Aklilu Mulat has thirty years of experience in administrative and financial as well as senior executive leadership within the business and not-for-profit environment. He is a Chartered Professional Accountant and a Fellow, Certified Management Accountant. Aklilu also has extensive training and teaching experience in accounting and strategic management as a moderator for the Strategic Leadership Program of the Certified Management Accountants of BC for over ten years. In addition, he has taught managerial accounting at Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia and basic accounting and management at Trinity Western University. Born in Ethiopia, Aklilu moved to Canada in 1979 to pursue a university education. He currently resides in Port Moody, BC with his family.
France Stanley is from Iraq and lives in Surrey, BC. He is a Safe Schools Liaison with the Safe Schools department of the Surrey School District; previously, he was an assistant manager at McDonald’s. He is one of the founders of Solid State and is now a student at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. France remains a critical mentor and pillar of support for many youths both inside and outside of Solid State.
Isaac K. Oommen is co-founder of Solid State and a former youth worker. He is co-editor for New Canadian Media and global head of programs and relations for the Pacific Link group of colleges. Formerly, he co-founded the Vancouver Media Co-op in 2009 and started multiple youth initiatives across the Lower Mainland. He is now semi-based out of his native Kerala, with frequent travel across MENA. He misses Surrey like you would not believe.
Josiane Anthony lives in Surrey and is currently studying law and sociology with an interest in refugee and immigration issues. She is a program coordinator leading refugee youth programs for the Immigrant Services Society and the Vancouver Foundation’s Youth Advisory Team. Josiane has served as National Youth Arts Coordinator for the Michaelle Jean Foundation and as creator and evaluator of BC Youth EngagementToolkit for the Ministry of Children and Family Development. She is also the co-founder of the Black Before February arts collective and event, and co-editor of From the Root zine.
As a creative and solution-focused administrator with over fifteen years of community and governance experience, Lily brings principled and collaborative leadership that is focused on outcomes. She has spearheaded the complex program and policy initiatives across a variety of sectors including non-profits, communities and public institutions. Some highlights include the development of multi-million-dollar programming for immigrants, the creation of community-led youth initiatives in under-served communities and the development of equity policies for community organizations. She currently sits on the board of Vancity Credit Union, Canada’s largest credit union in English speaking Canada, with over $25 billion in members’ assets. Her expertise includes values-based leadership, partnership development, stakeholder engagement, program design/management and policy development initiatives.
Neelam Sahota is a senior executive with more than twenty years of experience in all aspects of executive leadership. She is the CEO of the DIVERSEcity Community Resources Society, a registered charity providing services to newcomers settling into the Lower Mainland. Neelam is a member of the Chartered Professional Accountants Association of BC and has a Bachelor of Business Administration from the Beedie School of Business at Simon Fraser University. Neelam has in-depth experience in board governance and strategic planning and currently serves on several boards and advisory committees throughout the Lower Mainland. Her passion lies in creating community impact through resource connections, innovative economic drivers and values-based community partnerships.
Sirish Rao is a writer, event producer and publishing professional. He is the co-founder and artistic director of Vancouver’s annual Indian Summer Festival of the arts and ideas. Before moving to Vancouver, Sirish was the director of the award-winning Tara Books, which he helped grow from a start-up into one of India’s most important publishing houses. As a writer, he has authored several books from commentaries on popular culture to children’s books and retellings of Greek plays. His books have been translated into seventeen languages and won several international awards. Sirish is also an adjunct professor in the Publishing Department of Simon Fraser University.
Vanessa Richards, born in Vancouver, is an artist and community engagement facilitator. Her work focuses on creativity and participatory culture as central to social well-being. Richards is the founder and choir leader for Van Van Song Society and director of Creative Together, bringing collective singing for deeper connections to ideas and people at conferences and gatherings. Her poetry and critical works are anthologized in the UK, Holland, the United States and Canada. As a performer, she has been nominated for a Jesse Richardson Theatre Award. She is on the advisory committee for the RADIUS Fellowship at Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business and a producer/facilitator for the Social Venture Institute with Hollyhock Leadership Institute For her work in community engagement Richards was the recipient of the 2018 City of Vancouver’s Mayor’s Achievement Award.
DR. GRETCHEN FERGUSON
Dr. Gretchen Ferguson has over 20 years of experience with community-engaged research and learning in Latin America and Canada related to sustainable communities, community economic development, indigenous economies and decolonization, social economy, and co-op development. She has catalyzed and led multiple projects and programs at SFU, in the Centre for Sustainable Community Development, the Sustainable Development Program, and the Office of Community Engagement. She is currently working as Director, Global Engagement at SFU.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
DR. SELENA COUTURE
Selena Couture is an Assistant Professor at the University of Alberta, Edmonton/ Treaty 6 territory, Métis homelands. She writes about history, performance, Indigenous lands and languages as well as constructions of race focusing on whiteness. She was a teacher and school director for many years before becoming a professor.
Inspired by Mondragon in Spain, Verity Rolfe worked for many years as part of a reforestation workers’ co-op that made connections with other co-ops in the west. While bringing up her family she worked with youth as a teacher in a democratic school. Now she works as part of a community-oriented charity. She has have served on many different boards over the years and is happy to be part of Solid State because it brings youth and co-ops together in a meaningful way. She is grateful to be living in the territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh peoples as a fourth-generation settler.
Erin Seatter is an editor and award-winning journalist. She has worked as a youth educator in the areas of HIV, sexual health, and identity and racism. She holds a master’s degree in communication from Carleton University.
With 5 years of facilitation experience, Aida is skilled at bringing people together to discuss critical topics, create new possibilities, and transform the way that people interact with one another. She currently works as an independent facilitator for the Vancouver Foundation’s Youth Public Policy program, supporting a group of young migrant and Indigenous leaders in strengthening their public policy skills to advance equity in B.C. When she’s not working on that, Aida is involved with Ethọ́s Lab, a start-up dedicated to creating unique physical and digital spaces for youth aged 12-18. She continues to serve on the advisory committee of the SFU Dialogue and Civic Engagement Certificate and is a Dialogue Associate for the Morris J. Wosk Center for Dialogue. Aida’s roots in Kenya, upbringing in Gambia and experience in Canada inform her desire to shift the narrative about misunderstood places, people, and systems to positively shape how we engage with the world around us.
Halah is gradute student in clinical counseling with a keen interest in the biopsychosocial and spiritual aspects of addiction and recovery. She’s spent the last few years in the biotech startup world as well as working in her communities to lower barriers to epistemologically relevant mental health care. She is grateful to live on the territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, and səl̓ilwətaɁɬ / sel̓íl̓witulh nations. Halah always makes time to read, cultivate her love of languages and be near the ocean.
Amal is a Masters student at the Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change at York University. Her research interests center around race, climate justice, migration, health promotion, and community capacity in the domain of urban and regional planning. Amal graduated from Simon Fraser University with a Bachelors of Art in French and Sustainable Development, and a certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation. At Solid State, Amal was previously a coordinator with Open City Events.
We work, study, and live in a region south of the Fraser River which overlaps with the unceded traditional and ancestral lands of the Kwantlen, Musqueam, Katzie, Semiahmoo, Tsawwassen, Qayqayt and Kwikwetlem peoples.