For over 40 years, Fred Ali has held senior leadership positions with nonprofit, philanthropic, and educational organizations, and in government. In 2021, he stepped down as the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Weingart Foundation, where he served for 21 years.
Fred is currently serving as a consultant and strategic advisor on projects and initiatives focused on advancing racial equity and justice, as well as organizational effectiveness. He also provides mentoring and coaching for emerging leaders.
Fred serves on the Board of Directors of Covenant House California, the Advisory Board for Advancement Project California, and the Committee for Greater LA. He also chairs the Irene Hirano Inouye’s Philanthropic Leadership Fund, at the USC Center on Philanthropy and Public Policy, where he is also a Senior Fellow.
Fred has written and spoken extensively on issues pertaining to the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors.
Executive Director, Durfee Foundation
As the long-time director of the Durfee Foundation in Los Angeles, Claire has shaped programs in leadership development, community building, and civic problem-solving.
As a graduate of the Blooming Willow coaching program, Claire offers a healing-centered approach to coaching. Her style might be a good fit for folks working in social justice, nonprofit or creative fields, and/or those seeking to balance the competing demands of work and life. The goal is to help clients pause, ground, align and act in ways that promote personal growth and authentic voice.
Claire serves/has served as a board member of the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts, Southern California Grantmakers, Grantmakers in the Arts, the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, LA County Quality & Productivity Commission, and the California Council for the Humanities. She is a Senior Fellow of the Luskin School of Public Policy at UCLA and an adjunct associate professor at USC's Price School of Public Policy. Prior to joining Durfee, Claire was the associate director of the Los Angeles Festival; the publisher of High Performance Magazine; and the director of education at The Friends of Photography/The Ansel Adams Center. Her book, Activists Speak Out, was published by St. Martins Press in 2001.
Board Member, Liberty Hill Foundation; Associate Vice President of Operations and Chief Mission Officer, California State University, Los Angeles
Belen Vargas is the Associate Vice President for Operations and Chief Mission Officer at Cal State LA, her alma mater. Belen leads, manages and develops institutional community partnerships and initiatives that advance the University’s mission of engagement, service, and the public good through the President’s Office.
Prior to joining Cal State LA, Belen was with the Weingart Foundation for almost twenty years. She quickly rose through the ranks of management and leadership and ultimately assumed the role of Senior Vice President where she oversaw the development, implementation, communication and assessment of the foundation’s programs, strategic partnerships, and initiatives aimed at advancing equity and justice in Southern California.
Belen began her career in the Los Angeles nonprofit sector working for almost a decade on a range of advocacy and policy issues to provide greater access and resources to individuals and communities that have been historically underrepresented and underserved.
A first-generation college student, she earned a bachelor’s degree in Communication from Cal State LA and a juris doctor degree from the USC Gould School of Law. Belen currently serves on the Boards of the Liberty Hill Foundation, New Village Girls Academy, and InnerCity Struggle.
Belen is guided by her commitment to advancing racial, social and economic justice, particularly in low-income communities. She is passionate about leadership development and enjoys mentoring and supporting others in her free time, recognizing the impact so many great leaders have had in her life.
Principal and Chief Strategist, AWA Consults; Board Co-Chair, Liberty Hill Foundation
Amelia Williamson is the Principal and Chief Strategist for AWA consults, a boutique social impact agency whose mission is to build bridges across philanthropy, community, and influence. AWA provides advising, organizational development and strategy building specializing in services for high impact individuals and organizations.
Before launching AWA, Williamson served as the President of the Magic Johnson Foundation whose mission is to provide resources, build participation, and inspire self-sufficiency in underserved communities. In 2014, inspired and supported by Mr. Johnson, Williamson made a commitment to realizing her own entrepreneurial aspirations.
Williamson has earned a reputation that still corresponds to her today, one that denotes a true professional who is able to maintain a fixed commitment to integrity and holistic excellence.
Williamson serves on the executive committee for both the Liberty Hill Foundation and Chrysalis Board of Directors. Williamson is also a Trustee for the California Science Center and on the Board of Councilors for the USC Sol Price School of Policy. Williamson was appointed by the Mayor to the Los Angeles oversight commission for measure HHH, a measure to issue $1.2 billion in bonds to fund affordable housing and most recently appointed to Measure H, Oversight Commission by Supervisor Holly Mitchell.
