Groundswell was founded in 2009 by 12 founders from eight different countries. Many of our founders currently serve as staff members and advisors.
Steve Brescia is the Executive Director of Groundswell International and one of its co-founders. Steve has over 25 years of experience supporting international development, social change and grassroots advocacy. From 1996-2009 he worked for World Neighbors in positions including Area Representative for Mesoamerica and Haiti; Latin America Regional Coordinator; and Associate VP for Program Learning and Innovation – facilitating the documentation of a program methodology guide. He previously worked for the Inter-American Foundation, the International Liaison Office for President Aristide of Haiti, and with community-based organizations in Nicaragua. He holds an MA in International Development from American University and a certificate in Asset-Based Community Development from the Coady International Institute at St. Francis Xavier University.
Christopher Sacco serves as Director of Operations at Groundswell and is one of its co-founders. He has more than 15 years of experience working in humanitarian relief and development, including more than seven years working full-time in Ecuador as a project manager for Catholic Relief Services and the Yachana Foundation. Chris continues to consult on disaster risk reduction and response projects for a number of international organizations, including CRS. His academic preparation includes a BA in Government and Spanish from Franklin & Marshall College, a graduate certificate in the Design, Management and Evaluation of Sustainable Development Projects from the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences, and a graduate certificate in Community Preparedness and Disaster Management from UNC Chapel Hill.
Fatou Batta serves as Groundswell’s Regional Coordinator for West Africa. She is one of Groundswell’s co-founders and also founded Association Nourrir Sans Détruire (ANSD), Groundswell’s local partner in Burkina Faso. Until 2009, Fatou worked for over 15 years as the World Neighbors’ Area Representative for West Africa, overseeing all aspects of strategy, programs and management for the region. Prior to joining World Neighbors, she held several positions with the government of her native Burkina Faso, where she helped to develop family planning policy and planned and administered projects sponsored by international agencies. She received her Master’s degree in Public Health from Tulane University’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans. She did her undergraduate work at School of Technical Education in Paris and completed a diploma in participatory development at the Coady International Institute at St. Francis Xavier University.
Peter Gubbels is Groundswell’s Director of Action Learning and Advocacy for West Africa and is one of Groundswell’s co-founders. He has 34 years of experience in rural development, which includes over 20 years of living and working in West Africa. Currently based in Ghana, Peter provides action research and advocacy support to Groundswell’s partners who empower rural communities to build equitable and ecologically sound local economies, spread lasting solutions, and engage in wider coalitions for change. Peter is also the co-author of From the Roots Up: Strengthening Organizational Capacity through Guided Self-Assessment. Before co-founding Groundswell, he was the Vice President of International Programs for World Neighbors. Peter holds a college diploma in Agricultural Production and Management, an Honor’s degree in History from the University of Western Ontario, and an MA in Rural Development from the University of East Anglia in Great Britain.
Ross Mary Borja is Executive Director of the Ecuadorian NGO EkoRural. Before taking the helm at EkoRural, Ross served as the Program Monitoring and Evaluation (PME) Specialist for World Neighbors Andes program, where she developed a global PME system that was implemented in Ecuador and Peru. She holds a BA in Economics from the Universidad Catolica del Ecuador in Quito and a Masters of Professional Studies degree from Cornell University’s Community and Rural Development Program in the Rural Sociology Department. In January 2004 she obtained her degree and went back to her native Ecuador. Ross has authored or contributed to a number of professional works, including “Documenting Farmer Field Schools in the Ecuadorian Highlands: A Case Study of the Province of Carchi”.
Cantave Jean-Baptiste is a Haitian agronomist and rural development practitioner with over 30 years of experience supporting rural development, agriculture and sustainability, as well as strengthening peasant organizations. He is the Executive Director of Partenariat pour le Développement Local (PDL), Groundswell’s partner organization in Haiti. Before creating PDL, Cantave worked with Caritas (Gonaives and Hinche) from 1981 to 1991 as sustainable agriculture program coordinator, and then from 1995-2009 as the national director of World Neighbors Haiti. He holds a degree from the College of Agronomy and Veterinary Medicine, State University in Haiti. He speaks English, Haitian Creole, Spanish and French. Since 2014, he has attended the Opportunity Collaboration annual meeting which convenes global leaders to promote innovative solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges.
Stephen Sherwood and his wife Myriam Paredes own a family farm in Ecuador, where they are activists in national and regional food movements in the Andes. In addition to his earlier work at Cornell University and the International Potato Center,Steve is co-founder of the Ecuadorian NGO EkoRural and Groundswell International. Throughout his career, he has been a proponent of locally led approaches to social change and development. Drawing on over 20 years of grassroots experience, Steve is a lecturer and research fellow in Knowledge, Technology and Innovation at Wageningen University in the Netherlands.
Kaia Ambrose is the Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Manager at CARE Canada, as well as an international development consultant with a focus on monitoring and evaluation systems. She has consulted for the World Bank, McKnight Foundation, Oxfam Canada, CGIAR, the International Development Research Institute, SIDA, ODI, and others around the globe. She supports project staff to build their capacity in qualitative evaluation and use-oriented evaluation, and helps them build out logical frameworks that incorporate the most appropriate and useful monitoring and evaluation tools. In addition to co-founding Groundswell International, Kaia is one of the founding members of the Outcome Mapping Learning Community (www.outcomemapping.ca). Kaia holds a BA in Comparative Development Studies from Trent University, and is a graduate of the Catholic University of Ecuador, with a master’s degree in community-based natural resource management. Her thesis work focused on social learning and community-based natural resource management in northern Ecuador.
Jackie Chenier has 20 years of experience supporting natural resources management, rural development, agriculture and sustainability in Honduras, with an MsC in Rural Development from Cornell University and a degree in Agronomy for Zamorano University. Most recently she was national coordinator for ANAFAE, the National Association for the Promotion of Agroecology. She has also worked for Caritas, and represented funding supporting rural development in Honduras.
Natalie Elwell is the Senior Gender Advisor at the World Resources Institute. Previously, she served as the Senior Advisor for Gender and Environment at USAID, working to build capacity within the Agency to empower women and advance gender equality through and for the benefit of environment programs. Prior to joining USAID in 2009, Natalie served as the gender advisor to World Neighbor’s field teams, enhancing their approach to addressing gender issues and empowering women to be equal partners in the development of their communities. Natalie’s commitment to gender equality stems back to her service as a Peace Corps volunteer in Moldova where, in addition to teaching English and environmental education, she supported a ‘women in development’ group working to reduce domestic violence and prepare young women for a healthy future. Natalie has an MA in Sustainable Development from the SIT Graduate Institute in Vermont.
Emma Frisch Emma is the Co-Founder, Marketing and Culinary Director of Firelight Camps in Ithaca, NY. She was the co-founder of “La Buena Onda” in Nicaragua, a boutique hotel and farm-to-table cafe. She was a top finalist on Food Network Star Season 10 and is the author of Frisch Kitchen, a food blog with over 500 original recipes. Emma has worked with nonprofits in the northeast U.S., Kenya and as a Fulbright Scholar in Ecuador to help to build healthier regional food systems. She was the co-founder and executive director of the crowdfunding platform PEAKS, and is a founding member of Groundswell International. She holds a B.A. in Food Studies from the University of Pennsylvania.
Rainera Lucero lives in the Philippines, where she has worked on rural development for over 25 years, managing local NGOs, and leading agriculture and community health outreach programs. She is currently a consultant for the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) for the post-Haiyan program in the Philippines. Previously, Rene has worked as a Senior Adviser of German Development Cooperation, Deputy Country Director for Programs for Oxfam International in Timor Leste, Coordinator of the International Advisory Board of Grantmakers Without Borders, and as Country Representative for World Neighbors for nearly a decade. She holds a BS in Psychology from the University of San Carlos, Cebu City, and a Master in Health Social Science from De La Salle University, Manila.