The Advocacy Institute supports social justice organizations to build the advocacy skills, knowledge and power they need to shape government policy for a more just and equitable New York.

We work with communities of color, immigrants, low-income people, LGBTQ+ people, and other underrepresented groups throughout New York City & State to provide them with the tools to fight for policy change more effectively. We offer dynamic trainings on the legislative process and interactive tools that map out power relationships in state and local government. We also engage organizations through a membership model where we provide 1-on-1 strategic consulting to help our members refine and reach their campaign goals.

Through our programming, we strengthen New York’s social justice ecosystem by supporting advocates to gain the skills, knowledge, and connections needed to build effective statewide coalitions that can win transformative legislative reforms. And we build a collaborative community to learn from and support each other’s work.

The Advocacy Institute was founded by Maggie Williams and James Schaffer in 2013. 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 training 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

Nia Adams

Osman Ahmed

Chi Anunwa

Sade Green

Jasmin Hernandez

Abby Ng

David Ng

cori schmanke parrish

Blanca A. Villanueva

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’s pronouns are she/her/hers.

Contact Marissa at marissa@advocacy-institute.org.

Trainer

Nia is a community organizer in the Long Island/metro-NY area, a self-identified liberationist & pan-Africanist. As a member of several social justice organizations her work is rooted in an multidisciplinary, intersectional, and inter-generational approach to end the carceral system, build solidarity movements, & a commitment to Black liberation.

Prior to joining the Advocacy Institute as a Trainer, Nia served as a NY State Delegate for the 2020 Black National Convention and has been featured in publications such as the Gothamist & ShondaLand.
It is through her experience collaborating with community members & activists in NY State that she has learned the significance of building cross-cultural-movements and how to navigate systems in order to enact more just & equitable change.

Nia’s Pronouns: she/her/hers

Contact Nia at nia@advocacy-institute.org.

Training Director

Osman Ahmed is a policy analyst and advocate interested in creating systemic change via grassroots organizing and evidence-based policy analysis. He most recently worked as the Director of the New York City Council’s Progressive Caucus, working with Councilmembers to advance progressive policies and budgets. Previously, as a Senior Policy Analyst at FPWA his campaign work focused on workforce development and worker rights. He has coordinated local, state, and national policy advocacy coalitions and campaigns aimed creating safety and prosperity for LGBTQ communities, undocumented immigrants, people of color, and other marginalized communities. Osman immigrated to the United States from Karachi, Pakistan in 1999 and now, as a resident of New York, organizes with local communities to create better conditions for public housing residents, eliminate police brutality, and for the rights of immigrant communities. He serves on the board of directors for CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities. Osman obtained a master’s degree in urban policy analysis from The New School and attend UCLA as an undergraduate.

Contact Osman at osman@advocacy-institute.org.

Development and Communications Manager

Chi is the Development and Communications Manager 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 led or participated in various citywide and statewide campaigns to win single-payer healthcare, increased taxes on the rich, and expanded tenant protections. 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, fitness, and baking in her spare time.

Chi’s pronouns are she/her/hers.

Contact Chi at chi@advocacy-institute.org.

Program Coordinator

Olusade Gabriella Green is a writer, activist, and poet from Long Island, New York. Prior to joining the Advocacy Institute, Sade worked as an Associate in the Raben Group’s Issue Campaigns & Movements practice. In 2017, Sade interned for the United States Congress. After witnessing the lack of racial diversity among the Congressional interns, legislative staff, and elected officials, Sade made it her mission to help expand the political pipeline for young people of color. In 2018, Sade interned for the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School. While interning at the Houston Institute, Sade designed and organized the 2019 Leadership Brainery National Impact Summit at Harvard Law School, which aimed to equip college students of color and first-generation college students with the knowledge and tools necessary to become leaders in their communities and enact social change. Sade has also advocated for racial diversity in Congress by giving a TEDx Talk titled “Our Seat at the Table” and writing a Forbes op-ed titled “How The Political Pipeline Disenfranchises Young People of Color.” Additionally, as an intern for the The United State of Women, Sade supported planning for the 2020 USOW Summit and Galvanize Program; these programs empowered and trained women on running for office, organizing, entrepreneurship, and leadership.

Sade graduated cum laude from Amherst College in 2020 with a bachelor’s in English. Her work is published in Forbes, Teen Vogue (including another Teen Vogue piece), Harper’s BAZAAR, and ELLE Magazine.

Contact Sade at sade@advocacy-institute.org.

Systems Engineer

Jasmin Hernandez is the Systems Engineer at the Advocacy Institute. Before joining the Advocacy Institute she was freelancing as a web developer. Jasmin graduated Lehman College with a B.S. in Computer Science. Jasmin has always had a goal of supporting social justice with her technical skills. Jasmin loves animals, and in her free time she likes to do her own nails, play video games, and watch true crime.

Contact Jasmin at jasmin@advocacy-institute.org.

Trainer

Abby is a trainer at the Advocacy Institute. Before joining the Advocacy Institute, she was the policy & communications coordinator at Tenants & Neighbors where she worked with renters across New York to advocate for safe, affordable housing. She joined the housing movement at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and helped lead the statewide coalition, Housing Justice for All, to win an eviction moratorium and emergency rental assistance.

Prior to moving to New York, Abby was a journalist reporting on housing and racial justice issues with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Neighborhood News Service, both local publications based where she grew up in Wisconsin. It was her work assisting on an investigative project about housing policy solutions that inspired her to become a community organizer and take a direct role in creating change.

Abby graduated from Marquette University with degrees in journalism and philosophy. In her free time, she loves dancing, writing poetry, scoring baseball games, and recreating her family’s traditional Cantonese recipes.

Contact Abby at abby@advocacy-institute.org.

Engagement Director

David Ng is the Engagement Director 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 Member of the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Racial Equity in his hometown. 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.

David’s pronouns are he/him/his.

Contact David at david@advocacy-institute.org.

Deputy Director

cori schmanke parrish is the deputy director at the Advocacy Institute. Before joining the Advocacy Institute, cori was a deputy director of North Star Fund, overseeing the grantmaking, programmatic, financial and operations work of a social justice community foundation. Prior to joining philanthropy, cori held a number of roles in grassroots organizations, as an organizer, a fundraiser, and a bookkeeper. cori believes strongly in strengthening grassroots organizations that are building power in low-income communities of color and dismantling structural racism. cori serves as the board treasurer of Transgender Law Center and of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ), and is passionate about spreading protest songs throughout the movement, karaoke, and cats.

Contact cori at cori@advocacy-institute.org.

Operations Manager

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

Blanca’s pronouns are she/her/hers/ella.

Contact Blanca at blanca@advocacy-institute.org.

Advisory Board

Jessica García

Chairperson of the Board

Murad Awawdeh

AI Board Member

Rocky Fine

AI Board Member

Sunshine Ludder

AI Board Member

Jo-Ann Yoo

AI Board Member

Kathleen Rubenstein

AI Board Member

Open Positions

Join a high impact team committed to advancing social justice legislative campaigns across multiple regions, issues, and sectors in New York. Advocacy Institute aims to embody the values of justice, equity and dignity for all people. We practice these values by supporting a culture of teamwork, feedback, and open communication among staff.

Learn more

Our Supporters

The Advocacy Institute would like to thank all of our donors for their support. In addition to the generous individuals who fund our work, we are also grateful for the support we receive from the following institutional funders: