Jessika Ava, MS, MPA

Jessika Ava, MS, MPA (Choctaw/Cherokee) (she/her) 
Founder & CEO
USA/Nepal

Jessika Ava, MS, MPA is one of the first Native Americans to sit in a leadership position in the vegan philanthropic space. Jessika is the CEO and founder of Thrive Philanthropy, an initiative launched to dismantle accessibility barriers for non-USA grassroots organizations and ensure food justice advocates across the globe have equitable access to funding opportunities.

Jessika has worked in the non-USA social justice philanthropic sector since 2010 within the sphere of food systems change, veganism, and One Health approach to Asian street animal welfare. Her areas of expertise include equity-based and Trust-Based Philanthropy approaches to funding, developing grantmaking meta-evaluations, and strategically facilitating grassroots organizational growth, with a special focus on Global South and social justice organizations.

​She holds a Master’s degree in Biostatisics, a second Master’s degree in Program Evaluation and Nonprofit Management, and a Bachelor’s degree in Evolutionary Biology. She uses her quantitative skillset to conduct meta-evaluations on grantmaking impact.

​​Previously, Jessika developed and led one of the world’s largest international vegan grantmaking and capacity funds, where she successfully facilitated expansion of the vegan food justice movement across 70+ countries including regions historically neglected for funding such as Africa, SE Asia, and non-English speaking regions.  

​In 2020, she launched the Africa Accelerator to expand funding opportunities across Africa by using an equity-based participatory co-design approach with grantees, which resulted in increased financial and capacity support to over 100 Africa-based food systems organizations. She is cofounder of Africa Vegan Restaurant Week, a domestically-led initiative to advance plant-based eating across the African continent, and is cofounder of A Just World, an organization with a mission to strengthen food justice organizations within India.

​Jessika sits on the board of directors of A Just World, Animal Alliance Asia, and Out to Pasture Sanctuary, and the advisory boards of multiple non-USA organizations. She is the author of Brighter Green’s policy paper, Beyond the Pail: The Emergence of Industrialized Dairy Systems in SE Asia. She has also worked as an Asian elephant conservation biologist in Northeast India, has managed a street dog shelter NGO in Nepal, has facilitated partnerships and oversaw funding of multiple Asian street animal welfare organizations using the One Health approach, and she laid the foundational work to halt the entrance of India’s first intensive dairy factory farm. 

She’s an international speaker and workshop leader and has presented at numerous conferences in multiple countries. She has significant Global South living and working experience and splits her residence between USA and Nepal.

 She is a Rockwood Leadership Equity in Philanthropy Fellow, Sloan Indigenous Scholar Fellow, and American Indian Graduate Fellow.

​Jessika is a tribal member of the Choctaw Nation.

She can be reached at jessika.ava@thrivephilanthropy.org.