Michaela Leslie-Rule

Senior Advisor, Research + Culture (she/her)

For the past 15 years Michaela has supported communities, non-profit leaders and philanthropic institutions to advance racial and gender justice by leveraging the power of stories. Through participatory research and collaborative design processes she builds the capacity of young people, activists and non-profit and philanthropic leaders to center and elevate the voices of communities historically excluded from decision making. Michaela has extensive experience working in partnership with Black and brown communities in the United States and with movement leaders in East and Central Africa.

Michaela is also a working artist. She is a founding collaborator of the Spiritual Technologies Project, a collaboration between composers, musicians and other culture makers to explore the unique knowledge held by Black people in the American South. She holds Master’s degrees of Public Health and Public Administration from the University of Washington and a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts degree from New York University.

Why are you a strategist for good?

“I have always been curious about other people’s lives and values, and my work gives me both the permission and the opportunity to sit with and listen to people who I may otherwise not have access. I’ve been fortunate to partner with phenomenal individuals and communities successfully advancing equity and justice. This visibility into how change happens is both reassuring and motivating. I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

What’s your superpower?

“My superpower is translating one person’s story into something that resonates with many people. From the age of four, I would meet people on the street or in the park, memorize their stories and then act them out to a very limited audience beneath the kitchen table. As the tablecloth parted, I would introduce my grandmother and my mother to that day’s storyteller. What started out as performances held under the kitchen table has evolved to become my life’s work. As a storyteller, researcher and cultural strategist I have put this persistent interest in listening to stories to use. I feel honored to spend my professional life listening to people who have had markedly different lives, influences and experiences than my own. Getting to think about, uncover and sometimes invent ways in which stories can seed greater understanding, respect and empathy in our communities and in our world continues to feel like a gift.”

Who is your intellectual crush?

“Isabel Wilkerson”


Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Communities United

Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice

Chronic Homelessness Initiative at Tipping Point Community