Institute for Evolutionary Leadership Fellows 2019

In October 2019, participants of the Evolutionary Leadership Fellows Program and other members of the Evolutionary Leadership Community gathered in Arcadia, Greece for the annual community retreat to share knowledge, support, and collaborations. Christiana Gardikioti, Evolutionary Leadership Fellow 2019 and founder of the Meraki People, hosted the group in her region from Oct. 20-27, 2019. 

During the retreat, participants were able to bond and explore their work in an intentional pressure-free space, as well as engage in more structured activities such as the graduation of the first cohort of fellows and a World Café with the local community. It was an excellent opportunity for graduating fellows to reflect on their Evolutionary Leadership journey and for new fellows to set the intention for the coming year. 

Here is how Manuel Manga, co-founder of the Institute for Evolutionary Leadership and founding member of the Evolutionary Leadership Community, explains the need for a new type of leadership that our fellows are working towards:

​”Most existing leadership models and methodologies are designed to develop leadership skills effective solely within their field of operation within the same cultures and institutions that created the very problems we are facing.

As the world awakens to the realization that we live in an unsustainable civilization on a finite planet with finite resources, humankind needs to make a radical shift towards a new worldview, new cultural values, and a new societal paradigm.

To achieve this new future, we need a new model of leadership – one that promotes a systemic societal transformation towards a radically better world. The Institute for Evolutionary Leadership works to develop leaders with the vision, passion, and competencies required to transform our crisis and build a just, sustainable, and flourishing future.”

Manuel Manga

The fellowship was designed by co-founder of the Institute for Evolutionary Leadership, Fyodor Ovchinnikov, and it included a 3-day in-person Evolutionary Leadership Intensive, weekly peer-mentoring calls, one-on-one mentoring, online professional development workshops, and closing reflections at the Evolutionary Leadership Community retreat. The Institute for Evolutionary Leadership Fellowship is based on one’s inner capacity to do systemic change, which meets participants where they are. Relevant models, frameworks, and tools are introduced as needed but are never imposed on fellows as a requirement. Instead, an intentional space is created to deeply connect with the purpose of the work, the calling of the community, the capacity for transformation, and the possibilities that can be explored through reflection and action. 

Many fellows have specific initiatives with a history of place-based work and use the fellowship to develop a deeper understanding of what they can do to engage their communities in intentional transformation of their worldviews, cultures, and institutions for a better world. We would like to highlight the first cohort of Evolutionary Leadership Fellows, their work, and their reflections on participating in the Evolutionary Leadership Fellows Program. Fellows from the 2019 cohort are Christiana Gardikioti of the Meraki People, Aline Iglesias of Awi Superfoods, Michael Sillion as Captain Future, Philipp Mäntele of SINA, and Elizabeth Carney of Zen Heart Lab.


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The Meraki People, a social enterprise working in southern Kynouria region of Greece embodies the true meaning of what it is to do something with “meraki”. Founder Christiana Gardikioti describes her initiative as, “working in and for nature with our heart while discovering business models that are inspired by nature and address the need for renewable raw resources”. A vision that inspires her is making Mt. Parnonas nature’s first factory by aligning economic activities of the local community with the natural ways of the local ecosystem. The concrete work on the ground currently includes building a zero waste community starting by a school with a biolab, fungi production as an example of applied zero waste, a makerspace where people experience and design new ecologically sustainable processes, and knowledge exchange programs with international partners including other Evolutionary Leadership Fellows.

We are creating ecosystems, international networks of different organizations including academics and research institutions, business professionals, enterprises- both start-up and mature, NGOs, governments (local, national, and international), and health and nutrition professionals that support and work with our community.”

Christiana Gardikioti 


Christiana Gardikioti appreciated the global community of people the fellowship brought and said that it introduced her to people she never dreamt of meeting before. Ever since she came to California as a finalist in the Evolutionary Future Challenge she felt supported by nourishing relationships and ideas. The fellowship team gave her grounding each week as she could talk freely about her struggles, questions, and progress with fellow social innovators. She reflected that overall the fellowship was, “profound, meaningful, and supportive”.

