Our Team

Living Room Conversations has incredible support from people who advise, champion, and partner with us. Our champions help connect Living Room Conversations with people and organizations who can use our model, our partners organize and cohost conversations, and our advisory board provides guidance.  

Core Team

Becca Kearl

Executive Director
Becca is all about communities coming together over conversation and values discovering the diverse experiences and beliefs of those around her. She specializes in large-scale community dialogue on pressing social issues and has designed and led healthy dialogue practices in high schools, universities, civic organizations, faith communities, and in her own family and community at large. She is an avid book reader, lover of foreign languages, and passionate about supporting women and families. She lives in Utah with her husband and five children.

Joan Blades

Joan Blades is a co-founder of Living Room Conversations, an open source effort to rebuild respectful discourse across ideological, cultural and party lines while embracing our shared values. When we care about each other, we work to find ways to meet each other’s core needs. Joan is also a co-founder of MomsRising.org and MoveOn.org. She is the co-author of The Custom-Fit Workplace, winner of a Nautilus book award in 2011, and The Motherhood Manifesto, which won the Ernesta Drinker Ballard Book Prize in 2007. A mediator (attorney) by training and inclination, she is a nature lover, artist, and true believer in the power of citizens and our need to rebuild respectful civil discourse while embracing our core shared values. Joan lives in the California bay area.

Chelsea Rowles

Managing Partner
Chelsea graduated in 2017 from the University of Minnesota with a MA in Educational Psychology: Learning & Cognition, and a minor in Program Evaluation. She has worked in youth and adult programs that focus on arts, building/construction, outdoor play, and other creative activities. She has a passion for process improvement, and likes to help programs run smoothly and as effortlessly as possible. She currently spends most of her free time running after her two kids and also enjoys making paper art and eating good food. With her partner Robert and their daughter & son, Chelsea lives in Minnesota.

Anaïs Maseda

Belonging & Inclusion Partner
Anaïs is a mother, a multidisciplinary artist, a social justice educator, full spectrum doula, and a keeper of the Earth. She is devoted to utilizing her art mediums as a way to inspire a deep, authentic connection to ourselves, each other, our children, and the Earth. Anaïs has a B.A. in psychology and sociology, along with 10+ years of experience teaching, mentoring, and providing enrichment services to children, youth, and young adults, ages 2 - 25. She mentors youth in supporting and nurturing their development and full humanity, which includes prioritizing mental-emotional health and balance, addressing harmful and traumatic programming perpetuated via societal institutions, and engendering safe spaces for unlimited self-exploration and discovery through conversation.

Stewart Fletcher

Social Media Manager
Stewart is a political science major at Brigham Young University in Provo, UT. He has always been passionate about bringing people together and bridging any perceived divides in our communities. As the middle of ten kids, he has had lots of experience being a mediator. In his role at Living Room Conversations, he is able to help the organization reach a wider audience and thus, continue to connect all types of people together.

Leah Spitzer

Administrative Support Partner
Leah has a Bachelor’s in Education from Florida State University, but found her passion as a dog trainer and behaviorist with a speciality in puppies and behavior rehabilitation. Leah’s background also includes executive administrative tasks and work in the financial industry. Most recently, Leah worked as Volunteer Coordinator and Administrative Support for Coffee Party USA. Leah insists she is retired, but it doesn’t seem to stick. Leah still enjoys the occasional work with an untrained dog, but these days, her focus is on finding ways to connect with our human neighbors and friends on tough issues and she is excited to be supporting the work of Living room conversations. Leah lives in Green Bank, WV.

Sushila Mertens

Host Training Partner
Sushila is a certified Living Room Conversations Host of over 100 conversations. As a retired librarian with Masters in Information/Library Science and Education/Curriculum Development, Sushila created her own study of listening to improve her LRC hosting and her role as an End-of-Life Doula, which includes hosting a monthly Death Conversation. She loves facilitating circles, painting, reading, and snowshoeing. Co-author of A Women’s Guide to Sacred Activism, her current activism includes pioneering the online 2022 LRC Certified Host Course and racial equity projects. Sushila lives in Nevada City, CA.

