Keynote speaker:

Simin Farkhondeh, 

Education Director at Democracy Now!


Simin Farkhondeh is an award winning filmmaker, artist, educator and activist. She directs films with a progressive message. Her work has appeared on PBS, Whitney Museum, the Margaret Mead Film Festival and elsewhere. She was co-director of the award winning anti war Deep Dish TV Series, Gulf Crisis TV Project and director of the acclaimed monthly TV series Labor at the Crossroads (LABOR X), about work issues, which aired on cable in New York and other cities across the United States. Among her films are WHO GIVES KISSES FREELY FROM HER LIPS, about temporary marriage in Iran, inspired by Cuban Imperfect Cinema, and Caught Between Two Worlds, a documentary look at the Iranian diaspora community in the U.S. Simin is Education Director at Democracy Now! the news hour. Her films are distributed by Third World Newsreel and Arab Films.


Speakers & Workshop Leaders

Saga Blane, Branding & Communications Consultant


I cut my teeth as a communications strategist and creative with WPP – the largest marketing holding company in the world. I'm coming off three years on a prestigious program called the WPP Fellowship. It sounds like something from Lord of the Rings, and the journey is almost as epic. Known as the “golden ticket”, WPP throws you into the hot seat to learn All Things Communication. You face the biggest global clients, work with the best agencies in the business, and try your hat at a different job - discipline - even country every year. The knowledge you gain is unmatched. Most graduates continue into leadership positions within the company. I've chosen to go independent, hoping to open the gates of the castle and share what I have learned. Specifically, I want to give artists, small businesses, non-profits, and people who big agencies would consider “small fish” a chance to get big help, without paying the big bucks. I believe no one knows your story better than you. Through my newly launched "Brand Bootcamp", I offer information, practical tools, and a curated set of my go-to resources to help you help yourself.  


Toni Dolce, Creative Director of Purple Critter Media

Purple Critter Media is a boutique media agency that creates strategic video and photo content for the digital space. As the Creative Director at Purple Critter Media, Toni Dolce combines her marketing expertise along with her production talent to create media for her clients. For the first half of her career, Toni was a professional singer performing an array of classical, musical theater, and adult contemporary works. She still regularly performs at Lincoln Center with the NY Philharmonic and also released her highly rated debut album, “Introduction.” As a voice over artist, she voiced over 700 book abstracts for, and worked on various commercial campaigns. She’s also been featured on five different network television shows. Toni’s background in the performing arts has given her a distinct advantage in what looks good on camera, how to work together with clients and direct the production team to create cohesive and vivid campaigns. Her job first and foremost is to guide the client with identifying their concrete goals. Then, she develops a creative vision and plan of execution. Depending on the project, she’s storyboarding, scripting, directing, producing, running camera/lights/audio, taking photos, or editing. Her continued dream is to work on interesting projects with interesting clients that need help navigating the digital world



Neil Feinstein, 

Assistant Professor at
St. John’s University

Neil is Assistant Professor of Advertising at St. John's University, where he teaches Creative Development, Consumer Research and Strategy, and Branding, all infused with a digital sensibility. His research focus is digital innovation: Neil seeks to explore the possibilities of digital engagement to enhance customer relationships, increase lifetime value and drive profits through innovative marketing strategies. He conducts an annual "Hot or Hype" survey on the most important innovations for practicing digital marketers. Neil is also studying the impact of customizing popular music to users in a digital advertising environment. Neil came to education after a 30-year career in advertising, the last 16 years of which were focused on interactive marketing. He built the first ever online ads for The New York Times, the first ever mobile program for the DMA, the first ever email marketing program for Hachette Filipacchi, and has advised American Express, Disney, Bristol Myers Squibb, Constant Contact, Merrill Lynch, and not-for- profits Wounded Warrior Project and ASPCA. Over his career, Neil has won multiple creative and digital innovation awards. Neil holds a M.S. in Direct and Interactive Marketing from New York University.

Michelle Garside & Alison Leipzig, co-founders of TAP: The Action PlanSoul Camp and Soul Camp Creative

Michelle and Alison are co-founders of TAP: The Action PlanSoul Camp and Soul Camp Creative. Soul Camp is a completely transformative sleep away camp for adults. These large-scale community experiences are not only deep and healing but fun and playful as well. Soul Camp Creative is a full-service Marketing Agency devoted to working with conscious companies and brands that are positively impacting the planet. Their clients include coaches, teachers, healers, wellness practitioners, retreat centers, wellness facilities and any purpose-driven organization looking to empower people to live happier, healthier lives. Ali and Michelle and their companies have been featured in Oprah MagazineTravel and LeisureFitnessWomen’s HealthGood Morning AmericaABC NewsParentsFortune, Inc., and Forbes

Jessica Greer Morris, Co-Founder & Executive Director of Girl Be Heard

Girl Be Heard is a non-profit theatre company that brings global issues affecting girls center stage by empowering young women to tell their stories. What began in 2008 with twelve girls, is now a 170 girls strong. Our youth-led global movement engages audiences at the White House, United Nations, State Department, TED conferences, detention centers, schools and community centers. Girl Be Heard empowers girls to speak out about issues they care about most, from body image to violence against women. GBH runs both after school and weekend education programs where all of their theatrical work is generated.

