Our Team

We are a diverse team of individuals who share experience (either professionally or personally) with migration and the challenges faced by those who are forced, or who choose, to move to another country. We have various professional backgrounds, talents and nationalities and we combine our strengths to empower as many individuals as possible. We are all based in Switzerland, which is our country, the place we love and want to transform for the better.

The Team

Emily Elsner (nee Adams), PhD.

Co-founder & Research and Project Management Support

Emily graduated in Biological Sciences from Oxford University and then specialised into nature conservation with an MSc at University College London, and nature-human relationships and honey bee management and science with a PhD at Lancaster University. She has 4 years of experience of working as an independent consultant specialising in NGO management, building on her volunteer work over the past 15 years with various conservation and social charities. Since 2017 she has specialised in impact measurement and management for non-profits and social enterprises, reflecting her commitment to social and environmental justice and sustainability. She co-founded Capacity in 2015.

Isabel Brücher

Co-founder and Fundraising Manager

dipl. Architect / MA History / NDS ARCH ETH
Isabel graduated in architecture and specialized in Conservation Sciences at the ETH Zürich after finishing a master’s in modern European History in USA. She has more than 25 years of professional experience in South and North America and Europe. Since 2011, she has become an active advocate and leader of change in the fields of migration and social entrepreneurship. She has completed various humanitarian relief journeys along the Balkan Route and Greece and teaches German in a refugee camp in Zurich since 2015. She is involved in various projects and initiatives aimed to improve the conditions of refugees. Isabel is committed to supporting human potential and providing equal opportunities for personal and professional development, regardless of background, nationality or religion.

Marisa König Beatty

Entrepreneurship Programme Co-Lead and Organisational Facilitation

Marisa (she / her) has been working for over 20 years in program development, event management, community building and facilitation. Through the lens of her own immigration experience, first in Belgium then Switzerland, her practice is led by a deep commitment to inclusivity and belonging, and fostering symbiotic relationships between people, networks and opportunities that support them to reach their full potential. She has had the honour of accompanying Capacity from the beginning, originally their Community Builder at the Impact Hub Zürich, later, as an advisor and now as Programme Co-Lead.

Herself an entrepreneuse, in addition to her work with Capacity she continues dream up creative ways to catalyse personal and community growth through her socio-cultural consultancy, könig beatty projects.

Julieta Novoa

Entrepreneurship Programme Co-Lead and Project Manager

Julieta has a background in journalism and brings 17 years of experience in Supply Chain Management. She assists people to enable their business by helping them converting ideas into a business plan.
Growing up in Argentina exposed her to inequality, and from a very young age, her motto is “Fairness”. In 2019 she had the privilege to opt for a career change and joined Capacity to advocate for equal opportunities in the job market for refugee and migrant entrepreneurs with the hope of facilitating a better integration in Switzerland.

Adrienn Győry

ACCESS Programme Co-Lead and Social Policy Expert

Adrienn is a Social Policy Expert advancing interdisciplinary research on social inclusion and immigration. She has more than four years of experience in comparative policy analysis in relation to family, education and labour market policies. She finished her PhD studies in Social Policy at the University of Kent, where she researched public attitudes towards the inclusion of immigrants in the welfare state in Norway and in the United Kingdom, disentangling the conditions of developing more inclusive welfare states. At Capacity Adrienn is committed to fostering social inclusion through designing and implementing the ACCESS – Labour Market Integration Programme. In parallel with her work at Capacity, she continues her research on the relation between democracy and welfare states examining social policy reforms under democratic backsliding.

Caterina Meier-Pfister

Communications and Partnerships

Caterina started her professional career in the private and public sectors with a background in law and mediation. For more than 20 years she has been working for NGOs, especially for communication, partnerships and in fundraising, both as a specialist and in leadership positions. Her broad experience ranges from fair trade and gender equity to development cooperation and humanitarian aid. Her motivation in her work for Capacity is to directly and concretely empower people to make use of their own potential and thrive.

Cathlene Bell

Communications and Volunteer Partnerships Manager

Cathlene Bell is Capacity’s Storyteller in Residence. Born just outside New York City, Cathlene is a lifelong student of the intersection between creativity and social impact. In addition to obtaining degrees in both Communications and Global Peace & Justice Studies, she has contributed to both the nonprofit sector and the world of publishing for over 12 years.
Cathlene is passionate about supporting brilliant minds and hearts to tell their stories of creative resilience. She is also a singer-songwriter, painter, podcaster and mother to two delightful young feminists.

