Monica Balanoff
Program Manager, Launchpads, Freedom Forward
Monica Balanoff has over a decade of experience working in roles that address societal inequities, both domestically and abroad. She currently works at Freedom Forward, where she is leading the development of Launchpads, an online housing platform that allows youth in extended foster care to more easily find housing. Launchpads is starting in San Francisco with dreams of supporting youth across the state. Monica believes deeply that young people deserve a seat at the table whenever programs and policies impact them. In a previous role, she supported a youth-led study of the extended foster care system in Sonoma County. This work culminated with the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors adopting several of the recommendations proposed by the young people. In addition to her work building programs, Monica also has experience designing public policy. She received her master's degree in public policy from the University of California Berkeley, where she helped teach Wealth and Poverty, a course taught by the former U.S. Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich. The course discussed the reasons why wealth, earning, and opportunity have been diverging over the past few decades. Prior to joining Freedom Forward, Monica worked as a policy consultant and had the opportunity to work on local government projects across California. This included work done on behalf of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, the Santa Clara Board of Supervisors, and the Oakland Promise, among others. Monica began her career by founding and running Seas of Peace, a sailing and conflict resolution program for youth from Israel and Palestine, but ultimately she found that her passion lay in addressing domestic inequality. During the three years that she ran the program, 49 students had the opportunity to be in dialogue with people from the other side of the conflict, and described a significant change in their confidence. Monica is an alumna of Dartmouth College. She has lived in Berkeley for the past eight years and volunteers with the National Lawyers Guild. In her free time she is working on sewing and knitting a hand-made wardrobe.