Our People

Core Staff & Program Leaders


Melanie St.James, MPA

Founder & Chief Inspiration Officer

Melanie's 20+ years of global inspiration began with a semester abroad in China where she awoke to the richness of humanity's diverse cultures and critical environmental challenges.

A few years later, her world view transformed again, in listening to and learning from the Diola People of southern Senegal.  Witnessing this rare yet vast Animist (holding the religious belief that objects, places, and creatures all possess a distinct spiritual essence) ethic group fighting for independence for over 30 years; it's guardianship of Mother Forest; and self-governance system that keeps its culture intact; ignited Empowerment WORKS' 7SS whole system, localized approach.

After experiencing the duality between social and economic movements at the 2007 World Social Forum in Kenya, she saw an opportunity to forge critical partnerships through a hyper-inclusive civic engagement event. The Global Summit social, economic, & environmental forum became central to EW's impact eco-system. Combining fundaments of her Masters thesis, "A New Population Theory: Human Security as a determinant of fertility rates" calling for more cohesive, interdisciplinary policy making to support local self-determination.

In concert with EW, Melanie leads BioNova Health, a social enterprise dedicated to preserving indigenous cultural and natural heritage of source.  Melanie earned a BA in International Relations and Diplomacy from Schiller International University in Madrid, Spain. and Masters of Public Administration in International Management from the Middlebury (then Monterey) Institute of International Studies (MIIS). Melanie is fluent in French & Spanish; gets by in Portuguese & Italian; and is learning Arabic with her Husband Noor and his family in Jordan.  melanie@empowermentworks.org  / LinkedIn...

Jay Markert ("Jay Ma")

Director of Sustainability Education & Event Production

Earning his first Permaculture Design Certificate in 2001, Jay started his degree program in performing Arts Production Management at Naropa University, received a B.S. through New College of California in Culture, Ecology, and Sustainable Community with a concentration in Eco-Dwelling & Natural Building in 2005. He is a two-time graduate of Regenerative Design & Nature Awareness training through the Regenerative Design Institute.

Supporting EW's Pulse of the Movement Webcasts, The Global Summit, and 7SS Education Programs, Jay works with holistic educators, businesses, communities and institutions organizing, and promoting trainings, and initiatives for personal, ecological and social transformation in the Unites States and internationally.

Jay is the founder of Living Mandala, fire walk instructor (through Sundoor International), and a seasoned producer of educational programs, retreats, workshops, conferences and community development projects, with leading edge change organizations such as the Regenerative Design Institute, Institute of Noetic Sciences, Gaia University, Omega Institute, Harmony Festival, and many others. He is the lead producer of the Northern California Building Resilient Communities Convergence, the largest permaculture event in North America.   Jay@empowermentworks.org

Ashok Raj Pandey

Director, Empowerment WORKS Nepal

Born on 24 April 1996 in Nuwakot district of Nepal, Ashok has experience of leading the youth for more than 9 years(starting in middle school).  In addition to his stewarding the development of Empowerment WORKS flagship programs in Nepal, this Ashok has inspired entrepreneurs of all ages as the Founder, CEO of HamroDoctor.com (1st Health Care IT Company in Nepal) and director of the Utkristha media creation Pvt. Ltd.  

He is currently studying Bachelors of public health from Central Institute of Science and Technology. Ashok is passionate about serving mankind and promoting women's empowerment with all around human development. He believes that development isnít possible without women's empowerment. Women are the key members of the family, community and nation contributing in overall development of the family as well as leading society to improve the welfare of the state. Thereby the empowerment of women is the thirst of the rural as well as urban community across the nation in which he has been involved in wide areas of women's development -  making them better able to be the part and parts of nation building.

Tawanda Mutukwa

Lead, 7SS Africa / Co-conspirator on ICT solutions for BOP markets

Tawanda is a Social Impact Techpreneur. He is  a 2016 Tony Elumulu Entrepreneurship Programme  Entrepreneur for 2016 and a 2016 AmpionFellow. He has been a social entrepreneur for the past 6 years. Tawanda has also served as an ideation consultant for the Center of Design Technology and Management in Munich. Tawanda has a passion for technology usage in Bottom Of the Pyramid Markets and is also a lover of great food, which led him to co found Agro-informatics tech startup Hurukuro Consultancy in 2014. He also holds qualifications from the University of Zimbabwe.