Blenda Schmutz (Altamirano)

Communications & Event Management

Blenda has a background in Graphic Communications and experience working in financial institutions in Zurich for over 10 years. Originally from Mexico, she is familiar with the challenges of adapting to a new culture. Capacity’s strong social engagement captivates her since she is a firm believer in equal opportunity regardless of origin, gender, age or race.

Evgeniya Vodolazova

ACCESS Programme Co-Lead

Evgeniya is a psychologist and a talent development professional with over 10 years of work experience in the US. With her background in organisational psychology, she is passionate about enhancing employee experience at all stages of the employee life cycle and creating a sense of purpose, inclusion and belonging for individuals of every background. Evgeniya is convinced that many talent-related issues faced by employers in Switzerland, such as talent shortage, employee engagement, diversity and inclusion, can be addressed by targeted efforts to support newcomers’ integration in the society. She is thrilled to work with Capacity on projects at the intersection of organisational talent needs and individual integration challenges.

Francesca Malvatani

ACCESS Programme Support

Francesca graduated in Law, and after her work experience in legal offices in Italy, she found her dimension in the HR field in Zurich. She has more than five years of experience in international recruitment. Francesca is passionate about Diversity & Inclusion practices to create an inclusive climate for employees in their workplace. Francesca firmly believes in the power of creating a diverse and inclusive workforce, where the employees feel respected and their contributions valued.
She is excited to use her experience and resources to collaborate with Capacity in supporting migrants and refugees in recognising and developing their talents.

Piera Marongiu

ACCESS FAST TRACK Co-Lead

Piera is passionate about the human dimension in the business. She has spent 15+ years in the field of inclusion and diversity, human capital and organisational development.
Her mission is to melt the walls of discriminations in organisations and making a positive impact in different areas: ethnicity, gender, LGBTIQA, culture, generation, different-abilities and neurodiversity.
She has worked with a 'diverse' range of organisations and across several countries (Spain, Italy, UK as well as in US and India,). She is currently guest lecturer and founder of IIE - Integrate Include Engage, focusing on inclusion in healthcare and health equity.
As a neuropsychologist, she maintains an analytical mindset, that combines with coaching and mentoring skills. She is dedicated to empowering refugees by fostering their potential and integrating into the Swiss job market.

Current Volunteers

Anna Politanska

ACCESS Programme Support Volunteer

Anna is a Finance and Project Manager. With over ten years of professional experience, Anna leads teams from Europe, North America, and Asia in the corporate world. Anna’s education in international relations, paired with a hands-on professional application, has led to a passion for Intercultural Communication and Team Building. She advocates for empathy, awareness and cultural contextualisation in doing business and is convinced that the strength of any organisation comes from its diversity and inclusion. Anna supports the Access team in Communications Liaising, Logistics, Events and Community Building, with an emphasis on projects that connect corporate entities with the under-tapped talent pool of immigrants and refugees in Switzerland.

Pallavi Sehgal

Marketing and Communications Strategist

Pallavi Sehgal graduated from George Washington University with a degree in Organizational Sciences. She has spent the last year and half working in the non-profit sector; focusing on helping refugees in Switzerland. Born in India and raised in Switzerland; she grew up in a diverse and multi-cultural environment and understands the challenges faced when integrating into a new culture. She is a proponent for diversity and inclusion and believes in equality for all.

Charlène Guillaume

Social Media and Communications

Charlène has a background in communication and sociology. Originally from Lausanne, she moved to Berlin for several years and gained professional experience in a big e-commerce company in the field of brand marketing and public relations. After this enriching experience of living aboard, she took on a new challenge in her life and went travelling solo to Asia. She started her journey in India, where she got her yoga and meditation teacher's certificate. Besides her personal project in the field of yoga and self-development, she aspires to combine her communication skills with a strong purpose such as Capacity Zurich.

