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Catalyst Miami Announces New CEO

Zelalem Adefris smiles and looks off camera. She is wearing a lilac shirt and her hair in top bun.
Zelalem Adefris will usher the organization into an exciting new era of community power-building

The Catalyst Miami Board of Directors is proud to announce that Zelalem Adefris will take on the role as the organization’s next Chief Executive Officer (CEO), effective April 1, 2023. After a formal and thorough interview process, the board is confident that Zelalem’s passion for social justice and low-wealth communities, her vision for the organization, her ability to creatively and expansively build programs, and her experience in fund development make her the right leader for Catalyst Miami’s continued success.

Zelalem will lead all aspects of the organization, including the implementation of a new strategic plan that centers community power-building as the chief method of advancing economic, racial, gender and social justice in Miami-Dade County.

“I joined Catalyst Miami almost seven years ago, and through our work I have discovered a love for bringing people together to co-create and implement solutions to Miami’s most pressing challenges. We are a community overflowing with opportunity, and yet we fail to provide the necessary protections that enable people to achieve their absolute best. I look forward to leading our team in achieving a Miami where everyone thrives.” – Zelalem Adefris, incoming Catalyst Miami CEO

Zelalem joined Catalyst Miami in 2016 to direct the organization’s climate justice work, with promotions to increasingly senior positions in the organization. Most recently, she has co-led Catalyst’s strategic planning process to guide direction for the next three years, and she oversees Catalyst’s business lines around direct services, community engagement, policy innovation, and collaborative advocacy. In addition to her role at Catalyst Miami, Zelalem serves as a co-chair of the Miami Climate Alliance and as a philanthropic trustee of The Solutions Project.

Gretchen Beesing (Left) and Zelalem Adefris with the 2022 Community Catalyst Award Honoree, Anitrice "Mama Joy" Jackson (Center)

The entire Catalyst Miami board and staff also share sincere appreciation for and best wishes to Gretchen Beesing, who will step down as CEO after more than 15 years in multiple roles at the organization. In her almost 10 years as CEO, Gretchen led and grew Catalyst Miami to become an influential power-building organization that’s well positioned to advance transformative systems change.

“As I close out my tenure as Catalyst Miami’s CEO, I feel more energized and excited than ever for what lies ahead for the organization and the communities at the heart of it. I’ve been honored and grateful to continue building on the vision set forth by our founder, Daniella Levine Cava. It’s not lost on me how fortunate we are to get to do this work alongside the best possible advocates, experts, and change-makers: the frontline communities who have long been working toward justice.” – Gretchen Beesing, outgoing Catalyst Miami CEO

Gretchen shepherded Catalyst Miami through a period of incredible growth and ambition, with a focus on building a more participatory democracy and inclusive economy. Programmatic highlights include the launch of Future Bound Miami (Florida’s first Children’s Savings Accounts program, operated in partnership with Miami-Dade County Public Schools); a worker cooperative academy and incubator; a new real estate cooperative in North Miami; a suite of leadership programs that build the tools of activism; establishment of climate justice as a core area of community engagement and policy innovation for the organization; and deepened understanding of community needs with an ever-evolving mix of services and initiatives to address community priorities.

“Between Gretchen’s work over the past decade to lead Catalyst Miami where it is today, and the vision Zelalem holds for the future of the organization, Catalyst Miami is poised to take its transformational work to the next level. We are ready and proud to support Zelalem and Catalyst’s staff as the organization transitions into this next exciting chapter.” – Damian Daley, Chair of the Catalyst Miami Board of Directors

Please join us in thanking Gretchen for her bold leadership, and congratulating Zelalem as she steps into this new role.



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