We are designers, strategists, and facilitators who help people come together and solve complex problems. We are passionate but patient, methodical yet creative—and your coaches, advisors, partners, and team members all at once.

We are specialists in collaboration and getting things done, especially the tough stuff. We bring the questions, frameworks, tools and skills to help you bring people together to solve the world's toughest, most intractable challenges. More importantly, we give you all that we have (literally) and build your team's capacity to lead change on the tough challenges too.



Russ Gaskin

Strategy, Process Design, Training & Facilitation


Russ helps people who don’t know each other, and often don’t even like each other, solve complex problems together. His unique strength is creating the conditions and frameworks that support efficient and meaningful collaboration across deep sectoral and cultural boundaries.


Russ also builds the capacities of others to lead effective collaboration by speaking and teaching around the world on changing complex systems, human-centered design, and leveraging conflict and diversity as sources of strategic innovation. In his guest faculty role, he has taught workshops and graduate courses on leading social innovation, designing collective impact initiatives, polarity thinking, and creating shared value.


Prior to launching CoCreative, Russ served as the chief business officer of Green America, a global leader in developing economic strategies to advance social equity and environmental sustainability; served as managing director of US SIF, a pioneering membership organization for financial firms and institutional investors doing impact investing; and founded the Green Business Network, the first network of triple-bottom-line businesses in the U.S.


Russ has served on numerous leadership and advisory boards. He currently serves as a Senior Fellow for the Green America Center for Sustainability Solutions and on the Expert Panel on Social Innovation & Design at the UN Development Program. He has also served on the Leadership Board of the National Education Association, the Good Housekeeping Green Seal of Approval Advisory Board, and the eBay World of Good Advisory Board.

Heather Equinoss

P​rocess Design, Facilitation, Training, Graphic Facilitation


Heather provides process design, facilitation, and training to our client partners around challenges from homelessness to racial equity to non-profit capacity building.

Heather brings 16 years of meeting design, graphic facilitation, project management and community engagement experience in public, non-profit, private, and community settings. She finds purpose in supporting people and organizations to bring about the positive change they envision in their communities and the world we live in.

Heather’s a visual thinking strategist with a specialty in using visual notetaking tools to inspire people’s innate creativity, capture a group’s wisdom, focus their work, and build alignment around complex change initiatives. 


She has taught workshops and courses with Cascadia Center for Leadership and Humboldt State University's Leading Organizational and Community Change Program. 

Maren Maier

Human Insight Development, Training, Process Design

Maren is a design strategist, trainer, and researcher who builds partnerships for CoCreative and leads our learning and human insight development areas.

Maren is the founder and principal of Creative States, a multidimensional platform producing creative research, events and media to catalyze thoughtful provocations that explore the landscapes of tomorrow and who we might become. She trains and works with clients to develop scenarios and experiences that stimulate new ways of thinking imaginatively, legibly and critically about the future we want to create and live in.

Maren is also a faculty member in the Graduate Program of Design Management at the Pratt Institute School of Art, where she teaches creative professionals the application of arts and design processes to complex challenges that are often considered outside the realm of traditional art and design disciplines. In this capacity, she serves as founding board member and executive editor of CATALYST Strategic Design Review, an online and print publication promoting creative leaders who activate system change by addressing real human needs.

Prior to her role at CoCreative, Maren served as director of green business standards and certification at Green America, where she introduced a human-centered design approach to refocus the services and programs for owners of triple bottom line businesses. She also served as the manager of Sustainability Initiatives at ABC Carpet & Home in Manhattan, a revolutionary sustainable retail platform and event space.

Sharon Simms

P​rocess Design, Facilitation, Training

Sharon leverages her experience in curriculum development, program development, strategic planning, and training to advance meaningful collaboration among diverse stakeholders.


Sharon has 20 years of experience working in human/social services and has worked with the nonprofit sector for over 17 years. She has a passion for identifying ways to assist agencies in providing effective programs and services to their clientele. She has trained social workers, human services professionals, trainers, volunteers, and foster/resource parents throughout the State of Hawai‘i.


Sharon has served as a lecturer for the graduate program at the University of Hawai‘i, Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work and with the Outreach College at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and a Masters in Social Work from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. 

Melissa Darnell

Training, Social Media Marketing


Melissa leads our expanding training program through recruitment, planning, and delivery. She also manages our digital marketing and social media outreach and engagement and conducts stakeholder research for special projects.


Specializing in relationship building as a vehicle to bring about positive social outcomes, Melissa brings 20 years of community organizing and resident engagement experience to her work. She is passionate about strengths-based interventions that build upon individuals' unique social and cultural assets as a strategy to solve complex social problems.  


Though primarily focused on rural communities, Melissa's work has been featured in a number of regional and national platforms including The California Endowment, Community Foundations Leading Change, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Research Network. Her work in rural youth leadership and development is highlighted in the recently published Twenty Years of Life: Why The Poor Die Earlier and How to Change Inequality by Suzanne Bohan. 


Melissa holds a master's degree in Social Work where she focused her studies on macro practice interventions and collective empowerment strategies. She has a BA in Sociology from the University of Oregon. 

Strategic Partners

Organizations we partner with often to do powerful work

Our partners in the U.S. and abroad are innovators, multipliers, and though leaders on the role of human-centered design, cross-sector collaboration, and social innovation in solving tough social and environmental problems. Our key partners include the Green America Center for Sustainability Solutions, the UN Development Program’s Public Service Innovation Lab, and ThinkPlace.



We are driven by our mission to create shared prosperity
    for current and future generations.

We prioritize impact.

We are creative and dynamic in our methods and solutions.

We are methodical but we like to move fast.

We are human-centered and focused on the wisdom and experiences of real people.

We are efficient and cost-effective.

We are committed to systemic change, especially changing systems of deep structural inequity to enable thriving interconnections between each other and the living systems upon which we depend.

We are both humble and confident.

We are initiators, proactively creating networks to solve problems.

We are strategic; we know where to set the match to start a fire.

We are curious; we hold our assumptions as hypotheses and continually test them.

We are cheeky and love to work, have fun, and laugh with others.



We believe that the toughest problems we face in our communities, countries, and the world can only truly be solved when people come together across their differences and create the solutions together, with the people most negatively impacted by the system at the table.

That spirit of partnership, grounded in equity, guides how we work at CoCreative. Our clients are often surprised that we are as invested in the success of their projects as they are, and that we go so far above and beyond the level of commitment that many consultants bring to the work. That's because we believe that the challenges we take on really must be solved—for the good of our clients, our communities, and the world we share together.

The foundation of our work is our belief in the need for Shared Prosperity and Ecological Sustainability. Shared Prosperity refers to a world in which everyone has real opportunity to not just live, eat, and have shelter, but to truly prosper and live creative and dignified lives. Achieving Ecological Sustainability means that our children's children can enjoy the same prosperity that we do—or even better.


In order to make that world possible, we believe that 7 "system conditions" must be met...


Our 7 Conditions

Shared Prosperity

To achieve shared prosperity, we support inclusive wealth-building and work to eliminate our contribution to a progressive concentration of economic wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer entities.

A healthy economy requires that we concentrate capital at times, to start businesses for example. But systematically increasing concentration of wealth and growing income inequality over time leads to a less healthy society, an unhealthy economy, and increasingly poor outcomes for people affected by systems of oppression.

To achieve shared prosperity, we support shared political power and work to eliminate our contribution to the progressive concentration of political power by certain segments of society.

​While it’s healthy for citizens to assign the work of governing to our representatives, our history shows that systematic concentration of political power over time is never healthy.

To achieve shared prosperity, we support shared control over common assets and work to eliminate our contribution to the progressive concentration of control over the common assets which sustain society (for example, water, air, ozone, and genetic material).

We need to agree on how to manage and use our commons assets, and private control of these resources that we all need to survive leads to unhealthy concentrations of power and wealth while also producing disparities in access and benefit for people excluded from decision-making.

To achieve shared prosperity, we help create conditions that systemically support people's choice and capacity to meet their needs, and address the systemic barriers that people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds face.

People need to work diligently to meet their needs and the needs of their families-that's good for people and society as a whole, but we need to deeply address systemic racism, white supremacy, and anti-blackness to create the conditions for everyone to successfully meet their needs.

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Ecological Sustainability

To achieve ecological sustainability, we cannot subject nature to systematically increasing concentrations of substances from the earth’s crust.

We pull a lot of stuff from the lithosphere (what's under the ground) and put it into our biosphere (where we live), things like heavy metals and CO2 from fossil fuels. We need to find healthy, sustainable ways to take care of both ourselves and our shared home, and ensure the protection of places that are sacred to Indigenous people.

To achieve ecological sustainability, we cannot subject nature to systematically increasing concentrations of substances produced by society.

We produce a lot of substances that never existed before, like antibiotics and endocrine disruptors. These provide lots of benefits but are harmful if they keep building up in nature over time. We believe that we can make substances that help us but don't systematically build up in our bodies and planet.

To achieve ecological sustainability, we cannot subject nature to systematically increasing degradation by physical means.

There are some things that, once we break, we can't readily put them back together again, like complex forest ecosystems, marble, or groundwater tables. Let's design ways to meet our needs that don't rely on breaking things apart that we can't put back together.

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The last three "system conditions" are based on The Natural Step @ thenaturalstep.org.

Want to know more? We're happy to help, whether you hire us or not. Just send us a note below to set up a chat.

859 Van Buren Street NW
Washington, DC 20012


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