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Be the Catalyst Summit

The Be the Catalyst Summit is Catalyst Miami's signature gathering where community leaders from all walks of life explore and co-create solutions to Miami-Dade County's most critical challenges. Be the Catalyst, formerly known as the Poverty Solutions Summit, is a space where grassroots, business, faith, and civic leaders can come together for a series of important conversations and learning sessions. 

From housing unaffordability to economic development, our changing climate to health care access, we're facing the issues head-on, with a focus on what matters most to our community.

Be inspired to turn ideas into action and build community-driven alliances. Be a catalyst for change — starting here in Miami-Dade.

This event is co-sponsored by the Institute for Civic Engagement & Democracy (iCED) at Miami Dade College.

Join us!

May 18, 2024 at 9:30am - 4pm
Building 3 - Chapman Conference Center, Room 3210
Miami Dade College (Wolfson Campus)
245 NE 4th St, Miami, FL 33132
Google Maps Directions
FREE parking can be found in Building 7 (Garage 1), located at 500 NE 2nd Avenue. Please use this garage only. No other garage is open on Saturdays.

Opening Remarks from Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava

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Daniella Levine Cava
Miami-Dade County Mayor

Daniella Levine Cava was elected Miami-Dade County's first-ever woman mayor in November 2020. As mayor, she oversees a metropolitan government of nearly 30,000 employees, serves nearly 3 million residents, and manages an annual budget of nearly $12 billion. 

A social worker, lawyer, and nonprofit leader, Mayor Levine Cava entered the Mayor’s Office following a 40-year career fighting for South Florida families. At Legal Services of Greater Miami, she served special needs children, low-income families and immigrants, and then went on to lead the Guardian Ad Litem Program, representing our most vulnerable children in the foster care and adoption systems. In the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, she created an innovative new intake system for child abuse cases with the Department for Children and Families.

In 1996, Mayor Levine Cava founded Catalyst Miami to help low- and middle-income families through service, education, and advocacy. Catalyst still thrives today and helps approximately thousands each year to become more self-sufficient and civically engaged.

Goals & Outcomes

To learn together and strengthen relationships
To align partners and drive momentum around transformative initiatives, like models of community economic autonomy
To promote our community's policy priorities, like housing justice and medical debt, and discuss innovative policy ideas  
To propel movements that are both meeting immediate needs and shaping a more just, equitable, joyful tomorrow

Topics & Speakers

Click each breakout session title below to learn more about our panelists!

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Julie Siwicki
Community Economic Development Adviser, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta

Julie Siwicki is an adviser to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta's Community and Economic Development team. She specializes in research design and execution, with an interest in understanding the links between household finance, community, and economic mobility. She previously launched the Consumer Insights research initiative at the Aspen Institute's Financial Security Program. Prior to that, she supported the US Financial Diaries project to collect and analyze detailed economic data from 235 families across the country. Siwicki has also worked at microfinance organizations in both the United States and Mali, helping to develop their infrastructures. She holds a bachelor's degree in economics and development from Brown University and a master's degree in public policy and administration from New York University.

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Nia K. Evans | she/her
Executive Director, Boston Ujima Project

Evans has an educational background in labor relations, education leadership, and policy. Her advocacy work focuses on eliminating barriers between analysts and people with lived experiences while also acknowledging the value of diverse types of expertise in policy. She is a co-creator of Frames Debate Project, a multimedia policy debate program that explores the intersection between drug policy, mental health services, and incarceration in Massachusetts. Evans has a bachelor’s degree in industrial and labor relations from Cornell University and a master’s degree in education leadership, with a course of study in leadership, policy, and politics from Teachers College at Columbia University. She also studied at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, where she focused on international labor relations.

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Madison Paez | she/her
Co-founder, Guaranteed Income 305

Madi Paez, born and raised in South Florida, is a staunch advocate for the abolition of poverty and the liberation of working-class people across the globe. Firmly rooted in the transformative potential of collective organizing, she co-founded GI 305, a nonprofit community organization which aims to advance guaranteed income in Miami-Dade County neighborhoods most vulnerable to poverty, violence, and displacement. Established in the summer of 2023, GI 305 is Miami's very first guaranteed income program, and only the second in the entire state of Florida. Madi is an accomplished alumna of the University of Chicago, where she pursued a multidisciplinary education in Public Policy, Law, and Sociology. During her academic tenure, Madi was introduced to guaranteed income as a holistic public policy solution. Her senior B.A. thesis, “Cash Transfers and Reentry: Combating the Deadly Symbiosis,” was nominated for the prestigious Taub Thesis Prize. Her academic analysis, coupled with her experiences growing up in South Florida, greatly informed and inspired the creation of GI 305. Prior to founding GI 305, Madi served as the Project Coordinator for the Illinois Justice Project. She represented Team USA at the Pan-American Karate Championships in 2015 and currently trains for triathlons in her free time.

