The Advocacy Institute is committed to supporting the legislative advocacy of social justice and movement-building organizations in New York City and State.

We develop talent, build networks, and provide tools and information to support successful legislative advocacy. We produce powerful trainings, creative visual aids and cutting-edge, interactive resources making it possible for organizations to become self-reliant in navigating key government contacts. Throughout, we build a collaborative community to learn from and support each other’s work.

We began by designing and distributing maps that helped small social justice and grassroots organizations successfully understand local and state government structures, timelines and power relations.

We’ve since hosted a series of trainings and multi-week courses on advocacy for groups actively engaged in legislative campaigns. We’ve steadily developed our curriculum and community of speakers: government insiders, seasoned advocates, organizers and journalists.

Our goal remains to clarify government structures and relationships, as well as reveal who holds power, who works for them, and how they fit within a coherent, if opaque, landscape.

We’ve identified several opportunities to clarify complex information and preserve institutional knowledge. As a result, we committed to developing tools to address these scenarios.

Our Legislative Directory and Legislative Maps are resources that help organizers and advocates identify targets, strategize opportunities to influence legislation, schedule legislative meetings, track their relationships with elected officials and staff, as well as pool information with allies.

We’re deepening our collaborative networks by using a cohort model that develops trust across issue areas.

Meet the Team

The Advocacy Institute is a well-respected advocacy resource, trusted by progressive foundations, local and statewide coalitions, and grassroots organizations. With a community of government insiders, seasoned advocates, organizers and journalists, our team knows what resources are missing and what opportunities exist.

Woven into our cohort model is a commitment to developing collaborative networks, trust across issue areas, and an understanding of the dynamics of privilege and oppression in legislative advocacy. All this serves to build infrastructure that lasts from one campaign to the next and helps shift the balance of power.

Marissa Martin

Chi Anunwa

Wesley Clark Bastardi

David Ng

Blanca A. Villanueva

Maggie Williams

Staff Biographies

Executive Director

Marissa Martin is the Executive Director of the Advocacy Institute. Prior to joining the Advocacy Institute, she served as the Northeast Director of Young Invincibles, leading policy and advocacy efforts around higher education, workforce development and healthcare for young adults.

Marissa has always had a passion for social justice and making larger systemic change to increase access and equity, holding several leadership positions overseeing Policy, Operations and Data teams. These positions include serving as the Senior Advisor for Strategic Initiatives at the NYC Public Engagement Unit; the Director of Policy and Government Relations at ExpandED Schools (formerly TASC), as well as the Director of Government Affairs for the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families where she led CACF’s New York State and City budget advocacy campaigns.

Marissa is a Licensed Social Worker (LMSW) and holds a Masters in Social Work from Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College, with concentrations in Community Organizing, Planning and Development.

Marissa is a founding member of 100 New Yorkers Who Care and lives in Hell’s Kitchen, NY with her partner.

Contact Marissa at marissa@advocacy-institute.org.

Development and Communications Coordinator

Chi is the Development and Communications Coordinator at the Advocacy Institute. Before joining the Advocacy Institute, she was a grant writer and counselor at Neighborhood Trust, an organization that provides free financial counseling to low- and moderate-income New Yorkers.

Previously, she was an English teacher in Quito, Ecuador and Mexico City and served as a Princeton in Latin America fellow with Redes de Tutoría, a Mexican civil society organization that promotes collaborative learning strategies in public schools in rural Mexico.

Outside of her work life, she has been heavily involved in a volunteer capacity in citywide and statewide campaigns to win single-payer healthcare. She has also volunteered for various grassroots electoral campaigns and helped to organize a major legal victory for her former tenants association.

Originally from New Jersey, she is a proud first-generation Nigerian American. She currently lives in Brooklyn and enjoys photography and dance in her spare time.

Contact Chi at chi@advocacy-institute.org.

Software Developer

Wesley is the Software Developer at the Advocacy Institute. After many years working in startups, in a corporate setting, and in international education, he now focuses his experience and skills on technology, data, and tools used by our members and clients to help optimize their legislative advocacy.

He has an undergraduate degree in cultural studies and graduate degrees in both information technology and computer science. His professional interests lie at the intersection of software engineering, user experience, data-driven decision making, and the alignment of technology work with measurable business value.

Originally from Georgia, he lives in Manhattan with his husband and two cats, Peaches and Mrs. Meowington.

Contact Wesley at wes@advocacy-institute.org.

Engagement Manager

David Ng is the Engagement Manager at the Advocacy Institute. Before joining the Advocacy Institute, he worked as the External and Government Relations Manager at the Human Services Council. Prior to that, he was appointed as a Chief of Staff in the New York State Assembly and as an External Relations Specialist in the New York State Senate working on various legislative priorities, state budgets, and issue campaigns. David also served as a Fellow to the First Deputy Commissioner at the New York City Administration for Children Services, working on procurement and workforce issues.

Prior to working in government, he worked as a community organizer focusing on housing, immigration, and community development. He currently serves as a Board Member of Korean Americans for Political Advancement. David holds a M.P.A from NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service and graduated from Binghamton University with a B.A. in Political Science & Economics.

Contact David at david@advocacy-institute.org.

Team Administrator

Blanca A. Villanueva is a Long Island native, growing up in Brentwood, NY. She is a graduate of New York University in Manhattan. While on a pre-med track she became a part of student led organizations, such as C-Roots and LUCHA, which strive to educate and unify the NYU community on social and cultural issues. Blanca graduated with a degree in Psychology and American Sign Language. After traveling in Europe using her multilingual skills, she returned to pursue her Master’s in Public Health at Brooklyn College.

She credits her masters studies in truly enlightening her on the important roles policy, environment, and education play in creating disparities and inequities in a community. She believes a good education is the key to a better future and change.

Prior to joining the Advocacy Institute team, she worked with the Alliance for Quality Education on statewide education policy change. Recognizing that education justice is racial justice, Blanca combines advocacy, policy, and grassroots organizing to address the decades of systemic racism in the education system.

She merges her hunger for education justice with her desire to grapple issues of race, class, gender, ability, sex, class, and any other classification that oppress human kind because “there is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”- Audre Lorde

Contact Blanca at blanca@advocacy-institute.org.

Co-Director

Maggie develops the curriculum for the Advocacy Institute. She is the lead trainer, and oversees the development of relationships with partner organizations and funders. For nearly two decades, Maggie has worked to support progressive policy issues as a lawyer, legislative counsel, and advocate. She has extensive experience with community organizing and working to ensure that all communities have their voices heard in the political and legislative process.

Prior to starting the Advocacy Institute, Maggie applied her experience collaborating with grassroots organizations to analyzing and drafting legislation and making policy decisions in the New York State Senate. During the Democratic majority of the State Senate, Maggie was lead counsel on two key bills that were signed into law: then-Senator Eric Schneiderman’s bill to end prison-based gerrymandering and Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson’s bill to establish no-fault divorce. Before joining the Senate, Maggie worked as an advocate on criminal justice issues at the Correctional Association of New York and The Bronx Defenders.

Maggie holds a B.A. from Yale College and J.D. from Columbia Law School and is a student and teacher of somatics. She currently serves on the board of directors of the North Star Fund and lives in Brooklyn, NY with her partner.

Advisory Board

Jessica García

Chairperson of the Board

Murad Awawdeh

AI Board Member

Rolando Brown

AI Board Member

Rocky Fine

AI Board Member

Tracie Gardner

AI Board Member

Sunshine Ludder

AI Board Member

Anthonine Pierre

AI Board Member

Kate Rubin

AI Board Member

Jo-Ann Yoo

AI Board Member