Team & Mentors

The entrepreneurs and educators in Groundswell's team of instructors and mentors span a wide range of expertise and experience, from social entrepreneurship to community economic development to personal coaching to tech.

Our Social Venture program provides one on one mentorship so you can benefit from years of real lived experience.  Our mentors have founded over 60 social ventures, democratic schools, non profits, cooperatives, social enterprises, education programs, and high tech companies. 


Watch the video and meet the team  ▶︎




Gilad Babchuk

Co-founder,  Director, Mentor

Gilad has extensive experience establishing, developing and running various organizations, and has founded or co-founded numerous schools, social enterprises and NGOs.  Both 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). He consults several international companies and institutions in the fields of e-learning, progressive education, and doing business development for bio-tech company (in India, Germany, Singapore, and Israel).  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 hundreds of 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.  Gilad currently sits on the Board of CCEC Credit Union and the Advisory Committee for First Nations Technology Council Bridging to Technology program.  At Groundswell, Gilad is highly involved in all aspects of program development, delivery, and mentorship.

He lives in Vancouver with his partner Lilach and their five children, and always wins the best hummus competition at our potlucks.

Paola Qualizza

Managing Director, Facilitator

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.  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 city.  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. Paola loves to work with people who are mobilizing the possibilities of alternative economies and building the better world we all know is possible.     

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Isaiah Baldissera

Lead Educator, Build Program; Mentor

Coming from a family of teachers, Isaiah is a social entrepreneur who has devoted himself to empowering young people through education technology. As the cofounder of both the enScholar Educational Foundation and TryIt, he and his team work to help students from low-income, urban areas make smarter choices about their career paths. Isaiah is also a coach and instructor at Simon Fraser University as part of the Case Competition Training Program, and sits on the board of directors for the Maasai Medical Society.

Isaiah takes a user-centric approach to startups, and believes that creating a remarkable user experience is the best marketing strategy, hands down. His experience and interests lie in UI/UX design, lean startup entrepreneurship, digital marketing, and growth strategy. He has studied at Simon Fraser University, the British Columbia Institute of Technology, and the British Institute of Florence, and enjoys mountaineering, art history, and trying to perfect his recipe for ricotta gnocchi.

David LePage

David is the founder of Accelerating Social Impact CCC, Ltd., 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 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.


"Davids teaching has been just fantastic. Every time he's talking he's dropping pure gold. Love that guy."

Groundswell allumni, 2016

David has shared his knowledge and experience across private, public and community sectors, in rural and urban communities and across multiple cultures. Groundswell is another step in his incessant learning crusade - he's looking forward to discovering together how we build a community economy, creating businesses that blend trade with social values, create opportunities, and contribute to a healthy and sustainable community.

Sarah Kristi Lone

Community Operations Coordinator

Sarah Kristi is a community builder and sustainable communities champion. She has worked on the start-up of a number of collaborative hubs and garden projects, organized a symposium on sustainable development, and run local markets. Sarah Kristi studied Geography: Environment and Sustainability at UBC and comes with experience in community development, food security, and corporate social responsibility.

She is a Norwegian-Canadian who was raised in Montreal and is happy to say that Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories has been her home for the better part of a decade. Sarah Kristi joined the Groundswell team in February 2017 to launch the Groundswell Community Marketplace.

Iona Fresnoza

Iona is a fair trade advocate, a Groundswell adventurer, social media coordinator and community builder. Having been in various strategic communication & digital media roles, she continues to marvel at the power of story as a catalyst for change; believing in channeling it for good: to build community, speak hope, and spark joy.
She co-founded Coffee AID Philippines, a non-profit promoting ethical sourcing, empowerment for coffee growers, and love for one’s roots — an advocacy she’s bringing to Vancouver.  

A Community Management student & a relentless learner, Iona thrives on collaboration, enjoys diverse projects, & finds it hard to keep still. Perhaps it's because she drinks 6 cups of coffee everyday.

Read more about Iona the coffee-obsessed community builder on the blog.

Jim Barker

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.  

Joanna Buczkowska-McCumber


Impact leader, start-up strategist, entrepreneur advocate driven to explore and build new ways to enhance business to create social change. I have worked at the forefront of social entrepreneurship, and believe we can create enterprises that are not only profitable but create social and environmental value in the marketplace and in our communities. I am continuously inspired by the innovators, entrepreneurs, and creative leaders (both young and old) that are driving a new landscape of social innovation and entrepreneurship locally and globally through business. 

Ran Kohavi

Mentor and Instructor
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.

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John Kay


Since 2012, John has guided Realize Strategies to become a leader in impact-driven strategy and executive search. He values innovative approaches to finding solutions and supporting impact-driven businesses to succeed in their missions. Prior to joining Realize, John held several senior positions in the private and public sectors both in Canada and abroad, including as the Chief Operating Officer of the WE Group of Companies where he led a $50-million values-driven business, and Executive Director of Corporate Development at the BC Ministry of Advanced Education. He also previously Chaired the boards of Fairtrade Canada and the British Columbia Co-operative Association, where he now serves as Treasurer. From 2010-2013, John held the position of both Director and Chair of the Finance Committee for Fairtrade International based in Germany.

Chris Nichols

Chris is a philosopher, carpenter and facilitator of the Ethics and Contemporary Capitalism course. Chris is a Groundswell alumni who dropped his PhD studies to pursue a livelihood that has him working with his hands.  He is now building both upcycled wood furniture and alternative economic systems simultaneously as a founding worker-owner of the Wood Shop Workers Co-op.


Thanks to everyone who played a part as a co-creator in Groundswell's journey thus far:

  • Matt Hern (Co-Founder)
  • Andrea Fiscal-Woodhouse
  • Rebecca Barker
  • Amanda Kai
  • Emily Huynn
  • Wes Regan
  • Tiffany Shen
  • Dima Alansari
  • Maia Gibb
  • Reilly Yeo
  • Gerald Dragomir
  • Uffe Lembo
  • Alice Park
  • Amanda Yogendran