Cassidy Weaver

Community Engagement and Research Partner
Cassidy recently graduated from Brigham Young University with a master's in Public Health. She discovered LRC through a project run by her university's public health department. She is passionate about providing healthcare to those often overlooked and underserved in her community. She has recognized that a crucial component of overall health is positive communication skills and the ability to disagree with others while maintaining relationships. This is one of the many reasons she loves being a member of the LRC team. She is an avid runner, baker, and TV show watcher. She lives in Utah with her husband and their rescue pup, Ruthie.

Irshad Molla

Youth Council Leader
Irshad Molla is a political science student at The Ohio State University. Her passion for the civic space and youth engagement has helps her with her position as the Youth Engagement partner at LRC. She is used to a high-school youth council member and now came back full circle as a team member. Her love for conversation, stories, and making the world a better place is why what leads her to do the work she does today.

Lamiya Nguyen

Strategy Partner
Lamiya is a mother, life-long learner and active member of her community having worked in different capacities with local schools and as a USA swimming volunteer. She has a broad perspective with a diverse background in research, healthcare, investments, and finance. Her first introduction to Living Room Conversations was in-person at the local community center in 2015 and that left an indelible impression. Her passion and hope is to engage and relate meaningfully with as many people as possible, and views education as a gateway for understanding and positively impacting the communities we live in.

John Gable

AllSides.com, Founder and CEO
John offers a unique combination of technology and politics. He served on the original teams for Microsoft Office, Mozilla at Netscape and ZoneAlarm at Check Point Software, and cofounded Kavi Corp (web-based collaboration and services). John was previously a Republican operative, working for three senate majority leaders (Howard Baker, Trent Lott and Mitch McConnell), the Republican National Committee and George H.W. Bush.

Jacob Hess

RedBlueDictionary.org, Lead Editor
"I am a die-hard fan and champion of Living Room Conversations because I am tired of relentless media sound bytes holding more power over the American mind than the actual stories, lives and experiences of our next door neighbors. While the current socio-political environment in the US certainly calls for many kinds of changes, I'm convinced there is one exceedingly simple place to start: Convening with people around us - in our own homes - and hearing them out deeply and fully. When I have done that, as I have done that, something has changed in me. And I can't go back! (And why would I want to . . . having these conversations is way too fun!!)"

Reverend Pedro Silva, M.Div.

Strategic Partner
Before answering the call to ministry, Pedro served eight years in the U. S. Air Force as a satellite-communications technician and intelligence analyst. In his post-military years, he worked in both for- and non-profit organizations. Here he discovered a passion for helping people respond to life’s challenges. Compelled to cultivate this passion, he enrolled at Andover Newton Theological School in Massachusetts in 2009 and in 2013 earned his Master’s in Divinity. After serving four years as student minister in Massachusetts, he came to Colorado. He is ordained through the United Church of Christ.

Advisory Board

Lawrence Chickering

Founder and President of Educate Girls Globally, Project partner, Living Room Conversations
Lawry founded Educate Girls Globally (EGG), which developed a girls education empowerment model that has served nearly one million students in more 7,000 primary government schools in India. Lawry has written two books on a transpartisan politics: Beyond Left and Right and Voice of the People: the Transpartisan Imperative in American Life (with James S. Turner). He is currently at work on two new books: one (with James S. Dierke) on reforming government schools in India and the US, and the other on strategies for using civil society initiatives to support foreign and security policy.

Amanda Kathryn Hydro

Founding Partner, Living Room Conversations
A Founding Partner of Living Room Conversations, Amanda is passionate about creating spaces that invite individuals to show up as they are and be appreciated for their unique skills and experiences while learning, growing, and co-creating in community. She has spent more than 3 decades facilitating the discovery of uncommon common ground and fueling innovation and transformation around the world in partnership with business leaders, elected officials, academic thought leaders, philanthropists, and social changemakers. Amanda lives in the NYC metropolitan area with her husband and their three children. She loves to run, enjoy the great outdoors, read, dance and go on adventures with friends and family.

Michael D. Ostrolenk

Social Entrepreneur
Michael is a leading expert on transpartisan public policy and has convened policy initiatives in the areas of transparency, privacy, defense, foreign policy and national security. He cofounded and serves as national director of the Liberty Coalition, a transpartisan coalition of groups working to protect civil liberties, privacy and transparency. A radio host and public speaker, Michael has written articles for publications ranging from USA Today to the American Conservative. He is the program director and master coach for SEALFIT‘s Unbeatable Mind Academy, a world-class leadership and personal development training program created by Navy SEALs.

