Meet Vanessa!


The Pond-Deshpande Centre has announced that Vanessa Paesani will be taking over the leadership of their social venture accelerator, BE.FOR.CHANGE. (B4C) at the first of October.  

Earlier this fall, Joanna Nickerson - the PDC’s Social Innovation Manager, who has been leading the program for the last 3 years - announced that she would be stepping down from her role with B4C as she’s relocating to Winnipeg, MB to grow her impact in social innovation.  After 3 years of building the program, Joanna will leave B4C as Atlantic Canada’s first and largest accelerator for impact-driven companies.

B4C has accelerated over 47 social ventures since 2015 and has created a strong community of social entrepreneurs.

PDC’s Executive Director, Karina LeBlanc is looking forward to what is next for B4C: “change is never easy and B4C will be saying farewell to Joanna Nickerson as she takes on her next challenge.  We are pleased to announce the addition of Vanessa Paesani as it's new Director. We could not be more excited about adding someone of Vanessa's calibre to the team!” says LeBlanc.


Paesani is eager to begin building on the work B4C has put in place: social entrepreneurship is so important right now as society explores the important question of how do we build organizations that can have long-standing positive social impact, while also creating jobs and wealth?  The tenets of social entrepreneurship are those of abundance and a belief that we all have the potential to innovate, see problems and find solutions - while also creating wealth. B4C is designed to accelerate people and ideas in achieving that impact”.

She also notes that “the B4C community is poised to continue to take a leadership role in fostering social entrepreneurship first locally, and then beyond that.  We’ll continue building out B4C's collaboration with the PDC's other offerings including NouLAB, the Student Ambassador Program, the ChangeMaker Funding Program and the NB Social Policy Research Network.  I'm really grateful for the ecosystem that Gerry Pond and Desh Deshpande believed in when they created this centre, and the legacy of social change that B4C already creating.”

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B4C is now accepting applications to the Fall 2018 Cohort until Oct 12, 2018 at midnight.  Program dates (and more information) can be found online at or at an information session hosted on Thursday, Sept 13 between 4-6pm at the Picaroons Roundhouse in Fredericton.


Vanessa Paesani brings a focus on people to all of her endeavours. She's worked across the nonprofit and for-profit sectors: everything from running a large music festival, to selling technical equipment, to collaboratively building a gender-responsive business curriculum in Tanzania. What all of her work has in common is a focus on building internal alignment to amplify results.

Joanna Nickerson