Meet the Staff of Seed Commons
Kate is a co-founder and worker-owner of Red Emma’s, a cooperatively-owned restaurant and bookstore in Baltimore that helped to catalyze a city-wide ecosystem of worker-owned businesses over the last decade. In 2015, she helped to found the Seed Commons cooperative and its Baltimore peer, the Baltimore Roundtable for Economic Democracy, and in 2018, became co-director of the Seed Commons network alongside Brendan Martin.
Brendan founded The Working World in 2004 when he and Avi Lewis traveled to Buenos Aires to pitch the idea of a solidarity finance institution for recovered factories to a group of Argentinean friends. Initially involved in all aspects of the organization, he now focuses mostly on fundraising, marketing, and strategic planning. In 2015, Brendan helped to launch the Seed Commons network, which builds upon the successful model of The Working World. Brendan is an Ashoka fellow and two-time Ashoka Globalizer, serves on the board of the Southern Reparations Loan Fund, the New Economy Project, California Harvesters farmworker cooperative, Brooklyn Stone and Tile cooperative, and serves as key technical support to New Era Windows.
MariaElena Del Valle
MariaElena Del Valle is an internationally respected bilingual consultant, facilitator, and mediator specializing in economic development, improving workplace culture, and the design and delivery of creative strategic interventions that build individual and organizational capacity to sustain long-term success in complex and diverse organizations. Before joining Seed Commons, MariaElena was most recently Training Manager and Workforce Innovations Consultant at Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI), the nation’s leading authority on the direct care workforce. During her 17-year tenure at PHI, MariaElena implemented the PHI Coaching Approach® in long-term care organizations that serve elderly and people with disabilities throughout the US. Prior to joining PHI, as Senior Consultant for the New York Support Center for Nonprofit Management, MariaElena designed and facilitated organizational assessment, capacity building, strategic planning, sustainability, and team and leadership building for a wide array of nonprofits including Services for the Underserved, Literacy INC, Alianza, National Latino Alliance to End Domestic Violence, Howie the Harp, and Manhattan Neighborhood Network. As Assistant Director of the Bronx-based Women’s Housing & Economic Development Corporation (WHEDCO). MariaElena spearheaded an innovative culinary arts training program for Welfare-to-Work recipients. MariaElena has provided technical assistance and helped implement grassroots campaigns for social and economic justice with farm workers through California Harvesters, Inc., in Bakersfield, California; restaurant workers through Mujeres Obrera in El Paso, Texas; and homeless people with HIV/AIDS through PROCEED, Inc., in Elizabeth, New Jersey.
Director of Finance
Karen brings to the Seed Commons team her vast experience in accounting and finance as well as a dedication to an inclusive economy. She first joined what became the Seed Commons network as a Project Officer with La Base Nicaragua in 2011 and she continues to work as a Senior Fellow at the Seed Commons peer The Working World to develop cooperative projects in NYC. Karen previously worked as a Certified Public Accountant at Ernst & Young and holds a Masters of Accountancy and a BBA in Accounting from the University of Wisconsin‒Madison.
Director of Lending
Christyne has 15+ years of experience with small business development, economic inclusion, underwriting, and financial literacy. She specializes in providing traditionally marginalized groups with access to capital. Christyne holds a BA from the University of Michigan and a Masters in Public Administration from NYU.
Director of Membership
Roodline Volcy is Director of Peer Advancement at Seed Commons. There, she leads onboarding and development of new and existing peer members and she designs systems for sustainable organizational growth rooted in equity. Roodline is the former Events and Trainings Manager and an instructor in the School for Democratic Management at Democracy at Work Institute. She led trainings both domestically and internationally in cooperative development and democratic management for worker owners, developers, and allies. Roodline also organized multiple worker cooperative national conferences, each varied in scope and sophistication. She is the former Board Chair of the Renaissance Community Cooperative and a current Board member of the North Carolina Employee Ownership Center.