Williamson graduated cum laude from Wilberforce University in Ohio and has a bachelor’s degree in mass media communications. She also holds a master’s degree in organizational development with an emphasis in leadership from Antioch University.
Research Scientist, Center for Healthy Minds & Chief Contemplative Officer, Healthy Minds Innovations, Inc.
Cortland Dahl is interested in exploring the interface between the body, mind and brain, and especially in the question of how various forms of meditation can help us cultivate positive qualities like mindfulness, compassion and resilience. His current work focuses on studying the psychological and neural mechanisms of different families of meditation practice. He is also the creator of the Healthy Minds program, a well-being training program that integrates insights from scientific research with a comprehensive path of contemplative training. He is the Chief Contemplative Officer at Healthy Minds Innovations and the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Tergar International, a global network of meditation groups and centers.
Richard J. Davidson
William James and Vilas Research Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry and Founder & Director of the Center for Healthy Minds,, Healthy Minds Innovations, Inc.
Davidson received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in Psychology in 1976. Davidson’s research is broadly focused on the neural bases of emotion and emotional style and methods to promote human flourishing including meditation and related contemplative practices. He has published over 440 articles, numerous chapters and reviews and edited 14 books. He is the author (with Sharon Begley) of "The Emotional Life of Your Brain" published in 2012 and co-author with Daniel Goleman of “Altered Traits” published in 2017. He was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time Magazine in 2006. He was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2017 and appointed to the Governing Board of UNESCO’s Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP) in 2018. In 2014, Davidson founded the non-profit, Healthy Minds Innovations, which translates science into tools to cultivate and measure well-being.
Coach, Educator, Author, Dancer
Robin Denise Johnson earned her doctorate in Organizational Behavior at Harvard. She wrote an award-winning dissertation on diversity, work-life balance and empowerment. Her other degrees are in International Relations and World History from Brown University, and an MA in Social Psychology from Harvard. She integrates her research-education with her professional experience in her multicultural leadership development programs.
She is an educator, author and coach — working with people managers and leaders in major corporations, non-profits, and academia. She continues to work with UCLA-Anderson and UVA-Darden as faculty / faculty director in a number of executive education programs, and was a visiting professor with Ozyegin Graduate School of Business in Istanbul, Turkey.
Prior to graduate school she worked overseas in international finance with Chase, McDonald’s Corporation, and Lloyds Merchant Bank.
Robin Denise Johnson was born and raised in Washington, D.C. and attended McKinley Tech High School. She worked summers at the Smithsonian Institute, went overseas for the first time as an AFS exchange student in Belgium where she attended the Koninklijk Atheneum in Tielt, Flanders, Belgium and returned to Brown University to complete her undergraduate university studies. She has maintained her strong commitment to intercultural understanding throughout her career. As an African-American female child of Civil Rights activists, she is also committed to diversity-inclusion for personal as well as equity reasons.
As part of her work-life balance, she is a dancer, developer of Cardio-Tribal Style (CTS) dance, and director-choreographer of Zaltana.
Robin has been called a Renaissance woman. She is a naturally interdisciplinary — bringing together and synthesizing ideas from her wide-ranging interests and experiences.
As a result, she is comfortable with a people from a wide range of socio-economic and educational strata— and has traveled, worked, or lived in over 70 countries at last count. While fluent in her native tongue — English — she also speaks-studied several other languages (French, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Malay, and Turkish) and continues to listen-dance to world music.
Managing Director, Adaptive Change Advisors
An author and leadership expert, Eric Martin’s quest to 'democratize leadership' has taken him around the world—from the White House to the foothills of the Himalayas. Eric founded and leads Adaptive Change Advisors (ACA), which is the premier mission-based Adaptive Leadership organization worldwide. ACA’s mission is to put leadership tools that drive change into the hands of anyone who seeks meaningful outcomes. Eric has been published in Fast Company, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Environmental Leader, and the book Your Leadership Moment. After a five-year stint in Japan as a translator early in his career, Eric considered a shift to holistic medicine. In a fortunate twist, he landed instead in the executive office of a Rockefeller-affiliated nonprofit working at the extreme margins of human development and systems change. There he began a long, transformative journey with one of the key architects of Adaptive Leadership. The journey continues...
