In Chicago

Oct. 17th - 18th

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Let's work together, unite the next generation of leaders, and modernize our democracy



Alex Niemczewski

Alex Niemczewski is CEO and co-founder of BallotReady, an award-winning nonpartisan online voter guide to every race and referendum on the ballot. Previously she founded a research consulting firm and taught coding at the Booth School of Business and The Starter League. She has a background in workforce development and is an alum of The University of Chicago.

Ari Wallach

Ari Wallach is the founder and CEO of Synthesis Corp., a New York City based strategic consultancy that lives at the intersection of innovation, technology and purpose driven culture. Synthesis works with governments, NGOs, foundations, and corporations at the C-suite level to discover new ways to drive sustainable innovation, rethink business models and improve top-line metrics. Clients include organizations such as CNN, Ford Foundation, UNHCR, VW, Pew Research Center and the US State Department.

A’shanti F. Gholar

A’shanti F. Gholar is the Political Director for Emerge America, the only organization dedicated to recruiting, training, and empowering Democratic women to run for public office. For 15 years, A’shanti has been a grassroots organizer and activist for women, communities of color, and progressive causes. She has experience in building coalitions, program development, and community and political engagement. Prior to coming to Emerge America, A’shanti served as the National Deputy Director of Community Engagement and Director of African American Engagement for the Democratic National Committee. A’shanti has also served as the Manager of National Partnerships for United Way Worldwide, as a political appointee in the Obama Administration at the U.S. Department of Labor, and as the Director of Public Engagement for the 2012 Democratic National Convention Committee in Charlotte, NC. A'shanti can be reached via email at

Brady Kriss

Brady happily finds herself wedged into the center bit of the Venn diagram of technology, tech policy, customer advocacy, community organizing, and democratic participation. In 2011 and 2012, she worked for the Obama for America campaign, first as a call center coordinator, and then as Director of Support, leading a team of interns and volunteers providing tech support for the myriad products put out by the campaign's Tech and Digital teams. In 2016, she organized volunteers to create Open Source tools to support progressive candidates with DevProgress. Brady lives in San Francisco with her family, which includes a dog. Maybe. Could be a gremlin. Brady is still looking into it.

Carmen Perez

Carmen Perez is something of a Renaissance woman in modern-day activism. She has dedicated 20 years to advocating for many of today's important civil rights issues, including mass incarceration, gender equity, violence prevention, racial healing and community policing.

Catherine Vaughn

Catherine leads flippable’s strategy and business development. Catherine recently led Ohio’s out-of-state volunteer team for the Hillary Clinton campaign. She has a background in consulting (McKinsey, Bridgespan) and international development. Catherine holds a BA from Harvard and an MBA from Stanford.

Colleen Chen

Professor Colleen Chien is nationally known for her research and publications surrounding domestic and international patent law and policy issues. She has testified before Congress, the Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission, and the US Patent and Trademark Office on patent issues. From 2013-2015 she served in the Obama Administration as White House Senior Advisor, Intellectual Property and Innovation, working on a broad range of patent, copyright, technology transfer, open innovation, educational innovation, and other issues. She frequently lectures at national law conferences and has published several in-depth empirical studies of the patent system, including of patent-assertion entities (PAEs) (a term she coined), patent litigation, and the secondary market for patents. Her work has been featured in popular outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, as well as in academic publications including the Texas Law Review, Michigan Law Review, and Vanderbilt Law Review.

Professor Chien is a recipient of the American Law Institute Early Career (“Young Scholar”) Medal and has been named a Eric Yamamoto Emerging Scholar, one of the 50 Most Influential People in Intellectual Property and one of Silicon Valley’s “Women of Influence.”

Prior to joining the Santa Clara University School of Law faculty in 2007, Professor Chien prosecuted patents at Fenwick & West LLP in San Francisco, as an associate and then Special Counsel. She has been a Fellow at the Stanford Center for Law and the Biosciences, and Visiting Senior Scholar at Berkeley Law’s Center for Law and Technology. She also did stints as a strategy consultant at Dean and Company, a spacecraft engineer at NASA/Jet Propulsion Lab, and an investigative journalist at the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (as a Fulbright Scholar). She lives in the east bay with her husband and their two sons.

Donnie Fowler

Donnie Fowler is an American entrepreneur and political activist. He has worked in the technology, telecommunications, and political world for more than 25 years (including time in the Clinton White House, at the Federal Communications Commission, as vice president at Silicon Valley’s TechNet, and as a founder of two companies that cross the technology and public spaces).

