The Democracy Center’s work is guided by an experienced and diverse group of staff, long-term associates, and advisory committee members.
The Democracy Center Staff
Jim Shultz (Founder and Executive Director): Jim is a native of President Richard Nixon’s hometown, Whittier, California. He later wisely migrated to UC Berkeley to obtain his undergraduate degree in political science (a not especially wise major, however). Jim spent the next two decades working in California politics, as staff to the California Legislature, and as an advocate with California Common Cause and Consumers Union. He also made two detours from California, one to earn a masters degree at Harvard and the second to relocate with his family to Cochabamba, Bolivia in 1998. They stayed. As executive director of the Democracy Center, Jim has worked with citizen activists on five continents, written and edited three books which you should read, and done his level best to make sure David beats Goliath as often as possible.
Leny Olivera Rojas (Project Coordinator): Leny is a graduate of the University of San Simon in Cochabamba. Since 2000 she has been an activist with Bolivian youth organizations and social movements, in particular with the efforts of Bolivians to address issues related to water, gas and natural resources. She has been active in international exchanges related to popular education, in Bolivia, Sweden and Tanzania. More recently she has been working to challenge the oppression experienced by young women in contexts like that of Bolivia.
Aldo Orellana Lopez (Researcher): Aldo is a Bolivian activist who was part of the Coalition for the Defense of Water and Gas of Cochabamba and of the Independent Media Center, Indymedia, in Bolivia. He is also a freelance journalist for Free Speech Radio News in Bolivia and collaborates with other international media. He works as a researcher with the Democracy Center and studies economics at the University of San Simon in Cochabamba.
Maddy Ryle (Communications Director): A History and Literature graduate, Maddy has a background in social work and media and has worked as a writer, editor, teacher, trainer and media manager in the UK, Lebanon and Bolivia. She has spent many years engaged in youth and adult participation and empowering excluded voices to gain media representation. Maddy blogs at maddingtonbear.wordpress.com
Thomas Mc Donagh (Project Coordinator): Thomas is orginally from Dublin, Ireland. He obtained his masters degree from the School of Politics & International Relations at University College Dublin in 2006 and has since worked closely with global justice and solidarity groups from Ireland. He has a background in trade/globalisation, languages, food politics and environmental activism. He arrived at the center having worked with various grassroots organisations in Latin America including spending 2011 with an environmental NGO in Colombia as a researcher for a food sovereignty campaign.
Anders Vang Nielsen: Since Anders knocked on our door back in 2009 he has been in and out of office during various long-term stays in Bolivia, and is now permanently with us. He has played a key role in several video projects, most of which come under our work on Climate & Democracy, and also takes on graphic design projects and other tasks. Meanwhile, he is pursuing a bachelors degree in Anthropology at the University of Copenhagen.
Sian Cowman (Project Coordinator): Sian is an Irish environmental justice activist, permaculturalist and writer. She is involved with Young Friends of the Earth Ireland and is active in the Irish anti-fracking campaign. After some years working in the field of food-growing, shelter-making, and permaculture, she is now studying for a bachelors degree in International Development & Food Policy.
Philippa de Boissière: Philippa is from the UK and holds an MSc in Climate Change & Policy from the University of Sussex. Her journey into climate activism began after what had been intended as a brief visit to a Climate Camp in 2009 turned into a week long stay. Since then, Philippa has been committed to working for climate justice. The bulk of her experience is in youth empowerment, international solidarity and resistance to extreme energy projects.
Miffed Off (current activity unknown)
Beware small furry disgruntled creatures carrying wrenches.
She’s after your carrots.
And no, the scraps won’t do…
The Democracy Center Associates
Other friends and associates who regularly collaborate in our work.
Ben Castle: Ben has previously worked as a researcher and advisor on UK and European climate change policy for a range of government agencies and think tanks. He has also worked for the Global Environment Facility in Washington DC. He holds an MSc in Climate Change and Development from the Institute of Development Studies and a BSc in Environmental Management and Policy from the London School of Economics.
Rebecca Hollender: Rebecca has lived in Bolivia for five years, where she has been involved in various environmental and sustainable development initiatives. She is lead author of the 2010 Democracy Center policy briefing, Bolivia and It´s Lithium: Can the ¨Gold of the 21st Century¨ help lift a Nation out of Poverty? Her masters thesis, The Implications of Bioprospecting for Indigenous People in Suriname, was nominated by the faculty of the Institute for Social Studies, the Hague, Netherlands, for most outstanding Research Paper of 2004/2005.
Kylie Benton-Connell: Currently based in the US for postgraduate study, Kylie splits the rest of her time between her native Australia and Brazil. Before joining the Democracy Center she worked and volunteered with various organizations dedicated to social and environmental justice. She holds an honors degree with majors in Development Studies and Social Theory from the University of Melbourne. Kylie authored the Democracy Center’s report ‘Off the Market: Bolivian Forests and Struggles over Climate Change’.
Jorge Hurtado (New Media Design & Technology Manager): Jorge is an artist/painter/illustrator with a background in online publishing. He has developed and helped maintain the Democracy Center’s online presence for over a decade. He has played a central role in the overall web production strategy, managing our technology implementation and driving the development and expansion of the organization’s web environment. He, his wife and their two spoiled cats currently reside in Los Angeles, California.
Martha Nissen-Stabler (Administrator and Researcher): Martha has worked in the independent sector in the Bay Area for more than 13 years. She has served as the director of Insulin for Life, a nonprofit organization that provides insulin, education and outreach to diabetics in Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador. Martha provides the Center with US-based support, including research and follow-up and coordination with US-based groups. Martha has established ongoing sustainability programs at two independent schools in San Francisco and authored an Environmental Best Practices Guide for schools which has been distributed to numerous educational institutions throughout the Bay Area. In addition she is currently a member of the the Green Schools Alliance.
Shawn Arquíñego: Born and raised in the great state of Wisconsin, Shawn has worked extensively throughout Latin America on community development initiatives and contributed to Free Speech Radio News as a freelance journalist in Bolivia. Prior to his involvement with the Democracy Center, he worked for a Peruvian organization working to empower young domestic workers in Lima. He holds a bachelors degree from The Evergreen State College in Political Economy and a masters degree from New York University in Politics.
Ben Brouwer: Ben joined the Democracy Center team after working for four years with Montana’s Alternative Energy Resources Organization to promote locally owned renewable energy projects and guide community-driven energy conservation and climate action initiatives. He grew up on Lopez Island in Washington State and earned a bachelor’s degree in Geography and Environmental Studies from Middlebury College.
The Democracy Center Advisory Committee
- Maryann O’Sullivan (chair): Health care policy and advocacy consultant, Fairfax, CA.
- Jeremy Brecher: Author (latest book, “Globalization from Below”, South End Press), West Cornwall, CT.
- Roberto Fernández Terán: Professor, Universidad Mayor de San Simón, Cochabamba, Bolivia.
- Emily Goldfarb: Nonprofit consultant, founder of the Northern California Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, San Francisco, CA.
- Helena Hofbauer: Program Director, International Budget Project, México City, México.
- Michael Pertschuk: Co-founder, Advocacy Institute, former chair US Federal Trade Commission, Santa Fe, NM.
- Peter Schrag: Journalist, former editorial page editor, Sacramento Bee, Oakland, CA.
- Mariko Takayasu: Journalist with the New York Times, Bangkok.
- Cynthia Williams: Professor, University of Illinois Law School, Urbana, IL