Additionally, hosting the Evolutionary Leadership Community retreat was very inspirational for her community. Having international support come to her region cultivated a sense of hope for a better future, generated new creative ideas, and built credibility with local holders of institutional power. It also gave an opportunity for Christiana to deepen her relationships and create long-lasting bonds with fellows and other Evolutionary Leadership Community members. Overall, the fellowship gave her space to grow as an individual and she is grateful for the opportunity to be a fellow and especially to host this year’s retreat.

If you’re interested in following and supporting the movement of the Meraki People please visit the website at and on Facebook: The Meraki People.


Aline Iglesias co-founded Awi Superfoods, a company with a social impact lens, with the goal of  “promoting human and planetary health with the most delicious, nutritious, plant-based superfood alchemies that regenerate the Amazon rainforest and the planet, while supporting the local river communities”. The product is a 6 superfood acai sorbet which serves the rainforest, the local river communities, and people committed to healthy food worldwide.

In 2017, along with Derek Brett Gallo and Roberto Emílio Lopes, they started the Patú Anú Farm School on Marajó Island in the Brazilian state of Pará, believing in the principles of agroforestry as a solution to regenerate the rainforest and generate abundance for the River People. Since then, they have provided 35 scholarships for students from the Federal Institute of Pará whom are a majority River People of all ages and backgrounds. In the last year, the project has set up partnerships with local associations and the City Hall to bring the agroforestry industry to local River People in Curralinho. Additionally, it has received a grant from the German Corporation for International Cooperation to support organic agroforestry certifications for 22 families.

With a goal of positively affecting the community and the environment, Awi Superfoods will make an impact in several areas. By 2020, they will have trained 178 students in agroforestry, have 31 partner families engaged with Awi Superfoods, and have 50 solar energy kits distributed. With a goal of environmental impact, they will have preserved 9,930 hectares of forests and reforested 63 hectares of land by 2020.


Aline Iglesias found the fellowship to be very helpful for her work as it caused her to summarize and reflect on the project’s evolution regularly. As well, the peer-knowledge exchange was helpful in understanding projects in other parts of the world where peers were facing the same challenges or revealing similar solutions in different locations. The fellowship also provided access to networking and international knowledge sharing. Moreover, they were presented with highly relevant approaches to assess impact, using sensing tools such as World Café to survey community needs. She also learned the importance of approaching sensing activities by creating generative spaces for community dialogue as opposed to simply data harvesting. Moreover, her status as Evolutionary Leadership Fellow was highly regarded by partners and allies of her organization.

Please continue to follow them at and on Instagram @Awisuperfoods .


Michael Sillion is a self-defined “navigator” creating links between people and ideas all over the world. Rather than working on a specific place-based transformation, he is bringing people and ideas together inspiring and nourishing systems change leaders across the world. He has termed himself “Captain Future” as an advocate for the future and the state of the environment. He promotes ideas, movements, knowledge sharing, inner and outer journeys through videos, podcasts, social media, and workshops. Using the Buckminster Fuller idea of calling ourselves crew members of Spaceship Earth, Michael Sillion is aware of the collective crew member’s responsibility to help planet earth and be an ambassador for the future. 

In Michael Sillion’s work, he has created models for inner and outer journeys. One model he has created is called Ikigai 4.0 Flourishing Me. The model includes “flow states” of curiosity and love, “level up” mastery and skills, “dojos” such as events and lifelong-learning, “enablers” such as networks of people and resources, and “meaning” such as value creation and the quest. Through these steps, one better understands their place in the world and our global civilization. This mapping can be facilitated in companies, universities, libraries, hubs, and future centers.

Another model Michael Sillion developed in collaboration with Bert-Ola Bergstrand and Karl McFaul is the Future Navigation Model. It was integrated with Karl’s work with Place Innovation and Bert-Ola’s work on building Social Capital. Together they developed the diagram below.

