Meet two of the newest staff at Open Ownership

  • Publication date: 07 February 2022

This week’s blog post gives an informal insight into two of Open Ownership’s newest members of staff: Alanna Markle, our new Policy and Research Associate, and Cara Marks, our new Communications and Fundraising Associate. Learn where they came from, why they are passionate about what they do, and what challenges they are looking forward to in 2022.


Ten minutes with Alanna Markle

Open Ownership (OO): Tell us about your early life.

I was born in West Virginia, which is a rural state in the Appalachian region of the US. I grew up in a context that’s historically working class and based on coal mining and natural gas. At the same time, we lived in a college town and my parents were artistic types – I grew up around a lot of free spirits, so it was a nice combination.

I have had a travel bug ever since I was a kid, and between high school and college, I did a gap year in Brazil. It was my second time abroad, and the first time I encountered international development as a field. At university, I went into international studies, then added political science. I was really fortunate to find that orientation and passion right out of high school, and I have stayed on that track, doing different kinds of work in the international sphere.

OO: At what point did you realise your calling to work in the public sector?

In Brazil, I encountered a level of inequality that really stuck with me as a young person, and I think that – combined with being from an economically disadvantaged region of the US – is probably the beginning of my drive towards public service. I’ve also never really considered a career in the private sector because I don’t find the question of how to generate profit intellectually interesting. I want my work to be intellectually interesting as well as being aligned with my values.

OO: And why is that important to you now, particularly?

Now in particular, like many people, I am concerned about the health and future of democracy. The events on January 6th last year at the US Capitol made it clear that Western democracy, in particular, isn’t a given. Living in open, free, and progressive societies that represent a plurality of interests is work that we have to be doing on a continuous basis. Within that, I have been interested for a long time in how money flows through and influences politics. For me, that is one of the motivating factors for working on beneficial ownership transparency.

OO: You’ve recently joined OO as our Policy and Research Associate. What do you think are the challenges ahead?

Going back to the issues of safeguarding democratic governance and inequality – for me, those two are inextricably linked – there is a strong narrative, at least in the US, of economic and governance systems being broken. That’s not the most helpful way to look at it, in my view: systems are always working for someone. I think the biggest danger is the loss of political will to continue to implement this kind of reform, when there are already such deeply entrenched power dynamics around issues like corruption and tax havens.

If I think specifically about my work with the Policy and Research team, the challenge I see is that we need to move quickly to produce work that supports the integrity of these early reforms whilst beneficial ownership is still in the window of open discourse. Then we will be well-positioned to demonstrate the efficacy of reforms. Ultimately, I believe that free and public beneficial ownership information can help tip the scale toward a larger proportion of people’s interests being meaningfully represented, and we need to be strategic in how we lay the groundwork.

Read Alanna’s biography, or get in touch on: [email protected]

Ten minutes with Cara Marks

OO: Tell us about your early life.

I grew up on Vancouver Island, Canada, on the traditional territories of the Sc’ianew First Nations’ and the T’Sou-ke Nation. As a teenager, I was an Olympic-hopeful whitewater slalom kayaker and canoeist, and raced at several Junior Olympics, Canadian National Championships, and a World Cup in Sydney, Australia, before injuring my shoulder and having to stop. As an adult, that drive and passion has stayed with me in new pursuits, including my work in academia, creative writing, and my role at Open Ownership.

After high school, I earned a BA in Creative Writing and Philosophy at the University of Victoria. In 2016, I moved to the UK to study an MA in Creative Writing Prose Fiction at the University of East Anglia, as a recipient of the North American Bursary. As well as working for OO, I am currently a PhD candidate at Queen’s University Belfast, as a recipient of the Vice-Chancellor’s International Attainment Award.

OO: At what point did you realise your calling to work in the public sector?

My dad is a retired school teacher, and my mum is a retired nurse, so the public sector has always felt like a good place to be. After my MA in Creative Writing, I started copy editing and writing in various capacities, then began working with OO as a freelance copy editor in February 2020. I found the shift to a non-profit focus incredibly rewarding, and my new role with OO has further increased this. I am proud to be a part of OO’s team and to help support the valuable, significant work my colleagues are doing in research and policy, technology and data, country support, and beneficial ownership transparency implementation.

OO: And why is that important to you now, particularly?

I believe our current political climate demands that we closely examine, and expose, the complex layers of corruption and financial crime that impact society. There are steps we can collectively and individually take, and with the global rise of fascism, the climate crisis, and misinformation, the fight against corruption is especially urgent.

OO: You’ve recently joined OO as our Communications and Fundraising Associate. What do you think are the challenges ahead?

From the Communications and Fundraising side of OO, I see our main challenge as sharing OO’s work as widely as possible. The OO team is doing all kinds of interesting, important work to tackle corruption and improve governance globally. I want to make sure that we are supporting the team as best we can, and sharing their work broadly and effectively.

Read Cara’s biography, or get in touch on: [email protected]

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