Lawrence Barriner II

Program Associate

Lawrence is a communications strategist, connector, and systems nerd. He grew up in the US South and got out as soon as his black, queer body could figure out how. He loves quotes, baking bread, feeding his worms, and cooking food with friends. He has been shaped by Liberation Theology and (despite not being Catholic) hopes to live like a Catholic Worker again someday. He is currently the Director of the Community Media program at the MIT Community Innovators Lab, an action research lab that focuses on self-determination and economic democracy. He's obsessed with graphic design, self-mastery, podcasts, and helping people (including himself) expand their imagination capacity. He is inspired by Bayard Rustin, Marilyn Nelson, and James Baldwin. He writes daily (usually journal-style but sometimes sci-fi and sometimes poetry), is on the board of RESIST, and is building towards a world where all humans are in right relationship with change and each other.

 Photo by Danielle Coates-Connor. Photo illustration by Angus Maguire.

Saa'un P. Bell


Saa'un is the Statewide Communications Director for Californians for Justice- a statewide racial and education justice organization that organizes youth. Grounded in her southern roots of Greenville Alabama and Eastern Samar, Saa’un is the oldest of six, in a serious, but comical, working class Black and Filipino immigrant family. A Bolder of Black Organizing Leadership & Dignity (BOLD), Saa’un is a commitment to unseating the roots of racial and educational inequities through transformative organizing and narrative strategy. She has been organizing immigrant and youth of color in education for 8 years. Now, if you ever see Saa’un in the streets of Oakland she’s probably not smiling. For serious, you can catch her kicking it with her australian shepherds Fox & Sir Fyodor Dostoevsky, fishing the Pacific Coast for Halibut, reading, writing short fiction & philosophizing on everything from science fiction to Sailor Moon.


Danielle Coates-Conner

Story Associate

Danielle Coates-Connor is a story-teller and communications strategist. Her first publicity experience was as an environmental health organizer at Clean Water Action. From there, she found her way to Center for Story-based Strategy, and partnered with national social movement groups to package visionary campaign stories and support political imagination. She was Director of Communications at Interaction Institute for Social Change (IISC), where she upgraded the brand and designed digital strategies for large systems with complex messages. Danielle is inspired by teaching the Holistic Vision and experimenting with learning and engagement practices at Infinite Growth, a creative home she founded in 2016. Stay tuned in early 2019 on PBS for “Walk on My Own,” a documentary she edited and produced with ByKids.


Rona Fernandez


Rona is dedicated to helping social justice nonprofits learn how to fundraise effectively and in a way that aligns with their mission, vision and values. She has worked with social justice nonprofits since 1996, always with fundraising as a key component of her work, and has raised money in several capacities — as a community organizer, house party coordinator, development director, executive director and board member. Now a Senior Consultant with Klein & Roth Consulting, she was previously Managing Director of Californians for Justice, and has served on the boards of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Media Alliance and YouthSpace. Born and raised in the Bay Area, Rona also writes regularly for the Grassroots Fundraising Journal, and is currently working on a low-tech, post-apocalyptic novel set in the year 2100. 

 Photo by Danielle Coates-Connor. Photo illustration by Angus Maguire.

Reuben Hayslett


Reuben is a queer activist, writer, and storyteller. He currently works at Demand Progress, leading online campaigns against the overreach of government surveillance. Prior to that, Reuben worked as an online campaigner for the Working Families Party, a progressive third party in the United States, where he combined his storytelling skills and political activism. Reuben has won consumer campaigns against Netflix, UPS, Rhode Island Lifespan Hospital, and led a coalition to remove David Koch from the Board of the Smithsonian and PBS. His non-fiction work first appeared in The Splinter Generation in 2007 and most recently in The Mary Sue blog in 2015. His first fiction short-story collection “Dark Corners” will debut in 2018 on Amazon Books. His fiction has elsewhere appeared in the Surreal South Anthology in 2011, transLit magazine, and the Oregon Literary Review. Based out of Brooklyn, Reuben produced Rustik Storytellers, a monthly oral storytelling live show in 2013. In 2016 he co-produced PRACTICE, a safe-space live storytelling show designed to encourage new-comers to take up the oral storytelling tradition. Reuben has a MFA in Creative Writing from Fairfield University.

 Photo illustration by Angus Maguire

PaKou Her

Trainer & Associate

PaKou Her is Principal of Tseng Development Group, a consulting firm that provides lectures, workshops, organizational development, transformative leadership coaching, and grassroots strategy development designed to build racial equity and create systems change. She also spent three years  at (18MR) in the roles of Campaign Director and Executive Director. There she leveraged civic technology and new media to build power and community among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, growing the 18MR member list from 5,000 to nearly 50,000 and elevating the cultural, political, and media power of AAPIs nationwide. Additionally, PaKou holds 20 years of anti-racism organizing experience, along with digital campaign experience as a Field Organizer with and as Senior Campaign Director of Reproductive Rights and Culture at UltraViolet. Born and raised in the Midwest, she takes great pride representing AAPIs living in the nation’s midsection, and believes there are invaluable stories to be told by People of Color living in the most rural areas of the United States. Some of her favorite non-campaigning activities include entertaining two young daughters, squeezing in occasional adult-only evenings with her spouse, chasing culinary adventures, and dreaming about reviving a long-lost singing career. Swap musings about race, culture, and organizing on Twitter @pakouher.