Doug Hattaway

Doug leads and advises project teams to create research-based strategies, content and campaigns. He is passionate about adapting insights and innovations from the social sciences to enhance the power of strategic communications. He has nearly three decades of experience working with high-profile leaders in politics, government, business, nonprofits and philanthropy. He worked closely with leaders such as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, and successful candidates for the U.S. House, Senate and governor. He was Gore’s spokesman for the 2000 presidential campaign and Florida recount, which was called the “political story of the century.” He has traveled to dozens of countries to work with government leaders, political parties and nonprofit organizations in the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Europe. Early in his career, he worked as a press secretary to a senior member of Congress and as a freelance foreign correspondent in South America, the Caribbean and Europe. He earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and a master's degree in English from Florida State University. For fun, he hangs out with his two awesome sons, barbecues almost anything that’s edible, and enjoys open-water swimming, mountain biking, adventure travel and other hazardous pursuits.

Erin Mazursky

Erin Mazursky is the Founder and Executive Director of Rhize, a new venture that is re-designing and the function and experience of democracy towards more participatory, just and flourishing communities through the innovation of collective action. Erin brings over a decade of experience in movement-building, technology, human rights and advocacy to her work, having worked with social and political movements around the world, including in Turkey, India, and Albania.

Before starting Rhize, Erin worked at Purpose, a social enterprise that incubates and launches global social movements. There, Erin helped to lead some of Purpose’s biggest projects, most notably with the American Civil Liberties Union and CARE International, which integrated movement-building, technology and citizen advocacy to increase the social impact. Prior to this, Erin worked for President Obama’s 2008 election campaign and went on to serve as the Youth Advisor at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), where she helped author the first global policy on youth development and made youth a central part of the Agency’s broader development efforts.

Erin began her career as a youth advocate herself as the Co-Founder and Executive Director of STAND, a leading organization in the anti-genocide advocacy movement that became one of the largest student organizations in the country, with over 800 high school and college chapters nationwide, and continued her anti-genocide work as the Coalition Manager and Board Member of the Save Darfur Coalition. Erin served on the 2008 Presidential Inaugural Committee after having worked on President Obama’s general election campaign in Florida. Erin is a graduate of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, a 2010 Fellow at the New Leaders Council, an Aspen Ideas Festival Fellow, a fellow at the Impact Center’s Women’s Executive Leadership Program and a Security Fellow at the Truman National Security Project.

Erin Vilardi

Erin Vilardi is the Founder and Director of VoteRunLead, a national organization leveraging technology and training to accelerate the number of women in civic and political leadership. She first launched VRL as Vice President of Program and Communications at The White House Project, establishing the largest national political training program readying women for public office and civic life, training over 15,000 women. She has served as a Leadership Development Consultant for a range of clients, including the Yahoo! Business and Human Rights division and Athena Center for Leadership Studies at Barnard College, Columbia University, where she developed the Athena CORE10© – an innovative set of leadership competencies for 21st century women leaders based on the latest research and gender analysis. She has worked with a diverse range of clients including Fortune 100 companies, global girls’ initiatives and the U.S. Department of State, reaching women leaders in a dozen international cities. Vilardi serves on the Advisory Boards of Girl Meets World, the New American Leaders Project, and and is on the Leadership Teams of Vision2020 and Political Parity. She is an Executive Producer of Ann Richards’ Texas, a documentary about the late pioneering governor. She has appeared on CNN, BBC, and Fox News and her work was featured in O, The Oprah Magazine as well as numerous international and domestic articles on women and leadership. Get in touch:

Jonathan Zucker

Jonathan Zucker, founder of It Starts Today, is a progressive campaign finance attorney and political technology entrepreneur who has been at the heart of some of the most innovative campaign finance initiatives of the last fifteen years.

Jonathan was the first employee of ActBlue, where he served as the first COO and second CEO between 2005 and 2008. During his tenure, ActBlue grew from $870k in total donations to over $85 million. Before joining ActBlue, Jonathan was the national director of operations for finance at the Democratic National Committee, overseeing the infrastructure of the DNC’s record-breaking $100-million major donor program during the 2004 election.

