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New Leadership at Mandela Partners

Updated: Mar 29, 2021

Dear Mandela Community,

12 years ago a chance encounter with Dana Harvey - our late and beloved founder - made way for Mandela Partners to become part of the fabric of my life’s work. Over the course of more than a decade, I have served Mandela as a volunteer, advisor, Board member, staff, and eventually as Interim Executive Director. Our team grew from 3 to 20+, our capacity expanded, programs flourished, and community partnerships deepened. And today, we are welcoming the next generation of leadership at Mandela Partners.

On behalf of myself and the Board of Directors, it is my great pleasure to announce that Ciara Segura and Maureen Silva have been appointed as Mandela Partners’ Co-Executive Directors. Ciara has served as Mandela’s Program and Policy Director for the last 3 years, leading strategy and evaluation for our food access programs, overseeing the operations and sales channel development of Mandela Produce Distribution, and growing partnership and policy initiatives that uplift our local food ecosystem. Maureen has served as Mandela’s Fund Development and Innovation Director for more than 2 years, cultivating fund development opportunities, visioning areas for innovation and growth, and building partnerships to advance the mission of the organization. Mandela Partners will be led by two brilliant and committed women who have invested in, grown with, and made a home at Mandela Partners.

We feel fortunate to have Ciara and Maureen step into these roles, and look forward to seeing them continue to cultivate work that supports access to healthy food, good jobs, and ownership opportunities. I will serve as an advisor to Mandela’s leadership team during this transition and will continue work to support the development of new models for investment, growth, and shared wealth that support BIPOC entrepreneurs, farmers, and community-based organizations. I hope you will stay connected as I build towards this vision with the Equitable Food Oriented Collaborative, the California BIPOC Farmer and Land Steward Fund, Mai & Neil at Minnow, Anthony Chang at Kitchen Table Advisors, and many more.

Cheers to the next phase of Mandela Partners,

Mariela Cedeño


A Message from the Board Chair of Mandela Partners

How does one move from a vision to the reality of equitable access to healthy and affordable food in an under-resourced community? As a co-founding member of Mandela Partners (formerly Mandela MarketPlace), I witnessed firsthand that reality starts when someone steps up, takes the reins and boldly forges ahead. For Mandela, that someone was Dana Harvey.

Dana had the requisite skill set, drive and determination to get the ball rolling; however, she and those around her always knew that these attributes alone were not sufficient to grow and sustain an organization, particularly a fledgling, food-based nonprofit in West Oakland. To succeed over the long haul requires seed capital, engaged residents, active board members, enthusiastic volunteers, support from public and private funders and individual donors, plus a hard-working, competent and dedicated staff. This formula has worked well for us from our inception to the present.

In terms of staff, Dana also had a keen eye for talent, so when their paths crossed, Dana was convinced that Mariela Cedeño was an ideal fit for Mandela. And she was right.

Once onboard, Mariela quickly set an exceptionally high bar of excellence by expanding Mandela's profile and capacity in the areas of financial assistance, business and job development, and mentoring of budding entrepreneurs. Her technical acumen, along with her management and collaborative-building skills, made her the logical choice to fill in as our Interim Executive Director upon the untimely passing of Dana.

Fast forward to the present: As she has indicated, Mariela will be transitioning out of the role of Interim ED. Luckily for us, she will continue to advise and assist staff during her transition. We know you join us in wishing her much success in all of her current and future innovative and groundbreaking endeavors.

For Mandela Partners, we are in a really good place from a leadership perspective. We are especially pleased to announce the promotion of two of our senior staff members--Ciara Segura and Maureen Silva-- to the positions of Co-Executive Directors (see brief bios in Mariela's statement above).

Ciara and Maureen are highly skilled and effective practitioners who are ready, able and committed to take on the challenge of moving Mandela to new heights of productivity and impact. What they are capable of was evident in 2020 when the pandemic caused the needs of our client and residents to skyrocket. Under their leadership with Mariela --and with support from the County, private funders and individual contributors-- Mandela demonstrated its agility by tweaking its programs to serve many more children and families in our target communities.

We hope you will join us in extending a warm welcome to Ciara and Maureen in their new leadership roles.

Lastly, on behalf of the Board of Directors and Staff of Mandela Partners, we promise over the months ahead to keep all of you informed about our activities and their impact on the lives and well-being of those we serve.

Stay healthy and safe,

Thomas J. Mills

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