Fanny Gasser

Translation Volunteer

Fanny finished her law degree in 2019 (BLaw in Fribourg, MLaw in Basel) and went on to work as Junior Marketing Associate for International Distributors at Lindt&Sprüngli in Zurich. She is currently doing her legal internships in preparation for the bar exam in 2023.
During her studies she worked various jobs (gastronomy, creative content manager, pension fund etc.) as independence (or at least partially) was really big for her early on.
Fanny is based in Zurich, loves to meet up with friends and socialise, to read, loves fashion and interior design and is always keen to try new foods.

Sophia Matter

Entrepreneurship Programme Support Volunteer

Sophia graduated from High School last summer and completed the Swiss Matura and International Baccalaureate Diploma. She is currently doing a gap year to gather work experience before pursuing a degree in European Studies at King’s College London. She has previously completed an internship at an architecture firm and is currently employed as a private tutor and language teacher in Zurich. She supports Capacity by aiding the Entrepreneurship programme and exploring alumni community initiatives.

Board Members

Anna Stando

Diversity and Inclusion and Event Management

Anna is an enthusiastic and driven advocate of gender equality and social inclusion. She grew up in Poland and completed her Bachelor’s in Spanish Language and Culture and Master’s degree in Intercultural Communication at the University of Utrecht in The Netherlands (with an exchange programme in Mexico). Anna has volunteered in Guatemala, worked in Denmark, Thailand and Switzerland, learning four new languages and gaining valuable experience of what it takes to make a fulfilling life as a migrant. She previously worked as Sales Manager responsible for Asia and as Sales Manager responsible for Europe at ECCO Accessories and after that as a Senior Sales Manager for Virgin Pulse focusing on building a new market in Poland. In addition to her work in Capacity, Anna also works as a Project Manager for Advance – Gender Equality in Business. In her spare time, she co-leads two female LEAN IN networks and works as a photographer.

Magdalena J. Schneider

Multi-Stakeholder Alliances and Fundraising

Magdalena is Director Strategy & Multi-Stakeholder Alliances at European Commons. She forges alliances for impact at the intersection of society, business, academia, and public institutions with a focus on good governance, societies and the European Green Deal. Magdalena strives to make a difference through impact and sustainability. Until 2019 she co-led the strategy, fundraising, and communications efforts of euforia, a Swiss NGO for youth mobilization with a community of volunteers in over 20 countries across 3 continents. Earlier, Magdalena worked almost a decade in the European Banking sector (BNP Paribas, Paris/Credit Suisse, Zürich), developing sustainable investment strategies. She is a successful founder of two enterprises (in Berlin and Zurich) and advises (social) entrepreneurs globally. Magdalena holds a BSc from Italy’s Bocconi University and a MBA from Switzerland’s St. Gallen University (HSG).

Stefan Saner

Business Development and Media

Stefan is the owner of Saner Consulting, an M&A consulting boutique specialising in succession planning for SMEs. He holds degrees from the University of St. Gallen, the Stockholm School of Economics and the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore. In addition to his professional experience as a consultant, financial analyst and brand manager, he is the president of Followup, an association for young company successors. He is also the treasurer at OL Regio Olten and a passionate sportsperson.

Katerina Klezlova

Katerina has over 12+ years of experience in the fields of Biz Dev, smart growth, strategic partnerships and sales. After multiple years in consulting, working in SME, NGO and Corporate environments across industries, Katerina founded Fortuny Consulting GmbH, with the vision to guide start-ups and SMEs to accelerate their business growth, enter new territories and multiply their sales, by identifying sustainable, smart & speedy business growth solutions with heavy focus on key growth multipliers. Katerina is the co-founder and COO of Pepicon, a software fintech company digitizing the private equity fundraising and investment process. Additionally, she has supported numerous NGOs and charities in the past, running her own volunteer community based in Zurich and is a proud mentor and advisor to many individuals and start-ups.

Chris Gopsill

Chief Mentoring Officer and Team Interface

Chris is a retired International Project Director with more than 35 years’ experience in the renewable energy, engineering, chemical, life sciences and IT sectors, with both major multinationals and start-ups. Chris is a joint UK / Swiss national who has lived and worked in the UK, USA, Germany and Switzerland and conducted business in 30 countries. He is an experienced innovator, facilitator, change manager and trainer. Chris holds an M.B.A. from Indiana University and an M. Eng from Cambridge. He is married to an Italian, with 2 grown-up daughters – all of whom strengthen his passion for social and environmental justice and sustainability. The entire Gopsill family are long-term supporters of a foundation helping to build a school for children of disabled war veterans in Ethiopia and Chris joined the Capacity team as a mentor in 2018, accepting the role of Chief Mentoring Officer in 2020 and Board Member in 2021. In March 2021 he cofounded a company with his wife, Nicoletta, supporting clients globally in boosting their sustainability profile to achieve the desired benefits, balancing environmental, economic and societal impacts.

