Deep Democracy

What Does it Mean to be a Movement Building Professional?

Tufts University, UEP commencement Keynote Speech, Founder of Rivera Consulting Inc., UEP Class of 2014 , Sunday, May 19th, 2019

Tufts University, UEP commencement Keynote Speech, Founder of Rivera Consulting Inc., UEP Class of 2014 , Sunday, May 19th, 2019

Good Afternoon, Graduates, Loved Ones, and members of the Tufts Community: Today is a day of celebration.  Today is a day of reflection.

It a celebration of your commencement and I invite you to be part of my reflection about what it means to be practical visionary and change agent. I consider myself to be on the transition team; those of us that understand that we are simultaneously living in today’s world as we know it and the one that is emerging. We also believe that this transition is one that should be just and sustainable.

Not one that wraps itself in nostalgia of yesteryear. For those of you unfamiliar, a practical visionary, are urban planners and civic leaders, who are motivated to solve complex social problems in aspirations and tactical ways. Change agents, on the other hand, are individuals who are capable of turning strategy into reality. Let's be honest, urban planners and civic leaders are mostly practical visionaries.

Yet the world as we know it and the one that is emerging has created a new legitimacy for the change agent role.In today’s world and the one emerging, the ability to combine both is the difference between business as usual and rewriting the rules that will allow social justice and sustainability to become central pillars for how we manage the public commons - whether that’s at home or abroad.

In the emerging world, impact must be measurable, cross-discipline, and cross-sector.

If it's to be just…

It must be centered on those whose labor - paid and unpaid - fueled the economic engine that created the world as we know it. It is their neighborhoods, their livelihoods, and their identities that are 1 to 2 degrees away from no longer existing. I say their but these neighborhoods are the very places that saw my parents fall in and out of love, where my wife and her family fled the remnants of a bloody Civil War, the forgotten pockets of America that raised us both, and where our families live today. These truth shape me. And your truths should shape you.

That is why instead of choosing one lane or one career, I defied all my mentors, peers, and even my own village. Today I encourage you to follow suit. You see, I made choices seen by some as risky, but in the end were critical because it defied the very expectations that too often leave us with results that nobody wants.

Instead of joining the executive director shuffle that afflicts the non-profit sector, I joined state government. Instead of making it a lifetime pathway, I became an urban planner, hiding in the comfort of my specialty knowledge and my political pragmatism. I was comfortable. Then Election Day, Tuesday, November 8th, 2016 took place. I could not sit on the sidelines. I decided then that I would finally embrace becoming a practical visionary and change agent -  what I like to call a movement building professional.

Then two years later on  Election Day, Tuesday, September 4th, 2018, a diverse coalition of voters defied conventional logic and elected the first Black woman to the US Congress in the history of our state.  

We showed that the impossible can be possible and that this only happens at the intersection of people/ planning/ and politics. We showed that when we lead with love / and the full diversity of who we are as a country and in this case the Greater Boston community, that we can reimagine the politics of what's possible.  And most important make it a reality!

This for me is the hallmark of being a movement professional is the commitment to build leaders, movements, and organizations that execute the work every day. That’s what guides me every day.  As you embark on your professional and personal journeys, I want to share with you a set of lessons that can help you navigate today’s world and the one that’s emerging.

Whether it's the criminal justice reform, transportation, education equity, or climate preparedness - the sustainability of the public commons is about the art of political decision making.

To ignore this, is the difference between success and failure. Do embrace that failure is an option and the only way you learn how to flip the playbook. Whether its a boss, a friend, or a mentor, do not do what others expect of you. Do exactly what your mind-heart-spirit whispers to you when no else is watching or listening. Do the work that does not make the headlines: be relational, be detailed oriented, and inspire those around you too dig deeper.  All of us carry our hopes and fears with us everyday. Yet we ignore how they become barriers and biases that get in the way of our work. Do the work that it takes to build trust, be vulnerable, and have courage. Without these three, the change you seek is not attainable. We get to make a living from making social change, but we also get to go home at the end of the day.  Do invest in the capacity for others to lead and for them to sustain the work themselves.

The biggest lesson of all. People and Politics set the rules of engagement for us in the world of planning. And these rules are being rewritten as I speak.  A reality that you must navigate to move your work, and most importantly, solutions forward. Our mission as movement professionals, is the rugged pursuit of shared common good; therefore the challenge from me, to all of you is the following:

As a hearty New Englander bear with me on this one. Lighthouses in many ways are a relic of our past. But in today’s world and the one emerging, I need all of you to become the lighthouse, a beacon of light that never fades on our shores. Not in the dark days that history is casting upon us today or in the distant light of tomorrow’s emerging world. My hope for all graduates today is that you dedicate yourselves to making the Commonwealth, America, and the world, a place where have a stake in doing good for each other.

Join me in making the commitment to be part of this transition team with me.

PS. For updates from our team at Rivera Consulting, Inc. and our clients please visit our in The News Page and our Deep Democracy page.

Transformative Organizational Development: United for Reproductive & Gender Equity

Transformative Organizational Development: United for Reproductive & Gender Equity

“How often do we create new structures and new policies but stick to the same behavior?  Pretty darn often. Just look at the old filing case”. Read this recent blog by our Firm President, Wilnelia Rivera, as she shares highlights from one of our major clients in 2019, United for Reproductive & Gender Equity.

In 2019, What Does Deep Democracy Look Like?

