Staff and Team

Put First Things First (Part 3/3)

Put First Things First (Part 3/3)

We hold entrepreneurs in high esteem because they do something extremely difficult: they manage dozens of roles singlehandedly in the midst of immense uncertainty. For those on the outside looking in, entrepreneurs may appear to be the ultimate multi-taskers. However, as I’ve found with this cohort, the most successful are those who maintain a relentless focus on the single most important task at hand

Meet Melanie Matining, Groundswell board member

Melanie Matining is a queer pinay activist, community organizer, and settler on the ancestral, traditional, and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples. Her work focuses on the importance of social spaces in movement building and the necessary intersections of community-determined access, placemaking, and solidarity building. She convenes communities to create platforms for celebration, healing, and just dancing it all out. Melanie makes up one half of the duo that brings us Denim Vest, a queer sweaty dance party for the people. In the recent past, she also worked as the Community Development Manager at Heartwood, a social space that was centred on community and movement building. Amidst the towering cranes, she continues her work in advocating for accessible and inclusive spaces in the city. Melanie walks everyday in love and liberation alongside her communities working towards queer rights, Indigenous solidarity, and migrant justice.

Meet Mark Dance, Groundswell Advisor & Director

Mark Dance has spent the past 30 years in the Canadian high-tech community. For 11 of those years, he was at Creo Inc., a publicly traded company, where he played central roles in growing the company from USD$10 million in revenue to over USD$700 million in revenue, and from 100 to more than 4000 people world-wide. His roles at Creo included Vice President Product Development, President, COO, CFO and Board Member. Since Creo’s sale to Eastman Kodak in 2005 for USD$1 billion, Mr. Dance has worked with over 60 companies assisting with strategy, financing, and team building amongst other areas. Mr. Dance is an active angel investor and Board Member, has a Bachelor of Applied Science (Honours) degree in Mechanical Engineering from UBC where he also taught entrepreneurship, and holds a number of patents for medical technologies.

Meet Irina McKenzie, Groundswell board member

Irina McKenzie is a social entrepreneur and an avid advocate of the Circular Economy and sustainability in the fashion industry.

Taking special interest in textile waste, Irina founded FABCYCLE, a B2B collection service of textile waste to enable designers to disrupt the cycle of garment production and transform waste into resources by finding innovative outlets to reuse, recycle and recover fabric waste.

Prior to FABCYCLE, Irina has founded Frameworq, an event-based initiative that brings together designers and consumers to explore the relationship we have with our clothes using a hands-on experiential approach.

Frameworq has partnered with various organizations to fuse collaboration and curiosity into sustainability in apparel, hosting events such as design challenges, recurring fix it events, clothing swaps, exhibitions and fashion shows.

Meet Catherine Ludgate, Groundswell advisor

Vancity has been a long time and important partner for Groundswell, taking their role above and beyond "funder" and acting as advisors, workshop educators, loan partners and more. Catherine Ludgate is a special person at Vancity that we are honoured to have sit on our advisory team. She holds strong ethics, compassion and business acumen simultaneously and never ceases to leave us without an "ah-ha!" moment after every meeting. Catherine manages Community Investments at Vancity, where she embodies the principles of co-operatives in all her work and relationships.  Thank you for all your dedication and support, Catherine!


A dedicated co-operator, collaborator and community builder, I have a talent for translating complex tools available to government and for-profits (financial services, legal tools, communication vehicles) into accessible and relevant tools for the not-for-profit /social benefit sector, in service of social change missions and mandates. 

I am committed to principles five (member education), six (co-operation among co-ops) and seven (concern for community) of co-operation. I am a strong and encouraging leader of teams, investor in staff personal and professional development, and a believer in the idea that we can do more, and make more positive changes, together. I am that person who can be counted on to say "we can do that, we can make that happen" and then commit completely to delivering on that promise.

