Amrita VK Vatsal, Managing Director, Business Development, Ecotrust Forest Management
Amrita joined EFM in 2011 and is a member of EFM’s management team. In this role she shapes the company’s growth and impact investment strategies managing new product development, investor recruitment, and strategic projects. She oversees the company’s communications, investor reporting, and impact monitoring program. As a member of EFM’s investment team Amrita also contributes to property sourcing, transaction structuring, conservation finance, and carbon project development. Prior to EFM, Amrita was an Assistant Manager with Pricewaterhouse Coopers in Singapore where she spent 8 years sampling Chinese-Malay vegetarian food. She cultivated a passion for financing the growth of environmental business while working for Piper Jaffray’s clean-tech banking group and consulting for cook stove entrepreneurs in West Africa. Her love for forests began during a stint in Indonesia developing a carbon project on 200,000 hectares of pristine tropical peat forest. Amrita is a Fellow of the Erb Institute and graduated from the University of Michigan with an MBA and an MS in Natural Resources. She was named the Journal of Environmental Investing’s Graduate Scholar in 2011 and co-authored the book Evolutions in Sustainable Investing Strategies.
Tabreez Verjee, Co-Founder, Uprising
Tabreez Verjee is a three-time entrepreneur and investor who co-founded Uprising to invest in and be in service to mission driven entrepreneurs pursuing epic endeavors that matter. Some of the many real life superheroes he and his partners have backed include the teams behind Lyft, Change.org, Lending Club, Calm, Andela, ClassDojo, Long Term Stock Exchange (LTSE), AltSchool, Virta Health, Good Eggs, Landit, and Heartflow. Tabreez was a founding board member at Kiva.org where he served for 11 years and is one of the first funders behind both Kiva.org and Watsi.org.
The Uprising Crew has also helped catalyze a number of other initiatives including breakthrough treatments for Autism and Type I Diabetes, the Palo Alto Longevity Prize, and funding for several ground breaking non-profits.
Tabreez loves bonding time with friends and family, exploring self discovery and personal development, building intentional community, planning clever pranks and grand gestures, adventuring outdoors, and experiencing all that life has to offer.
Deanna Van Buren is a co-founder and design director of Designing Justice + Designing Spaces (DJDS), a public interest architecture and real estate development firm focused on addressing the root causes of mass incarceration. She is also a co-founder of BIG Oakland, a coworking space focused on supports small businesses in the architecture, engineering and construction industry. Prior to starting DJDS, Deanna spent 15 years as a design lead on domestic, institutional and higher education projects in the Bay Area, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Her design leadership in restorative justice design has attracted funding such as a Byrne Justice Innovation Grant with the Center for Court Innovation to develop a peacemaking center in Syracuse, NY. In addition to built projects, Deanna manifests her thought leadership on restorative justice architecture through published materials such as the “Restorative Justice City Map” and “Guidelines for Creating Restorative Spaces in Schools”. Her diversity of education & experience expresses her commitment to leadership in the profession and is focused on exploring the layered and complex services that architects have the capacity to provide in the agency of social change. DJDS is a winner of the ArtPlace America 2017 National Creative Creative Placemaking Fund. Kyle and his co-founder, Deanna Van Buren, are both Echoing Green Fellows - 2016 Black Male Achievement Cohort. Deanna received her BS in Architecture from the University of Virginia, a Masters of Architecture from Columbia University and was recently a Loeb Fellow at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design.
Sonja Velez, CFO, San Francisco Foundation
Sonja Velez is CFO of The San Francisco Foundation, where she oversees financial planning and analysis, accounting, tax, investment administration, and impact investments. Prior to joining The San Francisco Foundation, Sonja worked as an independent management consultant for mission-driven organizations including her previous employer, The Democratic Voice of Burma, where she served as CFO while living in Burma. Earlier, Sonja spent 13 years at Charles Schwab in San Francisco in a variety of roles including overseeing corporate planning and analysis, managing the firm’s capital and liquidity, and leading analysis of client acquisition, retention, and operational strategies. She holds an MBA from UC Berkeley, an MFA from the University of San Francisco, and an undergraduate degree in International Relations from UC Davis.
Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., President and CEO, Hip Hop Caucus
Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., President and CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus, is a minister, community activist and one of the most influential people in Hip Hop political life. He works tirelessly to encourage the Hip Hop generation to utilize its political and social voice. Rev Yearwood is a national leader in engaging young people in electoral activism. He leads the national Respect My Vote! campaign and coalition (www.respectmyvote.com). In the 2012 Elections, numerous celebrity partners have joined the campaign to reach their fan bases, including Respect My Vote! spokesperson 2 Chainz.
