maria's 25 years of founding direction and investment committee leadership have shaped the work of bringing students, parents, teachers, and policymakers; focused and effective at changing the public frame from individual student achievement to an intersectional lens of opportunity for all.
In 2010 she created "Maria's List", combing the 50 States for champions who will win public office and promote bold social and economic policy, inclusive and representative of the communities most impacted. Maria's List has a special focus on Massachusetts and the leaders we are developing here.
Maria's List candidates were not initially popular with the political contributors, but times have changed, and we are shifting the political culture. Now the candidates we list are better able to raise money, win office, take bold stances and lead. Our donors are savvier, have multiple sources of good information, and are backing some of the most progressive leaders from the municipal level right up the ballot to Congress. We provide our donors with researched opportunities on districts most likely to vote for progressive women and people of color that match their community's needs. We call this Deep Democracy.
Partnership for Democracy and Education
In 2006 Maria and Greg Jobin-Leeds created The Partnership for Democracy and Education, LLC. . The Partnership structure weaves together our multiple endeavors to house research, advocacy, investing, funding and organizing. Together we support frontline organizations' leadership and organize funders towards shared values and vision of a vibrant, thriving, and inclusive democracy and economy. By practicing Impact Investing, Maria is helping to shift the finance sector to deliver more capital to women and people of color to grow their enterprises, investment funds, and community wealth. The capital can then be harnessed to complement our grantmaking programs in shifting power and wealth creation towards constructive, earth-sustaining goods and services, and a Solidarity Economy. With a more equitable distribution of wealth, we will see a more robust democracy.
When candidates and public leaders ask for contributions and relationships, Maria frequently invites a community leader to do the talking, allowing the candidates to have candid access to the community's concerns The most exciting part of her work is getting the opportunity to promote and support strong grassroots women's leadership, by hosting fundraisers on her personal time, and mobilizing other donors. Once these women are in office, Maria generates support and public love by promoting their successes, policies, and careers. The leaders she supports still have an uphill battle to create policies and budgets that provide equitable opportunities and outcomes for our communities. That's where you can help.
My team and I invite you to join us as we make our analysis, create strategy, collaboratively fund the movement for justice, develop public leaders, reimagine our power structures, and take leadership when the opportunity arises. Each of the organizations in our Partnership issues invitations, and we would be delighted to work with you in the creation of our emerging world.
Maria's Hobbies and Pastimes: Maria’s garden produces a stupendous amount of food and flowers, and a decent amount of inner peace. She bikes to work most days, loves to cook what she grows, and hike in the woods with her family.
Greg Jobin-Leeds is the author of When We Fight, We Win! twenty-first century social movements and activists that are transforming our world. Greg is the Chair of the Board, Co-Founder and first President of the award winning Schott Foundation for Public Education. Under Greg's leadership, Schott nurtured the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE) in 1993 and later helped found the Alliance for Quality Education (AQE). Through litigation, legislation, media and grassroots organizing, both organizations' efforts led to winning $7.4 billion for high-need New York schools to improve teacher effectiveness, early education opportunities and desperately needed resources. Schott won the Council of Foundation's 2007 Critical Impact Award for this victory.
In 2006, Schott began publishing the report, “The Schott 50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males” which has created a groundswell of support for reforming public education. In 2008, Schott launched the Opportunity to Learn Campaign to build a national movement to close the opportunity gap in public education. Schott helped organize grassroots and religious groups across the country around the opportunity to learn framework.
He has made a career out of launching and nurturing successful, high-impact social change organizations. His talent for recruiting effective leaders and encouraging their efforts to break new ground has led to milestone victories for the nation’s historically underserved children and most under-represented families.
Greg has helped launch:
The Partnership for Democracy and Education whose mission is to nurture the systemic shifting of political power to constituencies and leaders who support an inclusive, educated society.
Access Strategies Fund, which has played a leading role in closing the racial gap in voter turnout in targeted communities and overturning racially unjust gerrymandered districts which has led to progressive leaders of color being elected.
The 501(c) (4) Education Voters of America that creates the political will to transform the nation’s public education system by holding public officials accountable for serving the needs of all children.
The Institute for Student Achievement (ISA), a leading high school redesign organization, with tremendous student outcomes.
The Alliance for Excellent Education — now a highly effective national advocate for public high school policy.
The CMP Media Foundation, and served on the corporate board of CMP Media.
Greg currently serves on committees of six investment portfolios with particular interest in mission related investing. In 2007, Greg was appointed by Governor Deval Patrick to serve on the Massachusetts’ Readiness Project Leadership Council, specifically as a member of the Long-term Funding subcommittee.
Early in his career, he worked as a high school English teacher in rural Maine, then became head of the English Department of a high school in Columbia, South America. Later he trained adult literacy teachers at Roxbury Community College and then became a community organizer. Mr. Jobin-Leeds has a master's degree from Teacher's College, Columbia University, and thirty years of education, public policy, media, community organizing and leadership experience.
As the son of immigrants who escaped Nazi persecution, Greg lives the commitment of fighting for fairness and social justice. He is driven by the fundamental belief that excellence is the result of inclusion not exclusion. He often speaks and writes on the topics of Strategic Philanthropy, Organizational Development and Transformational Movement Building.
Margo has been a part of the Partnerships team for over 15 years. She is the Director of Finance & Administration and oversees many aspects of the financial operations of the Partnerships business. She works closely with the Managing Partner and plays a critical role in strategic decision making and operations. She is a Managing Partner in a consulting firm that she founded in 2001. Margo has over 20 years of accounting and finance experience in both the private and non-profit sector. Margo has an undergraduate degree in Accounting from Bentley University and a graduate degree in Business Administration from Suffolk University.
Remona Davis joined the Partnership for Democracy and Education, LLC, in 2007 as the Executive Assistant, and was later promoted to Operations & Special Projects Coordinator. She manages the administrative operations for the LLC. She brings a wealth of skills and experience from the field of human services and organizational management. Her experience and background consists of Human Services, Resident Organizing, Board Development, Criminal Justice, and Residential Property Management.
She has a passion for empowering people. A former member of the Boston Housing Authorities Resident Advisory Board she served 5 years as a board member and 3 years as a Co-Chair. In July of 2005 she initiated and successfully partnered with 8 organizations to hold the first Resident Leadership Summit for public housing residents in Boston. She continues to serve on the Community Committee sub-committee of Partners for Health and Housing Prevention Research Center. In 2008 Remona was appointed by Governor Deval Patrick to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination Advisory Board.
Remona has a M.S. in Organizational Management and a B.S. in Human Services with a concentration in Criminal Justice from Springfield College. She studied at Curry College for certification in Residential Property Management. When she is not involved in community service or playing Bingo, she enjoys spending time with her granddaughters Monet and Kennedi.
Wilnelia Rivera is the Founder and Principal of Rivera Consulting. From leading statewide policy campaigns for the reform of the criminal record system to integrated voter engagement and candidate campaigns, Wilnelia Rivera, Founder of Rivera Consulting, Inc., leads a movement building firm that inspires and enables social change while operationalizing solutions for the 21st century. Wilnelia is a political strategist, urban planner, and project management professional. Her journey began in Lawrence, Massachusetts, where her childhood was defined by the duality of injustice and persistent hope — planting her lifetime commitment to social change. This commitment took her first to the neighborhoods of Chicago and Detroit as a union organizer and then back home with Neighbor to Neighbor Massachusetts (N2N-MA).
At N2N-MA, she took a deep dive in the grassroots and progressive political movement of the Commonwealth, where she represented over 18,000 members. Together they elected dozens of candidates to political office, recruited 8,000 new members, and ushered a new era of criminal justice reform with the Commonwealth CORI Coalition. During this time, she also deepened her professional experience, through strategic partnerships and learning journeys that brought her to Los Angeles, Oakland, New Mexico, Miami, and New York City (Brooklyn and Bronx), Mondragon, and Venezuela. The course of Wilnelia's career shifted when she joined Governor Deval Patrick's senior staff as the Director of External Affairs, ushering a profound phase of public service in state government. She then established a cross-sector early college consortium at Madison Park Vocational High School and now is the Founder and Principal of Rivera, Consulting, Inc.
Wilnelia's track record of success thrives at the intersection of cross-sector collaboration, engagement, and research. By focusing on the nexus of people, planning, and politics, Wilnelia has come to understand that the most important economic and social issues from race, class, the environment, education, transportation to healthcare are all interconnected.Her professional career and academic work centers on social justice, collective prosperity, and sustainability, key ingredients to producing successful results for clients but most important, the community at large. She has created change from the street level to the ivory tower in the political and public policy making process.
Wilnelia holds a B.A. in International Relations, B.A. in Women's Studies and an M.A. in Urban and Environmental Policy & Planning from Tufts University. She is the past recipient of the Mel King Fellowship at Massachusetts Institute for Technology's CoLab, focusing on public policy research related to urban politics, economic democracy, community planning, and sustainable community economic development.
Reina Guevara is an undocumented immigrant from El Salvador. She came to the United States at the age of 11 to reunite with her mother after being separated during the civil war in Central America. After being undocumented for eleven years, Reina decided to join the Student Immigrant Movement (SIM). SIM was created by undocumented youth and led by undocumented youth to be at the frontlines of their liberation. In 2017, Reina became the Development Director of the Student Immigrant Movement. Reina helped organize, recruit, and raise funds for programs that politicize undocumented youth and provided a safe space to build community. She also fundraised money to help Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients to pay for their renewal fees. Reina recently completed The Boston Foundation’s Boston Neighborhood Fellowship. She graduated from the University of Massachusetts Boston with a B.A. in Philosophy & Public Policy and a minor in Philosophy of Law.
Thalia focuses on Indigenous and Latinx human rights. Thalia previously served as the Membership and Learning Services Coordinator at Philanthropy New York, where she worked with 280+ foundations. She graduated with a BA in Human Services from Northeastern University in 2018. Thalia was awarded the La Comunidad Latina En Acción full-tuition scholarship and was a Forbes 30 Under 30 Scholar. She interned at the United Nations in the Human Rights Department and for the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. Thalia is an Indigenous history curriculum contributor for Teaching Tolerance.
Valeria is an immigrant from Northern Brazil. She is a proud Boston Public Schools graduate and leader at the Student Immigrant Movement (SIM). She has been serving SIM as a leader since 2014 and as Executive Director since 2017. Valeria graduated from Northeastern University with a BA in Sociology and Political Science.