Deborah Alvarez-Rodriguez

Deborah’s work began at the age of two; her job was to set out the napkins and talk with the guests at her mother’s Puerto Rican restaurant in Brooklyn, New York City. Her parents immigrated from Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, and daily, Deborah’s mother Aurelia reminded her six children to be proud of their Puerto Rican and U.S. cultures. The restaurant Aurelia started was about more than serving delicious food; it was a place of community building, sharing stories, and a refuge from anti-immigrant racism. Deborah developed her entrepreneurial mindset and a deep commitment to creating pathways for economic security and freedom through business ownership in her mother’s restaurant and is thrilled to be joining La Cocina as its next executive director; this is work that her heart knows.

Experienced in nonprofit, philanthropic, business, and governmental sectors, Deborah is a high-impact, creative, entrepreneurial, and adaptive leader. She’s an award-winning CEO, a social sector innovator, and advocate for systemic policy reforms focused on racial, economic, and environmental equity and justice. Known for shaping inclusive models of collaborative engagement, Deborah has been featured in several books on leadership, including The Starfish and the Spider and The Ultimate Board Member’s Book. She is also a sought-after public speaker and has her own TedTalk on the Revalue Economy.

Deborah served as the CEO of Goodwill Industries of San Francisco, San Mateo, and Marin where she transformed and doubled the organization’s revenue, services, influence, and impact in the community. She was also the founder and CEO of Seam Innovation, a strategic innovation and management consultancy. Deborah’s other past positions include:

● Director of the San Francisco Department of Children, Youth and Their Families

● Assistant Director of Budget and Planning at the SF Department of Public Health

● Interim President and CEO of the East Bay Community Foundation

● Vice President of Programs at the Omidyar Foundation.

Deborah has also served as the pastor of Jones Memorial UMC and pastoral intern at Glide in San Francisco. She has also served on numerous boards, including Recology, the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco, Pacific School of Religion, Independent Sector, Goodwill Industries International, East Bay Community Foundation, Cordes Foundation, the Harwood Institute, and San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

Deborah holds a Master of Divinity in environmental ethics and theology from the Pacific School of Religion and a Bachelor of Arts in Latin American History from Harvard University. She is the proud mother of her daughter Sonia. She loves cooking and food, hiking, reading, dancing, and spending time with family and friends.