The Hip Hop Caucus has registered and mobilized tens of thousands of young voters to the polls. In 2008, the Hip Hop Caucus set a world record of registering the most voters in one day: 32,000 people across 16 U.S. cities. This effort was part of the Hip Hop Caucus’ 2008 “Respect My Vote!” campaign with celebrity spokespeople T.I., Keyshia Cole and many other recording artists, athletes, and entertainers.
Rev Yearwood entered the world of Hip Hop Politics when he served as the Political and Grassroots Director of Russell Simmons’ Hip Hop Summit Action Network in 2003 and 2004. In 2004 he also was a key architect and implementer of three other voter turnout operations – P. Diddy’s Citizen Change organization which created the “Vote Or Die!” campaign; Jay Z’s “Voice Your Choice” campaign; and, “Hip Hop Voices”, a project at the AFL-CIO. It was in 2004 that he founded the Hip Hop Caucus to bring the power of the Hip Hop Community to Washington, DC.
After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Rev Yearwood established the award winning Gulf Coast Renewal Campaign where he led a coalition of national and grassroots organizations to advocate for the rights of Katrina survivors. The coalition successfully stopped early rounds of illegal evictions of Katrina survivors from temporary housing, held accountable police and government entities to the injustices committed during the emergency response efforts, supported the United Nations “right to return” policies for internally displaced persons, promoted comprehensive federal recovery legislation, and campaigned against increased violence resulting from lack of schools and jobs in the years after Katrina.
A national leader and pacemaker within the green movement, Rev Yearwood has been successfully bridging the gap between communities of color and environmental issue advocacy for the past four years. With a diverse set of celebrity allies, Rev Yearwood raises awareness and action in communities that are often overlooked by traditional environmental campaigns. Rev Yearwood’s innovative stance has garnered the Hip Hop Caucus support from several environmental leaders including the National Wildlife Federation, Earthjustice, and former Vice President Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection.
Thomas Yee, Initiative Officer-LA Thrives, Low-Income Investment Fund (LIIF)
Thomas Yee is currently the Low Income Investment Fund’s Initiative Officer for the LA THRIVES collaborative, focused on supporting equitable transit-oriented development and related cross-sector strategic efforts in Los Angeles County. The network brings together the region’s affordable housing finance and development, transportation and mobility, environmental, and public health sectors, as well as local and regional public agencies. Thomas brings his creativity and adaptive instincts to community development that is informed by a variety of professional experiences including community organizer, project manager, urban planner, and collaborative manager. He has developed over 200 units of affordable housing for low-income and special needs households utilizing over $62 million in public and private financing, and a played a leadership role in creating the $75 million Metro Affordable Transit Connected Housing (MATCH) capital program. Thomas completed a Masters in Urban Planning from the University of Southern California.
Naomi Williams, Director of Impact, Renaissance Downtowns,
Naomi Williams is the Director of Impact for Renaissance Downtowns, an impact real estate firm focused on participatory and holistic planning and development. Naomi joined Renaissance Downtowns through the Sustainable Real Estate Fund (SURF) to implement and manage the firm’s impact strategy, measurement, analysis and reporting. Her work focuses on how real estate can be harnessed as a platform for positive, inclusive and sustainable change in underserved communities. Prior to SURF, Naomi worked with the Civil Society Team at the World Bank, the Safer Cities Programme at the United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN-Habitat), and was an Ambassador for Impact Investment Exchange Asia (IIX). Naomi is also the founder of Building Equity, a development consulting firm specializing in the research and implementation of sustainable development platforms, impact investment strategy and social impact measurement.
Josh Zinner, CEO, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR)
Josh Zinner is the CEO of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, a coalition of more than 300 faith- and values-based institutional investors that engage corporations on the social and environmental impacts of their operations. Josh has more than 25 years’ experience as a non-profit leader, public interest lawyer, policy advocate, and coalition-builder. Prior to coming to ICCR, Josh co-directed the New Economy Project, an organization that is at the forefront in the fight against abusive and discriminatory financial practices. Among earlier roles, Josh founded and ran the Foreclosure Prevention Project at South Brooklyn Legal Services, and helped to build and lead an influential statewide coalition of over 160 organizational members, New Yorkers for Responsible Lending, which fielded successful campaigns to achieve groundbreaking legislation and regulation to curb financial abuses. He is currently on the Consumer Advisory Board of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.