Publication: 2013-05-12



Name:Owen Ambur


Name:Family Independence Initiative


The Family Independence Initiative is a national center for innovating and testing approaches to economic and social mobility that strengthen social networks, respond to initiative, and respect low-income families' ability to lead their own lives.


  • FII StaffFamily Independence Initiative Leadership Team

  • Mauricio Lim MillerFounder, President, and CEO -- Mauricio founded FII in 2001 after running Asian Neighborhood Design, a community development agency in San Francisco and Oakland, for 22 years. He has been honored by President Clinton for his work and was appointed by President Obama to the White House Council for Community Solutions. Mauricio sits on the boards of the California Endowment and the Hitachi Foundation. He is a MacArthur Genius Award winner and an Ashoka Fellow.

  • Melanie MooreManaging Partner -- Melanie joined FII in 2013 as Managing Partner, following eight years of building and running her own start-up impact assessment firm, See Change. Including her time at See Change, Melanie has been a professional evaluator and social sector researcher for almost 20 years, advising large and small nonprofits, foundations, and government agencies on strategies to maximize their impact, particularly in the domains of individual development and community change. Melanie holds a doctorate in human development from Stanford University's School of Education, and a B.A. in psychology from Yale University. She lives in San Francisco with her two daughters, two dogs, two cats, and one boa constrictor.

  • Michelle ChaoChief Operations Officer -- Michelle began her work with FII in 2001, six months after its inception. During this time, she completed the Master's in Business Administration/Management Program at Cal State University, Hayward in 2004. Michelle is a native of Oakland, California, where she is a committee member of the Iu Mien Scholarship Fund since 2000. She was a member of the Board of Directors of the Lao Iu Mien Cultural Association (LIMCA) from 2004-2006. Michelle continues to work to help her community preserve its culture and language through various events and projects.

  • Mia BirdsongVice President -- Mia joined FII in 2008 and bringing a wide-range of experience and knowledge from her time in the publishing industry, a decade as a volunteer and organizer for Critical Resistance, and ten years spent as a trainer and educator in the fields of youth development and health education. Mia was named an Ascend Fellow of the Aspen Institute in 2012 and she sits on the Advisory Board of the Tannery World Dance & Cultural Center. She holds a B.A. in Black Studies from Oberlin College. Mia lives with her husband and two children in Oakland.

  • Jorge BlandónVice President -- Prior to joining FII in 2009, Jorge worked for seven years in the financial securitization sector where he honed his expertise in underwriting bond financings for U.S. municipal entities, investor owned and publicly owned utilities, as well as infrastructure projects the U.S. and Latin America. He holds an M.A. in International Relations with a focus in Business Management from the University of California in San Diego and has a B.A. from Amherst College. Jorge is a Woodrow Wilson Fellow from Princeton University.

  • Jesús GerenaDirector, FII — Boston -- Jesús came to FII in 2010 with more than a decade of experience working with youth, most recently as Deputy Director of the Hyde Square Task Force. He has over 15 years experience in working with urban youth and as a community organizer. Jesús is a member and Co-Chair of the English for New Bostonians Oversight Committee, and serves as a board member for the New England Grassroots Environment Fund and the Boston Foundation for Architecture.

  • Michael BlonskyChief Technology Officer -- Michael joined FII in 2013 and brings with him a long history of technology consulting and startup experience. Among Michael's startup experiences is his work with a social enterprise called Fashion4Freedom. Michael has hands-on experience with most major technology platforms and has developed mobile applications for iOS and Android. He holds a M.S. in Technology and Business from Johns Hopkins University and a B.A. from Tufts University.

  • Family Independence Initiative Staff

  • Chrismaldi VasquezAssociate Director, FII — Boston -- Prior to joining FII in 2013, Chrismaldi was Director of Capacity and Assessment for Boston Rising, a start-up foundation focused on breaking the cycle of poverty. Before that, she was Director of Community Impact with the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. Chrismaldi spent 11 years at the Hyde Square Task Force, a youth community development non-profit agency, rising from youth organizer to Manager of Organizing and Policy Initiatives. She graduated from Bentley University with a B.S. in Economics and Finance and minored in International Studies.

  • Paola HernandezLiason, FII — San Francisco -- Paola is a first generation Nicaraguan-American born and raised just outside of Miami. She attended the University of Chicago where she created and ran Students Promoting Interracial Networks (SPIN) while simultaneously working with the Office of Minority Student Affairs (OMSA). Paola has spent time in her home country of Nicaragua teaching low-income children and serving as a volunteer. In 2010, she graduated with a B.A. in Political Science and made the Dean's List of Honors.

