Our Team

Thriving Cities Group aims to embody its understanding that communities thrive when they learn to live well across difference. As such, our team is comprised of researchers, software engineers, urban planners, sociologists, writers, and a wide variety of others who contribute to our common thriving through their own unique skills, background insight, and experience.


Josh Yates, President & CEO

Josh founded the Thriving Cities Group out of research performed at the University of Virginia, where he continues to serve as Research Assistant Professor of Sociology. At the University of Virginia, Josh also serves as Director of the Program on Culture, Capitalism, and Global Change and the Thriving Cities Project at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture. Josh holds a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), Sociology, from the University of Virginia. Josh has written and lectured extensively on civic design. Email Josh at jyates@thrivingcitiesgroup.com.

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Briahna Chambers, Chief City Strategist

Briahna comes to Thriving Cities Group from Tech 901, a nonprofit committed to training Memphis residents for technology jobs, where she still serves as Lead Instructor. Briahna has an MBA in Information Technology Management and degrees in both Computer Science and Business as well as multiple IT certifications.  She is committed to motivating people to be part of something bigger than themselves, and aims to promote civic technology to help improve cities across the country. Email Briahna at bchambers@thrivingcitiesgroup.com.


Charlie Henderson, Chief Technology Officer

In 2016 Charlie was named "Trending 40 Entrepreneurs Under 40" by DCA Live in Washington D.C. and was selected to Mindshare Class of 2015. Charlie has been granted 7 patents by the US Patent & Trademark Office on graph data. Charlie has consulted to publicly-traded market leaders in finance and retail on data architecture and engineering. Email Charlie at chenderson@thrivingcitiesgroup.com.


Elaine Williams, Community Engagement Resident

Elaine is an experienced advocate and researcher in housing and homeless services. She has a B.A. in Social Work from Virginia Commonwealth University and is one of the Co-founders of Change The World RVA which serves youth experiencing homelessness and housing instability in the Richmond area. She is passionate about helping build the capacity of community members through community engagement. Email Elaine at ewilliams@thrivingcitiesgroup.com.

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Bekah Holbrook, Technical and Grant Writer

Bekah joined TCG after serving as Director of Community Impact for Education at United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg. She has more than a decade of experience in philanthropy, grant-writing, and nonprofit management. Bekah has a BA in American Studies from the College of William & Mary and MA in English from Virginia Commonwealth University. At Thriving Cities Group she leverages her experience in community investment and writing to amplify resident voice and encourage decision-makers to share power. Email Bekah at rholbrook@thrivingcitiesgroup.com.

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Justin Straight, Chief Operating Officer

Justin joined the Thriving Cities Group team after serving as Executive Director of DurhamCares, an organization focused on mobilizing residents to invest in their community and increase non-profit collaboration. Justin has also served as Regional Director of private sector microfinance banks in Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Peru and Dominican Republic and as CFO for a Virginia-based commercial contracting business that he helped expand to 3 states and the District of Columbia. Email Justin at jstraight@thrivingcitiesgroup.com.


Lea Whitehurst, Community Engagement Director

Lea is an experienced community organizer who most recently served as the Executive Director of Richmonders Involved to Strengthen our Communities (RISC). Lea actively leads the Thriving Cities Group in best practices of community engagement, and also oversees all aspects of the RVA Thrives project and engagement work in the Jefferson Davis Corridor of Richmond. Email Lea at lwhitehurst@thrivingcitiesgroup.com.


Michaela Accardi, Labs Research Program Officer

Michaela is an urban planner that brings her experience in public interest design practice to Thriving Cities. She works to bridge theory and practice and to leverage the knowledge of diverse stakeholders to create healthy and equitable communities. Michaela holds an Masters in Urban and Environmental Planning (MUEP) from the University of Virginia’s School of Architecture and two B.A. degrees from the University of Virginia in Environmental Sciences and Environmental Thought & Practice. Email Michaela at maccardi@thrivingcitiesgroup.com.

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Jordan Richardson, Quality Assurance Intern

Jordan earned his Math and Science AS from Cayuga Community College in 2016. Mentored by Charlie Henderson, Thriving Cities Chief Information Officer, Jordan moved from his home in New York to Richmond, VA to begin his work. He hopes his work with Thriving Cities will be the catalyst for a life-long technical career. In his free-time Jordan reads books and plays board games. Email Jordan at jrichardson@thrivingcitiesgroup.com.