Jake Jeppson, Playwright

Jake Jeppson writes funny plays that investigate the dark corners of contemporary American life. He has an MFA from Yale School of Drama, where he served on the leadership team of the Yale Cabaret. He went to Middlebury College and is an alum of the National Theatre Institute. When not writing for the stage, Jake has contributed to NatGeo TV and produced freelance content for creative agencies.

Asif Khan, Senior Director, Partnerships and Programs at Games for Change

Asif Khan leads the organization’s business development and partnerships efforts, and works on program management. Asif has previously worked for the United Nations Foundation in New York and Washington managing and creating long-term partnerships with companies, foundations, bi-laterals and UN agencies. He also managed the US Partnerships portfolio for the French aid agency Action Contre La Faim and North America (East Coast) & Middle East partnerships at the global education non-profit Room to Read. He has fieldwork experience with the National Commission for Human Development (NCHD) working in Northern Pakistan, and has studied and worked in England, Spain, Turkey & Argentina.

Florence Montmare, Artist, Photographer & Director

Florence Montmare is an artist, photographer and director, whose creative drive takes her around the globe. Born in Vienna and raised in Stockholm by Swedish and Greek parents, she graduated with an MBA in Innovation & Design Management in Sweden. Subsequently, she worked for several years as a creative consultant in advertising. Equipped with $200 and a single suitcase she left for New York City, seeking new challenges. Simultaneously she transitioned from the corporate to the fine art world and worked with international creative agencies and artists. After studies at SVA and graduating from the International Center of Photography, New York, she worked with fine art projects in Paris and established her studio practice in New York and Stockholm. She makes photographs, films, installations, creative content, campaigns, and television while exhibiting art work at galleries internationally

Eduardo Placer, CEO of Fearless Communicators

Eduardo Placer is the CEO and Founder of Fearless Communicators, a dynamic public speaking coaching business. He is a social impact entrepreneur, global community builder and international public speaker. He was a professional actor for 15 years working all over the United States. He believes that everyone has something to say and is committed to unlocking their voice and unleashing their story.  Recently Eduardo created A Fearless Force: Public Speaking for Visionary Women Leaders as an opportunity to work with leaders on the crafting and execution of a signature speech.  Clients include the University of Pennsylvania, the Wharton School of Business, Yale University, The Juilliard School, Google, Bank of America, HBO, Innosight, and mobilize.  Global collaborations include, The Somewhere Project with Carnegie Hall, the Muslim Jewish Conference, UHAI- East African Sexual Health Initiative, Braveheart Men’s Movement, and Soul Camp


Azfar Rizvi, News Producer, Filmmaker & Social Media Consultant

Azfar is an award-winning filmmaker who has produced content for UN agencies and the US State Department across 4 continents. Before moving to NYC, he cultivated a decade-long career producing radio content, teaching journalism and filmmaking at global universities, and directing primetime documentaries for CNN, BBC and Al Jazeera. He has collaborated with Emmy and Oscar-award winning filmmakers, and continues to take time out to volunteer across local storytelling initiatives focusing on vulnerable youth. His interest in issues around women empowerment, sustainable global politics, and youth mental health has resulted in digital storytelling projects across Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Syria. Besides serving as a multi-disciplinary lecturer and a frequent jury member at media and film events, he has also pioneered Participatory Journalism courses at major private universities across Pakistan and Canada. He has lent support to UN MDG social media workshops to help increase community engagement to improve maternal health and infant mortality. His work is regularly solicited by advocacy agencies, featured as awareness content on multiple platforms in the aftermath major global events, and is showcased at Sundance and HotDocs film festivals. In the past year, he developed social-capital development initiatives for clients like the PANAM Games, and Govt Of Canada. His last overseas gig in Afghanistan placed him at the helm of a US State Department behavioral marketing project. As the Creative Director, he led a team in designing the brand DNA of the national counter-narcotics initiative. Produced 300 TV programs and over 1700 radio program, Azfar designed community engagement literature, magazines, comic books, sticker books and merchandise for the youth. During his time in Kabul, he also volunteer to be on the jury of the much celebrated "Afghan Contemporary Art Prize" As the founding director of 'Institute Of Canadian Archives', Azfar has been involved in creating audio-visual narratives partnering with non-profits and profits alike. He consults with NYC-based 'Chowk Labs', and collaborates with charities, non-profits, settlement agencies, and similar city-based initiatives to deliver custom workshops, trainings sessions and learning experiences for high performing teams. Azfar is a member of the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television, and a HOTDOCS Documentary Organization of Canada Fellow. 