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Chris Moreno | he/him (Moderator)
Director of Financial Capability, Catalyst Miami

Chris serves as Financial Capability Director where he oversees all asset building initiatives that Catalyst Miami offers. In his previous role, he helped create Future Bound Miami, Florida’s first Children’s Savings Account (CSA) program. He is dedicated to enhancing economic stability for all through financial coaching, education, and asset building. Previously, Chris was Director of Social Impact at WorkSquare. He has held several roles within organizations such as Miami Dade College, Branches, and the United Way Center for Financial Stability. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a Bachelor of Arts and the University of South Florida with a Master of Education.

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DeAndre Martin
Community Development Director, NE OKC Renaissance / PlaceKeepers

DeAndre Martin was born and raised in Northeast Oklahoma City. He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Human Relations from the University of Oklahoma in 2017. He has professional experience working with The University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma House of Representatives, Oklahoma Senate, and Gardner Tanenbaum. He currently serves as the Community Development Director for NE OKC Renaissance and CEO of Monsta Investment Group and XXII (22) East Community Development. In 2021, XXII (22) East Community Development and NE OKC Renaissance created PlaceKeepers. PlaceKeepers is a real estate development and small business training program for NE Oklahoma City residents and stakeholders. It is designed to increase community led real estate development and homeownership at levels that offset the displacement caused by gentrification. He is also a founding partner of the OKC Minority Founders Accelerator which launched in 2023. DeAndre has a passion to support entrepreneurs and economic growth in underserved communities.

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Darnell L. Johnson
Social justice organizer, activist, and Regional Coordinator, Homes For All South

Darnell brings years of personal and professional knowledge in base building, community leadership development, political education, and community building. Darnell's work has been focused on fighting the root causes of gentrification and displacement via the lens of stable communities, economic justice, and good jobs, democratic participation, public good, and healthy environments. He works tirelessly to build power for long-term transformative change in our neighborhood, city, state, and region. Through his tenure in Homes For All Darnell led partners using a people's assembly model as an Event, a Process, and an Institution. Darnell joined RTTC’s staff in 2014 after years of community and labor organizing focusing on the intersections of race, class, gender, and oppression. Darnell is a founding member of the African American Theatre Company at the University of Louisville and has been seen on stage with Actors Theatre of Louisville, the Kentucky Opera, and the Juneteenth Legacy Theatre.

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David Lidz
CEO/Founder, StreetWell / WaterBottle Cooperative

David Lidz is a seasoned real estate investor, developer, and construction executive who has climbed from the bottoms of alcoholism to spearheading community revitalization through co-operative enterprise and impact investment.

Just 3 years sober in 2005, David founded a small contracting enterprise which hires individuals recovering from addiction and incarceration to work on vacant and distressed housing, and which ultimately became Appalachian Field Services.

In 2015, David founded Ladders-To-Leaders, a Hagerstown, Maryland based non profit providing transitional housing and peer support services to individuals recovering from alcoholism and addiction.

In 2018, David envisioned the Impact Real Estate Portfolio (IREP). This innovative model acquires and renovates distressed properties in historically oppressed Baltimore neighborhoods, and redistributes equity to, instead of pushing out, rightful community stakeholders, such as workers, tenants and neighborhood activists and businesses. Heading into 2024, David has raised $5.1MM for the pilot IREP, Rising Housing, a co-operative which now holds 20 properties, comprising 30 leasable units & providing homes primarily to single mothers of color. David has founded a new co-op consultancy called StreetWell, which is bringing a tech platform, a trust model, and all of the learnings of the early IREP years to other neighborhoods and cities.

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Destini Smith | she/her (Moderator)
Director of Popular Education and Grassroots Leadership, Catalyst Miami

Destini has worked with several non-profit organizations for redemptive justice. From serving as founding staff and fitness coach with Noble Clay Fitness to advocating for fair housing recommendations in Atlanta, Destini has a passion for cultivating thriving Black communities. Additionally, Destini serves on the board of SMASH, a housing justice organization, community land trust, and cooperative. Destini has a passion for empowering youth leaders, championing Black women, and igniting faith leaders to pursue equity and justice. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Emory University and a Master of Education in Community Building and Social Change from the University of Miami.

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Laura Tellez | she/ella
Associate Florida Program Director, Solar United Neighbors

Laura is passionate about sustainability. She is excited to expand solar energy in Florida. Laura has worked with various non-profit organizations and government agencies. Her work has stretched from Panama to Alaska. Laura has a B.S. in Environmental Sciences, a M.S. in Ecological Leadership and Education, and an Occupational Endorsement in Sustainable Energy.

