Meet the People’s Economy Lab Team

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Lab Leader Njuguna Gishuru and his beautiful son Gathuka at Cafe Avole in Seattle's Central District

People’s Economy Lab is an ever-growing and evolving ecosystem of organizations and community leaders striving toward a just, sustainable, and regenerative economy in Washington State. The People’s Economy Lab Team is a key part of that ecosystem. These are the people who keep People’s Economy Lab going on a day-to-day basis.


Close-up on Deric Gruen smilingDeric Gruen | Lab Leader & Project Manager

Where do you find your place within community/ies?

I find joy weaving my way through the various communities that make this place home. I thrive in diverse, informal communities built around things that bring people joy and make use of public space, like pick-up sports, drop-in music nights, street food, and lakes and beaches. 

My parents migrated from the Midwest, my grandparents migrated/fled from the Middle-East and Europe, and I was born here to a strong nuclear family and have invested my work/life in making this a better place, both for the people that live here and the people that don’t. People around the world are affected by our collective actions.

How were you first introduced to regenerative economic models and a Just Transition?

As a middle or high school student, I can’t recall, I was assigned a novel in class, Ishmael by Daniel Quinn, about a gorilla that taught lessons on how to save the world. In particular, I was fascinated by the idea that things didn’t always work the way they do now. That societies existed for tens of thousands of years that didn’t need or seek to accumulate and dominate each other to survive and thrive. The ideas of regenerative economies are of course very old, and the Just Transition framework more recent. Ultimately, it’s about seeing our shared vision and values and developing shared strategies across economic, environmental, and racial justice movements.

What brought you to the People’s Economy Lab?

I was excited to join and co-create the initial Lab project as part of a team that saw the need and opportunity to dig for deeper structural change in our local economy as a way to make global change. The opportunity to work in collaboration with local leaders to build a vision and strategies was incredible, and now in our more recent formation, to be able to actually implement those ideas with incredible Lab team members and communities of collaborators is fulfilling personally and has unlimited potential for impact as we grow partnerships and build out the models we know we need.


Photo portrait of Faduma Ahmed against a white wall wearing a head scarf.Faduma Fido | Lab Leader

What brought you to the People’s Economy Lab?

I came to PEL to completely alter the way I identify and work in community development and public service. I was looking for projects that demonstrate a clear and defiant recognition that communities of color should no longer just be recipients of aid, an understanding that power and resources are still under colonization.

What People’s Economy Lab program are you most excited about right now and why?

Just Futures, mostly because it is the program I interact with the most. I am excited about how courageous and audacious this program can be. If the door is truly open for communities of color, communities furthest away from opportunity, communities in underserved and rural neighborhoods, and low-income communities to change and impact the way decisions are made and funding is directed in Washington State’s economy, then we are in a position to look past data, past fractured points within design and implementation, and to boldly address the fact that we can’t continue to blame systems. That accountability and responsibility of the inequities that exist is deservedly ours if we continue to tolerate generations of communities to be marginalized by systems whose gears are built and serviced by our values and principles.

What’s an interesting fact about you?

I don’t mind failing – I expect it and, in some cases, it’s even necessary to invite it.


Laura standing in front of a view of the Columbia River, looking over her shoulder and smiling.Laura Nash | Communications & Network Organizing Specialist

Throughout your life, what project are you most proud to have worked on?

This is a tough one, because I’ve been lucky to work on a lot of really cool projects. One that I’m particularly proud of is Disability Justice: An Audit Tool, written by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, envisioned by Leah and Stacey Park Milbern. I was responsible for the illustrations, layout, and supporting the launch.

Why is storytelling important to you and the People’s Economy Lab?

Changing the Story is an important piece of the New Economy Washington strategy. In the United States, we hear stories about capitalism and an extractive economy everyday. The extractive economy is so ingrained in our stories that it has become normalized; it is difficult for us to imagine anything else. By telling stories about regenerative economies, about the inspiring actions communities take everyday to re-envision and create a new economy, we help people understand that the economy doesn’t have to harm us. It can work for all of us.