Maria Elena Romero, Journalist

Maria Elena is a multimedia journalist and communicator with knowledge of storytelling techniques for digital and traditional media platforms. Maria core passion is ground-level storytelling focusing on the human condition of people who are in need of a voice. As a journalist, she has worked in the field in more than a dozen countries in the Americas covering key regional events such as the Haiti Earthquake aftermath, the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the 10th year anniversary of 9/11. Her passion for human rights and environmental issues has taken her to remote areas of the Amazon Forest to produce stories about the clash between environmental preservation and economic development. She has also planned and executed large-scale news coverages such as Pope Francis visit to the United States in 2015, and the US presidential race in 2016. Before becoming a journalist Maria Elena worked in international development in her native Colombia and the United States. 

Jackie Shao, Graphic Designer

Jackie is a graphic designer and social entrepreneur specializing in branding and packaging. She holds a B.A. in Communication Design and has had the privilege of being a freelancer for most of the last decade. During this time, she has supported more than 40 brands from small start-ups to large corporations in diverse industries with their design needs and takes pride in crafting exceptional design that communicates both visually and strategically. Some varied, yet notable clients that she had the chance to work with include The Advertising Council, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Poppin and Moët Hennessy. Jackie enjoys collaborating with like-hearted companies and organizations in the social good, wellness, and food and beverage space, and is continually looking to create imaginative and visionary work with strong emotional value. With a naturally curious outlook on life, she loves to explore and travel and is interested in human behavior. She is currently experimenting with building a community around tea and conversation. Jackie is a native New Yorker and is always looking for ways to give back and positively impact this vibrant city.





Agnieszka Wilson,  Founder & CEO of Partners for Creative Development 

Agnieszka Wilson is the  the Founder and CEO of Partners for Creative Development in New York. Her responsibilities involve project management, coordination, partnership building and communication at the global level. Prior to P4CD she was the Executive Director at NFCC International, working on women's reproductive health. Further, she worked at the UN on post-conflict and gender-related issues. Her work involved the coordination of 22 UN agencies focusing on post-settings and war torn societies. She is also the co-founder and manager of a New York based women’s network and used to teach as a part time professor at St. Johns University on International Communications. She holds a Master's of Political Science from Uppsala University, Sweden. Her passion for collaboration and gender equality across the globe inspired her to create P4CD to support humanitarian organizations and drive social change through collaboration and a project based approach, that allows global experts to come together and create sustainable development results.

Saba Ismail, co-founder of Aware Girls

Saba Ismail; the co-founding sister of Aware Girls then 15 years, She supported the idea of strengthening girls’ voices for bringing prosperity in her community. She firmly believed that change has to come through the younger generation. She has completed her Masters in Biotechnology from COMSATS UniversityAbbotAbad, has completed Hurford Youth Fellowship with National Endowment for Democracy in 2013, and has the honor of speaking at George Masson University in DC and University of Maryland. She is alumni of the International Visitors Leadership Program USA. Her bravery and activism was acknowledged by Foreign Policy Magazine by awarding her as one among 100 Leading Global Thinkers of 2013. She is also at the Steering Committee of UNOY and represents Asia in the World Youth Movement for Democracy. She has done research on “Role of Young women in Emerging Democracies”. She is the co-founder of South Asian Regional Feminists Forum on Women’s Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. She has worked as Youth Ambassador for Asia Pacific Youth Network (APYN: 20120-2013). She joined Aware Girls as Executive Director in September, 2011.

Heather Spinner, Brand Catalyst

Heather Spinner is a New York City based design professional with over a decade of industry experience. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design in 2003 and passionately pursued a career to follow. She has worked with numerous international brands with a concentration on packaging, branding and production. Heather helped these brands elevate their positions through insightful direction, story telling, and execution. Her diverse background as a designer and art director in fashion and advertising led her on a deeper quest to fine tune the strategy behind the design process. Ultimately this led her back to school to study brand marketing strategy. Soon after, in 2016, Heather went on to launch Perseus Branding - a socially conscious branding consultancy on a mission to help influence brands to better communicate their value and raise their impact levels. Her mission is to catalyze brands to go beyond what exists and create their own social movement