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Who We Are &
How We Operate

The Common Fire Foundation is 100% volunteer-run by our Board of Directors.

How We Operate

We aspire to do this work in ways that are consistent at their very core with our purpose and our core principles. We believe we must build an organization -- and the people involved must do the work and build the relationships -- that reflect the kind of values and spirit we wish to nurture in the larger world.

We invested over a year of exclusively focusing on questions of governance to help us create a model that reflects this spirit. Some of the key features that emerged include:

  • First, we give tremendous importance to the integrity of our relationships with each other. Our meetings are not just about “business” and tasks, they are a sacred grounding for each of us in our lives and in our relationships with each other, and in our service of the purpose of Common Fire. We always start our meetings with “check-ins” or modified check-ins about how we are each doing and what is going on in our lives. And we always stop the conversation to address any points of tension or triggers for people that come up.

  • Second, we operate by consensus, specifically a modification of formal consensus.

Who We Are

Common Fire was founded by Kavitha Rao and Jeff Golden.

  • Kavitha Rao Kavitha Rao has been a member of the Board of Directors of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the largest and oldest interfaith nonviolence organization in the world, and is the lead facilitator for FOR's Nonviolent Youth Collective, leading workshops and week-long anti-oppression and nonviolence trainings for young adults. Through the years she has worked as a facilitator or consultant with several organizations including Be Present, the Center for Whole Communities, and the Circle of Life Foundation.

    Kavitha is a yoga teacher, thrilled to share with others this practice that has fueled and sustained her own activism, helping her to ground her work from a place of love and creative action rather than merely anger and reaction.

    After working on environmental justice issues in the Bay Area, Kavitha became an International Correspondent for the Odyssey's World Trek for Service and Education, traveling for 2 years to over 30 countries, reporting on history, culture, and contemporary issues of countries overlooked in most American textbooks for the Odyssey's free educational website that was used by over 5,000 teachers and 60,000 K-12 students. She has worked with grassroots organizations around the world and is humbled by the immense commitment and vision she has witnessed from people unwilling to accept that the violence, injustice, and poverty that may surround them is the only way things have to be.

  • Jeff Golden harkens from the Rocky Mountains of Idaho but has lived and traveled extensively around the world, most significantly in Latin America, including a year on a Fulbright in Venezuela, and notably as an Earthwatch Educational Fellow with the Spanish Dolphins Program.

    He came to the Hudson Valley by way of San Francisco. There he was Founder and Executive Director of Odyssey Internet Treks for Service and Education, a non-profit creating progressive online content on culture and politics worldwide ( & That work earned him the State Department's Millennium International Volunteer Award in 2000 and an Ashoka Fellowship Nomination in the field of Education. Prior to that he taught high school in San Francisco's Mission district, primarily teaching about the political history of Latin America as part of the Spanish bilingual program.

    He came to upstate New York in 2001 to serve for three years as the Executive Director of the Jonas Foundation, a 75-year old non-profit that runs Camp Rising Sun, one of the world's foremost international youth service programs. He has been dedicated full-time to Common Fire since then, though rumor has it that there have been sightings of him playing guitar, writing, dancing joyfully into the wee hours of the morning, and playing chess with his grandmother.

  • Sean Ritchey joined the Board in February of 2009. Sean is a passionate social/environmental entrepreneur and an inspired life-long learner. He is the Co-Founder/Co-Director of a non-profit journalism and education venture called The Learnalism Project, which seeks to give a voice to, celebrate, and learn from the inspiring steps that humans are taking towards a just and healthy world. Until early 2010, Sean was a managing partner of a green home design and general contracting company that he co-founded in early 2007. He participated in a 12 month Be Present Institute in 2008/2009 and was a resident of the Tivoli Co-op for two year.
  • Erika Thorne joined the Board in the spring of 2010. Erika is a Partner in Future Now Training and is a Training for Change Associate. She was involved for many years in the Movement for a New Society, a network of social activists committed to the principles of nonviolence, with housing co-ops and intentional communities nationwide She has worked with an incredible array of organizations and causes. She participated in the Common Fire community-planning retreat in 2008.
  • Autumn Brown joined the Board in the spring of 2011. She's a mother, organizer, theologian, artist, and facilitator. She is a founding member of the Rock Dove Collective, a radical community health exchange, and is also a member of the Board of Directors of the smartMeme Strategy and Training Project. Autumn facilitates organizational and strategic development with community-based and movement organizations, and trains community organizers in Consensus Process, Facilitation, and Resisting Racism. She has taught and presented in many places across the country, as well as internationally. She has facilitated with the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center, Bard College and WE ACT for Environmental Justice, among many others. Autumn lives in Minnesota with her husband and two beautiful children. She is working on a science fiction novel.