Katya Fels Smyth

Katya Fels Smyth

Founder of On The Rise

1995 Global Fellow

On The Rise is a safe haven for women who are homeless that uses a relational model designed to offer respect, dignity, connection, information, guidance, and hope to women who have fallen through the cracks of our social service system.


Katya Smyth is Founder and CEO of the Full Frame Initiative (FFI). She brings over two decades of experience in program development, evaluation, system change, community networking, and creating social will to address seemingly intractable social problems to FFI. Katya is advancing the Initiative’s priorities as its CEO and as a Research Affiliate with Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Community Innovators Lab (CoLab). Prior to launching FFI in 2007, Katya founded and led On The Rise, Inc., a Cambridge-based organization providing innovative and effective support and community to the area’s most disenfranchised women. In her 11 years at On The Rise, the organization helped over 1,000 women achieve new levels of safety and personal agency. Significantly, she also helped change community dialogue about who can be helped and systemic responses to women with trauma histories not seeking traditional trauma services. A recipient of several social entrepreneurship awards and fellowships, including the Echoing Green Fellowship, Katya speaks, publishes and provides consultation nationally on the design, implementation, and evaluation of programs that work at the intersection of entrenched poverty, violence and trauma. She has also participated in international training efforts for domestic violence advocates. She was a Research Fellow at the Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and is a member of the Massachusetts Governor’s Council to Address Sexual and Domestic Violence, and co-chairs its Systems Change and Integration Committee. Katya holds an AB with honors in Biology from Harvard and received an honorary Doctorate of Divinity from the Episcopal Divinity School.