Akim Tejan-Cole

Akim Tejan-Cole fled to Switzerland to escape the chaos of a brutal civil war in his home country Sierra Leone. Little did he know that a tough battle that he was unprepared for awaited him in his new homeland. “When people feel the system chokes them, it forces them to adopt an “Us” against “them” mentality and trust is lost. I was no exception to these feelings.” ... Akim
Since arriving in Switzerland, Akim has gone on to lead international teams, worked for some of the top companies in the world and given speeches at prestigious institutions. Akim is passionate about diversity and inclusion and getting people from different backgrounds communicating and interacting with each other. Most recently, he launched a fashion label that aims to create the diversity and inclusion experience through its design and giving back process.

Founders and Honorary Members

Alexa Kuenburg

Founder and honorary member

Alexa works as a medical doctor in Zurich. She specialised in transcultural issues and continued her training as a conflict mediator. Alexa has extensive experience working on charitable projects in Switzerland, Europe and the Middle East. Her commitment to the personal and professional development of refugees and migrants in Switzerland is remarkable.

Hannah Lüddeckens

Honorary member

Hannah is a psychologist and works in psychotherapy. She has a special interest in accompanying people on their way to a self-governed life. She is also committed to respecting human rights and integrating people of different nationalities and cultures into our Swiss society. Hannah is grateful to contribute her experience in project management and entrepreneurship as well as her personal interests as a long-term member of Capacity.

Selina Benke-Bruderer

Co-founder, Chair and Legal Advisor

Selina is a qualified Swiss lawyer with several years of work experience in the public and private sector. She holds degrees from the University of Zurich, King’s College London and the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. In addition to gaining extensive project management experience through volunteer work, Selina has won numerous awards in national and international competitions as well as competitive scholarships.

Valentina S. Velandia

Co-founder

With 10 years of expertise in the areas of Gender Policy Analysis, Migration and Entrepreneurship, Valentina's professional journey ranges from her native Colombia to the US, Asia Pacific and now Europe. She has worked for organisations such as UN Women Singapore Committee, UN-CEDAW, EDGE (As a consultant for the World Bank, The Inter-American Development Bank, Swiss-Re, IKEA, and other global entities), The International Women Rights Action Watch (IWRAW), and The International Disability Alliance, among others. Valentina holds a BA in Intercultural Communication Studies (Rhetoric and Public Discourse), a Master’s in International Relations and Diplomacy with an emphasis in Gender Policy and she is a Swiss-certified teacher.

Anne Murray

Communication Expert and honorary member

Anne has led communications strategy for global marketing across the product lifecycle in both the chemical and pharmaceutical industries. She has served as a board member for community organizations in philanthropy, music education and family housing. She is active in preserving the dignity of individuals in all life circumstances and celebrating their value. Anne is part of the organizing team working to bring SheEO to Switzerland. She holds an MBA in marketing from Georgetown University.

Ana Maria Angarita

Co-founder & Honorary Member

Ana Maria has over 12 years of professional experience in the field of international cooperation, non-profits, and entrepreneurship across the Latin America region, the United States, India, and now Switzerland. She has been promoting impact through building strategic partnerships across sectors and capacity-building initiatives in education, migration, employment, health, and children's rights. Throughout her career, she has also developed communication and marketing initiatives promoting impactful advocacy.

Ana Maria is a former refugee who is driven by impact and has always been passionate about change and transformation. She continues to support Capacity and its community, and advocates for the organisation’s mission. She holds a BA in International Studies from American University, and a Master’s degree in International Affairs from the Graduate Institute Geneva.

Contributors

Milena Astray

Communications

Milena is currently writing her Fachmaturität diploma thesis on the topic of integration and is therefore involved as an intern with Capacity Zurich. She is actively involved with other integration projects in Switzerland as well. Her ideal job would like to work in an NGO which focuses on human rights, animal welfare or environmental protection. Milena has always had a sense of justice and respect for human rights, and she strongly believes that each individual should be accepted with her or his own identity and baggage.