Abby Fifer Mandell
Executive Director, Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab, University of Southern California
Abby Fifer Mandell is the Executive Director of the Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab at USC’s Marshall School of Business and has taught human-centered design to thousands of students and professionals. As a design strategist, she helps organizations navigate transitions and find a clear path forward. Abby lectures internationally and leads design workshops and training for mid-size and large social impact organizations. She won the 2018 Academy of Management Innovation in Entrepreneurship Pedagogy Award for her work with undergraduate students. Abby holds a M.A. in education and received a B.A. in Religious Studies and American Studies from the University of Virginia. She is a Wexner Heritage Fellow and serves on the advisory boards of United Parents and Students and Swipe Out Hunger.
CEO & Co-Founder, Team Dynamics
<p>Trina Olson is a two-time executive director with a track record of building and retaining teams across race, gender, and sexual orientation to achieve shared goals. Trina has built an impressive portfolio of national and regional policy and advocacy experience, centering a multitude of progressive issues, including healthcare, hunger, a living wage, immigration reform, transgender-inclusive non-discrimination, and more. Trina has made her home in eighteen U.S. cities, including Seattle, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, New York, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles. A queer, white, cis-gender woman, Trina is motivated by the ways job creators could be addressing the intersection of identity and workplace more creatively and consistently to address the pervasive inequities still at play across race and gender, in particular.</p>
Founding member, Partner and Chief Performance Officer, Liminal Collective
Andy is a founding member, partner and chief performance officer of Liminal Collective. A globally recognized leader and expert in the field of elite human performance, his experience runs the gamut of human performance — the research and training of all aspects of human performance for individuals, teams, and large organizations in sport, culture, military, and business settings. His work to demystify talent has led him on a mission to hack human performance and to share his learnings for the betterment of society.
President & Co-Founder, Team Dynamics
<p>Alfonso Wenker is a seasoned executive leader and facilitator of transformational organizational culture and strategy campaigns. Serving in major leadership roles within the field of philanthropy, Alfonso has been responsible for driving sector and systems-wide change to diversify both perspective and personnel in order to better steward resources responsible for underwriting major movements. A Latinx, gay, cis-gender man, Alfonso was born and raised on the west side of Saint Paul, MN, to a Mexican mother and white father. Consequently, Alfonso has often been the ‘first’ or ‘only’ person on a team who is a Person of Color, gay person, or both throughout his career. He has experienced, first hand, how the attempted diversification in the U.S. workplace has both made strides and done accidental harm.BeforeTeam Dynamics, Alfonso was Vice President for the Minnesota Council on Foundations, where he grew the organization's racial equity strategy. Alfonso is a highly sought-after speaker and executive coach. Alfonso’s leadership has been recognized as a 40 Under 40 Awardee, Facing Race Anti-Racism Award and as a Policy Fellow at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.</p>
Co-Creators & Advisors
Senior Coordinator, Professional Learning & Family Philanthropy, Southern California Grantmakers
Monica Banks supports programming and content development for both the Professional Learning and Family Philanthropy Team. She manages event coordination for signature programs such as Fundamentals of Effective Grantmaking and the Family Philanthropy Conference.
Monica graduated with a BA in Economics from Occidental College. She is a first-generation college graduate who is passionate about issues pertaining to health care access, intergenerational trauma, mental health and immigration.
President and CEO, SoCal Grantmakers
Christine Essel joined SCG as President and CEO on February 1, 2013. As president, she sets the strategic direction and priorities for the organization, overseeing programming, communications, member services and public policy. Prior to joining SCG, Essel held leadership roles in the government, corporate, philanthropic and nonprofit sectors, where she has shaped legislation and public and corporate policy. She brings a wealth of experience to SCG including a deep knowledge of the region and a passion for forging creative solutions to complex community challenges, along with extensive relationships and expertise in corporate philanthropy, finance, real estate development, government and community relations. For over three decades, she worked at Paramount Pictures, serving as Senior Vice President, Government and Community Affairs, a department she built from the ground up. In that role, she was responsible for the studio’s philanthropic efforts and for shaping Paramount’s civic presence while managing all political and legislative activity, corporate social responsibility and fundraising activities. During her tenure she was also responsible for overseeing in excess of $500 million in real estate development projects on the studio lot.
