Thought Leaders

Thought Leaders

BC Ideas Home

Al Etmanski

The Curator

Al is an author, blogger (, advocate and social entrepreneur specializing in innovative, multi-sector solutions to complex societal challenges.

He is currently a partner in the J W McConnell Family Foundation’s, Social Innovation Generation (SIG). ( SiG is dedicated to scaling up innovative solutions to deeply rooted social problems and exploring new methods of financing the social sector.

Al is an Ashoka fellow ( a faculty member of John McKnight’s Asset Based Community Development Institute (ABCD) and a Vancity Community Investment fellow. He is Chair of the BC Social Innovation Council.

He is co-founder of Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network (PLAN)(; assisting families across Canada and globally, address the financial and social well-being of their relative with a disability, particularly after their parents die. He proposed and led the successful campaign to establish the world’s first savings plan for people with disabilities – the Registered Disability Savings Plan (

Read Al’s Blog Post

Nicole Huska

The Cultivator

Nicole is founder of Nicole's Farm. She is a mother of three spirited girls 5 and under. Nicole works from home, balancing a start-up launch and her spouse's excavating contracting company.

Nicole is fascinated by the politics of globe, gender and food. She is profoundly driven by the entrepreneurial spirit, and avidly in search of greater understanding, higher purpose and larger margins.

Connect with Nicole in the Idea Centre

Peter Mortifee

The Draftsman

Dr. Mortifee is the President and a founding member of the Somerset Foundation, a charitable organization involved in various activities related to social justice, health, education and environmental sustainability. Through Somerset, he is active with numerous organizations and social entrepreneurs where his input and interest relates primarily to organizational governance, structure, strategic policy development and social finance. He is a member of the global Ashoka Support Network and is active in the Mankind Project.

Previously, he spent twenty five years training, practicing and teaching as a medical doctor. In 2008 he relinquished his Clinical Assistant Professorship with the Department of Medicine at the University of British Columbia and retired completely from his medical practice.

He is a keen photographer, loves travel & old trucks and seeks a life of healthy balance. With his wife Nancy, he has offered a practice in Mindfulness & Intimacy through their co-creation - Mortifee Training. They live in Vancouver and Naramata B.C. and between them they have four wonderful daughters.

Changemakers Interview with Peter

Follow Peter’s Idea Centre Series - Part I: Building a Container for your Vision

Part II: Container Building, Decisions, Decisions

James Tansey

The Agitator

James founded ISIS, a centre focused on sustainability and social innovation. James’ research activities cover social innovation, climate change and the social impacts and acceptability of new technologies. ISIS hosts the Climate Intelligence Unit, focused on the low carbon economy in North America. James is Academic Director for Industrial Partnerships, leading UBC’s transformation of the campus into a living laboratory for clean technology innovation.

He is also founder and CEO of Offsetters, a carbon management and offset company based in Vancouver and the official supplier of carbon offsets to the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, the first time in history the event has been carbon neutral. James was recruited by the UNEP to serve as an advisor to the Sochi 2014 Winter Games. In 2010 he was recognized as one of British Columbia’s Top 40 under 40 and was a finalist at the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards.

Paul Lacerte

The Paulinator

Paul is the Provincial Executive Director of the BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres, a position he has held for the past 17 years. He is a member of the Cariboo Clan and a citizen of the Carrier Nation in north central British Columbia. Paul is a member of the Board of Directors for the Vancouver Foundation and serves as a Lead Aboriginal representative on key Provincial initiatives including the Government Non-Profit Initiative (GNPI). He currently sits as one of the Canadian representatives at the United Nations Permanent Forum for Indigenous Peoples in New York.

Paul's education was completed at the University of Victoria in the area of Political Science and in the study of the administration of Aboriginal Governments. He is a certified facilitator and specializes in organizational development and success planning. Paul and his partner Asma have 4 daughters and one son and his home in Victoria is commonly referred to as “the House of Happiness”.

