About the Ignite Institute

The Ignite Institute develops visionary, socially responsible leaders and organizations by harnessing the wisdom of ancient, sacred teachings to guide the ethical application of disruptive innovation.

We do this by partnering with for-profit and nonprofit organizations to deliver workshops, social enterprise accelerators, our unique Certificate in Innovation and Leadership for an Unpredictable Future Program, and other events.


Ignite’s workshops and social entrepreneurship accelerators focus on ethical and socially responsible frameworks for personal and professional leadership, social enterprise development, and authentic relationship-building.


The Certificate of Leadership & Innovation for an Unpredictable Future is a four-month, low-residency program geared toward nonprofit, healthcare, and private sector professionals who want to grow their leadership skills to make a socially-responsible difference..


Ignite works with our partners to develop and host responsive events, including the upcoming Summit: Financial Sustainability and Community Innovation in the Church (February 23-34 in Berkeley, CA).

Staff and Faculty

Derene Allen

Derene Allen

Executive Director

Derene began her professional career in Latin America with American Express. She is a successful international entrepreneur, comfortable in high growth, highly volatile environments, having co-founded a database marketing company in 4 countries in Latin America. For close to two decades, she was a Principal at Santiago Solutions Group, responsible for their Social Practice, linking for profit organizations with community opportunities. She has worked with a diverse set of organizations from Verizon and Johnson & Johnson to AARP, UNICEF, and Catholic Charities.

Derene has extensive experience helping nonprofits develop more sustainable financial models, devising social enterprises, fundraising, and volunteer recruitment strategies that result in increased earned income, engagement, and volunteer participation, particularly from multicultural communities. In 2008, in the midst of the great recession, Derene launched and managed the San Francisco worker owned cooperative for the nonprofit, Prospera, a social enterprise creating healthy, dignified jobs for low income Latinas.

Derene has taught at universities in the United States and in Latin America. She currently serves as an Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship for UC Berkeley Extension, the Silicon Valley Immersion Program at the University of San Francisco, and as a Mentor in the Global Social Benefits Institute at the Miller Center of Social Entrepreneurship at Santa Clara University.

Dr. Jay Emerson Johnson

Dr. Jay Emerson Johnson

Academic Director

Episcopal priest and has served congregations in the Midwest and the San Francisco Bay Area. He is also a member of the core doctoral faculty at the Graduate Theological Union. He came to PSR as a staff member at the school’s Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry (CLGS) in 2003 and began teaching courses for the school’s Certificate of Sexuality and Religion program. He coordinates the Certificate of Spirituality and Social Change (CSSC) and the new Master of Arts degree in Social Transformation (MAST).

Dr. Johnson’s research and writing interests include the intersections of critical social theory (especially queer theory) and Christian theological traditions, theological anthropology and Christian eschatology, and multimedia/pop-cultural influences on constructive theology. In addition to numerous articles on sexuality, Christian theology, and spirituality, he is the author of Dancing with God: Anglican Christianity and the Practice of Hope (2005), as well as co-editor with Donald Boisvert, of a two-volume anthology, Queer Religion (2011). More recently he is the author of Divine Communion: A Eucharistic Theology of Sexual Intimacy (2013) and Peculiar Faith: Queer Theology for Christian Witness (2014). Dr. Johnson also serves on the editorial board of the journal Theology and Sexuality and is a popular retreat leader and workshop leader in congregations around the country.

Mahsea Evans

Mahsea Evans

Business Development

Mahsea Evans is an educator, artist, and ordained minister who has dynamically engaged the topics of religious pluralism and social change through writings, lectures, performances and workshops. He presently works as an Assistant Pastor St. Marks United Methodist Church in Sacramento, and has been a trainer for Ignite Institute for two years. He received both his Master of Divinity and Master of Theological Studies from Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley. This former Changemaker Fellow combines his passion for imaginative theologies, community organizing, education, and creative arts in service to the cause of social transformation. Originally from Hartford, CT, Mahsea currently resides in Sacramento, CA with his wife, Dr. Kawami Evans, and daughter, Niara (9).

Megan Clark

Megan Clark

Program Director

Megan Clark is Program Director of the Ignite Institute at Pacific School of Religion. For the last nine years she has worked closely with fellow educators to help art and design students build self-reflective frameworks for engaging intersectional identities, power and privilege in community-based projects. In tandem, she has helped to launch and grow community-engaged learning programs that center long-term, trust-based partnerships from Texas to Brazil to California (and sometimes back again).

More recently, she has been collaborating with fellow organizers and educators in the Bay Area chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) to grow a “study and action” curriculum for individuals seeking to engage white-identified folks in racial justice.

Megan believes deeply in the power of language; in holding systems, institutions and ourselves accountable; and in getting comfortable with the uncomfortable. She lives in South Berkeley with the very best four-pawed adventure-partner a person could ask for and, as she joins the Ignite community, she is thrilled that the boundaries between her avocation and vocation grow steadily less defined.

Vicente Garcia

Vicente Garcia

Digital Marketing Specialist

Vicente Garcia is the Digital Marketing Specialist for the Ignite Institute. He is also the co-founder of an online platform called Woke a space for media lovers that want to connect with movies and webseries that feature diversity. Prior to starting Woke, Vicente worked for racial and environmental justice organizations for over 10 years. A storyteller at heart, he is obsessed with the power of stories and narratives to change the world.