Who we are
Next Up staff come from a wide range of backgrounds: public policy, community activism, labour, the non-profit sector, and research. We are all involved in social and environmental justice work. We’ve created this program because we believe that a better world is not just possible, but an imperative.
We believe that good solutions to the biggest issues are out there, and can be realized. We have different approaches to teaching and learning, but we all believe that a new generation of progressive leaders is needed and should be supported.
Selena Gignac, Executive Director
Selena joined genius as Executive Director in July 2018 and is an alumna of the first Calgary Next Up cohort (2010).
As an anglophone, Acadian-settler mother living in Alberta, Selena’s relationship with colonialism is complex. She believes that reconciliation is rooted in both an understanding of self and in collective community experiences. This is critical and personal work as she strives within her own communities to decolonize what it means to be part of the Acadian diaspora.
With almost 15 years experience in the non-profit sector, Selena has coordinated national and international workshops, collaborations, and open spaces that explore responsible ally-ship, grassroots leadership, and youth agency. She is Co-Chair of the Board of Directors of Canadian Roots Exchange, and has been a community facilitator with the 4Rs Youth Movement.
Selena currently lives and works on Treaty 7 lands. She loves board games, animals, and chasing after her vivacious toddler.
Mike Byerley, Program Coordinator // Next Up Calgary // Climate Leadership Program
Sentiment without Action is the ruin of the Soul
~ Edward Abbey
Sentiment without Action is the ruin of the Soul
~ Edward Abbey
Today the world is wracked in urgent crises. How are these to be faced and still leave space to work for the good of future generations? In Alberta I’m constantly told that the Petrostate economy is “how it is” and we have no alternative system to be a part of. As an Albertan, I can see how changes made through connecting on ideas and values has profound impact. As an educator I see that skills, capacity and collaboration create and empower personal and systemic change. As a community organizer I see that shared purpose, common action and inclusion are successful in building the movement for justice. These are exciting times, sometimes fearful, often hopeful. Lately I'm finding my inspiration in finding other action oriented people and taking the steps to create just solutions to the intersecting climate and social issues we face here in Alberta.
Mike coordinates Next Up's weekly Calgary program and the Climate Leadership Program.
Seth Klein, Co-founder & Instructor with Next Up
Seth was hired to open the CCPA’s BC Office in 1996. Under his direction it has become a prominent and widely respected source of public policy research and commentary. Seth’s research deals primarily with tax reform, welfare policy, poverty, inequality, and economic security. A social activist for over 30 years and a former teacher, Seth holds a BA in international relations, a BEd from the University of Toronto, and an MA in political science from Simon Fraser University. Seth is a co-founder of Next Up. He is the former co-chair of the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition, an advisory board member for the Columbia Institute’s Centre for Civic Governance, and an advisor to the Living Wage for Families campaign.
Rana Hamadeh, Program Coordinator // Next Up Ottawa
Rana Hamadeh is a Palestinian-Canadian activist, artist, facilitator, and writer based on Algonquin Anishnaabeg land in Ottawa. She immerses herself in grassroots community organizing, both in Ottawa and her second home, occupied Palestine.
Alongside coordinating Next Up Ottawa, Rana currently runs peer support programs for refugee youth and women through an Ottawa non-profit.
While completing her BA in human rights and law at Carleton University, Rana became interested in organizing for students issues, from food poverty to accessible tuition. On campus, she became a core member of Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) and joined their battle for a socially ethical investment policy at Carleton. She also continues to sit as a Board member of the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG), a centre for student organizing on the lines of social, environmental, and economic justice. In Palestine, she worked as an independent journalist and within local direct-action activism collectives.
Rana’s passions are informed by her experiences: arriving in Canada as both a refugee and a settler; growing up in the Palestinian diaspora and resisting exile as an adult; and living in Canada as a racialized Muslim woman. She is interested in creating spaces where action is informed by decolonization.
Laura Collison, Program Coordinator // Next Up Edmonton
Laura Collison is a white Settler living in Amiskwaciwâskahikan (Edmonton) under Treaty 6. Laura was a participant in the 2010/11 Next Up Edmonton cohort and has served on Next Up Edmonton’s Advisory Committee.
Growing up surrounded by Albertans in border towns in BC and Saskatchewan led to a fascination with Alberta’s political culture. This drew her to study Sociology and Political Science at the University of Alberta’s Augustana Faculty. She learned that politics in Alberta is often frustrating, but never boring and the progressive community she found here helped her decide to make the province her home.
Laura is passionate about creating change through popular education and has developed workshops on feminism in community organizing, ending gender-based violence and sexual assault, and prison abolition. She also has experience in feminist community radio, youth leadership, volunteer engagement, public legal education, social marketing, and political campaigning. Laura has been a volunteer at the the federal prison for women in the Prairie region since 2008.
You can often find Laura knocking doors during elections; riding her bike to a meeting; hiking in the woods; or curling in Edmonton's LGBTQ curling league with her team, the Button Bangers.