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Kate Khatib
Co-Director, Seed Commons

Kate is an Arab-American organizer and movement strategist. Two decades ago, she co-founded Red Emma’s, a cooperatively-owned restaurant and bookstore in Baltimore that helped to catalyze a city-wide ecosystem of worker-owned businesses, and a national network of cooperatives in the food and beverage sector. In 2015, she helped to found the Seed Commons cooperative and its Baltimore peer, the Baltimore Roundtable for Economic Democracy, and in 2018, became co-director of the Seed Commons network alongside Brendan Martin.

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Jeru Qadar
Next Gen Leader, Kheprw Institute

Jeru has been with the Kheprw Institute for 5 years. During that time he has lent his videography, graphic design, and facilitation skills to Kheprw’s marketing and communications department. Over the last year he has been developing ALKHEMY+ platform, an online learning and community building tool, which provides self-guided lessons for entrepreneurs, creatives, and organizers. In his free time, Jeru plays guitar with his bandmates, attends local venues and house shows, and works on his video game project.

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Maria Claudia Schubert-Fontes | she/her (Moderator)
Climate Justice Program Manager, Catalyst Miami

Within her role at Catalyst Miami, Maria Claudia is able to connect with community members throughout Miami-Dade County, engaging them in equitable climate policy at the local, state, and federal levels. Maria Claudia began her career as a place-based climate educator designing experiential courses for high school students. She later worked with educators and youth supporting the implementation of climate education in classrooms throughout the East Coast of the United States. Outside of work, Maria Claudia engages in activities that foster joy and nurture community.

Lunch will be catered by Nude Pita, including vegan and gluten-free options.

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Emily Stewart | she/her
Executive Director, Community Catalyst

In this role, Emily oversees the overall direction of Community Catalyst’s work to its mission of building the power of people. She is responsible for the strategic, programmatic, financial, and operational leadership of the organization, as well as for its 501(c)4 affiliate, the Community Catalyst Action Fund.

Emily brings more than two decades of health care advocacy, campaign, and organizing experience to the role.

Most recently, Emily served as vice president of public policy for Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund. At Planned Parenthood, Emily led strategic initiatives and campaigns to protect and expand access to sexual and reproductive health care, including the “I Stand with Planned Parenthood” campaign to defeat efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and “defund” Planned Parenthood. Emily also oversaw Planned Parenthood’s ACA implementation advocacy, including the successful effort to guarantee no co-pay coverage for birth control for 60 million women in America.

Prior to her work at Planned Parenthood, Emily managed health policy and advocacy initiatives for a range of progressive organizations focused on advancing people’s health and rights. She lives in Boston with her husband.

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Jared Walker
Founder, Dollar For

Jared Walker founded Dollar For in 2012 in Portland, Oregon. Dollar For was born out of a desire to help folks in medical crises after watching his own family’s experience. Jared is on a mission to crush as many medical bills as he can while making charity care known, easy, and fair.

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Nicole Dozier | she/her
Director of Health Advocacy Project, North Caroline Justice Center

Nicole Dozier, Director of the Health Advocacy Project is a 27-year veteran of the North Carolina Justice Center, a statewide non-profit organization committed to eliminating poverty through various issue areas deploying diverse strategies. She works alongside team members that she describes as the most committed, strategic, effective advocates she knows. Beginning well over a decade ago, this Project in partnership with other incredible state and national partners and leaders, with investment from committed funders, with the people most directly impacted as the centerpiece, North Carolina expanded Medicaid, the most major legislative policy victory in a decade.

Nicole also understands the impact of local policy and initiatives that are sustained beyond your service, having served as Mayor Pro Tempore of a small town, where she helped create and expand initiatives around community engagement; transparency; anti-poverty; diversity, inclusion and belonging; championed the Senior Center where she was honored with a lounge bearing her name; and led efforts resulting in paid parental, caregiver and bereavement leaves; expanding the family definition under FMLA, instituting a living wage and COVID-19 hazard pay.

Nicole’s recent policy awards include: Order of the Long Leaf Pine (Governor’s highest recognition for service), National Coalition of 100 Black Women Policy Award, NC AIDS Action Network Advocate of the Year and Citizen of the Year.

Nicole received a BA degree in Industrial Relations with Sociology concentration from UNC - Chapel Hill in 1988 where she also pledged Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. in 1987 and is featured in the university’s Women with Moxie Oral History Project.

