Katherine S. Villers
President and Founder, Community Catalyst
Kate Villers, both as a non-profit organizational leader and activist in philanthropy, has spent the better part of three decades elevating consumer and community voices in the fight for all people in the U.S. to obtain quality, affordable health care. To help level the playing field with powerful health care industry players like pharmaceutical and insurance companies, she has built effective organizations that enable ordinary people to have an extraordinary impact on state, local, and national policy and to form an infrastructure for the health justice movement rooted in states and communities.
Villers is the president and founder of Community Catalyst, a national non-profit organization that builds state-level advocacy networks and consumer leadership to improve health and health care. Community Catalyst works directly with diverse organizations and coalitions in over 40 states, providing them with tailored policy information, financial resources, campaign strategies, advocacy training, and opportunities to work with local, state, and federal policymakers. Prior to founding Community Catalyst, Villers in 1982 co-founded the Villers Foundation and, in 1989, its successor organization, Families USA. She played significant board and operating roles for these organizations that included day-to-day direction of their Massachusetts programs.
Villers' vision for Community Catalyst was initially informed when she successfully steered the Villers Foundation and other Massachusetts philanthropies during the 1980s to invest in the policy and grassroots advocacy capacities of organizations to represent people falling through the cracks of the Massachusetts health system. These organizations banded together in 1988 to successfully uphold consumer interests in negotiation with better-resourced insurance, provider and business representatives over Massachusetts' first major health care reform law. In 1996 they also drove the broad-based campaign that resulted in a major expansion of health care coverage for Massachusetts children, which was the model for the federal State Children's Health Insurance Program. Villers' vision also was shaped during the Clinton administration's attempt at national reform in the early 1990s. She noted the strong disconnection between policy influencers and communities with the most at stake in the debate.
Villers founded Community Catalyst in 1998 to bring consumer and community voices into health reform debate in all states, not just Massachusetts. Since then, state infrastructure groups have achieved a myriad of state-level reforms with support from Community Catalyst. These reforms have increased access to better quality, more affordable care for millions of people across the U.S. and also built momentum for national health reform.
Recently, the renewed focus on national health reform presented an opportunity for Community Catalyst to bring the state-level expertise and consumer leadership it has fostered to Washington to influence key provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Looking forward, Villers sees the potential for state groups and national allies to use new communications tools and grassroots activities to add more consumer voices to the fight for health justice, including the fight to implement the Affordable Care Act in all 50 states.
An urban planner by trade, Villers previously founded New Communities Housing Management Corporation and also was research director for the Interfaith Housing Corporation and the Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency. She has served on the boards of several national, state and local organizations, including the Associated Grantmakers of Massachusetts, Women and Foundations, Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities, Concord Housing Authority and the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy. She chairs the Community Catalyst board of directors, and serves on the boards of Massachusetts Health Care for All and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare Foundation. She has a master's degree in urban affairs from Boston University and a bachelor's degree in American Studies from Grinnell College.