Naomi Mahaffy


Born and raised in Edmonton, and now living in Fort McMurray, Naomi has been engaged in local environmental and social initiatives from a young age. After completing her graduate studies at McMaster University and spending a few years in Ontario (where she taught undergraduate courses, managed social media for a UN sanitation campaign, and coordinated volunteers for a local environmental organization), Naomi returned to Alberta in 2014. In her four years at the Calgary-based Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology (CAWST), Naomi developed education materials and mentored and advised organizations seeking to create effective programs and develop their competencies as trainers. Always excited to bridge disciplines and cultures, Naomi loves facilitating opportunities for organizations and individuals to learn from one another’s work.

Contact Naomi: naomi@absiconnect.ca



Advisory Group

ABSI Connect is supported by a small advisory team (see our terms of reference and contact Naomi for more information or to explore volunteering in this capacity)


Annand Ollivierre

As the Network and Engagement Director of Volunteer Alberta, Annand’s work is focused on increasing the nonprofit sector's capacity to take actions that address the complex challenges they face. Through his work, nonprofit organizations are empowered to move through cycles of creation and innovation that supports their capacity and impact. He uses a holistic perspective that encourages collaboration and empowers organizations to apply new frameworks, methods and tools for greater impact. He cares about social innovation because the field places the focus on revealing the dynamics that sustain complex challenges. Through this digging what is unearthed is our collective human capacity and know how to build solutions that shift systems for the better. He has been a key contributor to ABSI Connect since 2016, when he joined as a Journeyman Partner.

standing - babs.JPG

Barbara (Babs) Weber

Babs started testing her parents’ patience as a toddler as soon as she was able to ask the question, “why?” It’s still her favourite word, because it opens up so many possibilities. Babs holds degrees in both archaeology (University of Calgary) and museum studies (University of Leicester). In the course of her adventures, she has done fieldwork in Jordan and Nicaragua; lived in an apartment converted from a hayloft once used by Land Army Girls on the estate where the richest Anglo Saxon burial ground was located; helped hundreds of children explore the Lethbridge river valley; taught senior citizens how to use iPads to explore historic photographs; and volunteered with many organizations like the Crowsnest Pass Adult Education Society, Girl Guides of Canada, Crowsnest Regional Library, Imagine Canada, Waypoints Family Crisis Society, the BrainSTEM Alliance and more. Her biggest goal is to get human beings interested in how they actively belong with each other and the planet – somehow that brought her into the world of social innovation. At FuseSocial, Babs works with governance structures, policy creation and operational support for agencies. If an agency needs help with creating a business plan, policies, brushing up their board members on how to be effective governors, or working on accreditation then Babs is the Rosalind Russell to your Cary Grant: in other words, she’s your girl Friday.


Katharine McGowan

Katharine began her academic career as a traditional Canadian historian, and this eventually led her to be the annoying fact-checker and long-term perspective haver on social innovaiton at the Waterloo Institute for Social Innovation and Resilience. Her clear joy of public speaking and mild likeability led to a position with Social Prosperity Wood Buffalo (SPWB), a community-based project in Fort McMurray that sought to support a culture of social innovation. This directly led to her current position as assistant professor of social innovation in the Bisset School of Business. She has not abandoned her historical roots, however, as she is currently delivering a first: a history social innovation course, where she has already subjected serious business students to a frivolous discussion of resilience and the French revolution. Upcoming topics include the Dutch East India Company, the Canada Health Act, intelligence testing, and (sigh) that new flash-in-the-pan, the internet. Katharine is currently helming/coordinating the Aapat Tsi Kani Takiiks, a three-year indigenization initiative that builds on the Suncor Aboriginal Business Education pilot program at Bissett. That is, helming it until the incredibly impressive and driven Bisset Aboriginal students mutiny and take over the ship. She can’t wait to live in the Canada they are going to (re)build.


Roya Damabi

Roya Damabi joined Alberta CoLab, an innovation space inside the Government of Alberta’s Department of Energy, in fall 2015 and is a Senior Systemic Designer. With Alberta CoLab, she works on projects from across the public service, from sustainable mobility to land use planning to social innovation. A strong focus of her work is capacity building and field building – working to grow the capacity of the public service to work in more impactful ways and to build the field of systemic design and social innovation through work with other social labs. She cares about social innovation because creating new value through how we are together is necessary to both shift long-standing challenges and adapt to new ones that affect all of us in some way.


Russ Dahms

Russ has been leading ECVO’s growth and development since 2007. Under his leadership, ECVO has focused on strengthening the nonprofit sector through fostering, building and creating sustainable partnerships and providing valuable services to its members. Russ has also overseen the expansion of ECVO as a communicator and network hub, as well as the evolution of relationships between the organization and leaders in the nonprofit, government and business communities. Russ brings over thirty years of leadership, communications, and negotiating skills to ECVO. He was previously the Executive Director for the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues, and spent over twenty years in a variety of positions for the Community Services Department of The City of Edmonton. Russ holds a Bachelors of Arts in Recreation Administration from the University of Alberta.


Alumni Fellows and Facilitator

ABSI Connect is grateful for the thoughtful, passionate, and creative individuals who began this journey and continue to bring social innovation into their current roles. You can find their reflections, insights, and work on our blog.

Aleeya Velji

PHASE 1 & 2 FELLOw (Edmonton)

Aleeya Velji is socially permeating, adventure seeking, and constantly evolving. In her mission to be an active citizen and strong advocate for civic engagement, she has tenaciously sought out formative experiences from a range of settings. Aleeya played a critical role as a connector, capacity builder, and storyteller with ABSI Connect in Edmonton.


PHASE 2 FELLOW (Calgary)

Tori on the nub.jpg

Schooled in economics, steeped in global development, Tori is passionate about bringing together diverse perspectives to find relevant solutions to complex problems. With ABSI Connect, she helped to build community among social innovators in Calgary and investigated what it looks like to integrate social innovation into organizations.

Melissa Herman

Northern Fellow (Indigenous innovation)

Melissa Herman is indigenous to Treaty 8 territory and provided insight and a valuable understanding of the dynamics of rural communities in Northern Alberta. With ABSI Connect, she did important and meaningful work to bridge the language and tools of social innovation with the important changemaking work happening in Indigenous communities.


Phase 1 FELLOW (Calgary)

Lesley’s passion for social innovation developed out of her engagement with issues related to social finance at the Carleton Centre for Community Innovation in Ottawa. She led ABSI Connect’s investigations into the intersections between innovation and social policy.




Kate Letizia is a native Calgarian and global citizen who is on a lifelong journey to generate positive change with marginalized people and communities throughout the world. With ABSI Connect, she played a key role in connecting, interviewing, and supporting social innovators in Calgary.

Kelsey Spitz-Dietrich

Founding Facilitator (Toronto)


Kelsey was part of the final four years of Social Innovation Generation (SiG), where she co-authored Social Innovation Generation: Fostering a Canadian Ecosystem for Systems Change to capture the lessons of the SiG story. She also served as a social innovation specialist at the Centre for Social Innovation. She now shares her time between CKX and Social Innovation Exchange (SIX). As part of her position with SiG, Kelsey helped ABSI Connect get started, supported the fellows on their individual and collective journeys, and created the relationships that helped this movement grow.