Anouk Huessy

Translation and strategic advisor

Anouk brings in her experience and expertise of working in the area of development as well as from the extensive time she lived abroad. Her own often challenging experience in trying to settle down in other countries has shaped the way she looks at migration, in particular at forced migration. With great passion, she has put her efforts into supporting Syrian refugees in Switzerland to start their new lives and previously in setting up a volunteer programme for unaccompanied minor asylum seekers in Berne. For Capacity she translates and asks critical (and nasty) questions in her role as a volunteer advisor.

Ana Vedia

Event Logistics & Creative Director

Ana is an artist and a yoga teacher who is passionate about cross-pollinating strategic advisory with social and environmental sustainability frameworks. Ana is originally from Argentina and lived and worked in Colombia and now in Switzerland. Her years as a professional dancer and a yoga teacher have taught her that even the smallest of movements can make a big impact. Therefore, she currently supports Capacity through tactful event planning and creative input.

Guillaume Ladislas

Financial advisor

Guillaume is an IT and financial auditor. He is always looking for great opportunities to meet people and take part in projects. Native from south of France, he has a background in Accounting, Control and Audit, but has also experience in entertainment, sale and outdoor events. He supports Capacity with financial advice.

Fiona Smith Reaney

Learning and Development

Fiona has spent 15 years working at the intersection of learning, international development and social entrepreneurship and spent over 7 years living in and working in South Asia and East Africa. She is currently a Director at the LEGO Foundation in Switzerland. She is passionate about social justice and is inspired by working with innovative entrepreneurs!

Chiara Di Gregorio

Communications & Marketing

Chiara brings skills and experience from a variety of fields including psychology, communication and sales. She supports the team and participants through tasks related to organization, communication and marketing. She is a talented, highly motivated and empathetic person with a strong sense of justice. Chiara is committed to the elimination of discrimination and through her own experience with migration, she immediately felt attracted to Capacity's work with refugee and migrant entrepreneurs.

Christian Lehmann

Translations & Coaching

Christian holds an Engineering degree from the University of Frankfurt (D) and an eMBA from the University of Maryland (US).
He has 20+ years of international experience in the technology sector, where he has served in functions from project management, over marketing & sales to general management.
"With migration globally on the rise, it is more important than ever to integrate all this talent into our society. Capacity is a great initiative in this field and I really enjoy to contribute to it."

Manea Sweeney

Sustainability & Business Development

Manea has over 12 years’ experience working in environmental and sustainability consulting, leading teams on public infrastructure projects and disaster recovery and risk reduction. She has worked across the public and private sector including working on projects with the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation. She is passionate about supporting indigenous knowledge, drawing on her background as New Zealand Māori. Her expertise is in facilitating cross-cultural contexts, leadership and high performing team development and creating enduring relationships. She is inspired by Capacity’s work and how it encourages self-determination and empowerment of migrant communities.

Negar Shafaeddin

Legal Advisor

Negar was born in Tehran, Iran and left to the UK at a very early age. She then attended an international school in Switzerland as her parents were working for the United Nations, and then went on to qualify as a Swiss lawyer in Geneva, Switzerland. Her first job was in Citibank Geneva which then lead her onto further positions in banks and Trust Companies in Geneva. She is currently a compliance officer with Julius Baer in Zürich, She also took a year off and volunteered in a small village Senegal for the construction of a sewing workshop and then interned in an environmental organization in Ankara Turkey, participating in sustainability programmes.

Christina Mittmasser

Research

Christina is a PhD fellow at the Geography Institute of the University of Neuchatel and the research centre nccr – on the move. In her research, she tries to understand migration and mobility from an inequality perspective. Her current project focuses on migrant entrepreneurs in Switzerland. Christina studied Sociology and European Ethnology in Austria, where she addressed the issue of statelessness and the diversity of the concept of citizenship within her Master thesis. To complement her research activities with supporting migrants in practice she joined Capacity as a volunteer in July 2019!