At Rivera Consulting Inc., our movement building playbook is based on relationship-driven strategies and rely heavily on the use of relational organizing, ethnic media, digital marketing, and social media. These campaigns seek not only to win elections, but also seek to usher in movements that enable future policy change and advocacy.  This year, we are continuing this work by launching a national platform, the Deep Democracy podcast, where we will be elevating the women and people of color who are leaders within movement building politics and belong at the center of our democracy. All of these women are thought leaders and activists in putting the American Rising Electorate (millennials, people of color, and unmarried women) at the centerpiece of electoral change. The premiere also comes as we are ramping up our local movement building work in the 2019 Boston municipal races.


Our first three episodes feature four women of color who are movement building professionals. Our March podcast features Aimee Allison, the Founder of She the People, an organization that is the leader in elevating the political voice and power of women of color by convening women of color candidates, strategists, and movement leaders. In April, we will connect with Tequila Johnson and Charlane Oliver, Founders of the Equity Alliance,  a Nashville-based grassroots non-profit advocacy group that seeks to equip citizens with tools and strategies to engage in the civic process and empower them to take action on issues affecting their daily lives. In May, we will speak with community organizer and writer, Clarissa Brooks, who is graduating from  Spelman College. She has been on the frontlines of Georgia’s boldest student led protest movements.

While most have moved on from the historic victory that we helped usher in MA-07, where we increased voter turnout by 58.3%, the 2019 Boston municipal election is an opportunity  to re-engage those voters - 49.6% were of which were first time primary voters. A slice of this new electorate, voting can be a game changer in a competitive Preliminary Election Day. Rivera Consulting, Inc is working with two candidates - re-election campaign for District 7 Boston City Councilor Kim Janey (D-Roxbury), and first-time candidate Alejandra St. Guillen who is running to become the next At Large Boston City Councilor.

Councilor Janey is a necessary leader in the city of Boston’s fight to remain equitable for all its residents. First elected in 2017, Kim represents Roxbury - a neighborhood that is the heart of Black culture and the Black community. In her first term, Kim  has taken an intersectional approach in her legislation and advocacy when it comes to equity. We are making sure she is re-elected so that she can continue to lead on making the cannabis industry equitable and fair for minority owners.”

Rivera Consulting will also be working with Alejandra St. Guillen, in her candidacy for At-Large Boston City Councilor. Recently featured in the Boston Globe, her candidacy is already garnering attention.  As a lifetime  Bostonian, a parent, wife, and seasoned public advocate, she understands firsthand the opportunities for prosperity and mobility, as well as the multi-faceted obstacles that often deny these opportunities too many.  

Here at Rivera Consulting Inc, we are at the forefront of movement building professionals by lifting up the national leaders, and running strong grassroots campaigns at the local level. Do not forget to subscribe to the podcast by signing up here and support electing more women of color running for office by contributing to their campaigns today

Reaching our Tipping Point: A Look at the Year Ahead

Candidate for Boston City Council At-Large, Alejandra St. Guillen, Grassroots Fundraiser, Boston, MA (November 2019)

Candidate for Boston City Council At-Large, Alejandra St. Guillen, Grassroots Fundraiser, Boston, MA (November 2019)

The backdrop of 2019 is short when measured in terms of time. Yet the headlines coming from Washington, across the country, and in our backyards yields our immediate attention and awareness. This is not business as usual and we are our reaching our tipping point. The promise of our democracy is being further eroded as the wall of mistrust, xenophobia, and economic inequality rises.  Referred often as the boiling point of the masse, this tipping point is and should be our collective responsibility.

Three key battles between Congress on that scale are coming soon, all of which will solicit Congressional Democratic action.  

  • If the Trump Administration’ Department of Justice decides to withhold findings from the Muller investigation;

  • If the Trump administration moves forward with its national emergency plan to pillage Federal coffers to build its wall;

  • If the US Supreme Court approves the Administration’s plan to include the citizenship question on the 2020 US Census Count;

Whether you are on the front lines of the movement for justice or never have been engaged, these time requires honesty and transparency about who has been left behind and why. The pullout of Amazon from New York City is a relevant and stark outcry about the level of deep socio-economic insecurity that exists for millions of American families. When working class people are rejecting what many consider an economic boom, decision-makers, elected officials, and the wealthy should think about how to boldly reimagine the emerging economy while addressing climate change and income inequality.

A look at the year ahead and the horizon before us is the best time to remind readers that this year we must continue supporting deep democracy. Nationally, the team at Rivera Consulting, Inc., is focused on supporting locally and regionally based reproductive justice organizations like Women with A Vision New Orleans, United for Reproductive Justice & Gender Equity, and the National Latina Institute of Reproductive Health by coaching staff on non-partisan integrated voter engagement and/or exploring integrated electioneering activities that prepare them for 2020 and beyond. We are also supporting executive coaching clients on an ongoing basis and as part of our commitment to diversity and inclusion.

Locally, in Massachusetts, we are also continuing our research and strategic advising engagement with the Partnership for Education and Democracy and Maria’s List. We are also working to re-elect Boston District 7 City Councilor Kim Janey from Roxbury, and Alejandra St. Guillen who is running to become the next At Large Boston City Councilor. Both Kim and Alejandra have dedicated their careers to ensuring sustainable equity for communities of color in Boston.  Our national and municipal level work puts our movement building ethos, deep democracy, at the center of creating meaningful and sustainable change

Stay tuned for more exciting updates to our national and local work. If you missed it, please check out In the News page for exciting news about our work.

URGE Board Kick Off Meeting, Washington D.C. (December 2019)

URGE Board Kick Off Meeting, Washington D.C. (December 2019)