Our Staff

John   Esterle

John Esterle

Co-Executive Director of The Whitman Institute

Prior to his current role as Trustee and Co-Executive Director, John began working at The Whitman Institute in 1988 as a Research Associate. In 1999, he became TWI's Executive Director. In 2004, following the death of TWI’s Founder, Fred Whitman, John led TWI’s transition from an operating to a grantmaking foundation. John serves on the boards of Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement (PACE), Images and Voices of Hope (IVOH) and the Germanacos Foundation. He serves on a number of advisory boards. Through 2001-2002, John was the PTA president of Rooftop Alternative K-8 Elementary School in San Francisco. Prior to joining TWI, John directed Crime and the News Media, a pilot project that featured a series of dialogues between Bay Area journalists and proponents of alternatives to incarceration. He received his B.A. in Liberal Arts from the Hutchins School of Interdisciplinary Studies at Sonoma State University and his M.A. in Broadcast Communication Arts from San Francisco State University.

Posts By John

Pia  Infante

Pia Infante

Co-Executive Director of The Whitman Institute

As Trustee and Co-Executive Director of The Whitman Institute, Pia draws on decades of multi-sector experience as an educator, facilitator, organizational development consultant, executive coach, non-profit manager, business owner, writer and speaker to advocate for trust based practice. Pia speaks and teaches on radically embodied leadership and trust based practice in many settings including Harvard Kennedy School: Center for Public Leadership, Ashoka Future Forum, Opportunity Collaboration, Net Impact, Council on Foundations, Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, International Human Rights Funders Group, and Skoll World Forum 2017. Pia proudly serves as the Board Chair for the Center for Media Justice. She is on Faculty for the M.A. in Leadership Sustainability at the University of Vermont’s Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources as well as Thousand Currents Academy. She is an I.C.F. certified executive leadership coach, holds a M.A. in Education from the New School for Social Research, and a B.A. in Rhetoric from the University of California at Berkeley. Follow her @PiaVision.

Posts By Pia

Our Trustees

Jamie  Allison-Hope

Jamie Allison-Hope

Board Chair of The Whitman Institute

Jamie is the Vice President Programs at the Cowell Foundation. She currently oversees the Families and Communities program area and manages the Program Related Investment and Recoverable Grant portfolio. Between 2006 and 2016, Jamie managed the Foundation’s grantmaking in Youth Development and Affordable Housing. Before joining Cowell, Jamie conducted research for universities and corporations and worked at the Stuart Foundation in San Francisco and the Lyndhurst Foundation in Chattanooga, TN, her hometown.

Jamie considers civic engagement a lifestyle choice and has a deep commitment to service. She has been a visiting lecturer on philanthropy, non-profit governance and social enterprise at UC Berkeley, Mills College and the University of San Francisco. She also serves on the boards of U.S. Friends of CUSO International, a development organization that works to reduce global poverty; and REMAKE, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of apparel factory workers. Jamie graduated from the University of Tennessee, where she earned a B.S. in Political Science and B.A.s in Economics, Spanish and Humanities. She holds a Master’s degree from the University of California at Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy.

Jorge  Blandon

Jorge Blandon

Vice President of Family Independence Initiative National & Director of Analytics

Jorge joined the Family Independence Initiative in 2009, where he leads the Technology and Data Team. Jorge believes that with the power of information the U.S. can upend the paradigm of “helping the poor.” Rather than impose solutions or fixes on behalf of others, FII is proving that the most effective way to promote economic and social mobility is by documenting and investing in the initiative and ingenuity of hard working families.

Prior to joining FII, Jorge worked in the financial securitization sector. His experience focused on underwriting bond financings for U.S. municipal entities, investor owned and publicly owned utilities as well as infrastructure projects in the U.S. and Latin America. Jorge also worked for the Presidency of Colombia as a member of the consulting team responsible for implementing the presidential mandate for peace and economic development. He holds an M.A. in International Relations from the University of California in San Diego and has a B.A. from Amherst College. Jorge is a Woodrow Wilson Summer Fellow from Princeton University.

Sonya  Childress

Sonya Childress

Director of Partnerships and Engagement at Firelight Media

Sonya has positioned film as a tool to shift narratives and support social justice movement building for over 15 years. Prior to her tenure at Firelight, she held staff and consulting positions with California Newsreel, Active Voice, Kartemquin Films, Working Films and the Independent Television Service. She led the impact campaigns for The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, Freedom Summer, Freedom Riders, and Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes; and contributed to numerous others, including The Interrupters, Favela Rising, Farmingville and The New Americans. A graduate of the University of California-Berkeley, she is a frequent speaker, funding panelist, and was an inaugural 2015 Rockwood JustFilms fellow. Sonya serves on the boards of Million Hoodies Movement for Justice and The Whitman Institute. Of Puerto Rican and African American descent, Sonya resides in Los Angeles, California.

Shannon  Farley

Shannon Farley

Co-Founder and Executive Director of Fast Forward

Shannon is an experienced social entrepreneur. Shannon is co-founder and Executive Director of Fast Forward, the only accelerator exclusively for tech nonprofits. Fast Forward provides financial and human capital to help scale technology solutions geared to solving some of the world’s toughest problems for which there is no market solution. She was the founding Executive Director of Spark, the world's largest network of Millennial philanthropists. Prior to joining Spark, Shannon co-founded The W. Haywood Burns Institute, a MacArthur Award-winning juvenile justice reform organization. Shannon holds a BA in American Studies from Georgetown University and an MS in Gender and Social Policy from the London School of Economics.

Vanessa   Whang

Vanessa Whang

Arts, Humanities, & Philanthropy Consultant

Immersed in the questions of the arts and humanities in life and for over 25 years professionally, Vanessa finds that asking unexpected questions can lead to interesting and useful answers. Generating questions and ideas, researching them, and wrestling them to the ground are what she does currently as a consultant and advisor. Vanessa has served as Director of Programs for Cal Humanities, California’s state humanities council; the Director of Multidisciplinary Arts and Presenting at the National Endowment for the Arts (DC); and as a New York-based consultant to the Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, among others. Earlier in her career, she worked as a community cultural activist and performing arts presenter, a recording and touring musician, and an inept waitress (though she still enjoys serving food to friends and family).