Our People

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. She is currently based in the UK.


Thomas Mc Donagh (Project Coordinator): Thomas is originally 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_smallAnders 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.

philippa_smallPhilippa 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.

nicky_smallNicky Scordellis: Nicky got involved in environmental issues as an undergraduate at Cambridge University in the UK. Soon after she found herself in Bolivia, where a few months volunteering in the government climate change office became a six year adventure in a new place called home. During that time she has worked on a series of climate change mitigation initiatives but her true passion has always been for activism, which she put into practice as a founding member of the Reacción Climática youth collective in La Paz. Having also lived in Santa Cruz, she came to join us in the heart of Bolivia to coordinate our climate change project.

SianSian Cowman: Sian is from Ireland and holds an honours BSc in International Development and Food Policy from University College Cork. She has been involved in the Irish and European anti-fracking campaigns. She also sits on the board of Friends of the Earth Ireland. Before becoming active in the environmental and climate justice movements, Sian worked in permaculture and shelter-making. 


The Democracy Center Associates

Other friends and associates who regularly collaborate in our work.

Carey Averbook: Carey Averbook is a documentary photographer and multimedia journalist living in Washington, DC. She is a graduate student in New Media Photojournalism at The George Washington University’s Corcoran School of Arts. Prior to moving to DC, Carey studied anthropology and development at UNC-Chapel Hill. She has lived and worked in Cochabamba, Bolivia since 2012. Her work focuses on social and environmental issues in the Americas.

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: Kylie is currently based in New York, wrestling a PhD into submission. Before joining the Democracy Center she worked and volunteered with various organizations dedicated to social and environmental justice. She has a BA (Hons) with majors in Development Studies and Social Theory from the University of Melbourne, and an MA in Anthropology from the New School for Social Research.

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.

Julia Paley Julia is an independent researcher and cultural anthropologist based in Washington, DC. She worked as a university professor for fifteen years, teaching at both the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Michigan. She also served as associate editor of ‘Foreign Policy in Focus’, an online journal of the Institute for Policy Studies, before affiliating with the Democracy Center in July 2015. Known for her writings on Latin American politics, social movements, democracy, and human rights, Julia has done field research in Chile and Ecuador. Her book Marketing Democracy: Power and Social Movements in Post-Dictatorship Chile won the Sharon Stephens award of the American Ethnological Society. Her edited volume Democracy: Anthropological Approaches developed out of an advanced seminar at the School for Advanced Research. She is on the advisory board for Action for Health in the Americas, the North American counterpart of Educación Popular En Salud (EPES) in Chile. Julia holds a PhD and MA in social anthropology from Harvard University, and a BA in Urban Studies from the University of Pennsylvania.


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

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