Donna Morton

The Catalyst

Donna Morton is an Unreasonable Institute, Ogunte and Ashoka fellow and the CEO and co-founder of First Power, with a mission to put clean energy, jobs and equity in the hands of first nations and other communities. First Power “co-develops” energy projects with and for communities with majority or complete FN ownership of projects and equity. We gather the vision for the projects from elders and ancestors and involve children and youth, we respect oral cultures and report, train and connect through video. Projects often harness the power of art and culture to create energy that creates autonomy and pride.

We are a hybrid -- a B Corporation and a charity – allowing synergy between structures and the best results for communities. The charity partner is the Centre for Integral Economics, founded in 2000, CIE harnesses focusses on education, economics and cultural solutions to deliver on the promise of sustainability and works in partnership with First Power.

Her speaking highlights include: National Aboriginal Business Association Conference, Prince Rupert, Indigenous Circumpolar Housing Forum – Inuvik, First Nations Renewable Energy Forum – Edmonton, 3 TEDx events (Winnipeg, CapU, San Joaquin, CA) Social Capital Market SOCAP, San Francisco. Her work has been profiled recently in articles in The Guardian, video for Fast Company Coexist, books: “Moonrise”, Nina Simons “The New Entrepreneurs”, Andrew Heintzman and TV/video productions for Fast Company and “Act for the Planet”, TV series, which aired around the world.

Andrew Price

The Fundraiser

Like many fundraisers, Andy entered this rewarding career by accident. In 2002, Andy took a temporary role in London, UK as a face-to-face fundraiser for WWF. On his first day, working in Camden High Street, he talked to hundreds of people, including Danny Boyle (director of Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire), actor Damian Lewis and musician Ozzie Osbourne. No one donated any money, but everyone was so nice he decided to try again the next day.

Over the last 10 years, Andy has worked for non-profits of all sizes. From multinational organizations to a small arts charity, he has raised donations big and small for great causes. Andy moved to Vancouver in 2006 and is now the manager of the Whitecaps Foundation, seeing the Foundation through the team’s move into the top tier of North American Soccer; MLS. As an avid soccer fan, lifelong Aston Villa supporter and believer in the transformative power of sport and active living, Andy couldn’t have chosen a better career if he’d tried.

Read Andy's Blog Post

Taylor Conroy

The Normal-Destroyer

“Destroy Normal” is the saying Taylor lives by. He was hired as North America’s youngest professional fire fighter, built a successful real-estate company and now travels the world devoting his life to philanthropy and social enterprise. With his unique background in business Taylor has created a system that enables anyone to raise $10,000 for charity in under 3 hours and works on fostering entrepreneurship and empathy with children in Victoria, BC.

Read Taylor’s Blog Post

Esther Jang

The Relationship-Builder

Has more than 15 years of experience in business development, marketing and fundraising.

Prior to entering the fundraising field, Esther was a marketing manager for the largest diamond manufacturer in Canada, where she built the first Canadian diamond brand, created innovative diamond packaging, and developed a retailer network in both North American and international markets. She also has experience in managing special events, volunteers and annual programs for both grassroots and national-scale not-for-profit organizations. Esther currently serves on the board of directors for the Open Door Group and as the Director of Investor Development for LIFT Philanthropy Partners.

Read Esther’s Blog Post

Bonnie Foley-Wong

The Wayfinder

Bonnie founded Pique Ventures (, an investor network that is changing the face of investing. Bonnie believes in building investment relationships as part of an ecosystem of investors, entrepreneurs, and capacity builders. She is passionate about inspiring and enabling people to make investment decisions with their emotions, intuition, and bodies, alongside analysis. She gets an energy boost from connecting people to resources and each other and describes her craft as moving money.

Bonnie is on the fourth iteration of her career. The first was as a Chartered Accountant with Deloitte in Toronto and London. The second was as an investment banker, structuring and financing multi-million Euro real estate transactions in Europe with Hypo Real Estate Bank and ABN AMRO Bank. The third was as an explorer, traveller, consultant, aspiring ski instructor, and advisor to social entrepreneurs and impact investors.