After leaving ActBlue, Jonathan founded Democracy Engine: a donation-processing platform that's all about executing complex political contributions (in compliance, of course, with applicable laws and regulations). In 2011, he joined as co-founder and COO, since 2013 he’s been serving as senior strategist and counsel to Crowdpac, and in 2014, he co-founded and

Before getting into political technology, Jonathan took on the roles of field organizer, fundraiser, administrator, and attorney for a variety of progressive organizations, including the Interfaith Alliance, Human Rights Campaign, Color of Change, Genderpac, Democratic Leadership Council, and the Gill Foundation.

Jonathan has authored, commissioned, and/or consulted on several groundbreaking Advisory Opinions from the Federal Election Commission. He holds a J.D. from Georgetown University and a B.A. from Yale University.

Jon Carson

Jon Carson is the CEO and Founder of Trajectory Energy, a solar development company founded in 2017 that focuses on landscape-integrated, community supported utility scale solar. Prior to founding Trajectory, Jon spent 2 years at SolarCity, serving a year each as Senior Director on the Policy and Electric Markets team and as the Senior Director of the Solar Ambassador program.

Prior to joining SolarCity in December 2014, Jon was the Executive Director of Organizing for Action, a grassroots advocacy movement built by millions of volunteers and focused on building local capacity and training the next generation of progressive organizers. Carson was previously the Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement and Deputy Assistant to the President from January 2011 through January 2013. Before leading OPE, he served as the Chief of Staff at the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) from 2009-2010. Prior to joining the Administration, Carson was the National Field Director for President Barack Obama's campaign in 2008 and worked on the Obama-Biden Presidential Transition team. Prior to the Obama campaign, Jon worked on political campaigns across the country.

Carson served in the Peace Corps in southern Honduras for two years, building water systems for rural villages and teaching land surveying. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville with a B.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering and received a Master’s Degree in Geography from the University of California-Los Angeles. He lives in Highland Park, IL, with his wife Rebecca and their three children.

Kathyrn Poindexter

Campaign Greenhouse founder Kathryn is an award-winning political consultant who has spent more than fifteen years working on campaigns of all shapes and sizes. Most recently she was the Director of Political Strategy at the Analyst Institute, helping the progressive community share, understand and take advantage of evidence from field research in campaigning. In 2016 Kathryn (also known as KP) was recognized as one of the American Association of Political Consultants' top 40 under 40 political professionals.

Kelly Dietrich

Kelly is the founder of the National Democratic Training Committee, The NDTC PAC provides any Democrat running for office free access to online campaign training. There is no litmus test and the NDTC does not make endorsements. We just want to train as many good Democratic candidates as possible. Trainings are all available 24/7 and available online. While they can be used for any level of campaign, we are focused on helping smaller, local campaigns who cannot afford access to professional staff and consultants.

Kipp Mueller

Kipp Mueller runs The Resurgent Left. He is a plaintiff employment attorney living in Los Angeles, and holds a BA from Berkeley and a JD from Columbia. Originally from Sacramento, Kipp has consistently dabbled in politics but finally took the dive in the wake of Trump's victory in 2016.He now seeks to help Democratic state and local candidates (primarily women/POC) with their campaigns, looking to help rebuild the Democratic Party from the bottom up.

Michael Tarnoff

Founder and Chairman of Make Every Vote Matter. Also serving as Board member of, and consultant to, a number of both non-profit and for-profit organizations.

Currently serves on the Boards of: (1) Agile HC a software solutions company utilizing predictive analytics for the complex staffing requirements in 24/7 health care environments; (2) Michael Reese Health Trust one of the largest health care foundations in the State of Illinois; (3) Howard Area Community Center which delivers an integrated network of over 40 programs that assists and improves the lives of low-income people; (4) Ness Healthcare providing affordable treatment for its patients (and families) through assisted-living and skilled-care residential facilities; and (5) a number of private charitable foundations.

Was previously Chairman of Board of First Non Profit Insurance Company, a for-profit insurance underwriter founded by the United Way of Chicago which provides liability, property, unemployment, and workers comp insurance coverage to nonprofit organizations across the country.

Was inaugural member ofFinancial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) Nonprofit Advisory Committee (NAC) which assists the FASB in understanding and appropriately considering accounting issues and needs of the nonprofit sector, especially insofar as they differ from those of public and private for-profit businesses.

Prior to retirement was Exec VP & CFO of Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago (JF) for 36 years. for a 7 minute video of accomplishments at Jewish Federation.>

MBA degree from Booth Graduate School of Business at Univ. of Chicago.