Director of Administration
Eden comes to Seed Commons from 14 years as a union member, activist, and representative at Local 2110 of the UAW. She is excited to be putting her passion for economic justice and workplace democracy to work advancing the growth of worker-owned businesses.
Director of Fund Development
Leo made his way to Seed Commons by way of traditional finance and wealth management. After a few years managing and developing public markets investment portfolios for his clients and selling a social justice equity investment product, it became clear that just shuffling Wall Street money around was not going to bring about the systemic change we so desperately need to shift from an extractive economy to a regenerative economy. As a radical, transgender, queer, sober, abolitionist, vegan, anti-capitalist financial advisor and activist, Leo believes a just and equitable world is possible. At Seed Commons, Leo supports individuals, foundations and organizations to radically reimagine community investing through non-extractive finance that provides marginalized folks access to capital and resources so their businesses and communities may thrive.
Zahuna has a background in public health and environmental justice and is interested in exploring the connections between environmental, economic, and social justice. She is excited to be able to use her project management skills to support Seed Commons’s daily operations. Zahuna has a BS in Environmental Health from Colorado State University.
Senior Loan Officer
Smiley was introduced to the world of small business development in 2015 when he began working as an entrepreneurship educator in Nicaraguan high schools. This experience led him to join The Working World in 2016 where over the course of 3+ years he developed his competency in providing technical assistance to cooperative businesses. Today at Seed Commons, Smiley shares best practices with project officers around the country and supports them as they provide technical assistance for cooperatives in their local communities.
Ed Whitfield is originally from Little Rock Arkansas and was a long time anti-war and social justice activist before becoming involved in community development, cooperative development and philanthropy. He now spends most of his time trying to help communities build self-reliant economies to meet their needs and elevate the quality of life. Ed was Co-Founder and Co-Managing Director of the Fund for Democratic Communities (F4DC) and continues to serve on the boards of the Seed Commons: A Community Wealth Cooperative and the New Economy Coalition (NEC) Ed spent 9 years as Board Chairman of the Greensboro NC Redevelopment Commission and was the board chair of Greensboro’s Triad Minority Development Corporation before becoming involved with the cooperatives and the world of democratic non-extractive finance. He currently serves as a consultant to community groups on matters of community cooperative economic development and community wealth building, as well as working in the arena of organizational anti-racism, diversity, equity and inclusion improvement. Ed writes, teaches and lectures on these matters of importance while balancing this work with playing blues and eating barbecue.
Marnie supports the growth of Seed Commons as a member of the Investment Team and by providing organizational development coaching to loan funds in the network. She was founder and co-Managing Director of the Fund for Democratic Communities (F4DC), a private operating foundation in Greensboro, North Carolina, which sunset in 2020. At F4DC she focused on capacity-building for a new kind of economy based in principles of cooperation, democracy, justice, and sustainability. Her portfolio at F4DC included organizing funders to support Seed Commons and strengthening the Southern Reparations Loan Funds, which have now joined Seed Commons as a regional network. Marnie was Senior Research Scientist and Director of Teacher Professional Development Research at Educational Testing Service, where she oversaw a research program on supporting teachers to become more effective in helping students learn. Marnie is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Duke University, where she majored in Computer Science with a secondary concentration in mathematics.
Clark R. Arrington
Clark R. Arrington is an experienced attorney and educator who has supported socially responsible businesses around the world. Prior to joining Seed Commons and The Working World, Clark taught and practiced Business Law in Tanzania and Tunisia. Clark served as Chair, General Counsel and Capital Coordinator of Equal Exchange and has served on the boards of the ICA Group, the Social Venture Network, and the Cooperative Fund of New England. He is a 2021 inductee into the Cooperative Hall of Fame.
Communications & Design Consultant
Margaret has been using her skills as a writer, editor, and graphic designer to serve social justice causes for a number of years and comes to Seed Commons with a background as outspoken advocate for economic equality. She previously worked for a worker-owned publisher based in New York City, but has found her way back to the Appalachian mountains. In addition to her work as an editor and publisher, her fiction has been nominated for numerous awards and one of her novellas was adapted to film.