social + civic innovation | global partnerships

  • Hi, I'm Mara.

    I'm passionate about bringing together purpose-driven leaders, organizations, companies, and community members to work together to create new solutions to the world's biggest problems.


    Long overdue update: I'm currently serving as Managing Director of Census Open Innovation Labs at the U.S. Census Bureau, America's leading source of quality data about our people, places, and economy. That means engaging tech, media, and other partners in new ways to ensure a complete and accurate count in the 2020 Census and to increase American economic opportunity through federal data. I'd love to hear from you if you'd like to learn more!


    From business model design to local implementation

  • Incúbate

    In 2015 I co-founded one of the first innovation programs between Cubans and Americans where entrepreneurs and business leaders exchange ideas, knowledge, and networks, and build real solutions to each other's challenges.

    Girl Effect Mobile

    I led strategic alliances for a global digital platform connecting girls to inspiring and educational content in partnership with Facebook's internet.org, reaching 15M unique users in 45 countries and 25 languages.

    Mobile phone filmmaking in Tanzania

    I created an initiative between a global health organization, a prominent mobile network operator, and a team of filmmakers to train medical workers in Tanzania to tell stories of the health crisis in the region using the cameras on their phones.

    Design thinking in South Africa

    Demonstrating a new model of learning, I worked with the Stanford d.school and Semester at Sea to create a pop-up workshop in the Cape Town township of Khayelitsha with both South African youth and U.S. university students, teaching them a problem-solving methodology to unlock empathy and creative potential. Together, they prototyped their own ways to meaningfully connect across oceans and cultures.

    Advancing the future of mobility

    I help early-stage startups grow as a strategist and mentor-in-residence at the Jaguar Land Rover Tech Incubator, an initiative to advance connected car, mobility, and smart city innovation.

    The Girl Effect Accelerator

    I developed partnerships and strategy for the world's first accelerator dedicated to the most powerful force for change on the planet: adolescent girls.


    In partnership with the Unreasonable Group, this was born out of an initiative that I led at Nike Foundation called New Business Models, which sought to create alternative pathways to traditional aid, in order to more effectively get massive resources to girls living in poverty.


    Labs, incubators, and accelerators

    Initiatives to create new pathways

    My goal is to work with the brightest emerging enterprises to awaken innovation across developing regions and around the world. In partnership with local organizations and companies, I create programs around particular issues, sectors, and regions to foster experimentation and rapid growth across all stages of the business life cycle -- from idea to scale.


    I take a human-centered design approach, drawing on deep insight and empathy for and with the end beneficiary in every stage of development. Yet, I also believe that innovation is not a silver bullet, but should be a part of a holistic strategy that builds in evidence-based approaches and community-driven advocacy.

    Global innovation

    In emerging markets

    Our world is changing fast. How might large organizations think more like startups, becoming more agile to get ahead of the "disruption" of industries? How might startups tap into the resources of more established companies and NGOs to reach scale?


    The work I do answers these questions. I create strategy, teams, partnerships, and programming to implement large-scale innovation and impact initiatives.


    From getting life-enhancing products (like mobile apps, solar lights, and sanitary pads) to the last mile, to developing open innovation models (i.e. sourcing external ideas and technologies) for multinational corporations, I work across a range of sectors and industries to unleash new solutions quickly and sustainably.

    Strategic partnerships

    For maximum impact

    I build creative, strategic, and often unlikely partnerships to enable greater impact and scale than any one partner, industry, or sector could do alone. People call me a super-connector. It's innate in me to build authentic relationships and connect the dots across issues that matter.

    Workshops + experiences

    To solve social challenges

    I activate a diverse network of experts to support individuals and teams with strategic thinking, mindfulness, playful collaboration, and access to transformative resources to foster creativity and solve really hard problems.

    Influencer engagement

    Turning ideas into action

    Many celebrities, influencers, and powerful brands want to activate their massive networks to do good. I create strategies and partnerships that help them do this -- beyond surface-level "liking" on social media, and into meaningful action.


  • "Mara's passion and dedication to solving critical problems facing people and the planet is transformative.

    From inspiring youth in New Orleans to tackle environmental problems, to empowering women in the developing world to transform their communities, I have seen and felt the power of her work."




  • "Mara is one of those rare people who can have a big vision AND can craft the perfect plan to implement.

    She is the ultimate connector. She is deeply passionate about the change she makes, and she always makes it fun."



  • "Not only did Mara recognize the opportunity, but she was also very quickly able to conceptualize a program"

    "Mara traveled with me to Cuba in June 2015. It was one of the first U.S. entrepreneurship and investment groups to explore the island in decades. Not only did Mara recognize an opportunity, but she was also very quickly able to conceptualize a program, put a team together to implement, and a mere three months later, launched the first-ever design thinking workshop with U.S. and Cuban entrepreneurs in Havana, in a difficult diplomatic environment where skepticism and mistrust ruled for decades."





  • "She is an inspired leader driven by an endless capacity for creativity and problem solving"

    No matter what Mara undertakes, one can rest assured she will skillfully tap her broad experience to combine top notch strategy with a proactive and watchful eye on the myriad details of project execution. "





  • "I've been places I've never dreamed of...all because of the curating power of Mara"

    "Over the many years of knowing and working with Mara, one thing is for sure. If she emails, calls, or texts it's bound to be about an amazing opportunity. I can honestly say that Mara is one of those people who has made me a better person."