I have strong writing and strategic planning skills, a great ability to identify system wide fixes or scale opportunities, and talent for understanding diverse points of view on any given challenge. I am a serial social entrepreneur, and a talented public speaker and story teller. I love developing workshops and training materials, with a focus on skills transfer and capacity building. I love helping others develop their own talents and step into their own leadership.

Meet Ran Kohavi, Groundswell mentor and so much more

Ran Kohavi has become an integral part of the Groundswell family as a mentor, educator, board member and advisor. He is incredibly generous with his time and dedication to Groundswell's mission, learning acutely with us as we grow and evolve, adding valuable insight and a fresh perspective at every pivot or milestone.  We are ever grateful for having a person as brilliant as Ran on our team. 


Ran is a technology entrepreneur at heart. He is passionate about starting new businesses and helping them grow. Ran was the founder and CEO of Kidaro (acquired by Microsoft, 2008). Prior to Kidaro, he was on the founding team and served as director of product management for Kashya (acquired by EMC, 2006). Lately, Ran enjoys building a portfolio of technology companies he incubates. He also serves on various advisory roles for technology startups, investors and founders. Ran was born in Israel, and moved from Seattle to Vancouver three years ago with his family. He enjoys hiking, sailing, snowboarding and quantitative finance as hobbies.

Meet Jim Barker, Groundswell co-founder and Mentor


Jim is a co-founder and director of Groundswell.  He sees the world in a unique way that puts his heart at the front of every business decision...and he's had years of experience to share doing just that!  Jim is a serial entrepreneur having created successful businesses over the past 25 years. He has a diverse portfolio including employment training and recruitment, travel management, bars, restaurants and computer software/financial services. Highlights include: with funding from the British Government he created the first industry-specific "job club" helping over 1000 long- term unemployed people get back into work, for which he received a National training award.

He created NIS Europe, a Travel Management company, employing over 130 people with a turnover of $60m; he has built a chain of wine bars in the northwest of England and created and still owns The Metropolitan, one of the most successful pubs in Britain, employing over 60 people, with numerous awards to its name. He is a founder and Director of Conferma Ltd, a global technology business which offers virtual payment solutions.

Jim moved from Manchester, UK to Vancouver in 2012 with his wife and five children and all are smitten with the west coast.   Except when he can't get a proper cup o' tea.

Meet David LePage, Groundswell mentor and educator

For two years, David provided guidance and an immense portfolio of experience in social enterprise to our cohorts as the lead educator of Groundswell's BUILD program.  But, he's a man in demand, and transitioned into a mentor role as his responsibilities in the sector grew with new local and national level projects. As he likes to say, being re-tired just means getting tired again.  David seems to have never ending energy whether he's influencing Canadian policy or running his regular 10K route in East Van. Thank you for investing so much of that energy in Groundswell, David!


David LePage is the founder of Accelerating Social Impact CCC, Ltd. (ASI CCC), one of Canada’s first incorporated social purpose corporations. Through ASI David provides direct support, consulting, coaching and strategic advice to the emerging blended value business and social finance sectors and works to influence the related public policy environment.  To promote the demand side of the social enterprise market place David is a co-founder and director of Buy Social Canada.

He has shared his knowledge and experience across private, public and community sectors, in rural and urban communities and across multiple cultures. His experience includes designing and advising on social impact business models, strategy and financing; public policy; and supporting effective operations and governance. His current engagements represent a spectrum of major corporations, social enterprises, small businesses, governments and non-profit organizations.

David is a Principal in the Social Enterprise Institute and a Program Adjunct and Professional Advisory Committee, Sandermoen School of Business MBA in Social Enterprise Leadership.