♥ Keep loving, keep fighting ♥
In addition to coordinating the weekly Next Up program in Edmonton, Laura is facilitating our Next UP BC Presents: Sustainable Leadership in Urgent Times.
Sanjana Vijayann is an immigrant from India who lives and studies in Winnipeg. She started volunteering very early on and has since been part of the social movement toward an equitable world. Sanjana believes that one's civic duties go beyond casting a vote and involves speaking to decision makers about change they want to see in their community and country. Through her advocacy, she strives for principle in politics, achieving health equity, and a world free of extreme poverty. She trusts that progress of science and policy are driven by advocacy.
Sanjana's voice has been heard at the local level, national level and at the International level where she has advocated at the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and other global organizations to prioritize eradicating extreme poverty. She has lived in Tanzania and worked to help start and scale a social business that focused on getting essentials like rehydration salts, water purification salts, solar lights, menstrual management products etc to the hardest to reach and therefore the most vulnerable populations.
syma habib - CLP staff
Syma grew up in Edmonton, where, after she obtained a degree in Philosophy, she began to advocate for food justice, feminism, accessibility, and trauma-informed spaces, and connecting these ideas to create impact in at-risk communities. Since moving to Calgary, Syma works as the Community Action Coordinator at The Alex Community Food Centre, a dignified community space focused on growing, cooking, sharing and advocating for good food for all. Her main focus is building community capacity and supporting neighbours in community-led advocacy initiatives.
Syma’s focus in all the work she does is to create an atmosphere where change making is accessible to anyone. She strives to be relatable, and believes that lasting revolution lies in sharing our stories through art and over meals. She believes that by allowing ourselves as activists to be radically vulnerable and open to all the people we encounter, we are able to consider their stories as well, and can lead with love first. Syma loves yoga, walking everywhere, writing for children, learning to make anything, dancing, mountains, trees, feasts, and spices.
Syma is the program assistant for the 2018 Climate Leadership Program. She also works at the Alex Food Centre as a community organizer and educator.
Kate - Alberta Narratives Project Coordinator
Born and raised in Calgary and inspired by her progressive, eco-focused parents from a young age – Kate Letizia became an unyielding combatant for equality, human rights and environmental health before she even knew how to 'fight'. Educational and professional adventures throughout Latin America, Sweden, the Philippines, and now her hometown, created opportunities to build and refine an arsenal to generate positive, lasting change.
While her education (MSc in International Development and Natural Resource Management) and recent career and community focus has been on reframing waste and legitimizing non-conventional forms of employment and living (check out Calgary Can), a recent fellowship opportunity with SiG International vaulted Kate into the world of complex problems, social innovation and transformational change across Alberta. Armed with an even more diverse toolkit of human-centered, generative changemaking devices, and a few years of climate and social justice activism under her belt, Kate is now ready to focus her energy on what may be the biggest battle she’ll ever face: transforming the way her local and provincial peers, counterparts and communities respond to climate change and our collective future. Kate wants to live in a city, and province, where climate change is taken seriously and responded to fairly, intelligently and creatively. Kate was a participant in Next Up Calgary (2013 - 2014) and in the 2015 Climate Leadership Program.
Kate is coordinating Next Up Alberta's participation in the Alberta Narratives Project, and is a guest facilitator for the 2018 Climate Leadership Program.
Manuela Valle-Castro, Saskatchewan Coordinator
Manuela Valle-Castro is our Program Coordinator for Next UP Saskatchewan, located on Treaty 6 Territory, homeland of the Cree and Metis people.
Manuela has an incredible history of grassroots activism in Chile and Canada with a flair for facilitation and encouraging thoughtful discussions about social justice with youth. She has achieved a PhD in Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Social Justice, along with her involvement in many different organizations including Girls Rock Camp Saskatoon and Riversdale Community Association. Manuela has held teaching positions at the University of Saskatchewan, and brings with her experiences and skills rooted in feminism, conflict mediation, mental health, poverty, environmentalism, Indigenous topics, and many more such subjects. She is also huge fan of 'zines!
Manuela impressed us with her analytical and compassionate perspectives, positive energy, and wealth of skills and hands-on experiences. We are extremely excited for what Manuela will bring to the program and the future Next Uppers who will have the opportunity to grow and develop their leadership under her guidance!
You can reach Manuela by email at email@example.com
Austin Neaves, Operations Manager
Austin is the Operations Manager at Next UP. He brings with him experience in non-profit management, fundraising, and a passion for social and economic justice. He previously worked at the Vancouver Friends For Life Society.
Born in Iowa, He developed an interest in progressive politics at an early age. Austin graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago before moving to Vancouver. He loves going on long walks with dogs, reading history books, vegan cooking, and playing board games.
You can reach Austin by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kevin Millsip, Co-Founder
Kevin is the Co-founder and the past Executive Director of Next Up. He is currently an advisor to the Next Up programs.
