Blog Archives


Pamela Passman

Pamela Passman brings a unique understanding of how individuals and organizations can improve their adoption of current best practices as they jointly invent new ones. She began her own career as a Thomas Watson Foundation Fellow learning how Japan dealt with environmental problems. After 15 years serving as a Microsoft corporate executive in Asia and the U.S. with global responsibilities for managing risk, regulatory compliance, Pamela founded the nonprofit Center for Responsible Enterprise and Trade ( develops policies and practices that drive greater compliance and responsibility along global supply and demand chains as a way to create more sustainable jobs, growth, and innovation.’s effective approach to helping companies measure internal capabilities and manage risk led to the spin-off and sale of CREATe Compliance Inc. to another industry leader, The Ethisphere Institute.

Until October 2011, Pamela served as Microsoft’s Deputy General Counsel and Corporate Vice President for Global Corporate and Regulatory Affairs. In that role, Pamela led Microsoft’s regulatory compliance work in 100+ countries, addressing a range of issues including privacy, cybersecurity, law enforcement, national security, telecommunications, and issues related to cloud computing. She also led Microsoft’s public policy work on these issues as well as the company’s corporate citizenship and philanthropic efforts globally. Pamela joined Microsoft in 1996 and until 2002 led Microsoft’s Legal and Corporate Affairs organization in Asia, focusing on Japan, China and South Korea. Prior to Microsoft, Pamela practiced law with Nagashima & Ohno in Tokyo and Covington & Burling in Washington, D.C. Pamela is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and serves on the boards of Kids In Need of Defense (KIND) and Lafayette College. Pamela also served as 2011 Chair of the Information Technology Industry Council (ITIC) which represents industry leaders including Microsoft, Google, SAP, and Oracle. Pamela earned a BA Government and Law from Lafayette College and a JD from the University of Virginia Law School.

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David Cooperrider, PhD

Dr. Cooperrider’s decades of strength-based community commerce innovation created the blueprint for Venly’s mobilization to help small & local businesses grow. David is a Case Western Reserve University Distinguished University Professor and holds the Fairmount Santrol – David L. Cooperrider Professorship in Appreciative Inquiry at Case Western’s Weatherhead School of Management. At Weatherhead, he serves as the faculty Founder and Director of the Fowler Center for Business as an Agent of World Benefit.

David is best known for his establishment of Appreciative Inquiry with his mentor Suresh Srivastva. Leaders in business, the public sector, education, faith-based organizations, and nonprofits attribute their innovation and measurable growth to their use of David’s strength-based methodologies. David has been brought in for multi-stakeholder innovation projects by U.S. Presidents, the U.S. Navy’s Chief of Naval Operations, and the General Secretary of the United Nations. His corporate clients include Apple, Boeing, Cleveland Clinic, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Johnson & Johnson, McKinsey, Smuckers, National Grid, Verizon, and Walmart. Jane Nelson at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government recently wrote, “David Cooperrider is one of the outstanding scholar-practitioners of our generation.”

In addition to his industry work, David has published 25 books and authored over 100 articles and book chapters. He has also been the recipient of numerous awards and honors. In 2014 with the support from the family foundation of Green Mountain Coffee founder Robert Stiller, Champlain College created the David L. Cooperrider Center for Appreciative Inquiry at the Stiller School of Business. In 2017, David received the Organizational Development Network’s Lifetime Achievement Award—the highest honor from the largest international association in the field of organizational development.

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Allison Mnookin currently teaches at the Harvard Business School. Previously she served as Vice President and General Manager of Intuit Inc.’s $500M portfolio of small business products, including QuickBooks, used by more than 3 million small businesses. Allison was also instrumental in the early formation and growth of Quicken Loans. In her most recent role, she served as CEO of Quick Base Inc. used by more than 50 percent of the Fortune 100. Prior to joining Intuit, Allison held several roles with Oracle Corporation.

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Alissa Onigman

Alissa joined Venly to help local businesses grow after a successful 35 years of financial analysis and accounting at John Hancock, a market leader in global financial services. Alissa understands the return on investment of community connection from her family’s experience running a local restaurant and her current experience as treasurer for Friends of the Reading, Massachusetts Public Library. Her career in a multi-billion dollar company drives her desire to give local business leaders the power of data and analysis tools that were only available in the past to large corporations. Alissa received a BA from Brandeis University and an MBA with a Concentration in Accounting from Boston University.

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Paul Horn, PHD

Dr. Paul Horn is an innovator of mass scale, MediaWiki-based Networked AI & Big Data systems for applied learning, collaboration, and commerce. Paul joined Venly and the Peake Development Team in 2017 after his roles as Senior Vice President of IBM Research; New York University Senior Vice Provost for Research; and Chair of the New York Academy of Sciences during its 200th year. Paul helped define what became the VenlySpaces ecosystem management software when he first started advising the team in 2005.

