Anisha Desai

Anisha has worked in organizations dedicated to movement support, educational equity and leadership development for two decades. She spent the past seven years as Director of the New Leaders Initiative and Brower Youth Awards at Earth Island Institute in Berkeley, where she identified, honored and coached emerging youth environmental movement leaders. She shaped a long-standing program into one that was relevant, accessible and responsive to a new generation of activists committed to advancing creative and inclusive organizational models.

Anisha previously held director roles at Women of Color Resource Center in Oakland and at United for a Fair Economy in Boston. In addition to organizational management, she designed programs and curriculum and conducted popular education workshops.  

Anisha approaches her work with a tenderness that comes from experiencing the often-rough edges of hierarchical nonprofit leadership structures and knows the gifts of pain, insight and metamorphosis that come with failing fabulously. She brings to AORTA a passion for supporting organizations to create cultures that value democratic participation, mentorship, healing, equity and justice.

Anisha is of Sri Lankan and Indian descent, raised with class privilege by two loving-hearted psychiatrist parents and a devoutly religious grandmother in a smallish town in Florida. Through lived experience with depression and anxiety, she holds those with mental illness in deep care and understanding. She is also a Life-Cycle Celebrant and founder of Radical Ceremony, crafting and officiating end of life ceremonies, weddings and other rites of passage. Anisha enjoys performing with her soul-line dancing team and is an occasional writer of stories on family, culture, and nostalgia.