Personally, I’ve loved stories since I was small. I read and watch voraciously, as well as writing my own stories and making art to illustrate them. My favorite genre is visionary fiction, a type of speculative fiction through which authors imagine the world social justice organizing may lead to. (Check out Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements and Imagine 2200: Climate Fiction for Future Ancestors.)  

What brings you joy?

Reading, watching, or listening to a good story; making art; playing trivia and board and card games with my husband and friends; my cats, Kiddo and Whoopsy; looking up at the sky through tree canopy.  


Njuguna and his toddler pose together. Njuguna is smiling. The baby has a thumb in his mouth.Njuguna Gishuru | Lab Leader

What People’s Economy Lab program are you most excited about right now?

I’m excited about everything right now, honestly. That’s why I love this work and feel like it resonates with me and my values. If I had to choose one thing in particular, building projects that center Black, Indigenous and people of color. That’s embodied in everything we do. This is the first job I’ve had where I can be excited about everything. I can see progress toward the goals of what we want to see in the world. Seeing the second round of the New Economy Washington Frontline Community Fellowship come to fruition, the opportunity to work with and empower leaders, and building out a network of local BIPOC leaders in Just Transition. What’s most exciting to me is building the community.

Throughout your career, what project are you most proud to have worked on?

I get my skills, my passion, my purpose from my parents. The work I’ve done to support their work is the work I’m most proud of. My father is a founder of the African Chamber of Commerce of the Pacific Northwest. I’ve done a lot of work with them building up small business programs and trade programs. I’m proud to support an African and immigrant community organization that’s 20+ years old. My mother is a food justice and farming organizer in South King County, so I’ve supported a lot of immigrant farmers in getting access to land and building the capacity of African small business owners. I’m proud to contribute to my parents’ work and legacy.

What’s an interesting fact about you?

I spent many years as an MC, a rapper. My group was called The Physics. We’re lowkey Seattle hip hop legends. I spent fifteen years of my life from high school on as part of Seattle’s hip hop scene. We had a really golden era. I made some of my closest friends during that time and gained a lot of the skills that I use in my work today. 


Professional photo portrait of Shiho.Shiho Fuyuki | Lab Leader

What brought you to the People’s Economy Lab, and how were you first introduced to regenerative economic models and a Just Transition?

I was first introduced to People’s Economy Lab through my past work with the Seattle Impact Investing Group. Deric Gruen was a guest speaker who came to share about Just Transition, regenerative economic models, and a vision for a solidarity economy in Washington. I was inspired by his presentation and began volunteering to help organize events and convenings, including a workshop and funder dialogue featuring Aaron Tanaka of Boston Ujima Project and Dana Kawaoka of Justice Funders. A few months later, I was hired as a contractor consultant to help build out the work of People’s Economy Lab.

This is a lifelong vision, and while deep systems change doesn’t happen overnight, I feel honored to work in partnership with my community in Seattle to build the nodes and networks to activate toward a Just Transition in Washington State.

What People’s Economy Lab program are you most excited about right now and why?

I love all the projects and programs that we are able to participate in at People’s Economy Lab, but I am particularly excited about working with this year’s New Economy WA Frontline Community Fellows over the next six months. We recently announced four new Fellows for 2022, and I am so inspired by each and every one of them and the work they are doing in the community. I love that we can imagine and take action on the possibilities for a Just Transition in the Greater Seattle community together. 

What brings you joy?

At this moment, my three-year-old and one-year-old nephews bring me a lot of joy. They live in Honolulu, and our relationship is primarily through FaceTime. They have four other aunties, and I am doing my best not to be forgotten from afar. Last Christmas, I gifted them a picture book called Larry Loves Seattle, and they knew exactly what they wanted to do when they visited me earlier this summer. We visited the Space Needle, Gasworks Park, Pike Place Market, rode the Seattle Center monorail and WA state ferry as illustrated in the book and enjoyed playing tourist. I hope that when they are older, I can share with them the deeper cultural roots of Seattle and the exciting projects I have been able to support through my work. I don’t have kids of my own, but when I think about my nephews’ future, it keeps me motivated to not give up the fight for a safe, sustainable, and equitable future.