Co-Founder and Managing Partner
Co-founder and Managing Partner for Services
Claudia is passionate about social justice and she brings issues of radical equality, locally owned development and managing power differentials into her work at Root Change. She loves nothing more than co-designing and testing new capacity development approaches with local colleagues. Claudia left Pact to found Root Change after serving there as the Director of Training. From 1994 to 2002, Claudia was on the staff of Case Western Reserve’s Weatherhead School of Management in the Doctoral Department of Organizational Behavior, where she conceived and co-directed the Global Excellence in Management (GEM) Initiative, a capacity development program for NGOs worldwide funded by a seven-year multimillion dollar USAID grant. Today, Claudia is one of a small number of professionals who specialize in positive approaches to change. After working in more than 40 countries across multiple sectors, Claudia still experiences pure joy when she is traversing new lands with her hiking stick and backpack in tow.
Learning and Product Design Manager
Root Change Liaison, Malawi
Chief Learning Officer
At Root Change, Beryl supports the co-development, testing, and refining of methodologies that contribute to a more just and equitable world. She also helps to design and facilitate theory-building, learning events and directs the Root Change Program in Design, Partnering, Management and Innovation (DPMI). Beryl’s driving passion is helping individuals and organizations use learning for personal and societal transformation. She is co-founder of the acclaimed Escuela Nueva (New School) movement; founder of the Peace Corps (Coverdell) Fellows program; co-founder of InterAction; and, author or co-author of many widely used capacity assessment methodologies. Her DPMI contributions garnered an innovation award from the Fund for Post-secondary Education; her re-imagining of graduate education led to a Middlebury Innovation Fund grant; and, her work on Active Learning Capacity earned her the Martin J. Forman Prize. Beryl has also co-created frameworks used by international organizations to measure the state of the world’s mothers and children. Prior to joining Root Change, Beryl held executive leadership positions in several major international NGOs and served as Distinguished Professor and Program Chair at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. When not working, Beryl has adventures with her multi-generational family, engages in political action, and attempts to become a world class photographer.
Executive Director, Community Independence Initiative
As the Executive Director of Community Independence Initiative (CII), Mauricio works closely with Root Change to implement CII around the world. CII is a peer-driven change model that invests in the talents, strengths, and ingenuity of people living in low-income communities. He authored The Alternative, a book which challenges the basic assumption that low-income families are lazy or victims in need of saving and lays out an evidenced-based alternative solution to poverty. Mauricio founded the Family Independence Initiative (FII) in 2001, with a mission to support and accelerate families’ own efforts to improve their social and economic mobility. In recognition of his unconventional approach to generating economic mobility, Mauricio was awarded a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship in 2012, was appointed by President Obama to the White House Council for Community Solutions, is an Ashoka Fellow, and more. A first-generation immigrant, Mauricio’s personal history deeply informs his life’s work.
Finance and Operations Officer
Wadia works with Root Change’s staff and partners around the world to provide administrative, operational, and logistical support. She is also responsible for administering and improving the organization’s knowledge management. Wadia has experience working in management and communications in Afghanistan, where she worked for the public and private sectors and the Afghan media. She is the owner of Afghanistan’s first and only business news portal, and she writes stories on Afghan women’s rights for Afghan and international news agencies and blogs. Wadia studied Economics and German Studies at University of Richmond. Outside of the office she loves to play dress up, dance, and take photos with her daughter, and spend time with her husband.
Alexis T. Shenfil Smart
Director of Programs
Alexis Smart works closely with partners and local change makers to co-design and facilitate system strengthening initiatives to address complex social problems. She leads Capacity 2.0 (C20) Local Works in Malawi and serves as the product manager for Pando, an online network visualization and feedback tool used to support system change. She has previous experience leading civil society strengthening initiatives in Serbia, Nepal, and Nigeria and in piloting the use of Community Links, a mobile phone alert system to support child protection in Uganda. Alexis got her start in development co-designing a training and mentorship program to support women entrepreneurs in rural india with a women-led microfinance bank. She has a MS in Development Management from American University and a BA in Anthropology from Skidmore College. Alexis works remotely for Root Change in Oakland, California, where she enjoys being outdoors, biking and dancing around the city, and cooking with family and friends.
Ángela Serrano González
Learning and Program Manager
Ángela supports Root Change’s team and diverse partners with data collection and analysis, developing learning materials, and engaging with Root Change’s online network visualization and feedback tool, Pando. She has experience working in monitoring and evaluation for development programs, and other data collection and analysis projects in Mexico. Ángela believes in the importance of actively questioning the effectiveness of current views in development assistance and combining various areas of knowledge to tackle global situations. She holds Bachelors of Arts in International Relations and Business Management from Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM) in Mexico City. Off the clock, Ángela can be found enjoying a good novel on a beach (or any cool travel destination), spending time with her family, dancing, and playing the piano.
Meg supports Root Change and its partners - international NGOs, movements, foundations, civil society organizations, and more - to identify, develop, and apply innovative tools and approaches to contribute to local solutions for local problems. She is responsible for providing management and direction to the Community Independence Initiative and the Center for Peer Driven Change at Root Change. Before Root Change, Meg worked at Pact managing and overseeing the Global WORTH program – an appreciative-based savings group model for women’s economic and social empowerment. Meg got her start in Tanzania, supporting the community-based programming at Jifundishe. She holds a MA in Intercultural Leadership & Management from SIT Graduate Institute and a BA (Hon.) in Political Science & African Studies from the University of Toronto. In her spare time, Meg can be found daydreaming about her next trip while trying a new gluten-free, dairy-free baked good recipe.
