Marisa Franco on Leadership: Marginalized People Must Seize the Stage

Editor’s Note: This interview in our Feminist Giving IRL series features Marisa Franco, Director and Co-founder of Mijente, a hub for Latinx/Chicanx organizing and movement building.

marisa franco
Marisa Franco, courtesy of Marisa Franco

1. What do you wish you had known when you started out in your profession?

I would reemphasize the importance of relationships, staying curious, and seeking joy and pride in one’s work.

2. What is your current greatest professional challenge?

The leadership development of folks who are looking to get more involved and learn new skills while responding to the many changing conditions we deal with. We have finite time and resources, and it can be a challenge to balance between moving externally to respond to opportunities and crises and doing the development work.

3. What inspires you most about your work?

When people who are deemed as simply those who things happen to seize the political stage and become protagonists in their lives and our world.

4. How does your gender identity inform your work?

It informs how I am viewed and treated so it has shaped, for better or worse, my leadership style. For example, I have learned to model how to propose ideas and advocate even if perhaps it’s not always welcomed or expected of me. On the other hand, I am very able to tap into and view how folks might have different insights from the margins.

5. How can philanthropy support gender equity?

More women should be in direct decision-making about where and how resources are allocated, at every level in institutions of all types.

6. In the next 10 years, where do you see gender equity movements taking us?

Leadership of people who are often marginalized presents real opportunities for shifts in the logic and approach, across the board. This is possible if and when marginalized people, including those who are marginalized because of their gender or gender identity, have the capacity and power to lead. Too often, people inherit positions of leadership when institutions are failing and flailing, and we are set up to fail.

More on Marisa Franco:

Marisa Franco (she/her) is a Phoenix-based organizer, writer and strategist. She is the director and co-founder of Mijente, a hub for Latinx/Chicanx organizing and movement building. In her over 10 years of work, Marisa has helped lead key campaigns rooted in low-income and communities of color, characterized by their innovation and effectiveness. Most recently she led the, “#Not1More Deportation,” campaign and co-authored, “How We Make Change is Changing.” She is a trusted collaborator with grassroots leaders across the country spanning immigrant rights, racial justice, feminist, LGBTQ+ and labor movements.

This interview has been minimally edited.

Author: Julia Travers

I often cover innovations in science, the arts and social justice. Find my work with NPR, Discover Magazine, APR and Earth Island Journal, among other publications. My portfolio is at

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