About me

After more than 20 years running non-profit organizations working on human rights and US foreign policy toward Latin America, I am now an independent consultant. I help organizations and foundations develop and execute advocacy strategies, facilitate collaborative work, develop new programs in areas of my expertise, and assess and work through organizational change. You can find more at http://joyolson.consulting

During my time as a non-profit director, I worked closely with counterpart organizations, academics, and government officials throughout the region, often developing collaborative advocacy strategies.

From 2003-2016 I was the Executive Director of the Washington Office on Latin America. I developed and carried out two long-term strategic plans; rebuilt the organization leading it out of a financial crisis; restructured the organization’s development program, increased fundraising, and doubled the budget (to $3.5 million); and oversaw a staff of 25 with an additional dozen volunteers and consultants. 

I established new programs on human rights and organized crime, and security/defense which became hallmarks of WOLA’s work; worked with colleagues in Guatemala to develop and successfully advocate for the first-of-a-kind UN body (the CICIG) to help investigate and prosecute organized crime; accompanied this process for more than a decade through many political attacks; established a program on border (US/Mexico) security and migration, collaborated with academics and NGOs on both sides of the border.  

Under my leadership WOLA refocused its unique drug policy program building collaborative dialogues, research networks, and corresponding communications strategies with counterparts throughout the United States, Latin America, and Europe.

Before running WOLA, I directed the Latin America Working Group, a coalition of 60 organizations that coordinated member advocacy with US officials. Chaired regular strategy meetings and developed common policy statements; used advocacy to help shape peace accord implementation programs in Central America; successfully advocated for lifting restrictions on the sale of food and medicine to Cuba by the United States; created a research program to encourage greater transparency on US military programs and successfully advocated for corresponding legislation that resulted in the annual US government’s Foreign Military Training Report; and supported passage of the Leahy Law restricting US military assistance to human rights abusers and tracked its implementation.