WHO WE ARE
We offer creativity, deep thinking and dedication to help leaders and organizations propel social causes forward.
MELISSA DAAR CARVAJAL
What is your craft? I offer big think strategy and creativity for social causes. I also manage and execute projects and campaigns.
Tell us about a favorite project right now.
I’m thrilled to be developing brand identities and communications strategies for two start-ups led by awesome women.
For a pair of powerful, young literacy champions in Oakland, California, we supported their coalition's move from a Rogers Foundation initiative to an independent organization. We worked with these two rising leaders to shape their community strategy and forge a new independent identity as a catalyst and literacy champion.
For The Early Learning Lab, we are collaborating with two more amazing women, a rising communications leader and early childhood thought leader and dynamo. We are working with their team to bring a social innovation approach to a challenged field grappling with how to help our country's youngest children learn.
What is your secret power?
Not trying to be the smartest person in the room. Instead, facilitating the client-consultant collaboration to surface our joint expertise and creativity.
Describe a mentor of yours.
I can think of two.
My first boss in communications, Elaine Elinson, at the ACLU of Northern California. Elaine is an amazing person, super media pro and a great writer. She coached me in the fine arts of pitching and writing. A true professional.
My dance teacher, Librada Quesada. She was an amazing dancer, powerful, expressive and beautiful. She pushed me to move beyond my own self-consciousness, to become the spirit of the dance. During my time studying with her, she became sick facing cancer. Her spirit and resolve still inspires me to look deeper and be more authentic.
AMIR AZIZ CLARK
What is your craft? I am an art director. I combine communication design, photography and creative conceptualizing to bring an idea from thought into reality – with style, poignancy, and most importantly, effectiveness.
Tell us about a favorite project right now. I love projects that connect with audiences for the greater good and that I relate to. The YMCA started an initiative around a crisis that is very seldom talked about: youth of color are drowning at alarming rates. Not only in pools, but also at home and in lakes. Growing up in the swimming pool, I felt personally called to work on this PSA campaign. I assisted in creating visuals to convey to multicultural audiences the importance of water safety to – even if you can’t swim.
What is your secret power? “Patience is the key which solves all problems.” ~ Sudanese proverb. My secret power is the ability to see through projects through all waves of calm as well as instability. Understanding the client and project is key to having patience throughout the process of solving their problem.
Describe a mentor of yours. My mentors are the members of my community who we don’t see. Those who do profound work without asking for credit. Who are builders of our society. Who wear multiple hats but never lose their cool; single parents, independent artists, city workers, farmers, teachers, small business owners, etc.
What is your craft? Strategy, specializing in digital communications. I use strategic communications and social media savvy to help organizations make this world a better place. The success of a cause or campaign depends on whether we can make a strong enough connection with others to activate change-- either at a high policy level, or at an individual level. My job is to make this happen.
Tell us about a favorite project right now. I've worked on so many interesting projects, but my favorite has to be the #ChildrenCanThrive campaign for the Center for Youth Wellness. We designed the campaign to spread the word among pediatricians about the impact of early traumatic experiences on children's developing brains and bodies. The campaign evolved into a message of hope that shares research and tools with parents, so they can recognize and help heal the effects of toxic stress in their children. It's an empowering campaign, and I really enjoy that.
What is your secret power? I have a few-- I work really hard, and I'm an eternal optimist with a wicked sense of humor. These traits always give me an edge.
Describe a mentor or yours. Years ago, I had the great fortune to work with several talented and courageous labor leaders who believed that there is strength in numbers and that everyday people--our mothers, fathers, grandparents, children-- can, and do, organize for change. One of my most special mentors once pointed at an elderly woman standing in the crowd at a rally, her face aglow with emotion and joy, and said, "See that woman over there? She's going to change the world." I totally believed him, and it's that belief in people's abilities to come together for good that keeps me going.
What is your craft? Helping organizations communicate effectively with diverse populations. As a strategist and client partner, I have deep expertise in multicultural populations, and 20+ years experience leading integrated Hispanic, African American and LGBT marketing initiatives for clients including Pfizer, Citibank, The American Heart Association and The Ad Council.
Tell us about a favorite project right now. I’m very proud of an unbranded initiative I collaborated on for Pfizer to educate African Americans about diabetic nerve pain, and to motivate them to talk to their doctors (mistrust in the medical establishment is a key cultural barrier for African Americans) as a first step to diagnosis and treatment. We partnered with the American Diabetes Association on the campaign and utilized beloved comedian and actor Cedric the Entertainer (whose father suffers from diabetic nerve pain) as spokesperson to reach the audience in a culturally relevant and impactful way. The multi-channel effort drove a significant uptick in African American diagnosis rates…and also won a number of awards!
