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.
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.
Keisha DeCoste, Next UP Calgary Coordinator
Keisha (she/her) is our Program Coordinator for Next Up Calgary, located on Treaty 7 territory, the traditional land of the Blackfoot Confederacy, the Tsuut’ina, Îyâxe Nakoda Nations, as well as the Métis Nation of Alberta (Region 3).
Keisha’s work started with young people— with a bachelor’s in child, youth and family counselling, much of her early work centered around empowering youth voices and inspiring activism in young people. Her practice has included ‘boots on the ground’ experience working directly with children, youth and families in a compassionate, supportive and capacity-building manner.
Keisha is a queer woman passionate about advocacy, feminism, anti-oppressive frameworks, building community/individual capacity, allyship, biomimicry in social movements, accessibility, as well as pedagogical leadership.
Growing up in a low-income household and within the foster care system, Keisha is a trauma survivor and knows how trauma can color our experiences. She is passionate about creating trauma-informed spaces and believes strongly that through sharing our stories we can make connections rooted in positive common interests and create lasting change.
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
Jackson Wai Chung Tse | 謝瑋聰 (he/she/they) is a multidisciplinary artist and facilitator from Hong Kong, creating work in dance, poetry, theatre, voice, film, prose, music, and the healing arts. In September 2017, Jackson began 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, British Columbia. As a queer, non-binary, 1.5 generation immigrant-settler, Jackson’s intersectionality is reflected in their creative work, which explores intentional community building in polarizing times, reverence for the land, challenging the mainstream dominant paradigm, queer identities coexisting with cultural values, and Chinese diaspora in the West.
Jackson is a graduate of Queen’s University, the National University of Singapore, and The University of the State of New York. Honoured to have been in the Next Up Calgary 2014/2015 cohort, Jackson is also currently a MEC Outdoor Nation Ambassador, and works with the brand to express their radically loving relationship with the land through a variety of media.
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 trauma 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 2019, they are a participant in Playwright Theatre Centre’s Block A program, developing a new collective verbatim theatre piece with immigrant, refugee, and international students for Green Thumb Theatre, premiering at the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival, and stepping into the position of BC Coordinator for the Next Up Leadership Network.
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.