  • Wandy PegueroLiason, FII — Boston -- As a teenager, Wandy was a youth organizer at Hyde Square Task Force leading major campaigns on issues such as youth employment, violence, parks, and sexual harassment. He also organized cultural and recreational events that brought together the entire Jamaica Plain community.

  • Quyen-Thi NguyenOffice & Operations Manager -- Quyen was born and raised in Oakland, CA to a low-income immigrant family along with five siblings. She studied at CSU Monterey Bay focusing on Earth Systems Science and Policy. Since 2002, she has been involved with a number of youth organizations in a variety of roles from a volunteer to media liaison to board member. Prior to FII, she worked as the Office Manager for the Alcohol Policy Network.

  • FII Consultants

  • Faridah InanlouConsultant - Data Integrity -- Faridah has over 13 years experience helping major technology companies with process improvement, licensing contracts, risk and compliance. She earned her Bachelors in Information Technology from the University of Washington and MBA from Saint Mary's College of California with field work in microfinance.

  • Spark ActionConsultant - Marketing and Communications -- Spark Action is run by Laura Weide, who has over twenty years of experience in strategic marketing, communications, media relations, and advocacy. Spark Action has deep background working with economic justice organizations messaging complex policy issues in down to earth communications.

  • Balance.point Strategic ServicesConsultant - Strategy -- Balance.point provides consulting services, trainings, and tools. They help organizations create positive change in line with their goals, with measurable, bottom line results. Their focus is on identifying clear personal and business needs and creating the environment to meet those needs.

  • FII Board

  • John (Tony) MayerBoard Chair - Greenwich, CT -- Tony is a retired senior executive of J.P. Morgan & Co., having served as CFO and Head of Investment Banking for the firm. Mr. Mayer was also a trustee of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and was its Chair for four years. He is an angel investor in both the for profit sector and not for profit sector.

  • Diana SmithVice Chair - Boston, MA -- Diana Smith is a Senior Partner at New Profit, Inc., a national venture philanthropy fund that seeks to harness America's spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship to help solve our country's biggest social problems. Diana is the author of three books and regularly lectures to business and nonprofit audiences and has taught as a guest lecturer at Columbia's Executive Education Program, Harvard Law School, Harvard Business School's Executive Programs, and Harvard's Graduate School of Education.

  • Charles (Chuck) ParrishSarasota, FL and Martha's Vineyard, MA -- Chuck is cofounder and former Executive Vice President of (now Openwave), former Vice President of Contel Cellular, GTE Mobile (now Verizon), founder and President of AmeriCom Corporation of Atlanta, cofounder and board member of Coincident Inc. of San Francisco,board member of Akonni Biosystems of Frederick, MD and former Chief of Staff, US Department of the Interior in the Carter Administration.

  • Robert FriedmanHillsborough, CA -- Bob is founder and chair of the board of the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) and former member of the Levi Straus corporate board. Bob also sits on the boards of the National Fund for Enterprise Development, EARN, the Rosenberg Foundation, the Friedman Family Foundation, and the Koshland Committee of the San Francisco Foundation. Bob has been central in the development of the IDA matched savings accounts and an asset agenda for this country.

  • Sherry M. HirotaOakland, CA -- Sherry Hirota is the CEO of Asian Health Services, a multilingual, multicultural community health center in Oakland, CA. Ms. Hirota is an emeritus board member of The California Endowment. She has served on national boards and commissions concerning cultural competency, health disparities in communities of color, health reform, edible schools, and healthy eating.

  • Maurice Lim MillerOakland, CA -- Maurice is Founder and CEO of the Family Independence Initiative. Maurice ran Asian Neighborhood Design, a successful community development agency in San Francisco and Oakland for 22 years and was honored by President Clinton for his work. Maurice also sits on the boards of The California Endowment and The Hitachi Foundation. He is a member of The White House Council for Community Solutions and an Ashoka Fellow.

  • Michele JolinWashington, D.C. -- Michele Jolin is a managing partner with America Achieves, leading the Results for America initiative. Jolin also is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. Jolin was appointed by President Barack Obama in December 2010 to be a member of the White House Council for Community Solutions. Jolin serves on the board of directors of the Greenlight Fund and LIFT.

  • Clara MillerNew York, NY -- Clara Miller is President of The F. B. Heron Foundation, Prior to assuming the Foundation's presidency, Miller was President and CEO of Nonprofit Finance Fund which she founded and ran from 1984 through 2010. In addition to serving on The F. B. Heron Foundation's board, Miller is on the boards of GuideStar, PopTech, and The Robert Sterling Clark Foundation. She is a member of The Bank of America's National Community Advisory Council, the Aspen Philanthropy Group and the Social Investment Committee of the Kresge Foundation.