 Photo by Danielle Coates-Connor. Photo illustration by Angus Maguire.

Nadia Khastagir


Nadia is a worker-owner at Design Action Collective providing creative visual communications for social justice. Nadia is also a member of The Ruckus Society’s Creative Resistance/Arts Core and a board member of San Francisco Women Against Rape. She dreams of winning the battle of the story through strategic campaigns involving creative resistance, story-based strategy and kick-ass visuals.


Cris Lagunas


Cris is originally from Chile and comes out of organizing in the DREAM Act movement as an undocumented young person. He is a founding member of National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA) and DREAM Activist Massachusetts, he has also worked on Environmental justice issues as well as labor unions. Cris really enjoys story-based strategy, non-violent direct action and the Ninja Turtles!

 Photo by Danielle Coates-Connor. Photo illustration by Angus Maguire.

Terry Marshall


Terry has been involved in youth and social justice struggles for over 15 yrs. In 2008 Terry became the Lead Youth Organizer of the Healthcare Education Project, an initiative of 1199 SEIU in New York City. While there he led the innovative “Young Voices For Healthcare” campaign to involve young people in the healthcare reform struggle. Terry is the Co-Founder and Co-editor of Occupy Comix, a bimonthly comic book that depicts the stories of the 99% and is working on a book presented by his Intelligent Mischief project depicting creative activists of color.

 Photo by Danielle Coates-Connor. Photo illustration by Angus Maguire.

Shana McDavis-Conway


Shana offers training and strategic support on using the power of narrative. She has been a committed food and economic justice activist for 15years, working with social justice organizations across the U.S. Most recently, Shana was the Co-Director of the Emerson National Fellows Program at the Congressional Hunger Center - a leadership development fellowship for young people interested in hunger and anti-poverty work. Shana is a founding board member of CSS's Strategy Training and Organizing Resources for Youth (STORY) program, an alumna of the Emerson Program, and a former AmeriCorps*VISTA. 

 Photo by Danielle Coates-Connor. Photo illustration by Angus Maguire.

Mariana Mendoza


Mariana grew up in the class-divided, ironic Mexico City. She became involved in environmental and social justice campaigns in Mexico and moved to Los Angeles, CA to pursue a Masters in Urban Sustainability. For the last two plus years, Mariana has been working with Enlace, facilitating capacity building and organizing trainings for grassroots organizations and womxn in Mexico and the U.S., organizing to fight against the corporate for-profit power in criminalizing immigrants and people of color with the Prison Divestment Campaign, and advocating for reinvestment in community solutions. She worked to develop curriculum and programming to launch Enlace’s Womxn Rise Fellows Program. Mariana undertook original research on the rise of private prisons in Mexico and the increasing influence of the private prison industry in Los Angeles, sparking efforts to cancel private contracts for detention, jails, and reentry facilities in the LA area. She is also an Associate Trainer at Center for Story-Based Strategy and works with youth in a program for dialogue and utopian imagining. Mariana strongly believes in the power of communities for sustainability and self-determination.


Kiara Nagel

Lead Trainer & Associate

Kiara delivers training, consulting, and coordination services to foster collaboration and support equitable community development. She is an associate at the Design Studio for Social Intervention, and facilitates strategy work with the Interaction Institute for Social Change. Her work stems from an exploration of the historical patterns of development and forced displacement and she works to provide space for those most directly affected to be engaged in decision-making about how their places can be shaped, understood and represented.  Current projects include a capacity building toolkit for NeighborWorks USA to support smarter green initiatives among national members. She serves as faculty at both the International Youth Initiative Program in Sweden and University of Orange, a free people’s university. Kiara holds a BA from Hampshire College and a Masters in City Planning from the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

 Photo by Danielle Coates-Connor. Photo illustration by Angus Maguire.

Genevieve Erin O'Brien


Genevieve Erin O'Brien is a Queer mixed race Vietnamese/Irish/German/American woman. She is an artist, a filmmaker, an organizer, a cook/private chef, and an educator who lives and works in Los Angeles. O'Brien has spent 20+ years working with and organizing in communities for social justice. She was a founding member of Arts In Action, a Los Angeles political arts collective and has worked for CFJ, APALA, UCLA Labor Center, where she coordinated the Summer Internship Program. She holds an MFA in Performance from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. O'Brien was a Fulbright Fellow in Vietnam, a recipient of the Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles and Center for Cultural Innovation's Creative Economic Development Fund. In 2016 she went to Hanoi, Vietnam as a US Dept. of State/ZERO1 American Arts Incubator Artist for a project highlighting LGBTQ visibility and equality. Her newest work More Than Love on the Horizon: West Coast Remix and Sugar Rebels were recently commissioned and presented by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center.


Jess St. Louis

Network Associate

Jess St. Louis is a lesbian femme-identified white trans woman & communications strategist who lives and loves in Greensboro, NC. She comes out of LGBTQ liberation, racial justice, and prison industrial complex abolitionist movements in the US South, and most recently served as the Director of Communications, Research, and Evaluation at the US Human Rights Network. As a CSS Network Associate, she is working on integrating story-based strategy tools for spokesperson training and a new CSS tool to address self-care, burnout, and sustainability in movement-building work. You can find her sitting on her porch, dreaming of a world where we live free from interpersonal, systemic, and state violence—and of movements that are powerful and expansive enough to bring that world into being.