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Board of Directors
Penny, along with her husband James Stark, co-founded the Regenerative Design Instiute (RDI). In collaboration with Commonweal, Penny and James manage the 17-acre organic and certified salmon-safe farm in Bolinas, California, called the Commonweal Garden – home of RDI.
Penny is internationally recognized as a prominent permaculture teacher, designer and speaker. Penny has been teaching internationally and working professionally in the land management, regenerative design and permaculture development field for 25 years and has extensive experience in all phases of ecologically sound design and construction as well as the use of natural non-toxic building materials. She specializes in site planning and the design of resource-rich landscapes integrating, rainwater collection, edible and medicinal planting, spring development, pond and water systems, habitat development and watershed restoration for homes, co-housing communities, businesses and diverse yield perennial farms.
James, along with his wife Penny Livingston-Stark, cofounded the Regenerative Desgin Institute (RDI). In collaboration with Commonweal, Penny and James manage the 17-acre organic and certified salmon-safe farm in Bolinas, California, called the Commonweal Garden – home of RDI.
James Stark, M.A., F.E.S., is the co-director of the Regenerative Design Institute (RDI). He co-founded and co-directs the Ecology of Leadership and Ecology of Awakening programs. He is also a senior trainer in the 2-year Regenerative Design and Nature Awareness training program, preparing young global community leaders for the “Great Turning” of our era.
James has committed his life to exploring how we – ourselves, our communities, and our species – might move as quickly as possible back into harmony with who we are and the natural world. He considers the programs at RDI a nursery for growing visions of the new era, and providing skills and tools to bring the visions to life.
Sarah Livia Brightwood Szekely
Sara is president of the Szekely Family Foundation, a small family foundation that has donated in excess of $4 million to support charities working to better the community, preserve the environment and improve women’s and children’s issues. She also helped to create and serves as the president of Fundacion La Puerta, a 2,000-acre preserve in Tecate, Baja California, Mexico. The preserve is the first bi-nation conservation easement along the United States-Mexico border. Sarah is resposible for site planning and design for an 150-acre resort facility located on the preserve and for the management of the 2,000 acres of wild land. In addition, she runs a 6-acre organic farm that produces year-round fruits and vegetables, as well as a range of herbal products, essential oils and olive oil.
Charlotte Brody is the field director for SAFER, a network of diverse environmental health coalitions and organizations in states united by a commitment to protecting families, communities, and the environment from the devastating impacts of society’s heavy use of chemicals. SAFER believes that new state and national chemical policies will contribute to the formation of a cleaner, greener economy. Before becoming the SAFER field director in May 2009, Charlotte was director of programs for Green For All, a new organization dedicated to ending poverty and pollution at the same time and the executive director of Commonweal, a health and environmental research institute in Bolinas, California. She is a founder and former executive director of Health Care Without Harm, an international coalition working to make health care more environmentally responsible and sustainable. A registered nurse and the mother of two sons, Charlotte has served as the organizing director for the Center for Health, Environment and Justice in Falls Church, Virginia, the executive director of a Planned Parenthood affiliate in North Carolina and the coordinator of the Carolina Brown Lung Association, an occupational safety and health organization focused on cotton textile workers.
Stuart Cowan, Ph.D.
Stuart is a general partner of Autopoiesis, LLC, which offers design, planning, development, and finance services internationally for large-scale sustainability projects, with a particular emphasis on green real estate development, renewable energy, and biocultural restoration. The firm specializes in building innovative financial models that match market-rate debt and equity with social and environmental investors providing below-market debt and equity, grants, tax credits, carbon credits and other sources. The firm has worked with a wide range of financial institutions, municipalities, state and federal agencies, non-profits, utilities, companies, and religious orders. Current projects include approximately 500MW of wind power development, a $50 million biomass generation facility, large-scale aggregation of urban energy efficiency and solar generation projects, and several large-scale mixed-use projects seeking the coveted World Wildlife Fund One Planet Living endorsement.
He served as a transaction manager with Portland Family of Funds, an innovative community bank, and played a key role its successful effort to obtain multiple allocations of federal New Markets Tax Credits for the Portland Development Commission and external clients. These allocations have provided critical financial support for the development of numerous landmark projects in Portland, including The Nines Hotel/Macy’s Renovation ($130 million, Silver LEED); The Civic ($100 million, Silver and Gold LEED); The White Stag ($30 million, Gold LEED); 12th & Washington ($140 million, Gold LEED); The Oregon Clinic ($30 million, Gold LEED); and Vanport ($10 million, Gold LEED). He also served on the development team for a variety of projects, including the Gerding Theater ($36 million, Platinum LEED), which is the first Platinum historic renovation and the first Platinum arts building. He played a key role in promoting a triple bottom line investment strategy for Portland Family of Funds and its national affiliate, United Fund Advisors.
He served as conservation economy research director at Ecotrust, an innovative sustainability non-profit in Portland. He led the development of a comprehensive framework for bioregional sustainability available at www.conservationeconomy.net. This framework provides a fractal integration of patterns of natural, social, and economic capital, and has been used internationally for strategic planning purposes. He also assisted in securing a $50 million allocation of New Markets Tax Credits to an Ecotrust affiliate for long-term ecological forestry management.
He is the co-author with Sim Van der Ryn of Ecological Design (Island Press, 1996 and 2007), a visionary overview of the integration of ecology and architecture, land-use planning, and product design which was recently reissued in a special 10th-anniversary issue. This book has become a standard reference on sustainable design.
He received his doctorate in complex living systems from U.C. Berkeley, with a particular emphasis in ecological economics. He has taught ecological design, sustainability, and complex systems at a wide range of universities and institutes, including the Portland State University, the sustainable MBA program at Bainbridge Graduate Institute, U.C. Berkeley, New College of California, and Naropa Institute. He serves on the Board of the Sustasis Foundation and the Regenerative Design Institute.