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Alison Yager (Moderator)
Executive Director, Florida Health Justice Project

Alison is an attorney with nearly 30 years of experience. She is passionate about addressing the social and political determinants of health that drive health disparities. She is currently the Executive Director of Florida Health Justice Project, a not-for-profit that engages in a range of advocacy strategies to expand health care access and promote health equity. She is a graduate of Swarthmore College and UCLA School of Law’s Program in Public Interest Law and Policy. She began her legal career as an Equal Justice Works Fellow working with youth at The Door's Legal Service Center in Manhattan, and spent nearly 10 years engaged in legal services and policy advocacy at HIV Law Project in New York City. She then served as Director of Policy for Maternal, Infant and Reproductive Health at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, until coming to Miami and joining the Florida Health Justice Project in 2018.

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Ahmed Mori | he/him
Vice President of Community Economic Development, Catalyst Miami

As Vice President of Community Economic Development, Ahmed oversees worker and investment cooperative development, small business assistance and community building, and other programs centered on community wealth and economic democracy. As an attorney and community economic development activist, Ahmed has worked with and represented worker cooperatives, tenants battling eviction in both courts and through advocacy, and affordable housing and community development nonprofits in Miami, South Texas, and New York City. He has a JD from Columbia Law School, an MA in Political Economy from Columbia University, and a BA in Philosophy from Florida International University. Ahmed serves on the board of The Allapattah Collaborative CDC.

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Yenisbel Vilorio
Florida State Director, State Innovation Exchange (SiX) and SiX Action

Prior to assuming the role of Florida State Director for State Innovation Exchange (SiX) and SiX Action, Yenisbel ‘Yeni’ Vilorio obtained invaluable experience as a legislative assistant to Florida State Representatives Marie Woodson and Javier Fernandez. During her tenure with the Florida legislature, Yeni fostered collaborative relationships with legislators, staffers, and numerous stakeholders, including state agencies, coalition partners, and grassroots organizations within the state and nationwide. Her efforts were instrumental in advancing progressive social, economic, healthcare, housing, education, and environmental policy.

Yeni’s professional journey reflects a deep-seated commitment to community engagement. Prior to venturing into policymaking, she earned a Master of Social Work degree and had a blooming career in the healthcare field. Her transition into policy work was fueled by her experiences working in diverse healthcare roles and her profound passion for transformative advocacy and systemic change.

As a Cuban refugee and product of Miami-Dade County public schools, Yeni draws inspiration from her community and her family’s background in shaping her dedication to cultivating a world free from oppression. Her upbringing in a vibrant, diverse, working-class immigrant community has instilled in her a steadfast resolve to contribute to the creation of a world that is just, equitable, and inclusive.

Beyond her professional endeavors, Yeni enjoys dancing, traveling, outdoor activities, and spending quality time with loved ones.

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Korey T. Johnson. Esq
State Campaigns Lead Consultant, Local Solutions Support Center

Korey T. Johnson. Esq is the State Campaigns Lead Consultant at Local Solutions Support Center. She is also the owner and Lead Consultant of Equipped Solutions, a consulting firm rooted in public health, public safety, and racial justice advocacy. As an attorney and seasoned campaign operations lead, she brings nearly a decade of experience to field organizing, community engagement, and legislative strategy. Spanning areas of criminal justice reform, public safety, public health, human rights, economic justice, environmental justice, transportation equity, and more, Korey has served as a campaign strategist for multi-state and national legislative campaigns that has resulted in the successful passage of legislation for several states across the U.S. She has served as the Regional Director of Campaign Operations at REFORM Alliance, a Senior Policy Analyst at the Council of State Governments Justice Center and the Job Opportunities Task Force. As an electoral political strategist, she has executed rigorous field strategy at the local, state, and national level. Korey’s other professional capacities also include, serving as an Attorney Advisor for the United States Department of Justice and a Senior Policy Advisor for the State of Maryland.

As a Baltimore native, Korey is a graduate of Towson University and Howard University School of Law. Philanthropically, she is an active member of the NAACP, a board member of the Women’s Law Center of Maryland, and the Board President of The Leaderhership Project. She is currently an adjunct professor and a Ph.D Candidate at Morgan State University (Social Policy).

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Rachel Prestipino | she/her
Vice President of Policy and Community Engagement, Catalyst Miami

A community organizer at heart, Rachel is building a cohesive pipeline of involvement so that community leaders will co-design and direct every aspect of Catalyst’s work. Prior to this role, Rachel served as Executive Director of a local interfaith community organization holding Miami’s public officials accountable for fair policies and practices, and she consulted on a pioneering youth voting campaign in Oakland, CA. Rachel earned a Master of Public Affairs from the University of California, Berkeley and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia.

Thank you to our Sponsors!

Please join us in thanking our Catalysts for Change members. Together, we can catalyze a more just society where everyone can lead healthy, prosperous, self-determined lives.

To learn more about Be the Catalyst Summit Sponsorship, click here.


Luminaries ($20,000+)



Igniters ($15,000+)




Motivators ($10,000+)



Accelerators ($5,000+)





Activators ($3,000+)






Sparks ($2,000+)