David Chavis & Rianna Grissom of Community Science sit down for a discussion with Ariana Beedie, Rahsaan Harris, and Mike Espinoza for our webinar, Activating Grassroots Power for Health and Social Justice, where they identify common issues and desired supports named by grassroots organizations, answer audience questions, and highlight further solutions.

Volunteer-led grassroots organizations such as neighborhood, block, tenant, and mutual aid associations are often overlooked resources for communities despite having a history of achieving long-lasting and positive change on range of local issues. With the right support, these organizations have considerable potential to build out the social safety net during times of crises. So, as a funder, how can your organization best identify and respond to the needs of volunteers leading neighborhood change efforts? Join us and learn more.

Your Hosts

David M. Chavis, Ph.D.
CEO & Principal Associate
Community Science

Dr. Chavis is internationally recognized for his work in the implementation, support, and evaluation of community and systems change initiatives. The focus of his work is equitable community development as a central strategy to promote community resilience, economic and educational opportunities, improved health and well-being, and a more powerful citizenry. He also specializes in the design and implementation of community capacity building systems to bring about sustainable and scaled systems changes.

David has directed the evaluation of comprehensive community initiatives at the national and local levels around organizing, advocacy, collaborative approaches, economic development and housing, crime and violence reduction, neighborhood quality of life, and strengthening community resilience.
Before founding Community Science, David was a community organizer, community development corporation executive director, director of a large university research and public service center, and a tenured university professor. He has been an officer and board member of AEA and other nonprofit organizations.

Rianna Grissom, Ph.D.
Senior Analyst
Community Science

Rianna specializes in racial identity development and intergroup dynamics, with an emphasis on factors contributing to racial bias in personal and institutional settings. She is an experienced social scientist who frequently uses a mixed-method approach for research and evaluation. At Community Science, Rianna is a member of the evaluation teams for the Racial Equity Anchor Collaborative and the CareQuest Institute for Oral Health. She is also the task lead for the development of a national database of grassroots and intermediary organizations, along with an assessment of their needs and capacities to bolster support and infrastructure for community volunteering efforts.

Prior to joining Community Science, Rianna conducted community-based research and evaluation through UMass Lowell’s Center for Community Research & Engagement, where she helped design, implement, and evaluate initiatives in education, criminal justice, public health, and community development. In 2021, Rianna earned her Ph.D. in Applied Psychology & Prevention Science, with a concentration in Community & Social Psychology from the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

Your Panel

Mike Espinoza
The Children’s Movement of Fresno

As the Director of The Children’s Movement of Fresno, Mike works to impact policy, ensuring children are a priority in decision making through inclusive and continuous community engagement. He has organized students around the DREAM Act, coordinated grassroots movements supporting the immigrant community in the Houston area, and worked with Aramark employees to unionize. In addition, he has worked & consulted on a wide range of social justice projects and organizations, including Stand for Children, Mi Familia Vota, Leadership for Educational Equity, Fight for $15 Campaign, and has managed political campaigns throughout the South the Western US.

Rahsaan Harris, Ph.D.

Rahsaan Harris, PhD (P’ 95) is the CEO of CitizensNYC, a nonprofit founded during New York City’s fiscal crisis of the 1970s to help New Yorkers come together and improve the quality of life in their neighborhoods. Dr. Harris has more than 20 years of experience leading nonprofits and international grantmaking, partnering with communities to make local investments and promote community improvement.

Ari Beedie
Neighborhood Engagement Director
Indianapolis Neighborhood Resource Center

Ariana Beedie is an Indianapolis writer, community connector, curator, and facilitator. Currently serving as Neighborhood Engagement Director at Indianapolis Neighborhood Resource Center, Ari is able to do what she does best – connect with the community. She currently manages multiple grant programs, curates INRC’s marketing efforts, and provides technical assistance to neighborhood groups, local stakeholders, and institutions.