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Additionally, Michael Sillion has reflected on and summed up the human endeavor, which is several steps in going into the unknown, on a quest, or through an enterprise. He asks the question, “How will we prepare ourselves for the future?” Here, Captain future sums it up in 12 categories:

Moreover, Michael Sillion or “Captain Future” is an external navigator or connector. He integrates and disseminates knowledge of several thought leaders on consciousness, awareness, systems change, and sensemaking. He has highlighted the work of Tomas Björkman on the Metamodern Movement of systems change, John Vervaeke on wisdom, and Jordan Hall on “The Paradox of the Times” through social media and discussions.


The fellowship helped Michael Sillion in the perception of his image, identity, and how to frame it better while making an impact in his journey. Through a process of collective narrative, he was shown what he could leverage and how he could interact with the image of Captain Future to create curiosity from the public. By creating a curiosity or tension in how he looks, and then by being authentic, he resolves the tension in the personal connections that he makes. As well, Michael works with the concept of being a  “network weaver”, connecting ideas and sensemaking both internally and externally. The Fellowship provided him an opportunity to see how his work is perceived by some of the core members of his community of changemakers.

Michael Sillion appreciated the fellowship as a safe space to explore and to be himself along with peers Christiana Gardikioti and Elizabeth Carney. The fellowship involved peer mentorship and a positive support system to share both personal and professional challenges in weekly virtual meetings. There was a paradox however, of being under other stresses, which made it challenging to channel the right energy into the fellowship. He did feel that everyone in society needs a journey group, or a fellowship like in the Lord of the Rings, such as a group of people that were in similar steps on the journey. Everyone is on this journey from childhood to adulthood, where we do some exploration and learning throughout our path. He appreciated the journey group and the knowledge that unfolded from the Institute for Evolutionary Leadership Fellowship.

Please continue to follow Captain Future at: and Facebook at Captain Future .


Social Innovation Academy (SINA), tackles failing education and resulting unemployment in Uganda through creating self-organized and “freesponsible” learning spaces, where disadvantaged youth unleash their potential for positive change as social entrepreneurs. One of the ideas behind the work SINA does, is to provide a space where participants have freedom and responsibility in their work, thus coining the new term “freesponsible”. This is facilitated by allowing for “self-management” where education is managed by the participants, as well as creating a feedback loop for continual learning. The educational framework of SINA is holistic and looks at the human being in all its facets, going beyond what a technical or vocational program would provide. SINA provides social technology which people can implement in a community and put toward social entrepreneurship. Their target participant group is 17-27 year old students with goal of 50/50 men and women, and at least 50% from vulnerable backgrounds. There are two reasons why the age criteria is chosen, one reason is that a 17 year old can become a full adult throughout the program, and in the age range participants don’t yet have too many responsibilities in life yet. The criteria that participants come from a vulnerable background is an important aspect of SINA because it supports individuals to understand that the challenges of their past are an opportunity for their future. The core of any SINA Social Enterprise has its roots in a challenging experience in which its founders overcame.

There are 4-5 SINA communities total, each with 50-70 participants, which meet, exchange and learn from one another in the community of practitioners. They won an innovation award at UNHCR as a result of the SINA at Bidi Bidi applying for it. However, SINA is a seed for social entrepreneurship, self-management, and quality over quantity. As a result of their focus on quality, they don’t have goals to scale up soon. The scaling has happened naturally through alumni motivated to create similar SINAs in other communities. 


Phillip Mäntele reflected on the last year in partnership with the Institute for Evolutionary Leadership. Through the process of the fellowship he understood more deeply about a community of practice, other SINA centers, and shaping their work. The last few years focused on processes, but now they need to shift their focus on output orientation, paying special attention to how their alumni navigate and transform cultures and institutions in Uganda. Currently, there is an increase in people in SINA who challenge how things work, which is a positive feedback loop to create change and constant learning in the organization. Phillip sees that the flexible and self-managed system of the Evolutionary Leadership Community fits well with a similar system of SINA. 