Nick O’Neill

Nick O’Neill is a cofounder of 5calls, a civic action tool. Post the last election, Nick wanted an easy way to register dissent on a regular basis once Trump began trying to put various elements of his platform into effect. With about two months’ worth of help from his wife, Rebecca Kaufman, and several friends, O’Neill created 5 Calls, a website aimed at making complaints to members of Congress as easy as possible. Users type in their Zip codes and indicate which decisions or policy moves they oppose—a Trump cabinet pick, his Supreme Court nominee, the Jan. 27 ban on immigrants from seven mostly Muslim countries—and the site returns the local representative’s phone number and a script for the call, written by Kaufman.

Rita Bosworth

Rita is the founder and visionary behind Sister District, and she oversees all aspects of the Project. This is her debut into political activism, and she is committed to restoring control of the government to the majority of Americans, where it belongs. Rita holds a B.A. from University of California, Davis, and a J.D. from Stanford Law School. She is a public interest attorney in San Jose.

Ross Morales Rocketto

Ross Morales Rocketto is a Principal at the Smoot Tewes Group where he manages large-scale advocacy and electoral efforts. In that role, he currently serves as the Senior Digital Advisor with For Our Future, which is currently working to mobilize and empower people and community-based organizations to drive real change and advance a shared progressive agenda. Ross has spent more than a decade managing issue and electoral campaigns as well as consulting with large institutions ranging from government agencies and Fortune 500 companies to startups and nonprofits. He also spent time working at Deloitte Consulting’s innovation center, where he helped worked with the White House to develop policy solutions to support the growth of social enterprise and impact investing. While at Deloitte, Ross also worked in various roles for clients including managing the day-to-day communications operation for a multi-billion dollar government agency. In 2012, Ross managed a successful campaign to convince the Office of Personnel Management to extend healthcare to Wildland firefighters that was featured in the Washington Post, Denver Post, and on NBC’s Nightly News. He also worked multiple election cycles across the country in Missouri, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Iowa, and Texas. In 2007, Ross worked in Iowa for Governor Bill Richardson’s campaign for president, after serving as Deputy Field Director for Julian Castro’s 2005 campaign for mayor of San Antonio. A proud native of Houston, Ross attended undergrad at Trinity University and earned his master’s in public policy and management from Carnegie Mellon University. Ross currently lives in Brooklyn with his wife Jess and his dog (Nacho) and two cats (Mister President and Baby Kitty).

Saikat Chakrabarti

Saikat Chakrabarti is a cofounder of Brand New Congress. BNC was launched by volunteers and former staffers from Bernie 2016 to build on the tools, tactics and networks they developed together on the Bernie campaign and elect a Brand New Congress that works for everyone. Previously, Saikat helped to shape and implement the national volunteer organizing strategy on the Bernie Sanders campaign as the Director of Organizing Technology. Before joining the political revolution, Saikat helped start the product team at Stripe, a company building payments infrastructure for the internet, and he co-founded Mockingbird, a real-time collaborative tool for making wireframes for websites and web applications.

Sam Frank

Sam Frank comes from a history of progressive organizers. His grandfather, Angelo Geocaris, stood side-by-side with Chicago titans Harold Washington, Abner Mikva, and Newton Minow to fight the political patronage problems that plagued Chicago in the late 20th century. Today, Sam fuses technology with time tested organizing practices to help movements leverage digital tools to engage and drive action from their audiences. Inspired by the successful digital organizing efforts of the Bernie Sanders Campaign, Sam joined the Progressive Coders network, a group of tech volunteers who built much of the campaign's digital infrastructure. His technology nonprofit, Blue Boost, builds tools and advises progressive organizations on how to interact with the vast landscape of internet to bring about positive change in the world. Currently, Sam is working with Lawyer's for Good Government, organizing thousands of lawyers across the country to fight for civil, voting, and personal rights in our current era of growing authoritarianism.

