“The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team.” - John Wooden
Appleseed's team of researchers and communicators partner with social impact organizations to craft behavior-change strategies and campaigns to serve the world's poorest communities.
We go nuts learning and applying the forces and biases that drive human behavior. Our most powerful tool is listening, by asking the right questions. It's no big secret, but it's why organizations embrace our approach and why communities then embrace their solutions.
PHILIP KAO, CO-FOUNDER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Philip leads our projects and organization. After studying engineering at UCLA and working as a tech consultant at Accenture, Philip quit to volunteer on clean water projects in rural Ecuador and China. He painfully discovered that giving people a solution doesn't mean they'll take it. Seeking to fill that gap, he found his calling at S. Groner Associates (SGA), where Philip ran environmental behavior change campaigns for cities, counties, and agencies in California, including the US EPA. His work kept thousands of anglers from eating contaminated fish, stopped youth from littering, and reduced lawn overwatering during California's worst drought ever. He approaches behavior change in a systematic way, and his ability to communicate and build strong relationships has been key to success in his projects and partnerships. Philip started Appleseed to bring what he’s learned back to where he thinks it's needed most: global development.
RUTH CHIANG, MD FAAP, CO-FOUNDER
Ruth just loves kids. After graduating UCLA with a degree in Psychobiology, she completed her medical training at the University of Arizona College of Medicine and the UCI-CHOC Pediatric Residency. She is a pediatrician who, before co-founding Appleseed, worked for The Children’s Clinic, a nonprofit clinic for low-income families in Long Beach, California. She loves to serve diverse populations, and has worked in clinics in Mexico, Taiwan, Malawi, Guatemala, and Kenya. Ruth founded Appleseed to broaden her impact outside the clinic room. In Appleseed's early projects, Ruth served as a field pediatrician and health adviser. In 2018, Ruth began practicing with Kaiser Permanente, where she continues to help a diverse array of families.
Baptiste Teyssier, Behavior Change Associate
Baptiste’s passion for problem-solving earned him a BA in Philosophy. Now, as a behavior change professional, his strengths go toward solving real-world problems. He met Philip and Ruth while fighting malnutrition as part of the team at Semilla Nueva. During their collaboration, Baptiste became fascinated with behavior change and its necessity to make impact. Before long, he joined Appleseed to bring behavior change to the development sector at-large. He primarily serves partners with research, campaign strategy, and evaluation. Aside from this, Baptiste is an avid salsa dancer, an outdoors enthusiast, and a bookworm.
Kelsi Schecter Vahid, Communications Associate
Kelsi is a health-nerd and musician with a bent for making impact. After receiving her Bachelors in Public Health, she was searching for a way to use her love for the arts to fuel healthy behavior change. That’s when she discovered the field of social marketing, leading her to earn her Master's in Public Health from the George Washington University, specializing in social marketing and health communications. Her love of travel and volunteering have taken her to Central and South America. Now Kelsi is back in Southern California and working with Appleseed, using her knack for research and creativity to create campaigns to motivate people and drive positive change. When she's not doing that, she's probably playing pick up soccer or spending the day at the beach.
lEDVI j. bEDZA, behavioral Scientist
Ledvi is a cultural strategist who develops research and marketing strategies to engage specialized audiences. With 12 years of experience in research and communication, Ledvi challenges clients to reach their audiences by first developing a thorough understanding of the decision making process and then finding ways to overcome barriers by appealing to the relevant behavioral determinants. Ledvi also specializes in language cultural adaptation, translating messages while preserving their original cultural context to truly resonate with diverse populations. She's helped clients adapt marketing messages in Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Mandarin and Haitian Creole. Ledvi serves Appleseed projects by conducting social marketing research on the ground, having recently completed a 3-month stint in Guatemala.
Alex Pirvulescu, behavioral marketing fellow
Alex is a emergency room and international health Registered Nurse with experience providing care in diverse settings around the globe. She’s worked everywhere from a mobile van supplying injection drug users with clean injection materials to remote communities in Northern Canada and Latin America. After meeting Philip and Ruth in Guatemala and learning about Appleseed’s social marketing approach, Alex began to look at health from a broader perspective beyond the bedside care she was accustomed to providing. Now, Alex has joined the Appleseed team to transform this new perspective into action, merging her medical expertise with her passion for impact and helping people shape healthier lives.
Adam dreier, volunteer marketer
Adam loves learning. He was an aerospace engineer for nearly a decade, after studying Mechanical Engineering and Mathematics at SMU. Having made contributions and inventions in the aerospace field, his thirst for knowledge and desire to give back led him into entrepreneurship. The aspect of entrepreneurship that appeals to him most is marketing. Bringing a strong scientific background, Adam works and plays at the intersection of marketing and science, with a focus on direct response marketing. He helps Appleseed because he believes that marketing can and should be used for higher purposes in the world, like improving people's lives. In addition to volunteering for Appleseed, he also consults for Patient Pipeline, a digital marketing agency for medical practices.