John Steiner

Transpartisan Networker and Leader
John says, "Living Room Conversations is slowly and carefully reweaving the torn fabric of our American democracy one conversational strand at a time. If we can’t talk to each other with civility, respect, and dignity, then we certainly can’t work together at any level of our society to solve the profound and daunting challenges we face. Living Room Conversations becomes a template for our citizens and leaders alike."

Monica Silva-Gutierrez

Non­‐profit Consultant
Monica specializes in business strategy, fundraising, donor relations and sustainability for non-profit organizations such as the Democracy Fund, United Cerebral Palsy of North Bay and Center for Environmental Health. She helped Lawrence Lessig’s Change Congress increase its fundraising revenue from $500,000 in the first year to almost $4 million in year three. In the early 1990s, she worked on the Clinton/Gore campaign and served in various capacities in the first Clinton administration.

Bruce Bond

Co-Founder and CEO, Common Ground Committee
Bruce Bond is Co-Founder and CEO of Common Ground Committee (CGC), a nonprofit, non-partisan organization focused on bringing healing to the incivility and polarization in American politics. CGC inspires audiences to pursue better discourse by bringing nationally known leaders with opposing views together in public forums to find common ground on important issues. Before CGC Mr. Bond’s entire career was in information technology. After leadership roles in tech start-ups he joined IT research firm Gartner, where he became a member of Gartner Research’s Executive Management Team. Mr. Bond earned a bachelor’s degree in Politics from Princeton University.

Pearce Godwin

Founder, Listen First & National Conversation Project
Pearce is the founder, president and CEO of Listen First Project and founder of The Listening Coalition. Pearce studied public policy, economics and marketing at Duke University and is getting an MBA at UNC-Chapel Hill. He spent five years working in Washington, DC in the U.S. Senate and as a political consultant. Before moving home to North Carolina, Pearce spent six months in Uganda, Africa where he wrote It’s Time to Listen. That simple message has now reached millions of readers, attracted thousands of pledge signers, and launched the global Listen First movement.

Mary Gaylord

Former Managing Partner, Living Room Conversations
Mary has worked as a community mediator, victim-offender reconciliation specialist, and facilitator of bullying prevention programming for school-aged children. She is the product of a Midwestern upbringing, and a family where each of the seven members occupy a different spot on the political spectrum. Mary served as Managing Partner for Living Room Conversations for years. A chronic idealist, Mary has a strong passion for supporting individuals and organizations that endeavor to make our world a better place. Mary enjoys living near the mountains, hiking, skiing, mountain-biking, camping, and hanging out with friends and family. Mary lives in Boulder, CO.

Serena Witherspoon

Serena studies at University of California at Hastings College of the Law. She also works at Phillips Black, a nonprofit public interest law practice doing death penalty defense work. Before going into law Serena spent years hosting and participating in Living Room Conversations to exchange ideas with and get to know people outside of her own political bubble. She carries the principles of communication and bridging the divide, central to the LRC model, with her now as she devotes her time to criminal justice reform and prison abolition.

Debilyn Molineaux

Co-Founder & Executive Director,
Bridge Alliance
Debilyn Molineaux co-founded the Bridge Alliance to harness the exponentially growing field of organizations into a “game changing” movement that shifts the underlying dynamics of power, politics, and participation in our country. She works with the staff, board members and other leaders of Bridge Alliance members in advancing the common mission of all 80+ organizations. In addition to Bridge Alliance, she co-founded Living Room Conversations and the National Conversation Project. Debilyn continues to bring her insight to entities seeking to grow their participation and efficacy.

Annie Caplan

Annie is an educator, community organizer, former librarian, and lifelong learner. After leading community conversations through the American Library Association's Libraries Transforming Communities initiative, she was inspired to help other librarians create safe spaces where members of their communities could engage in respectful and meaningful dialogue with one another. Annie loves connecting people and witnessing what can unfold when human beings come together and share their stories. She aims to foster inclusive and accessible environments where folks feel comfortable showing up as their most authentic selves. Annie makes it a daily practice to try to see the divine in everyone and everything. She can generally be found walking in the woods, singing and dancing, gardening, or enjoying a cup of tea with a good book.

Lauren Snow

Our Champions