Aaron is the Board treasurer and an executive committee member. He is the founder and president of Context Matters – a Netherlands based consulting firm specializing in inclusive governance, social accountability, and the strengthening of civic space. His work focuses primarily on fragile and conflict affected states and combatting the burgeoning threat of authoritarianism. Aaron designed and led some of the largest local governance and civil society programming for Pact in Myanmar from 2013-2019; he promoted South-South cooperation and competitions for development as a member of the World Bank; and he has worked as a teacher, gardener and campaigner in previous professional lives. After work, Aaron enjoys exploring mountains, lakes, and food with his family and friends. He makes his home in the Netherlands.
Gertrude Zoe Kabwazi
Gertrude Kabwazi makes her home in Malawi and is the Executive Director of Yamba Malawi. With community led programs around childhood wellbeing, sustainable business, and economic management, Yamba Malaw’s Childhoods & Livelihoods Program is building new beginnings for children, and lasting change for their communities. Earlier in her career, Gertrude worked at Advancing Girls Education in Africa, World Vision International, ActionAid International, Dignitas International and Concern Universal. She has breadth of experience centered around community well-being, development programming and leadership. Gertrude holds a Masters in Women’s Law from the University of Zimbabwe, a University Diploma in Journalism from University of Malawi, and a Certificate in Education Policy from University of Witwatersrand, South Africa. She has been recognized as an African Visionary Fellow with the Segal Family Foundation, and serves on several Boards, including Women and Law in Southern Africa (WILSA), the Coalition of Women Living with HIV and AIDS (COWLHA), and the Concerned Youth Organization. Gertrude enjoys storytelling, mentoring and dancing.
Laura Nyirinkindi is a human rights lawyer living in Uganda and working to support change management and organizational development processes for civil society organizations and government entities. She believes that processes of empowering groups and communities to articulate and shape their aspirations best succeed when expressed and implemented by the men and women in those spaces. She continues to be passionate about promoting social justice for vulnerable and disempowered communities particularly in Africa. Before joining the Root Change Board, Laura sat on the African Development Bank-Civil Society Committee where she represented the East African Region on issues of people centred development. She holds a Master’s degree from Oxford University in International Human Rights Law and is keen to promote human rights education in Africa. She feels at home in the creatives and has been known to produce musicals, pen poems and dabble in African fashion.
As Board Chair Meg works closely with Root Change to support its work and lead the board to provide the organization with mission-based leadership and strategic governance. She is continuously inspired by Root Change’s ground-breaking approaches that place local and peer leadership at the center. Meg’s passion for local development started as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Republic of Kiribati. Since then, she has worked in international development and NGO capacity strengthening throughout Africa, Asia, Pacific Islands, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Currently an independent consultant supporting leading international NGOs, she has previously worked for Pact, Catholic Relief Services, InterAction, and UNDP. Meg splits her time between international work and supporting sustainable living and regenerative agriculture as a member of Broomgrass farming community in eastern West Virginia.
Tanja is based in Belgrade but she is often on the road all over the Balkans and Central and Eastern Europe working with drivers and supporters of social change. In the past 20 years, she has founded and led a community organization, worked with peace building and women’s organizations, and served as Development Director with one of the leading local grant-makers in the Balkans. Tanja’s particular area of interest is philanthropy., and she enjoys playing as a broker. She guides and encourages grassroots groups to approach fundraising as if giving people new opportunities to contribute, while advising important philanthropists on their giving strategies. She managed the fundraising campaign that is building the first Endowment Fund in Balkan civil society. She currently runs the consulting agency Tabula that provides services in philanthropy and organizational development. Her passion for alternative approaches to development linked her with Root Change. Tanja loves to read, write and socialize.
Sabrina started her development career at Pact, Inc. where she designed and facilitated organizational capacity assessments and provided support to projects across Africa as part of Pact’s Nairobi-based Africa Regional Support Network. She then spent three years at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies managing professional learning programs, including the Design, Partnering, Management and Innovation (DPMI) certificate program now hosted by Root Change. She currently serves as Vice President of Business Development at ACDI/VOCA, a US nonprofit that works with diverse partners to empower people to succeed in the global economy. Sabrina guides the development and execution of ACDI/VOCA’s business development strategy. Her technical and sectoral experience includes organizational development and capacity building, agriculture and value chain development, inclusive market systems development, resilience, conflict management and peacebuilding, and democracy and governance.
In the early 90’s when working as an architect in Nepal on a community led school design project, Tara first knew she wanted to engage with social justice issues. In the last 30 years she has been employing her design skills, shaping strategies and action in the areas of development, environment and human rights, working with non-governmental groups such as Amnesty International, Greenpeace, and the World Wildlife Fund as well as bilateral and multi-lateral organizations in Asia and beyond. Her work has taken her to Vietnam, Bhutan, Nepal, Denmark, and the UK. Tara enjoys designing for collaborative change and combining complexity, design thinking, and systems thinking with action research. Recently she set up Our Groundworks, a design thinking entity that embraces complex challenges and works on RINGO – Re-imagining the INGO – a systems change lab and Complexity University’s Gigatonne Challenge - a global bottom up climate action strategy. Tara lives in Bangalore. She loves travel, music and tennis, and simply can’t do without humor and laughter.