David’s community engagement activities include:

·      Chair of the Social Enterprise Council of Canada

·      Chair, Social Enterprise World Forum Board of Directors

·      Member, Board of Directors Vancouver Farmers’ Market

·      Member, Canadian CED Network Policy Council,

·      Member, Imagine Canada’s Advisory Committee

·      Member, British Columbia Partners for Social Impact



Meet Isaiah: explorer, entrepreneur, and Groundswell's newest educator

Meet Isaiah: explorer, entrepreneur, and Groundswell's newest educator

"I don’t have a magic formula to find the ‘perfect career’. However, my team and I have learned that, more than a platform, algorithm, or tool, it’s a the right mindset that helps career seekers and aspiring entrepreneurs alike to build the future they’re looking for."  
roundswell is excited to announce our newest team member, Isaiah Baldissera, who will be leading the Build segment of the Social Venture Program.  Isaiah is joining us from a background in technology, education and meaning seeking in his own career and in helping others find their career path.  He's got a heart of gold and an impressive skill set that is helping Groundswell be better than ever at what we do, and we are delighted to have him join our community!

Meet Paola Qualizza, Groundswell's mama bear

Paola brings her experience and interests in new economic models, permaculture, and public space together to build the vibrant ecosystem that is Groundswell’s community.  As our Managing Director, Paola is involved across all aspects of Groundswell's programming and community, hosting our events, coordinating cohorts and supporting the big vision of Groundswell.  She oversees the complex weaving of Groundswell's work, making sure things are running smoothly and that people feel happy and at home at Groundswell.

 Paola has always sought to push the realm of possibilities and is driven by values of common good and equity. She co-founded a Vancouver community currency called Seedstock in 2012, and was co-director of the second annual Living the New Economy Convergence in 2013.  She is a regular panelist and speaker on topics of economic change and community building in the city.  

Paola has been Chair of the Vancouver Public Space Network since 2015 and sits on several City of Vancouver Civic Committees where she advocates for social justice, inclusivity, and a more fun urban experience.  

Group mentorship session 

Group mentorship session 

Paola is a strong believer in the power of relocalization and an entrepreneurial spirit (aka creativity and action) to create a regenerative, people-first economy.  She has a BA Hons from Simon Fraser University in Human Geography and is dedicated to continue her education on the ground and outside of the traditional ivory tower.

Paola loves her job because she loves working side by side with people who are mobilizing the possibilities of alternative economies and building the better world we all know is possible.     

Meet Gilad Babchuk, Groundswell co-founder & educator

Gilad Babchuk has extensive experience establishing, developing and running various organizations, and has founded or co-founded over 15 social enterprises, academic programs, and NGOs both as an educator and social entrepreneur. He was named one of the 50 most influential people in the field of education in Israel (Ha’aretz, 2009). Gilad consults several international companies and institutions in the fields of e-learning and progressive education, and does business development consulting for a multi-national bio-tech company.


Gilad shares the vision and philosophy of Groundswell in this talk from the Ashoka Changemaker Showcase on Emerging Alternatives.

 In 2012 Gilad co-founded the innovative alternative business school Groundswell, and serves as its Executive Director. Groundswell pioneers a new way to support aspiring entrepreneurs and individuals who want to develop their ideas into sustainable social enterprises, taking a holistic approach to education by incubating the individual, not just the business idea, within an ecosystem of support.

 Groundswell has supported the launch and growth of nearly 100 social ventures.

 Among his other roles, Gilad currently sits on the Board of CCEC Credit Union, and the Vancouver Fix-It Collective, a zero-waste textiles venture in Vancouver.  He serves on the Advisory Committee for the First Nations Technology Council, the Advisory Board of  Diversity in Tech,  and Youth Rites of Passage.

 Before moving to Canada in 2011, he was Executive Director of the Institute for Democratic Education, an organization that supports and advises administrators and educators in public and independent schools across Israel. Gilad was a Strategic Adviser for several mayors in Israel, the head of the teacher training program in Kibbutzim College of Education, Technology & Arts, and the creator of a school principals training program with the Ministry of Education.

 He lives in Vancouver with his partner Lilach and their five children.