What is your secret power? Four languages, three degrees, two feet I run on every day and dance on every week, and one extraordinary partner in life and in crime!
Describe a mentor of yours. Maria Rosa Menocal: brilliant teacher, medieval scholar, author, and inconoclast. I met Maria in the Romance Languages department of U. Penn the week before my freshman classes started, and we developed a bond that spanned decades. Maria was the epitome of intellectual fearlessness, and taught me that the mislabeled Dark Ages could be a valuable model for society today, as embodied in the title of her book “Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain.” She taught me about personal fearlessness as well. “When life throws an impossible situation at you, decide who you would want to play you in the movie version and play that role to the HILT.”
What is your craft? Filmmaking. Specifically, writer/director-/cinematographer/editor/music composer/animator
Tell us about a favorite project right now. It's a tie between shooting video for The Teachers Guild and this current documentary about marriage equality for the Civil Marriage Collaborative.
What is your secret power? Music. It helped me get stories from people in Africa, the Philippines and Cambodia and it helps me create rhythm for the final films I create about them. If you want me to elaborate, I can sing about it for you.
Describe a mentor of yours. My mentors are often people outside of my field, and I have so many. My most recent mentor was the program director at OpenIDEO, Molly McMahon, a person whose life experience didn't just inspire me to continue going out into the world and doing more "things", but to also spend time in your own world and not just practice empathy, but to inspire empathy in others.
What is your craft? Photography. I'm a humanitarian photojournalist with a good deal of international experience. My specialty is multimedia – integrating photography and video with the voices of my subjects, and the rich audio that surrounds them. I want those who experience my stories to be able to close their eyes, and just be there, or find in a photograph the heart that defines us all.
Tell us about a favorite project right now. In collaboration with the Packard Foundation, the website, StoriesfromSalinas.org. These stories are part of a three-year project called the Salinas Youth Initiative, which celebrates the people and programs that are empowering and inspiring youth in east Salinas, California.
What is your secret power? I'm a really good listener. I like my subjects to tell their own stories – the art of what I do, whether it is visual or aural, is distilling the complex into something everyone can understand.
Describe a mentor of yours. My parents, who always encouraged me to follow my own star. Over the years, they have steadfastly supported my choices. They are quintessential diplomats, humanitarians both, and the best mentors I could imagine.
What is your craft? Strategic communications. For more than 15 years, I've created and execute programs and campaigns. I work directly with nonprofits and for-profits to develop strategy, messaging and design; lead multi-disciplined teams; and create and implement social and earned media plans. I take the approach that "anything is possible" if backed by a sound strategy. With the knowledge that a good story tugs heartstrings and can compel people to act, I write compelling narratives, blog posts, and draft social content that spurs audience engagement.
Tell us about a favorite project right now. The Early Learning Lab is the only social innovation lab focusing on early childhood development. The first five years of a child’s life are the most important - it’s when they develop the foundational social and language skills for the rest of their lives. The Lab’s team is committed to making faster progress on this under-funded issue, but with our branding, identity and ongoing communications counsel and partnership, they are moving quickly to make change.
What is your secret power? Known as "an effective leader and collaborator,” clients and colleagues alike say I’m great at keeping things moving forward. I can think big and also get into the nitty gritty details. I’ve also been called the “client whisperer” for providing smart counsel and putting clients at ease.
Describe a mentor of yours. The woman who initially guided me into this line of work over 10 years ago is responsible for teaching me all the foundational elements of being a strong, creative strategic communicator. She was always challenging me to be my best. I learned from her what it means to be a good mentor and the importance in life and career of having one.
What is your craft? Graphic design.
Tell us about a favorite project right now. Whenever I’m working on a logo, that’s my favorite project. I love all the possibilities logo design presents.
What is your secret power? I have two secret powers. The first is my kids. Whenever I am stressed out about work, my kids remind me that it’s “just work.” That often times gets me unstuck and helps me better focus. The second is salty snacks.
Describe a mentor of yours. In many ways, my dad has been my biggest mentor. When I was in my twenties and trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up, he always encouraged to find something I loved and the rest would take care of itself. Awesome advice. Thanks Dad!
What is your craft? Communications. I've worked hard and continue to work hard to hone this skill. I've dedicated my work to social justice focused groups and institutions. I strive to effectively communicate someone's message they way they visualize it in their head.
Tell us about a favorite project right now. My favorite project right now was working with Nadine Burke Harris and the Center for Youth Wellness because they have an ambitious goal that I want to help them reach. I believe in her and CYW so this made me strive to give 110%.
What is your secret power? My secret power is my unique background, my father, a black man who grew up in segregated Mississippi, offers me first hand accounts of the injustices he lived through.