Most recently, she served as CEO for the Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles (CRA/LA), with an annual budget exceeding $600 million, a staff of 260 employees and 32 project areas throughout the City of Los Angeles. In response to a statewide call by the legislature, Essel's leadership helped lay a critical foundation for the dissolution of the agency, leading to a successful redistribution of resources for schools and local governments, while ensuring the completion of many crucial affordable housing projects and other developments vitally important to the economic growth of the region.
She has been named to numerous Boards and Commissions over the years, serving as chair of the California Film Commission, the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency, the Hollywood Community Advisory Council, Alternative Living for the Aging and Central City Association. She also served as Vice‐Chair of the California Workforce Investment Board and FilmLA and was a member of the powerful Los Angeles World Airports Commission, Grand Avenue Project Joint Powers Authority and Los Angeles Development Fund. Essel has been honored by esteemed organizations such as City of Hope, National Women’s Political Committee, Alternative Living for the Aging, Weingart Center Partners, Central City Association and the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. In 2016, she received the Leader of the Year Award from the Southern California Leadership Network. She has been named to the Non‐Profit Times “Power and Influence Top 50” for the past two years (2016 and 2017).
Vice President, Professional Learning & Family Philanthropy, SCG
As Vice President, Professional Learning & Family Philanthropy, Kameron plays a significant leadership role in developing and implementing SCG’s Professional Learning strategy and programs for members. This includes managing the day-to-day operations of SCG’s Professional Development portfolio, Family Philanthropy offerings, and relationships with peer and affinity groups. Kameron is also responsible for ensuring high quality professional learning experiences are made available to enable SCG members to continually increase their knowledge, skills, competencies, career development and networks.
Kameron is a member of The Prytanean Women's Honor Society, the Alliance for Women in Media, and is a member of the Board of Directors for Central City Neighborhood Partners (CCNP), a leading non-profit organization committed to advancing systemic change to benefit low-income communities through collaborations. Kameron graduated from The University of California, Berkeley with a Bachelor's Degree in Mass Media Communications.
John E. Kobara
Chief Facilitator, Random Acts of Progress
John co-created SCG's Executives and Trustees Network.
John is the wildest American dream of his immigrant grandparents who came to this country with nothing. A third-generation Japanese-American. Married over his head to a woman he met on a plane. A proud father of three college graduates with no student debt. A struggling poet. A humbled activist who still is trying to change the world and not grow up.
John’s destiny was forged in the internment camps of 1942, where his grandparents and parents were stripped of all their rights and possessions and incarcerated in the desolate desert of Poston, Arizona for more than 4 years.
His Dad, in his awkward Asian fatherly way, expected John to become a "public person". It took John many years to understand that a "public person" was someone his father wasn't — A person who was social, networked, engaged in the American community, was a good communicator and to have the courage to say what he thought. His mother, a late blooming artist, taught him how to notice the world and to be generous with one’s gifts.
John headed to Los Angeles to attend UCLA which started his 45-year love affair with the imperfect paradise of the City of Angels. His quest to be a public person took him on a career traversing all sectors. His role at the California Community Foundation is his 18th job. He survived three start-ups in three different decades. He worked primarily in the so-called non-profit arena or what he likes to call the “for-purpose” field, interrupted by for-profit and public-sector jobs. He has held big titles and important positions but usually not at the same time. His early work with juvenile felons in maximum security prisons pushed him to become a Big Brother for 10 years and study and eventually teach mentoring all over the world. His work with at-risk youth and recently released felons fulfills him today. His education, both formal and experiential, has empowered his open-mindedness and open-heartedness. He is obsessed with understanding and releasing the unexpressed and untapped human potential in himself and in others. The “public person” journey his father put him on, is infinite. John is grateful for the opportunities to sustain the dream of his grandparents by dedicating his life to helping others build a more joyful, equitable, just, and compassionate world.