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Research Affiliates

In addition to the Mel King Community Fellows program, CoLab hosts a diverse group of scholars, leaders, and community activists who are focused on planning issues related to CoLab’s core mission and values.

Becky Buell

Becky Buell

Becky is a specialist in strategy, innovation and inclusive enterprise development. Her work with CoLab explores the wealth creation potential of emerging “green” markets in cities around the world. Her research focus has been in the areas of clean energy, urban food systems and sustainable waste management. She worked with Oxfam GB for over 15 years in various senior management positions, most recently as Oxfam’s Senior Advisor for Strategy and Innovation, working with the board and directors on overall organizational direction and development, and managing a portfolio of projects, primarily relating to cross-sector collaboration on climate change, renewable energy, and sustainable supply chains.

In addition to her work with CoLab, Becky is co-founder of Meteos, a non-profit company established to facilitate cross-industry dialogue and innovation with a focus on sustainability and social inclusion. Becky advises a number of NGO boards on strategy, and provides coaching and facilitation to senior executives and teams. Becky was an MIT Sloan School ELIAS Fellow in 2006-7, holds a MA in Latin American Studies from Stanford University and a post-graduate certificate in Urban Planning from University College of London. She is a Board member of Just Energy, a social enterprise supporting community-based renewable energy enterprise.

Zahir Dossa

Zahir Dossa

Zahir Dossa is an entrepreneur and academic passionate about sustainability from a strategic management and organizational behavior perspective. His primary research assesses sustainability through an abundance, or positive, approach whereby he positions sustainable practices as those that are positively different from the ethical norm.

Zahir holds a PhD in sustainable development from MIT, where he previously earned an MEng in computer science, a B.S. in management, and a B.S. in computer science. He founded a women's cooperative in Morocco and went on to start The Argan Tree and Argania. He recently co-founded Pixineo.

Katya Fels Smyth

Katya Fels Smyth

Katya Fels Smyth is Founder and CEO of the Full Frame Initiative (FFI). She has over two decades of experience in program development, evaluation, system change and community networking to address the intersection of poverty, violence and societal disinvestment. Prior to launching FFI in 2007, Katya founded and led On The Rise, Inc., a Cambridge-based organization providing innovative and effective support and community to the area’s most disenfranchised women. In her 11 years at On The Rise, the organization helped over 1,000 women achieve new levels of safety and personal agency. Significantly, she also helped change community dialogue about who “can” be helped and systemic responses to women with trauma histories not seeking traditional trauma services. A former Echoing Green Fellow and recipient of several other social entrepreneurship awards and fellowships, Katya speaks, publishes and provides consultation nationally on the design, implementation, and evaluation of programs that work at the intersection of entrenched poverty, violence and trauma. She has participated in international training efforts for domestic violence advocates, is supporting a statewide juvenile justice reform effort in Missouri, and is working on state-level projects in Massachusetts and California. She was as a Research Fellow at the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and is a member of the Massachusetts Governor’s Council to Address Sexual and Domestic Violence.

Katya holds an AB with honors in Biology from Harvard and received an honorary Doctorate of Divinity from the Episcopal Divinity School.

Katrin Kaufer

Katrin Kaeufer

kaeufer@mit.edu

Dr. Katrin Kaeufer leads a research effort on “Banking as if People Mattered”. She conducts case studies on value-based banks and support the Global Alliance for Banking on Values in their efforts to build a global network of value-based banks. Katrin is also the research director of the Presencing Institute, a Cambridge-based network of change makers focused on advancing social technologies of transformation and change.

Kaeufer earned her MBA and Ph.D. from Witten/Herdecke University in Germany. Her dissertation on Socially Responsible Banking was published as a book in 1996. While working with peace researcher Johan Galtung, she co-founded and directed "Peace Studies Around the World," a year-long global studies program. She has consulted with a global pharmaceutical company, the World Bank, a learning network of small and mid-sized companies and non-profit organizations, as well as with the United Nations Development Program in New York. She is also a founding member of the Presencing Institute.

Uyen Le

Uyen Le

uyenle@mit.edu

Uyen Le is the Research Director for the California Construction Academy (CCA), which is a project of the UCLA Labor Center. At the CCA, Uyen conducts research, advises stakeholders, and develops programs on topics related to green jobs, community-based economic development, energy efficiency retrofits, apprenticeships, and project labor agreements. She is also a Research Affiliate at the Community Innovators Lab (CoLab) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Before this, Uyen worked in the Gulf Coast for a year after Hurricane Katrina as a Dan Than community development fellow, where she worked closely with Vietnamese American communities on issues related to emergency relief and long-term community development. She continues to maintain ties with Gulf Coast communities, where she believes a piece of her heart will always reside. Uyen graduated from MIT with a Master degree in City Planning, and from UC Berkeley with a Bachelor degree in Political Science.

Lily Song

Lily Song

lsong@MIT.EDU

Lily is an urban planning researcher and practitioner with a background in community organizing and policy advocacy. Her areas of interest include urban justice, sustainability, and livability; alternative local economic and workforce development; and shared value creation efforts among civil society, public sector, and private sector actors. Lily holds a PhD in Urban and Regional Planning from MIT; Master's in Urban Planning from UCLA; and BA in Ethnic Studies with a Minor in Business Administration from UC Berkeley. She is currently residing in Singapore, where she is conducting research on urban inequality, formalization of street vending, and urban governance challenges facing rapidly growing "secondary cities" in the greater Southeast Asian region.

Holly Jo Sparks

Holly Jo Sparks

Holly Jo Sparks is a community development consultant with Collective Seeds Consulting Cooperative, which advises independent groups nationally on new cooperative development, strategic research, management, and planning. Previously, she held the position of Executive Director for the North American Students of Cooperation (NASCO), where she liaised with housing cooperatives nationally for ten years. She studied city and regional planning at UNC Chapel Hill, and graduated with a Master in City Planning degree from MIT; and a BA in History of Art from University of Michigan. Currently, she is conducting research with NCB Capital Impact that explores the existing environment, opportunities, and challenges for cooperative business development in the United States.

Thomasina H. Williams

Thomasina H. Williams

Thomasina is exploring ways to leverage resources to realize individual, organizational and collective potential, and transform lives within underserved Black communities. With a primary focus on three program areas – personal transformation, civic engagement and economic sufficiency – one of the guiding principles her work is that many of the answers to challenges facing local communities lie within the communities themselves.

Previously, Thomasina was a Program Officer at the Ford Foundation where she designed and implemented philanthropic investment strategies to develop civic infrastructure and the capacity of youth, communities of color and other underrepresented groups to participate in shaping the decisions that impact their lives. During her six-year tenure at Ford, (the second largest private foundation in the U.S.), Thomasina made more than $42 million in grants. She was also a leader in the philanthropic sector, and was elected to serve as a member of the Steering Committee of the Funders’ Committee for Civic Participation, and as a member of the Social Justice Infrastructure Funders Group.

Thomasina is an attorney licensed in the State of Florida. Before entering philanthropy, she was recognized as one of theTop 250 Lawyers in South Florida, where she had a successful private practice focused on business disputes, employment law, public finance and government relations, as well as voting and civil rights. Thomasina became a partner in one of Florida’s major full-service law firms in a record three years, and made history four years later by starting Miami’s first Black-owned law firm with a primarily corporate clientele.

Thomasina was also very active in civic and community affairs, for which she was recognized by the Miami-Dade County Commission with a day named in her honor. She has a B.A. in Black Studies and Political Science from Mount Holyoke College, and a J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School.

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