Rhythima Shinde

Crowdfunding

Rhythima is a Ph.D. ETH Zurich student specialised in environmental analytics. She runs a non-profit organisation: Humane Warriors, where she develops social and environmental sustainability solutions for India. She has been engaged in developing a model village project in India as Co-founder of TechGSR and also worked as a Co-founder of Energy Bazaar, a peer-to-peer electricity trading platform for improving energy access in developing countries. Being an immigrant herself, she knows how difficult it is to leave families and identities back home, to realize your dreams. She wants to do a small part in helping realise more dreams.

Zsofia Molnar

Communications Advisor

Zsofia has over 7 years project management experience and she is currently program manager at the Kickstart Accelerator Program in Zurich. She is coming from a cultural field, and she holds a Bachelor’s degree in Intercultural Communication (Budapest Business School) and a Master’s degree in Sociology-Economics (Corvinus University of Budapest). She is an avid reader, who is always looking for new stories and opportunities to learn. She is motivated to contribute to the work of Capacity and have a social impact by helping people to evolve.

Cristina Stadler

All-round supporter & translator

Cristina holds a Master of Arts in Romanic Languages from the University of Zurich and a Diploma in Project Management from the EB Zurich as well as more than 15 years of sound practical experience in the administrative field.
Cristina has always been very interested in social work and in helping people in need. She was born in Ecuador and moved to Switzerland for her university studies. As a migrant herself, she had to learn a new language, a new culture and how to integrate into a new country. For this reason, she knows the challenges migrants face by leaving their homeland and by starting a new life in a new context. She is very happy to volunteer for Capacityand and to give her contribution to the migrants and their future as entrepreneurs. She is convinced that “Nothing is impossible if you work hard!”

Ishika Gupta

All-round support

Ishika is 17 years old and a student at Zurich International School. She volunteered for Capacity over the summer 2020. Though originally from India, Ishika has been living in Switzerland for the past nine years. Before that, she lived and was born in the US. Ishika is interested in International Relations and Human Rights. She is an active member of her school community, participating in Model UN, Amnesty International, and Debate clubs. She is also on the Varsity Basketball Team.

Emma Dahlén

Capacity's allround supporter & motivator

Emma completed a Bachelor in Product Design in 2007 and continued her studies in Marketing & Communication. For 7 years, she worked as a Sales & Marketing Manager in the field of office interiors. The benefit of having worked in a small company has since given Emma a wide spectrum of skills; from setting up the local office and managing logistics, B2B sales, marketing, and working closely with management to define strategies. With her Swiss/Swedish background and having lived in various countries, Emma is determined to help Capacity build bridges of social acceptance, and eliminate false assumptions about foreign cultures - Because we are all human.

Dina El Halaby

Fundraising

Dina has over 10 years of professional experience in Program Management with networks supporting high quality, policy-oriented research that contributes to sustainable development across several countries in the Middle East and Africa. She is passionate about empowering young people to live the life that they value and deserve. This led her to pursue a Master of Advanced Studies in Children’s Rights at the University of Geneva, which she successfully completed in June 2019. The focus of her research was on rights of refugees to education, non-discrimination and participation. She believes that empowering refugees and migrants is key for them to exercise those rights as well as exercising their fundamental right to live in dignity.

Laura Clemente

Project Manager - Social Media

Laura is an international project manager with more than 10 years of experience in clinical research. Heart-based in Barcelona, her hometown, she now lives in Switzerland since 2017; previously in London. 10 years ago, she realised how impactful our actions can be when she started collaborating with an association (AEIraval) aiming for social integration for childhood and youth in an impoverished area of Barcelona. From that, she also collaborated with organisations such as Amnesty International Spain or Monsaengdao Ecological School (Thailand). She's a people-oriented person, driven by passion and creating a social impact in multicultural environments.

Edward Brown

Communications and Social Media

Edward has a strong background in international sport, having worked at world football’s governing body FIFA for fourteen years, including one Women's World Cup and three men's World Cups, over which time he has acquired an-depth knowledge of football relations and internal politics and an extensive international network.
He also has a wealth of experience as a content writer and translator, having produced quality content for a number of different campaigns and promotional activities, in which his fluency in several different languages always comes in useful. His qualifications include a Certificate of Advanced Studies in Marketing & Corporate Communications from the Zurich University of Applied Sciences ZHAW.
In his spare time he is head coach of a girls’ football team in Zurich and is passionate about women’s football and the potential of sport to improve gender equality and integration.