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. Finally, we offer an in-depth leadership development program aimed at building and deepening the skills of emerging advocacy leaders of color.

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.

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.

Nia Adams

Chi Anunwa

Jasmin Hernandez

Nayim Islam

Abby Ng

David Ng

cori schmanke parrish

Tanvier Peart

Blanca A. Villanueva

Staff Biographies


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

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

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

Program Coordinator

Nayim Islam (He/They) is an undocumented immigrant from Bangladesh living in NYC. Growing up in post-9/11 NYC informed his political identity and commitment as an organizer for over a decade. They are passionate about Grassroots leadership development and base-building work.

Prior to joining the Advocacy Institute, Nayim started organizing as a youth with Desis Rising Up & Moving (DRUM). Nayim helped develop a city-wide ICE rapid response network and ran numerous deportation defense campaigns. They have a critical understanding of and experience working on the nexus of immigration enforcement and mass incarceration. Additionally, he organised with many campaigns locally and nationally, including DACA, Dream Act National, NYS Dream Act, IDNYC, Green Light Act, Excluded Workers Fund, No New Jails, and ending the SHSAT.

Contact Nayim at


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

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


cori schmanke parrish is the co-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 on the board of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ), and is passionate about spreading protest songs throughout the movement, karaoke, and cats.

Contact cori at


Tanvier Peart is the co-director at the Advocacy Institute. Before joining the Advocacy Institute, Tanvier was the Director of Policy at Common Justice, leading the team to get the Fair Access to Victim Compensation Campaign’s inaugural bill passed through the New York State Legislature and signed into law. Tanvier worked with a network of over 370 organizations as the former Director of Policy Advancement at the Partnership for Public Good in Buffalo, where she helped create actionable plans and coordinate efforts to build power through an “inside-outside” lens.

A Buffalo-area resident by way of Baltimore, Tanvier has extensive experience working with frontline communities, developing strategies to advance campaign and legislative priorities to address unjust systems. In her free time, Tanvier enjoys a good romance book and long walks down Target aisles.

Contact Tanvier at

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

Board of Directors

Jessica García

Chairperson of the Board

Kiana Abbady

Board Member

Murad Awawdeh

Board Treasurer

Carlyn Cowen

Board Member

Elz Cuya Jones

Vice Chairperson of the Board

Jose Davila

Board Member

Rocky Fine

Board Member

Kathleen Rubenstein

Board Secretary

Jared Trujillo

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.

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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: