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ISII Program Speakers Bios

The International Social Impact Institute (ISII) at Hunter College

Social Impact Intensive Summer 2020 Program for Pre-College and College Students



Elizabeth Ngonzi ISII Founder and Executive Director Biography

Elizabeth Ngonzi, MMH, Founder and Executive Director of the International Social Impact Institute at Hunter College, is a New York-based international social sector leader, educator, speaker and executive coach who enables current and future social impact leaders and organizations to more effectively develop and tell their stories, in order to increase their impact and reach their potential. In her work with the International Social Impact Institute, she draws on all of those skills and experiences, on her gift for fostering connections among individuals and organizations, and on her passion for helping individuals and organizations to thrive.

‚ÄčDuring her career, she has been the turnaround CEO of a Nelson Mandela-endorsed international nonprofit organization; founded and run an international boutique consulting firm; excelled in various corporate roles; been an invited member of the U.S. Speaker Program at the U.S. Department of State; taught and guest lectured at top academic institutions in the U.S. and abroad; and delivered training that has transformed lives and organizations worldwide.

An international public speaker and trainer, she covers a wide range of topics, including digital innovations that facilitate social impact; entrepreneurship; leadership; personal branding; philanthropy; and storytelling. She has addressed audiences at, among other venues, the Bank of New York Mellon; Candid; entrepreneurship@cornell; Harvard Africa Business Conference; International Fundraising Congress; McCann Worldgroup; McGraw-Hill Financial Women’s Initiative for Networking and Success; SXSW; TEDxCornellU; UNICEF; Vital Voices Global Partnerships; WeWork; and the Woodrow Wilson Center.

Ms. Ngonzi teaches women entrepreneurs and nonprofit founders on their venture creation journey, through the Bank of America Institute for Women's Entrepreneurship Online Certificate Program at Cornell.  At The Center for Global Affairs at New York University, she teaches nonprofit leaders how to use digital storytelling and platforms to more effectively raise funds and engage stakeholders. Previously as an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Cornell University, she helped budding entrepreneurs to identify and then demonstrate their unique value propositions to prospective funders.

Between 2014 and 2018, Ms. Ngonzi served as the turnaround CEO of Afrika Tikkun USA – one of only four Nelson Mandela-endorsed nonprofits worldwide – which she developed into an in-demand organization by drawing on her entrepreneurial approach to social impact, leveraging digital storytelling, diversifying fundraising, professionalizing operations and creating cross-sector partnerships.

Before that, she founded and spent 12 years leading an international boutique consulting firm that facilitated cross-sector partnerships, conceptualized and re-branded fundraising events, and developed digital marketing campaigns. Her firm’s clients included AMREF Health USA; Communities in Schools of New Jersey; Cornell University Office of Diversity Alumni Programs and School of Hotel Administration; National Eating Disorders Association; the North Jersey Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure; and the United Nations.

Ms. Ngonzi has also served as Communications Chair of the invitation-only President’s Council of Cornell Women; as a member of the Advisory Board to the Dean of Syracuse University's iSchool; and as a founding member of the United Nations International School Alumni Council.

She is a 2019 cohort member of the “Most Influential People of African Descent” (MIPAD 100); was a 2017 recipient of the African Diaspora Awards “Advocate of the Year” Award; was featured in 2016 by WeWork’s Creator Magazine as one of its “40 Over 40” leaders; and was recognized by BRANDfog as one of the “25 Smartest Women on Twitter 2015.”

She has been quoted in or featured by Black Enterprise Magazine, CCTV America, CNBC, Crain’s NY Business, Forbes Woman, MarketWatch, NPR, South Africa Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) News, The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, The NonProfit Times and The Washington Post.

Ms. Ngonzi earned a Master of Management in Hospitality degree (Services Marketing concentration) from the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration; a Bachelor of Science degree in Information Systems from Syracuse University’s iSchool; and a High School Diploma from the United Nations International School, which she attended for primary and secondary school.


Distinguished Guest Speaker Biographies

Bernard Ross, Director, The Management Centre (UK) / National Arts Fundraising School and Six-time (and Award-Winning) Author

Bernard is director of =mc, a management consultancy working worldwide for ethical organisations.

He has written six award winning books on a range of topics including social entrepreneurship, strategy, fundraising and social change. His most recent, with Omar Mahmoud, Head of Global Knowledge at UNICEF International, is Change for Good- behavioural economics for a better world. He has advised many of the world’s leading INGOs on strategy including UNICEF, UNHCR, IFRC, ICRC and MSF. As a fundraiser he’s raised money to refurbish France’s most famous monument, for a museum to house the world’s largest dinosaur in Argentina, and to save the last 800 great apes in Africa.  As a social entrepreneur he has helped develop social projects and businesses in the UK, USA, South America and Africa on issues as diverse as providing low cost water and sanitation, helping theatres train businesspeople in communication, reducing carbon emissions in farming, and scaling low-cost medical inventions.


Abigail Opoku-Agyemang Osei, Director, Program and Grants Administration at The Starr Foundation

Born in Ghana, the story goes that her family tricked her into moving to the Bronx, NY, at a young age. Since the sixth grade, she has seen the world from New York City and has developed a love for philanthropy, international affairs, and volunteering with young people. A lifelong recipient of nonprofit services, most notably Global Kids and Double Discovery Center, Abigail finds pleasure in her work as the Director of Program and Grants Administration at The Starr Foundation as an integral member of an organization that has funded nonprofits for over 60 years. Her evenings, weekends, and most seconds in between are spent thinking about, planning programs and outings for, and hanging out with some fantastic youth in the Bronx, most of whom are from the First Ghana SDA Church. She loves mentoring, laughing, and stressing with them. Her goal is to show every young person she comes across as much love and options as possible so that they can choose the life they want, knowing all that is possible for them. Prayer, laughter, venting to her husband Theophilus Osei,

and the kids trying to figure out who her favorite is, keep her going when it all seems too much to handle.

A graduate of A.Philip Randolph High School in 2007, she earned a B.A. in International Politics & Economics from Middlebury College in 2011. She completed a Certificate in Global Philanthropy from New York University’s School of Continuing Professional Studies in 2015. Currently, she is the Co-Chair of the New York Chapter of Emerging Practitioners in Philanthropy (EPIP), a member of the Executive and Finance Committee for the Greater New York Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, as well as a Youth Area Coordinator for the Bronx.


Annette McCann, Director of Development, JCC Association of North America

An accomplished creative, strategic, and results-driven marketing professional, Annette McCann has almost 20 years of experience in creating, developing and executing cross-platform integrated campaigns and promotions within the media and entertainment industry. Leveraging her ability to cultivate and foster positive and effective relationships and partnerships, she recently transitioned into the nonprofit sector, unifying her philanthropic passions and interests with her professional development.


Annette joined the JCC Association of North America as a Corporate Partnership consultant tasked with building a case for corporate giving throughout the organization and creating a sponsorship strategy. Today, Annette has since expanded her role and title as Director of Development, leading fundraising efforts across JCC Association’s signature program portfolio including JWB Jewish Chaplains Council, JResponse, JCC Maccabi, JCC Camps, and more.

Annette began her career at Showtime Networks in a consumer-facing function, marketing some of the biggest pay-per-view sporting events in history (Lewis vs. Tyson) and network concerts featuring the brightest stars at the time (Britney Spears, Jay-Z, Usher). Longstanding stints followed at Nickelodeon and NBCUniversal, where Annette honed her skills in the ad-supported domain, developing branded partnerships for the highest-rated shows in television (The Voice, America’s Got Talent, Dora the Explorer, SpongeBob SquarePants) with top-tier, global advertisers (Target, General Mills, Toyota, Starbucks, State Farm).

A graduate of The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Science in Economics degree, Annette also holds a Master of Business Administration from The Stern School of Business at New York University. She is currently completing her Certificate in Fundraising from the NYU School of Professional Studies.

In addition to being an avid consumer of movies, books and TV shows, Annette is a Girl Scouts troop leader, youth soccer coach, event chair for charities in her community, school volunteer and most importantly, proud mom of three. The belief that by introducing and embracing altruism at a young age, her children will grow up to make the world a better place, was the catalyst for Annette to transition careers and pursue an impact-driven leadership role in the nonprofit, social sector – and she couldn’t be happier at JCC Association.

Jacob Lief, Founder and CEO of Ubuntu Pathways and Author of I Am Because You Are

Jacob Lief is Founder and CEO of Ubuntu Pathways. After visiting South Africa to observe the country’s historic elections, he returned to the Eastern Cape to co-found Ubuntu in 1999. He has since developed the organization, which began in a school broom closet, into a world-class institution that supports 2,000 children on individualized pathways out of poverty. Overseeing 70 employees across three continents, Jacob has grown Ubuntu into an internationally recognized model for community development.  


Jacob brings over two decades of experience to conversations on philanthropy and social entrepreneurship and has actively called for redefining impact, sustainability, and the theory of ‘going-to-scale’ in the nonprofit sector. In 2016, Jacob appeared in Fortune Magazine’s ‘40 Under 40’ list of the most influential young people in business. Jacob was a lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and was a fellow at the University’s new global policy research center, Perry World House. He has served as a member of the Clinton Global Initiative Advisory Committee, was named one of the world’s 101 Most Innovative Visionaries at the Decide Now Act Summit, has been recognized by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader, and was selected as an Aspen Institute Global Fellow. His book, I Am Because You Are, chronicles his journey in South Africa and sets forth a new, bold vision for breaking the cycle of poverty (Rodale Inc, 2015).


Karim Abouelnaga, Founder and CEO, Practice Makes Perfect and Two-Time Author

Karim is CEO of Practice Makes Perfect (PMP), a company that partners with schools to help narrow the achievement gap. He received over a quarter million dollars in scholarships to make his education possible. Karim founded PMP at 18. He is an author, a TED Fellow and Echoing Green Fellow. At 23, he was named to Forbes’ 30 under 30 list in Education, and at 24 was named to Magic Johnson’s 32 under 32 list. In 2016, he was ranked in the top 3 most powerful young entrepreneurs under 25 in the world. Karim’s TED Talk was named one of the 9 Most Inspiring Talks of 2017 and his Forbes day-in-the-life feature is Forbes’ second most viewed of all time, collectively garnering over 4 million views. He graduated in the top 10% of his class from Cornell University and is working on a Master’s in Education Policy at Columbia University.


Kwame Marfo, Managing Partner, Africa Empowerment Fund International; Board Chair, Business Center for New Americans (BCNA); and Board Member, Impact Capital Forum

Kwame is a Managing Partner at Africa Empowerment Fund and Board Chair at Business Center for New Americans (BCNA), a community development financial institution, investing in immigrant and refugee owned businesses. Kwame has over a decade and half of experience in business, government, civil society and media sectors across four continents with experiences ranging from leading strategy and business model analysis at the Bank of England to investing in small and medium sized enterprises in Sub-Saharan Africa and human rights activism in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

He has written for Business and Financial Times, Citi Business News, Africa at LSE, Modern Ghana, ZNews Africa, Applause Africa, the Africapitalism Institute and MyJoyOnline. Kwame is the International Executive Producer of the award-winning documentary, When Elephants Fight, which was Executive Produced and Narrated by Robin Wright (Claire Underwood from House of Cards). He is currently working on another documentary on how civil rights movements in the 1920s inspired the formation of a soccer team, the birth of a nation and the consolidation of a unity movement. He is on the boards of Birthright Africa, Impact Capital Forum, Infoview Data Solutions Limited and Business Center for New Americans (BCNA). He has a BS (Hons) from Binghamton University, an MSc from the London School of Economics and an MBA from the University of Michigan (Ross).  


Lisa Issroff, Co-Founder / Executive Director, Issroff Family Foundation; Board Chair, Ongoza; and US Advisory Council Member, African Leadership Foundation


Stéphane B. Jean-Baptiste, Co-Founder/COO, Kreyol Essence® and Shark Tank Alumnus

Stéphane has used his business and creative talents to help plan and coordinate the logistics of complex projects and deploy integrated marketing and communications campaigns for over 200 domestic and international clients.

Stéphane served as Marketing Coordinator for the Graduate School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania where he increased the pipeline of educators in the Philadelphia region. As the Lead Creative Designer and Account Executive for Azuna, a media firm based in South Korea, Stéphane led international advertising campaigns for brands such as Proctor and Gamble, McDonald’s International, Comcast, and Gamesa. Stéphane founded Nouveau Concepts, a boutique marketing firm and managed a cross functional team to develop marketing collateral lauded by Ivy League institutions, political organizations, small businesses and international non-profits.

An impassioned social entrepreneur, Stéphane is currently the Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Kreyòl Essence. Kreyòl Essence delivers 100% natural and ethical beauty products from Haiti to the world by leveraging the country’s unique agricultural ingredients such as Black Castor Oil, Moringa and Vetiver. The social business connects its sales to economic development and improving the environment in Haiti and has launched nationwide with select retailers such as Ulta Beauty, Whole Foods Market and Urban Outfitters. Most recently, Kreyol Essence was Stéphane is living his dream of utilizing his creative intuition to directly impact the development and brand awareness of Haiti.


Zuhirah Khaldun-Diarra, Director, Integrated Brand Marketing at UNICEF USA

A global branding and communications specialist, Zuhirah Khaldun-Diarra has over 20 years of experience in the creation and execution of powerful, results-oriented marketing and communications initiatives that inform, influence, inspire. Throughout her career she has brought important issues, voices, and brands to the mainstream.

Currently Integrated Brand Marketing Director at UNICEF USA, Zuhirah has served on a leadership team in close coordination with UNICEF Global to develop a new brand positioning and re-introduce the UNICEF brand to the U.S. market resulting in over 30 point increase in brand strength indicators in just one year. Zuhirah also leads multi-channel brand campaigns and initiatives for key moments, increasing engagement and individual donor support, recently being shortlisted for an Engage for Good Halo Award and earning UNICEF’s Global Inspire Award for best integrated campaign of 2018.

As the Senior Marketing Director at the National Urban League, one of the United States’ oldest and most distinguished civil rights and urban advocacy organizations, Zuhirah launched the League’s social media presence, produced an award winning documentary on its health programs and negotiated and managed key media partnerships with Time Magazine, Forbes, and the Wall Street Journal among others. Zuhirah also lead the development and implementation of theme, content, collateral and marketing strategies for the 2012 “Occupy the Vote” campaign and the National Urban League Conference (2008- 2015), featuring a Career Expo, free Health Screenings and special speakers including President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Stevie Wonder, and Mother of Trayvon Martin and Black Lives Matters Movement, Sybrina Fulton; attracting 15,000 attendees in 2015 and 8 billion media impressions.

Zuhirah began her career as a Hip Hop publicist serving as Director of Media and Artist Relations at Island Def Jam Music Group where she secured Jay Z’s first New Yorker feature story, “The Rise of Corporate Rap” and his debut on Saturday Night Live in 2001. Zuhirah later formed her own agency and worked as Brand Infusion Lead at Converse, where she helped to bring the American icon and home to the Chuck Taylor All Star sneaker back from bankruptcy and produce an investor return of 2400% in two years, leading strategic presence marketing and product placement, producing influencer events at Sundance Film Festival, SXSW Music Festival, the BET Awards and Coachella.

Zuhirah’s passion for the arts, social justice and empowerment extends beyond her professional life and she enjoys supporting and volunteering with numerous charities and organizations including the National Association for Women Artists, New York Horticultural Society, and NYU's Hip Hop Education Center.

A native New Yorker, Zuhirah spent time growing up in Bermuda, has lived in Zanzibar and currently resides in New York City. Zuhirah holds a master’s in Cultural Analysis from the University of Amsterdam and graduated from Barnard College with a BA in Economics. She enjoys live music, DJing, traveling to her husband’s home in Burkina Faso, and writing.


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