Board of Directors
Liezl Van Riper, Board Member
Liezl is a business development and fundraising expert with 16 years experience with international and national non-profit social enterprises, with a track record of securing multi-year, 7-figure funding partnerships with corporations, foundations, and governmental agencies. Most recently, she was myAgro’s VP of Development where she increased philanthropic revenue from $3.5M in 2016 to $7.2M in 2018. She co-led myAgro's winning proposal campaigns for two of the most competitive awards in social enterprise, the 2018 Skoll Award and Wharton’s 2018 Lipman Prize. Other career highlights include leading the effort to secure 7-figure grant and PRI partnerships with the PepsiCo Foundation, Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation, the IKEA Foundation, and major grant from the OPEC Fund for International Development. With Kiva, Liezl built out the NYC office and spearheaded campaigns raising millions to support U.S. based entrepreneurs. Liezl also established Kiva’s first 7-figure partnerships in Europe with Pearson PLC. Prior to Kiva, Liezl was the Director of Development for KickStart, where she helped developed the KickStart + Skoll + Citi Working Capital partnership to expand production of MoneyMaker irrigation pumps across Sub-Saharan Africa, increasing incomes for smallholder farmers. Liezl received her B.A. with honors in Political Science from the University of California, Irvine.
aDAM qUINN, JD/MBA, cO-FOUNDER, Board Member
Adam assists with legal and financial aspects of Appleseed and helps guide organizational strategy. After graduating law school and getting his MBA from the University of Minnesota, Adam became the Director of Business Development for S. Groner Associates (SGA), the environmental marketing firm where he and Philip first met. The duo bonded over their passion for community and environmental impact. Adam loves kids and is a passionate environmentalist (who maintains a 100-lb vermiculture worm farm in his home). He constantly pushes Appleseed to think creatively about our processes to make sure we're making the greatest impact possible. In co-founding Appleseed, Adam aims to build a strong, nimble, and effective organization that always delivers and exceeds the expectations of our supporters.
Melissa bard, Board Member
Melissa is a human resources professional who has worked in the financial services and manufacturing industries as well as the higher education space. She is an HR strategist with a passion for organizational development, employee engagement and transforming processes and services to support institutional change and effectiveness. She served as the Chief Human Resources Officer for the California State University system, the largest university system in the country, as well as East Carolina University and Frederick Community College, and held senior leadership positions at the Pennsylvania State University and the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. Her other professional experience includes executive positions in the private sector for companies including Citigroup. Melissa earned a bachelor of science in Human Resources Management and a master’s of science in Human Resources Management, both from the University of Maryland University College.
Stephen Groner, PE, founder and President of SGA
Stephen is the founder and president of S. Groner Associates, Inc. (SGA). Prior to starting SGA in 1998, Stephen, with his engineering background, worked for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works as a project manager. This experience gives him keen insight into understanding the intricacies of managing government projects, as well as the importance of public engagement and education to gaining approval and acceptance of a project. Through his work, Stephen has shaped and implemented many of the major pollution prevention and community outreach programs in California.
Years before Appleseed was born, Stephen had been providing instrumental training and experience to members of Appleseed's Founding Team. His masterful guidance and support has continued ever since.
Pamela Roussos, CIO, Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship
Pamela scales Miller Center’s impact with social entrepreneurs and partners by innovating new methods of support and engagement. Prior to joining the Center in 2014, Pamela was a software executive leading early stage companies in business and marketing strategy, helping founders create, refine, and execute business strategies and go-to-market plans. She has 20+ years experience growing teams and delivering products for large software companies and startups, working in various capacities, such as business unit manager, VP of marketing, COO and CEO. Companies include: Amdahl, Pure Software, Rational Software, Consera, Zend, and AppFirst.
In 2008, Pamela began mentoring social entrepreneurs through Miller Center's GSBI (Global Social Benefit Institute). Through this renowned program, Appleseed gained Pamela as a trusted mentor in early 2018.
Linzi Fidelin, European Partnerships Lead, Sphaera
Linzi is a seasoned relationship manager, project lead and facilitator. Working across initiatives focused on organizational culture and strategy with the world’s leading NGOs and UN agencies, she has been continually frustrated with the status quo. As a result, she now creates and implements sector-wide systems to achieve the UN sustainable development goals (SDGs) at Sphaera.
Whilst heartened by the new wave of social change leaders who recognize an urgent need for a new way of working, she is eager to see conversations turn into action. This requires involving people who face challenges daily. With Appleseed, Linzi is brings together these "two worlds" by finding strategies to scale the social marketing approach and build ecosystems centered around this way of working.
ERICA MAHGEREFTEH, Founding BOARD MEMBER, Strategy Director
Erica was Appleseed's first Board Chair, serving from July 2015 to March 2019. Her passion for making a difference and her strategic mind has been vital in shaping our organization and our campaigns. Erica was Philip's principal collaborator at S. Groner Associates (SGA), where she was the Strategic Director of the firm. After successfully running and guiding countless community-based social marketing campaigns to protect the environment, she left SGA to direct her efforts towards improving health. To this end, she joined Health Services Advisory Group to improve Medicare services as a Communications Manager and has recently completed her Masters of Public Health at UCLA's Fielding School of Public Health. Somewhere amidst all this change, she had two beautiful little girls. So, as Erica works from various angles with Appleseed to improve lives, she's doing it at home as well!
LILY YUAN, Founding BOARD MEMBER
In November 2016, Lily joined Appleseed as a Founding Board Member, supporting organizational growth, brand management, and fundraising efforts. Lily's involvement with Appleseed began as a Founding Sponsor and she also provided guidance during Appleseed’s early stages of development. She joined Appleseed’s Advisory Council in December 2018. Lily brings over ten years of advertising and marketing experience with Ogilvy & Mather advertising agency and The Zoo, Google’s creative think tank for brands and agencies. While Lily loves tackling marketing challenges, she is also passionate about youth mentorship. To this end, she's worked with PENCIL, Spark, and helped launch The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Students of the Year program in LA. Now she is Brand Director at Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.