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.

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

Chi Anunwa

David Ng

Blanca A. Villanueva

cori schmanke parrish

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

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.

Chi’s pronouns are she/her/hers.

Contact Chi at

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.

David’s pronouns are he/him/his.

Contact David at

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

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

Contact Blanca at

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

Advisory Board

Jessica García

Chairperson of the Board

Nia Adams

AI Board Member

Murad Awawdeh

AI Board Member

Rocky Fine

AI Board Member

Sunshine Ludder

AI Board Member

Jo-Ann Yoo

AI Board Member