Social Movements + Innovation at The New School


Social Movements + Innovation at The New School exists to provide social movements leaders with rare and necessary experimentation space to tease apart new and innovative ideas that solve society’s most entrenched conflicts. Using methodologies like design thinking, we uncover new ideas and strategies that bring us one step closer to dismantling toxic power structures.

“The world changes according to the way people see it, and if you alter, even but a millimeter the way people look at reality, then you can change it.”

—James Baldwin




Social Movements + Innovation at The New School is a hub for experimentation and learning where social movement leaders come to practice innovation and build networks and action across movements. Using a multi-disciplinary approach, we tackle intentional and structural dynamics related to race and power by connecting movement leaders across sectors and infusing practices of innovation and multiracial collaboration and solving pressing internal and external movement issues.



Our collaborators live all over the U.S. By operating within The New School, a New York City-based institution with a rich history of resistance, social justice, innovation, and design, Social Movements + Innovation offers interdisciplinary learning and engagement opportunities as well as partners and space for cross-sector conversations and experimentations. We challenge NYC-based activists and scholars to consider solutions that center the needs of people living in the south and midwest, the United States’ most marginalized regions.

What's Next

Having spent the last six years as an independent organization, we are settling into our new home and working with old and new collaborators to bring movement leaders and activists into a learning, cross-disciplinary space to go deep and wide toward a future where innovation leads and racism fails.

Join us in ideating on future programming that serves 21st-century social movements. Sign up for a pop-up in your city or to get more information.


SM+I Faculty Director

SM+I Faculty Director

Sujatha Jesudason, Ph.D. |

Faculty Director

For more than 25 years Sujatha has worked as an activist, organizer, and scholar in a range of social justice movements and is a leading voice on new practices in movement building with a focus on race, gender, innovation, and human genetics.

A professor of professional practice in Management, Sujatha is also the founder and faculty advisor for Social Movements + Innovation at The New School. A serial start-up leader, she was the Executive Director of CoreAlign, a reproductive justice organization teaching innovation for social change to frontline activists, which she founded in 2012. And before that, she was the founder and Executive Director of Generations Ahead, highlighting the social justice and eugenic implications of emerging genetic technologies.

In her work, Sujatha focuses on forging unlikely collaborations and looking past forced simplifications at the intersection of issues too often considered separately. Sujatha has worked skillfully with a broad and diverse range of leaders, community members, activists, scholars, researchers, and academics, listening for patterns and trends to prepare for the challenges around the corner and into the future.

Sujatha holds a Masters and a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of California, Berkeley and an undergraduate degree in Economics and Latin American Studies from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

When she is not in the classroom or advising the SM+I team, you can find Sujatha on long bike rides, running around Prospect Park, or feeding friends on her Brooklyn roof deck.

SM+I Executive Director

SM+I Executive Director

Judy Pryor-Ramirez |
Executive Director

Judy has spent the last 15 years learning, teaching and building with communities in New York and beyond. She’s an expert in organizational change management and being a mom.

Before becoming the Executive Director of Social Movement + Innovation at The New School, she was the Executive Director of the Elma Lewis Center for Civic Engagement, Learning & Research at Emerson College and previous to that taught courses and designed social justice programs at Eugene Lang College, the liberal arts undergraduate division of The New School.  

Judy has sharpened her leadership through Rockwood Leadership Institute’s signature residency program, Art of Leadership and the Op Ed Project’s core program, Write to Change the World. She currently serves on the National Advisory Board of Imagining America.

She holds an M.A. in Sociology and Education from Teachers College, Columbia University and an undergraduate degree in Political Communication from George Mason University.

When she is not leading the SM+I team, you can find Judy supporting independent bookstores and cafes across the city, creating new recipes in the kitchen, and spending time with her family in The Bronx.

SM+I Communications Strategist

SM+I Communications Strategist

Shanelle Matthews |
Communications Strategist

Shanelle is an award-winning political communications strategist with a decade of experience in journalism, legislative, litigation, rapid response, and campaign communications. She formerly served as the director of communications for the Black Lives Matter Global Network.

Before that, she served as the deputy communications director for the Sierra Club, communications strategist for the ACLU of Northern California, and worked in the newsroom for Women's eNews, among others.

In 2016, Shanelle developed Channel Black, an immersive training program that prepares the next generation of Black millennial spokespeople to make critical, real-time interventions on racism in the United States through the media. She is also the founder of the Radical Communicators Network (RadComms), an online and offline community of people creating new strategies and collaborations for social change communications across geography and issue area.

In the fall of 2017, Shanelle joined The New School, a University in Manhattan, as its inaugural Activist-in-Residence. Today, she is faculty in the Gural Scholars program at TNS and services activist communities as a consultant. She has a degree in Journalism and New and Online Media from the Manship School of Mass Communications at Louisiana State University.

When she's not working, you can find Shanelle in search of the perfect Manhattan.

SM+I Program Manager

SM+I Program Manager

Charlene Darko |
Program Manager

For more than six years, Charlene has helped organizations and institutions administer events.

Before becoming Social Movements + Innovation at The New School’s first program manager she served as a production assistant for the London Jazz Festivals and Africa Stage at the 2012 London Olympics’ Opening Festival.

Charlene holds a bachelor’s degree in Arts and Music Management from Middlesex University in London.

When she is not hard at work, you can find Charlene making candles, soaps and other limited chemical handmade goodies at home in Brooklyn.