Over the last ten years Kevin has focused on building the capacity of young social change leaders across Canada, food security and climate change work.
Kevin has driven social change both locally and nationally. As the former Director and Co-founder of Check Your Head, he worked with thousands of high school age youth to become involved in global justice issues and through Get Your Vote On – a non-partisan campaign that he co-founded in 2004 - has run campaigns to register thousands of young people to vote in BC elections. He’s dabbled in municipal politics where he served as a Vancouver School Board Trustee. While a Trustee he drafted one of Canada’s strongest policies protecting students from advertising in schools.
Kevin worked for 6 years as the Vancouver School Board's first Sustainability Coordinator and moved to working full time with Next UP and the global youth education network in 2015. He lives and works in Vancouver on the shared lands of th xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skxwú7mesh (Squamish) & səlil̓wətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Coast Salish peoples, speaking and leading workshops on social change and public engagement for unions and other progressive organizations across the country.
Other stuff: Kevin is a Dialogue Associate with The Simon Fraser University Centre for Dialogue, a Fellow with the Broadbent Instituteand serves as an advisor with Upstream, the Small Change Fundand The Centre for Civic Governance. He currently serves as the Chair of the BC Board of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the board of Theatre for Living.
Jackson Wai Chung Tse | 謝瑋聰 (he/she/they) is a queer, 1.5 generation immigrant, multidisciplinary artist, now settling on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded Coast Salish territories of the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓-speaking xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) and səlil̓wətaɁɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations, the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Sníchim-speaking Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation), also known as Vancouver, Canada. They are a MEC Outdoor Nation Ambassador, the business owner of Benevolent Bodywork, and enjoy facilitating and consulting for social change causes.
In mainstream, dominated spaces, Jackson wants to bring more queer folks of colour to build community, give voice to those historically and systematically silenced and oppressed, and reclaim their joy, magic, and self-worth back from colonized ideas. They were honoured to be in the 2014/15 Calgary NextUp cohort.
Since graduating from civil engineering at Queen's University, teaching English overseas, and self-funding travel to 35 different countries around the world, Jackson has decided to move to the West Coast to be closer to their two biggest heartbeats: a best friend and the ocean.
Jackson likes to make love, hold solo dance parties when no one is around, and sink their hands into giant sacks of dried rice. They are a big connection junkie. Really, they're just a Chinese gay hippie unicorn radical faerie full of chocolate, smiles, and light.
Jackson identifies as a person of colour to refugee parents, grew up in a low-income, suburban, and conservative home, and had a deeply religious upbringing. As a sexual assault survivor, they know the importance of giving people the power of choice. They try not to make any assumptions, and they take care to be completely present with the folks they are engaged with. Their facilitation experience comes from their roles at organizations across Canada and the globe, including Next Up, Power of Hope, the North Shore Multicultural Society, Camp fYrefly, Shad Valley International, Tim Horton’s Children’s Ranch, the Quantum Learning Network, the Centre for International Pedagogical Studies in France, the Ministry of Science and Education in Georgia, The Calgary Bridge Foundation for Youth, and numerous post-secondary institutions.
Jackson’s soul gets replenished from sharing food in conscious communities, spending time in nature, and expressing their creativity. In 2018, they made their debut with MachineNoisy Dance Society at the Vancouver Queer Arts Festival, and premiered their first film, Breaking the Silence featuring legendary Canadian artist Paul Wong, at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival. In 2019, they are honoured to be part of the Block A Program Cohort at Playwright Theatre Centre.
Next Up is a project of our host and founding organization, genius (the global youth education network society). genius is the art of non-habitual thinking, and that’s how we approach social change work. genius is a charitable not-for-profit that works in four areas: leadership, civic engagement, project incubation and cross generational collaboration.
Next Up’s staff are supported by region-specific Advisory Committees, made up of great people from the public sectors, not-for-profits, community organizations and trade unions. Advisory Committee members volunteer their time to support the program's design and delivery and connect Next Up with local communities. We also partner with organizations in each region where we have a program. The regional partners help us with fundraising, local content design and overall program development.
In BC, Next Up partners with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA)– BC Office. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives is an independent, non-partisan research institute focused on social and economic justice. It is one of Canada’s leading progressive voices in public policy debates.
In Alberta, we partner with Parkland Institute. Parkland Institute is an Alberta-wide, non-partisan research centre situated within the Faculty of Arts at the University of Alberta. Parkland Institute studies economic, social, cultural and political issues facing Albertans and Canadians, using the perspective of political economy.
In Calgary we also partner with the Arusha Centre and the Alberta EcoTrust Foundation. The Arusha Centre inspires and supports communities to connect, gather, and create a socially, economically, and environmentally just future. The Alberta EcoTrust Foundation supports environmental groups in Alberta through grants and capacity / collaboration building programs.
In Saskatchewan, we partner with the CCPA – Saskatchewan office.
In Ontario, we partner with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives – National Office.