SINA is structured with the founders at the heart of it and then with a staff cooperative model so there is an even balance of power. Moreover, there is potentiality for new groups expanding the SINA model in their own ways. Phillip has additional goals of creating knowledge exchange and transparency within a community of practice through exchanges online and in-person where people can learn from field implementations.

Phillip found the mentoring process to be supportive and allow for growth within the context of his work with SINA. His mentor Fyodor Ovchinnikov tapped into theory, shaped the fellowship in the direction of the participant, and supported the challenges on the ground. In keeping the focus of the fellowship on creating systemic change, there was a freedom in the fellowship to take the learning and implement it in a way that was meaningful to the community. Tools such as World Café, Collective Narrative Methodology, and systems mapping were relevant to what SINA is doing. Moreover, through peer exchange he saw how peers had similar challenges and it created a support system for all of their work. 

Please continue to follow SINA at and on Facebook: Social Innovation Academy.


Elizabeth Carney, founder of Zen Heart Lab, is changing the paradigm of medicine. The Zen Heart team from the San Francisco Bay Area (the south end of “ Salmon Nation”) with members of the Confederated Tribes of Umatilla in rural Oregon (the north end of “Salmon Nation”) combined to discover the path to prototype a nature-based health system and community center using Native food and plant medicine.  

During the team’s work together, a new vision of healing for people became more deeply tied to the health of the Earth. Through facilitated discussions, they learned that community is key and that with a strong community everyone can be nurtured, even isolated seniors, addicted youth and returning veterans of wars. They also learned from their community meetings that the tribal youth are calling for a world where their families aren’t suffering from chronic diseases. 

Zen Heart Lab addresses these community needs through transforming the paradigm of medicine through understanding that the root causes of chronic disease are influenced by the following: 

  • For individuals, changing lifestyle factors (in genetics, called “Epigenetics”)
  • For communities, connections such as sharing food
  • For societies, food and health systems

This project supports people taking responsibility for their “lifestyle intelligence”, at do-it-yourself community centers. It allows people to learn new skills, find allies to change habits together, and share culture and community dinners.

Zen Heart is now prototyping a Community Center with Tribal Leaders and members of the Umatilla Confederated Tribe, which is the beginning of a community program focused on regeneration, plant-based medicine, food sovereignty, and energy independence. Through listening to the community about their needs, Zen Heart Lab plans to grow the program and potentially collaborate with other tribes and networks to improve community health and the natural environment.


“Gratitude” was the first thing mentioned by Fellow Elizabeth Carney for weekly connections with her local and global cohort. As well, she was grateful for the tools the Institute for Evolutionary Leadership provided for the Fellows. The tools assisted them in seeing the world through systems change eyes and developing Evolutionary Leadership Competencies to help them consciously redesign worldviews, cultures, and institutions. Moreover, Elizabeth Carney gained a rise in “Action Confidence”, the feeling that if others are doing this work around the world as individuals and teams, then the Zen Heart Lab can succeed to institute a new vision of healing medicine.

Throughout the fellowship period, Zen Heart Lab facilitated a workshop every month, in which two were co-facilitated with Manuel Manga, the Co-Founder & Managing Partner of the Institute for Evolutionary Leadership. The workshops created a deep involvement and trust with the tribal participants through using U.Lab Presencing Institute’s methodology such as deep listening, social presencing theater (4-D mapping), and tabletop workshop methodologies.

Through listening to the “emerging wisdom” by using the methodologies and applying Evolutionary Leadership Competencies, Zen Heart Lab and the members of the Confederated Tribes of Umatilla were able to develop relationships and harness collective solutions. As a result, they were able to see solutions through a different kind of “body knowledge”, emerging throughout the workshops. The solutions set aside old industrial structures of food systems, health systems, and business systems, allowing nature and communities to flourish.

Overall, Zen Heart Lab is creating a new paradigm of nature-based medicine and reflecting that planetary health is connected to human health. The goal is to work with nature, rather than man trying to dominate nature. By changing our mindsets and actions, our community can find a new perspective and a healthy way of living in the future.

Please follow Elizabeth Carney at:


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