Describe a mentor of yours. My mother a Salvadorian national from El Salvador, immigrated because of the civil war in the 80s. Her and my uncles witnessed and were affected by the atrocities of that era. The experiences of my parents are things I carry with me and grounds me in why I do the work that I do.
What is your craft? Strategic media relations and communications. I work with clients to introduce their companies and projects to the world. I enjoy crafting messages that truly reflect a client’s mission and purpose.
Tell us about a favorite project right now: I’ve worked with B2B clients in the technology, advertising and media industries. I’m expanding my client roster to include pro-social film and documentaries; I create impact campaigns for filmakers’ stories. It’s fulfilling to work with artists and directors to ensure that their hard-earned work garners the attention it deserves and inspires change in the world.
What is your secret power?I listen.
Describe a mentor of yours. I’ve been lucky enough to have several mentors in my life and throughout my career. They’ve inspired me to step out of my comfort zone and have also served as wonderful examples of graciousness and positivity in all arenas of life.
What is your craft? Filmmaking and visual storytelling. I split my time between creating documentary films and producing dynamic videos for nonprofit organizations and small businesses. I love working with clients to develop a creative strategy that will communicate their key messages in the most engaging and dynamic way possible.
Tell us about a favorite project. My favorite project right now is a secret; shhhhhh. That said, I truly enjoyed working with MDC to create a series of videos for the Thrive Foundation for Youth that profiled amazing non-profit organizations that mentor youth, including Youth Radio, Girls Inc. and Friends of the Children.
What is your secret power? My secret power is putting people at ease in front of my camera and getting them to open up and tell their stories.
Describe a mentor of yours. I’ve had many mentors throughout my career from newspaper reporter to filmmaker! Bay Area investigative journalist and editor Diana Hembree has been an endless source of inspiration and support who coached me through stories at the Center for Investigative Reporting and beyond. And Bay Area documentary filmmaker David Brown gave me the courage to pour my passion into directing and shooting my first short documentary, A Brush With the Tenderloin, which ended up winning an Emmy award.
What is your craft? Digital media strategy, including social media, analytics, creative and content creation.
Tell us about a favorite project right now? I have been actively documenting the social, political, educational changes that have revolutionized marches, movements, and protests across the Bay Area. This project is my way of capturing one picture, one word, one story, to symbolize and represent a revolutionary moment of time in our history.
What is your secret power? My secret power is my unique view of the world and my open-mindedness, both of which I strongly believe are very important in this ever-changing world.
Describe a mentor of yours. My parents uprooted their lives in 1978 from small villages in India to immigrate to America for a better live for their future family. As immigrants, my parents faced many struggles along their way to success. However, they worked even harder to break down those barriers until eventually owning their own business. Fast forward to the present day, my parents are now proud owners of four of their own businesses, which my dad built himself from the ground up. My parent’s hard work and determination is what drives my motivation to continue working hard to achieve my dreams!
What is your craft? Writer and story-teller. I divide my time between my principle passion–journalism for magazines and websites–and working with organizations that are doing work in the arenas of social justice and public health to help them tell their story.
Tell us about a favorite project right now. I’m working on a fascinating journalistic project about a building in New York City that is the largest home to performing artists in the country and developed an amazing community within the building that helped them care for each other when the building also became home to more people who died of AIDS than any building in the country. Today, the building is becoming an example of how to accommodate aging in place, applying the lessons learned during the AIDS years to create networks of care and services.
What is your secret power? What, just one? I’d say I have two: I make people comfortable so they’re willing to speak with me and tell me their story. And I’m really good at translating complex issues and ideas so people can understand and connect with them. Plus I know how to tell a good story.
Describe a mentor of yours. Raul Ramirez was an incredible human being who embodied the best of journalism—he wrote about immigrants and people who were cast aside with empathy and integrity. He was passionate about telling people's stories and about bringing new voices into the work of journalism so they could tell their own stories. He was also an amazing teacher and taught me a lot about how to teach and work with new writers.
What is your craft? Copywriting/editing/concept development/content creation.
Tell us about a favorite project of yours. I worked on a project for a retailer aimed at encouraging children to read. Our central idea was that reading takes you places, so we designed a cute passport for kids to get stamped whenever they read a new book. I also wrote a children’s book as part of the campaign which was such fun and definitely my favorite part. It’s fulfilling when creativity can serve a good cause.
What is your secret power?
Calmness and flexibility. Technically, that’s two things, but I believe they go hand-in-hand. They’re the keys to great collaboration and happy clients.
Describe a mentor of yours? A wonderful woman helped me make the transition from college newspaper movie and music reviewer to junior copywriter at a major retailer. While others rejected my attempts to break in, she believed my writing skills would translate and gave me opportunities to learn and shine.