In 2011, she had a hunch that relocating to Vancouver would surround her with an environment that would nurture the life, lifestyle, and livelihood that she wanted for her and her family. She took an opportunity to join a team at Vancity and implemented a high impact lending and investing program. She spotted opportunities where the impact investing space could innovate, namely in how investment decisions are made and around the leadership of women investors, and in December 2011began developing what is now Pique Ventures. Bonnie is an associate of Ogunte ( in the UK, is a member of the Board of LOCO BC (, and was a mentor in the Women in Leadership Foundation's mentoring program ( in 2012. You can often find her on Twitter @BonnieOWong.

Read Bonnie’s Blog Post

Catherine Clement

The Cheerleader

Catherine is Vice President of Public Engagement and Communications for Vancouver Foundation, Canada’s largest community foundation. She is first and foremost a storyteller, and loves to share all the good things that are happening in our community.

But she is also responsible for broader public engagement. Last year she led a community consultation exercise which identified growing isolation, disconnection, and civic malaise as the number one issue of concern to community leaders.

As a result of that work, she recently directed a major survey of over 3,800 metro Vancouver residents. The survey examined their level of connection and engagement on three levels: personal friendships; neighbourhood relationships; and experiences in the larger community. It also explored the barriers to residents being more connected and engaged. The Foundation is using these findings to improve how it supports residents and neighbourhoods.

Ted Barton

The Problem-Solver

Ted Barton is the co-creator of International Skating Union Judging systems and touch screen technology, was the producer for ISU and Skate Canada educational and event entertainment videos, apart of the team that produced of the award winning “How To” video series on jumping and spinning in figure skating, and has successfully developed National and Provincial live streaming processes and programming for Skate Canada. Currently, Ted is the Executive Director of Skate Canada BC/Yukon, and is working as a Communications consultant for the BC Sport Agency.

Read Ted’s Blog Post

Ken Gauthier

The Integrator

Ken (@KenGauthier1) is Urban Systems’ Social Intrapreneur. After 10+ years working as a market based engineering consultant, then as Managing Partner and now as a Director of both Urban Systems and the Urban Systems Foundation, Ken has sights focused squarely on bringing the spirit of social innovation to and through the Company. Inspired to find a better path for Urban Systems and like-minded for-profit companies, Ken is actively engaged in building momentum and championing causes and business opportunities that also positively impact community issues. Working out of the Okanagan Valley and supported by his family, Ken also actively volunteers with the Kelowna Chambre of Commerce and the Kelowna Community Development Society.

Read Ken’s Blog Post

Rupert Downing

The Animator

Rupert Downing has worked in community economic development for the last 30 years in Canada, South America and Europe. He currently runs the Community Social Planning Council of Greater Victoria and is the former Executive Director of the Canadian Community Economic Development Network, and the BC Ministry of Community Development. He has just wrapped up a six year national and international research program for the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada on the social economy, and manages a social enterprise partnered with an indigenous women's cooperative in Bolivia. In BC's Capital Region he is involved in social innovation initiatives to improve community social, economic and environmental conditions on a sustainable basis, including a Community Investment Fund, a Community Action Plan on Poverty, and a Sustainable Food and Agriculture program.

Leona Gadsby

The Educator

Leona Gadsby believes that literacy is important – for individuals and for building communities. She has been instrumental in developing a network of literacy stakeholders in more than 400 BC communities. Leona began this work as the Director of Community and Adult Literacy for 2010 Legacies Now, and continues it as Lead Director for Programs and Services for Decoda Literacy Solutions.

Leona is passionate about the power of literacy to transform individuals and develop strong communities. She is a life-long educator and has been the Regional Literacy Coordinator for the East Kootenay, an adult literacy instructor, tutor trainer, ESL instructor and Education Advisor for College of the Rockies as well as a high school English teacher. Leona was the co-founder and executive director of the Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy, which was recognized for its achievements in literacy with the first annual Council of the Federation Literacy Award.

