CommonWise Education, Inc. is the fiscal sponsor for the Bronx Cooperative Development Initiative (BCDI), whose mission is to end generational poverty in the Bronx through shared wealth and democratic ownership.

We Are Hiring! 

Managing Director of Planning & Strategy

Development and Communications Manager

EDLC Program Director

Operations Manager

BronXchange Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

WHAT WE DO

Based on a framework of economic democracy, BCDI leverages existing Bronx assets to address economic, social, and environmental challenges within the borough, and supports collective ownership models in order to distribute wealth and decision-making equitably and broadly among Bronx residents.

With its partners, BCDI pursues three major lines of work:

  1. Establishing a Community Enterprise Network that unites community and labor organizations, anchor institutions, and small businesses in order to plan and implement an inclusive and sustainable economy in the Bronx.

  2. Building the long-term infrastructure to support economic democracy, including a Local Business Procurement Platform to redirect anchors’ spending locally and build shared ownership enterprises, and a Community Innovation Center to develop advanced manufacturing in the Bronx.

  3. Coordinating immediate-impact projects in the health and energy sectors with our partners in order to reduce energy costs, remove environmental contaminants, and create job opportunities for Bronx residents.

 

 

About the Bronx

The Bronx is a borough of hopeful contradictions. It is the poorest urban county in the US; and it has the highest rate of obesity and asthma in New York State, the highest high school dropout rate in New York City, and pervasive food deserts. However, the Bronx also boasts many assets: It houses several large hospitals and universities, which collectively purchase over 3 billion dollars of goods and services annually; many successful commercial corridors including Fordham Road, the third largest in New York City; the Hunts Point Terminal Market, the largest food distribution center in the world; and many sophisticated mission- and community-based organizations. The Bronx thus already contains many of the resources needed to address its greatest challenges. At CommonWise, we believe that Bronx residents can achieve an equitable, sustainable, and democratic local economy that leverages the borough’s existing assets.

Our Team

Esthefany Castillo joined CommonWise in February 2015. As Community Organizer, she leads education and leadership development projects including, Bronx Cooperative Development Initiative's Economic Democracy Training Series, Digital Arts and Media initiatives, public policy platform, and newsletter communications. Previously, she was Program Assistant to the Energy Efficiency program at Sustainable South Bronx. Esthefany is a Bronx native and holds a BA in Sociology form Wesleyan University. 

Dara Nussbaum-Vazquez is the Director of Economic Development and Operations, and Lead Entrepreneur for the BronXchange, BCDI's digital procurement platform that connects high-road local purchasers with small businesses to create community wealth in the Bronx. Prior to joining CommonWise, Dara was a Nathan Cummings Foundation Fellow, one of three innovators selected nationally in 2014 to combat economic and social inequality through creative thinking and unexpected partnerships. Dara previously served as Vice President of Government and Community Relations at the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC). She has also worked for Congressman Jose E. Serrano (D-15) and held senior staff positions at several community-based organizations.  Dara has a background in Urban Planning from Hunter College-CUNY and a Professional Certificate in Real Estate Finance and Investment from NYU Schack Institute of Real Estate.

Orlando Torres has worked for social justice for over a decade in the nonprofit sector. He spent eight years at the Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition doing tenant and faith-based organizing, weatherization, development and fundraising, and operations. He was also the Director of Recruitment and Student Engagement at Student Sponsor Partners. A native of the Bronx, Orlando is excited to manage the development portfolio for CommonWise Education and help the organization reach its resource goals.

Ralph headshot.png

Ralph Castro is CommonWise's Office Manager. Ralph has many years of experience in the nonprofit sector, having worked with organizations including Community Voices Heard, Social Justice Leadership, Nos Quedamos, and Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity. He is passionate about social justice work and—as a long-time Bronx resident—thrilled to be working in the Bronx.

 

 

Misra.png

Misra Walker manages communications for the BronXchange digital procurement platform. Misra is a Fine Arts graduate of the Cooper Union and a Bronx native. As an artist, her work blurs the line between activism and art by interrogating the history and politics that form the backbone of her community. She is one of the co-founders of The House of Spoof, an art collective in the Hunts Point community of the Bronx, that hosts gallery shows for emerging artists and provides free art classes for the community in honor of their friend Glenn "Spoof" Wright who passed away in 2009.

 

 

The Community Innovators Lab at MIT (CoLab) and the Emerald Cities Collaborative (ECC) work closely with the Commonwise team to support the development of the Bronx Cooperative Development Initiative (BCDI).  Below are the CoLab and ECC team members focused on BCDI.

Maggie Tishman is the Local Director for Emerald Cities New York—part of the Emerald Cities Collaborative's national network to create sustainable cities and economic opportunities for all—and the Community Energy Fellow at the MIT Community Innovators Lab. She leads BCDI's energy portfolio, a set of projects with our grassroots partners that are transitioning the Bronx away from fossil fuels while creating green jobs. Maggie previously worked in affordable housing and community development in New Orleans. She earned a Master’s degree in City Planning from MIT and a Bachelor’s degree in Urban Studies and Hispanic Studies from the University of Pennsylvania.

Yorman Nunez is the BCDI Program Coordinator at MIT's Community Innovators Lab and oversees community engagement across CoLab's community-based work. Previously, he was a community organizer with the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition (NWBCCC) and he co-founded the Urban Youth Collaborative, a citywide youth organization working on education reform. After his work at NWBCCC, he began a career in electoral organizing, managing many political campaigns. A lifelong resident of the Bronx, Yorman is committed to designing systems that address the root causes of poverty.

Nick Iuviene is the Director of the Just Urban Economies Program at MIT CoLab and leads long-term strategy and planning for the BCDI. Previously, Nick worked as a community organizer in the Bronx and co-founded BlackLeaf Studios, a technology development firm in Brooklyn. Nick has a Master’s degree in City Planning from MIT. His graduate thesis, "Building a Platform for Economic Democracy: A Cooperative Development Strategy for the Bronx,” proposed a strategy to achieve a socially equitable and environmentally sustainable borough.

Katherine Mella is a Program Associate at the MIT Community Innovators Lab. She leads BCDI's community heath agenda, leveraging opportunities tied to local and national healthcare system transformation, and using the social determinants of health as a key framework. Katherine earned her Bachelor’s degree from Brown University in Urban Studies and completed her Master’s in City Planning at MIT. Prior to earning her Master’s degree, she was a research assistant for a Cambridge-based entrepreneur working on projects across a variety of sectors, including energy and affordable housing.

 

The CommonWise Board:

  • Angela Fernandez (Treasurer), Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights
  • Nicholas Iuviene, MIT Community Innovators Lab
  • Sandra Lobo (Vice President), Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition
  • Rebecca Lurie, CUNY Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies
  • Allison Manuel, Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition
  • Wendoly Marte (President), Center for Community Change
  • Yorman Nunez, MIT Community Innovators Lab
  • Wanda Salaman, Mothers on the Move
  • Kellie Terry
  • Angela Tovar, The Point Community Development Corporation
  • Misra Walker
  • Daniel White, Geto and de Milly
  • Barika Williams, Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development