Shawn Riegsecker

Shawn Riegsecker is a founding board member of The Centrist Project, America’s first “Unparty” which aims to strategically elect independent candidates who can break though political gridlock and serve as a voice for all those in the sensible center. His passion area is education and since 2013, he has been an advisor for Connecting Learning Assures Successful Students (C.L.A.S.S.), an Indianapolis-based non-profit that uses the intersections of research-based disciplines like neuroscience, cognitive psychology, technology and physics to design curriculum and instruction. He is the founder and CEO of Centro, a provider of enterprise-class software for digital advertising organizations and the record holder for most consecutive times voted as the #1 Best Place to Work in Chicago by Crain’s. Shawn is also a startup angel investor and a frequent speaker on the importance of progressive company culture as the key to building happy and financially strong organizations.

Steve Marciniak

Originally from the Chicago area, Steven Marciniak graduated from the University of Illinois in Fall 2011 with a bachelor's degree in Management-Entrepreneurship. Shortly after graduation, he was introduced to a lobbyist at the Illinois Chamber of Commerce who was in need of a better solution for tracking legislation. Steven instantly recognized not only the business potential, but also the significance of government transparency and involvement, and founded TrackBill. The following year was an uphill battle where he found himself on food stamps, sleeping on a friend's couch, and selling his plasma to get the company off the ground.

In February 2013, TrackBill moved to St. Louis as one of five startups, out of 120, to gain acceptance into the Capital Innovators accelerator program. After successfully completing the three-month curriculum, TrackBill caught the attention of Arch Grants and became one of 20 companies, out of 707, to receive funding from the global startup competition. Cultivation Capital and Serra Ventures then swooped in with additional capital, bringing the total amount raised to over $1.4 million.

Currently, TrackBill serves over 250 organizations nationwide, from Fortune 50 companies to small non-profits. This year, the team expects revenues in excess of $500,000.

Cortney Tunis

Cortney Tunis is the Executive Director of Pantsuit Nation, an online community of 4 million people that puts the power of storytelling at the heart of politics. Members come together to listen, to build trust and resilience in the face of hate and fear, and to share resources to effectively resist the current administration. Pantsuit Nation amplifies the voices of those who are under threat in order to increase awareness, spark action, and drive social change. Before joining the Pantsuit Nation team, Cortney worked in nonprofit executive search, student affairs and library systems in higher ed, and in museum education at history and contemporary art museums. She has a B.A. from Williams College, an M.A. from the University of Chicago, and an M.B.A. from Boston University.

Yasyf Mohamedali

Yasyf is a Master's student at MIT, and leads the engineering team at Hi From The Other Side. In addition to finding ways he can use technology to bridge divides and connect people, his academic interests are focused on exploring how software can make venture capital more efficient. Yasyf has spent time as an engineer at Square and Facebook, and as Chief Software Architect at Foxtrot ("a 21st century approach to last mile logistics”). He also spent a year Managing Partner of the Boston Dorm Room Fund team, a student-run venture fund backed by First Round Capital. Hailing from Vancouver, he’s spent the past few years exploring new technologies and bringing together his academic and real-world engineering experiences to form a passion for entrepreneurship and technology startups.


Complex challenges require innovative solutions. The next wave of leadership is rising to the challenge. There is a new political frontier emerging, and at the forefront are the New Founders, forging the path for America’s future.

RISE Movement is powering the inaugural New Founders Conference, hosted in the center of the country - Chicago, Illinois - on October 17-18. This is not your ordinary conference. For the first time, innovators and trailblazers on the cutting edge of civics, technology, media, electoral politics, and policy will converge for an experience unlike any other.

These groups and individuals are uniting in the spirit of collaboration to:

  1. Eliminate silos across the myriad of organizations leading the resistance and change space, with emerging and established organizations alike coming together to create the new center for coordinated action.
  2. Share key learnings and resources through our Demo Day programming track, providing organizations the opportunity to highlight their work.
  3. Release several new tech enabled resources, infrastructure elements, and tools that will dramatically improve the processes, systems, and strategy capabilities of those working for progress.
  4. Showcase the emerging bench of new leaders, who are already changing the political landscape as we know it.
  5. Formulate policy changes that can tackle the challenges ahead with education, globalization, automation and climate change.
  6. Provide a new "tent" under which a this emerging wave of leaders and changemakers can act most effectively in order to build lasting infrastructure and make politics an everyday activity.

The future is now, and the New Founders are forging the path for America to reach its fullest potential. Are you ready to stake your claim in building a just, equitable, inclusive, and innovative America?

Sign up now to receive exclusive information about the New Founders Conference as it’s released

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Meet the Team

Genevieve Theirs

Eloise D. Bahrmasel

Nora Shepard

Jeremy Abrams

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