Nisha G. Patel

MSW

Nisha G. Patel is a national expert on social and economic mobility and philanthropy in the United States. Her independent consulting practice, Powered by Shakti, draws on her more than two decades of cross-sector experience leading and implementing initiatives to increase economic opportunities for low-income families. Her areas of focus include philanthropic strategy, policy solutions, and public speaking. She is also a Senior Fellow at the Social Policy Institute at Washington University in St. Louis.


Previously, Patel served as Executive Director of the U.S. Partnership on Mobility from Poverty at the Urban Institute. The Partnership was supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and assembled 24 leading voices to identify ideas for investment to dramatically increase mobility from poverty. 


Patel served in the Obama administration as Director of the Office of Family Assistance within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, overseeing a $17 billion annual portfolio of federal grants that foster family economic security, including the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. Prior to that, she was Deputy Director of Ascend at the Aspen Institute, where she led national efforts to expand two-generation approaches to improve outcomes for children and their parents. Patel was also previously a Program Officer in the U.S. Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where she managed a portfolio focused on increasing postsecondary success through community partnerships and policy development, as well as special initiatives.  


Earlier in her career, Patel held positions as Director of Programs at Washington Area Women’s Foundation and Senior Policy Analyst at the Center for Law and Social Policy. She has also been an Adjunct Professor at the George Washington University. Her work has been featured on NPR’s 1A and Here and Now and in the Atlantic’s CityLab, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, and Inside Philanthropy.


Patel is a summa cum laude graduate of Vanderbilt University, where she was a Chancellor’s Scholar. She holds an MSW with a concentration in social and economic development from Washington University in St. Louis, where she was a Bettie Schroth Johnson Scholar. Patel was selected as a National Asian Pacific American Women’s Leadership Institute Fellow and a Washington University in St. Louis Brown School Distinguished Alumna. 


She serves on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Alumni Network Advisory Board and the Fannie Mae Sustainable Communities Initiative Advisory Group.

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