Read Leona’s Blog Post

Elizabeth Lougheed Green

The Connector

Liz has many years of experience as a community developer, social policy advocate and social enterprise practitioner. Liz now Manages Vancity’s Impact Business Development program, working directly with groups across the impact business spectrum to deliver financial, resource and human supports, in order to help them reach their full potential.

Prior to coming to the Credit Union, Liz was the Manager of Strategic Programs for Vancity Community Foundation, and earlier led the Potluck Café Society from start-up through to sustainability in her role there as Executive Director. She holds a Master’s Degree in Social Policy and has worked with groups like First Call: The BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition and BC Campaign 2000 on Community Development initiatives.

In addition to her role at the Foundation, Liz maintains a role on the Board’s of the Hastings East Community Programs Society and women’s organization, W4, and she is an advisory committee member of the Canadian Centre for Women’s Economic Development.

Read Elizabeth’s Blog Post

Shawn Smith

The Edu-preneur

Passionate about building scalable, intelligently designed enterprises with global impact, Shawn is co-founder of several organizations, including the Global Catalyst Initiative, Education Generation, the Equilibrium Partnership and Radiant Carbon Offsets. Shawn is also an Adjunct Professor and Special Advisor for Social Innovation at the Beedie School of Business, Simon Fraser University. His ventures and consulting touch on Europe, Africa, South America, North America and Asia. Shawn is a graduate of Simon Fraser University and holds an MBA from the University of Oxford where he attended as a Skoll Scholar in Social Entrepreneurship.

Sheila Evani

The Strategic Structuralist

Sheila Evani is an avid bookworm, musician, yoga enthusiast and all-around fun person! She is dedicated to using her legal experience to support community development and social change. Her areas of expertise include corporations, societies/charities, commercial transactions, real estate, commercial lending and social enterprise. She also provides consulting services in the areas of business organization, board governance and risk assessment.

Timothy Nash

The Economist

Timothy Jack Nash is President of Strategic Sustainable Investments. Timothy earned his B.A. in Economics from the University of King’s College (Halifax, Canada) and his M.Sc. in Strategic Leadership towards Sustainability from the Blekinge Institute of Technology (Karlskrona, Sweden) where he recently returned to guest lecture on ‘Sustainable Economics’. He has completed the Canadian Securities Course, and is a Senior Research Advisor to Ethical Markets Media (USA and Brazil). He leads the research team for the Green Transition Scoreboard®, which has identified more than $3.6 trillion of private investments flowing into the global green economy. He was recently featured in Maclean’s magazine and has appeared on CBC’s The Lang & O’Leary Exchange.

Bianca Bartz

The Storyteller

Bianca is a writer and content marketer specialized in helping businesses and organizations communicate effectively online. When not in front of her computer, she offsets her tech addiction with a regular yoga practice, green smoothies and social Sunday brunches.

She runs a boutique content marketing consultancy and sits on the marketing advisory boards of Vancouver-based charities and social enterprises including F--- Cancer, Project True, and Change Heroes. As former Editor-in-Chief of, she has profiled hundreds of social entrepreneurs and covered emerging trends in the social impact space.

Bianca's online portfolio includes 5,000+ articles on topics ranging from tech to travel, but she feels most fulfilled when helping socially responsible businesses and organizations share their ideas as widely as possible.

Nabeel Ahmed

The Editor

Nabeel Ahmed is the managing editor of and an associate at the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing, providing research and program support. was incubated by [email protected] and is now a program of the Centre for Impact Investing.

Nabeel also manages media and online marketing for the Association for the Development of Pakistan, a micro-philanthropy organization that identifies and funds sustainable development initiatives in Pakistan. He is a freelance journalist with experience in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Canada. Nabeel has a degree in business administration from Karachi, Pakistan, and has recently completed a Certificate in Public Administration and Leadership at Ryerson University.