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

Joan Blades

Co-Founder
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.

John Gable

Founder and CEO, AllSides.com
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.

Becca Kearl

Managing Partner
Becca is all about communities coming together over conversation. She values discovering the diverse experiences and beliefs of those around her, and specializes in large-scale community dialogue on pressing social issues. After nearly a decade as a stay-at-home mom, Becca threw herself into the nonprofit world, going to the UN, working with survivors of domestic violence, and seeking out everything dialogue. She still coaches her kids’ soccer teams and tries to enjoy the mountains as much as possible. Together with her husband and five kids, Becca lives in Provo, UT.

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 often 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 as smoothly and effortlessly as possible. She currently spends most of her free time running after her two little ones or one of their three cats, but also enjoys making paper art and eating good food. With her partner Robert and their daughter & son, Chelsea lives in Minneapolis, MN.

Lauren Snow

Managing Partner
Lauren is a multidisciplinary manager, art director, and creative strategist. Since 2016, she’s applied her digital expertise full-time to national campaigns and nonprofits, specializing in branding, rapid response campaigns, and mission-centered storytelling. Though a dedicated progressive, she is committed to working in transpartisan initiatives aimed at healing America’s divisions through personal connection. Lauren believes that through civic and artistic engagement, we can create a vibrant, beautiful future.When she isn’t developing digital strategy & streamlining operations, Lauren creates paintings exploring moments of inner tension and transformation. Lauren lives in San Antonio, TX.

Justine Lee

Contributing Partner
Justine is a facilitator, community builder, and marketing specialist with more than ten years experience developing content strategies for creative firms, startups, and nonprofits. In 2016, she co-created Make America Dinner Again, a volunteer-run organization that brings together people of different political viewpoints with the aim to build understanding. Justine believes conversations and storytelling have the power to inspire civic engagement and action, and has organized and facilitated conversations around issues she cares deeply about including racial justice, environmental justice, and inclusive design. In her free time, she enjoys cooking for friends, watercolor painting, taking long walks in Central Park, and leading book clubs. Ways to her heart: Sichuan food, handwritten letters, and dogs. Justine lives in Harlem, NYC.

Brialle Ringer

Racial Equity Partner
Brialle Ringer graduated from Eastern Michigan University in 2016 with a Bachelors of Social Work. Brialle integrates her background in Social Work, facilitation experience as an Alternative Breaks Program Manager, the lived experience as a biracial woman, and a healing justice framework to approach her role as Racial Equity Partner. She views personal transformation as an integral piece of collective liberation and knows that when we heal ourselves, we heal the world. Outside of her work with Living Room Conversations, Brialle is a Holistic Health Coach empowering others to unlock the healer within.

Pastor Chad Estes

Faith Partner
Chad graduated with a BA in Christian Ministries from the University of the Nations in 1992. He spent several years working in traditional ministry roles within churches in Hawaii and Idaho. He developed a gap year program for college aged students to experience personal and spiritual development through service projects and cross cultural engagements. In 2012 Chad started the Reveal Mission, a nonprofit that provides compassionate photography and storytelling art therapies for cancer, body image and life altering experiences. He serves his local community as a cancer advocate and a hospice chaplain. He and his wife Jamie live in Boise, Idaho.

Sushila Mertens

Libraries Partner
Sushila is a peace builder, stress release coach, facilitator of circles, artist, co-author of A Women’s Guide to Sacred Activism, and retired librarian. Her current activism includes promoting effective listening, Living Room Conversations, and understanding racial justice. All of the practices I teach allow me to continue blossoming with ease. My intentions are to be fully engaged in life with no regrets when I die. Sushila lives in Nevada City, CA.

Reverend Pedro Silva, M.Div.

Faith 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.

Shannon Mannon

Newsletter Editor
As a writer, storyteller, and facilitator, Shannon invigorates community and inspires social renewal through conversation. She’s the Founder of 3-Minute Storyteller which creates digital stories featuring movement makers of all stripes— from astronauts to entrepreneurs to New York Times bestselling authors. Strengthening community has always been at the heart of Shannon’s work, from leading international medical missions with Operational Smile, to directing field operations at Habitat for Humanity International, and leading a community wellness coalition at Activate Phoenixville. These days she can be found tinkering around in the 1974 VW bus that’s being converted into a mobile 3-Minute Storytelling unit with her husband, three school-age children, and rescue dog Rosie.

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 Atlanta, GA.

Chandler Simms

Media Creation Partner
Chandler has worked as a commercial producer, and content creator in advertising for almost 10 years. He believes that the world is strange, but understandable and often finds himself fascinated with the complexity of 'simple' things. He loves cameras, creating art, learning new things, and eating. What led him to work with Living Room Conversations is his love of stimulating dialogue and his ability to edit video. Chandler lives in New York city with his wife.

Jacob Hess

Lead Editor, RedBlueDictionary.org
"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!!)"

Joyce Palevitz

Faith Community Host
Joyce comes to Living Room Conversations after a long career in leadership development and executive coaching. She believes that faith communities are some of the best places for deep conversation, attentive listening, and personal growth through relationships. After spending most of her adult life in New York City, she loves exploring her new surroundings in the Hill Country of her native Texas.

Volunteer with us.

Want to join our team?Living Room Conversations is always looking for community leaders, faith ambassadors, student champions, and others who want to get involved and spread the connection. Interested? Send us a note.

Our Champions

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.

Mary Jacksteit

JD, MS, project partner, Living Room Conversations
For more than twenty years Mary has been a private practitioner specializing in dialogue, deliberation and dispute resolution and has an overarching interest in how this work can contribute to building communities and depolarizing our society. She is an associate of the Public Conversations Project and resolves labor-management disputes in her capacity as member and chair of the Federal Service Impasses Panel. She works with non-profits, religious organizations, community groups and government.

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.

Amanda Kathryn Roman

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.

Katie Page

Katie graduated with a BA in sociology in 2015, and served as administrator at Living Room Conversations for years. Katie is dedicated to spreading meaningful and trust-building communities around the world, and passionate about helping improve society. She loves spending her free time rock climbing with friends, and hiking with her dog. Katie lives in Denver, CO.