Under Paul’s leadership of IBM’s 3,200 technical employees across eight sites in five countries, IBM pioneered the Watson artificial intelligence system and a wide range of innovations in big data and autonomic computing aligned with IBM’s overall focus on open source. Beginning in 2017, Paul began day-to-day guidance with Venly and the Peake Development Team. Specifically, he focused on how the MediaWiki open source platform could drive community upskilling through microcredentials on outreach & engagement, ecommerce, cloud-based operations, and cybersecurity. In this role, he has been active nationally with needs assessments of local businesses and their industry ecosystems, local chambers of commerce & other trade/professional associations, higher ed institutions, and the U.S. Department of Defense. As a first generation college student, Paul has had a focus on strengthening the impact of higher ed institutions in serving both first gen undergraduates and their anchor communities.

Prior to IBM, Paul was a tenured professor of Physics at the University of Chicago and an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow. After IBM, he helped found the New York University Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP). He holds a BS in Physics from Clarkson University and a PhD in Physics from the University of Rochester. Paul is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and has received numerous industry and science honors for his contributions at the intersection of business and technology.

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Mark Bezos

Mark Bezos’ role at Venly builds on his experience in pioneering brand development and social enterprise. As Senior Vice President of Communications and Events for the Robin Hood Foundation, he helped establish Robin Hood as a role model for impact investing. Robin Hood established a unique approach to strengthening the economic health of all New Yorkers by measuring the new value to recipients created by each dollar invested by Robin Hood. From the Mayor of New York to the Harvard Business School, Robin Hood’s spectacular growth has been heralded as a benchmark for constructive, non-partisan, community change. Each year, Mark helped rejuvenate Robin Hood’s efforts by rallying New Yorkers behind the Foundation’s programs with the help of leading performers from Beyoncé to Bruno Mars. Mark started his career at the storied Madison Avenue advertising firm, DDB, before becoming CEO of Bezos-Nathanson, the ad agency he co-founded with DDB’s Chief Creative Officer. Bezos-Nathanson created campaigns for brand name corporations and public enterprises from Dom Perignon to Ramada Hotels to the New York City Economic Development Corp. Mark’s most recent challenge has been developing the go-to-market communications for Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos’ revolutionary effort to make commercial space travel an everyday experience. Beyond Mark’s work in marketing, he serves as Captain of his local volunteer fire department. Based on lessons from that experience, Mark delivered a TED Talk which became a viral hit with nearly 1,500,000 views and a rebroadcast on National Public Radio. Mark’s vision and skills strengthen Venly’s ability to help small & local businesses to grow during good times and to rally their community when emergencies hit.

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Professor Len Schlesinger’s connection to Venly starts with his commitment to Venly’s goal of field-based business certification for recent graduates, returning veterans, and each of the small & local businesses they serve. For over three decades, Professor Schlesinger has pioneered entrepreneurial, organizational, and service best practices that bridge the gap between academia and business. As President of Babson College, his development and expansion of experiential methods of teaching and learning extended the school’s top ranked programs for educating entrepreneurs. He began his academic career at the Harvard Business School where he now serves as Baker Foundation Professor and teaches in both MBA and Executive Education programs. Outside of academia, he has held several roles in the private sector. From 1985-1988, he served as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Au Bon Pain (a chain of French bakery cafes). From 1997-2007, he served in various executive positions including Vice Chairman and Chief Operating Officer with the retailer Limited Brands (now L Brands), which owns and operates numerous retail concepts including Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works. He was also a leader in the design and development of the “Work-Out!” initiative at General Electric, is the author or co-author of 13 books and numerous articles in leading journals and has served as an advisor or board member for more than 200 organizations around the world.

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Nancy Bekavac served 17 years as the first female president of Scripps College, one of the five Claremont Colleges in California. During her tenure, the Scripps’ student applicant pool doubled, median SAT scores of the incoming students increased almost 20 percent, and the endowment quadrupled. President Bekavac’s passion for Venly’s mission with small & local businesses emerges from her experience growing up in a family that owned a small business. Upon graduation from Swarthmore College, she was selected for a year of international field study as one of the first Thomas J. Watson Fellows, named in honor of IBM’s founder. After completing her JD degree at Yale Law School and becoming partner at Munger, Tolles & Olsen, she returned to education. First, she ran the Thomas Watson Fellowship as Executive Director, selecting each of the Fellows for two years. Then, she served another two years as Counselor to the President of Dartmouth College before going to Scripps. She also served on the Swarthmore College Board of Managers and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Most recently, she taught aboard the University of Virginia’s Semester at Sea.

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Mark Coblitz

Joined Venly after nearly 25 years as Senior Vice President of Strategic Planning for Comcast Corporation. Mark founded Comcast’s New Media Development Group and co-founded Comcast Interactive Capital. His passion for Venly’s mission goes back to his early leadership experiences growing up in an Ashtabula, Ohio family business where he and his family were active in the local Chamber of Commerce and other community associations. Mark began his career as a Captain in the U.S. Air Force serving at the Pentagon. He went on to receive a number of the highest awards for technology and innovation in the Cable and Broadband industries, as well as an Emmy. Mark currently serves as a Trustee for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. He holds a BS in Management Science from Case Institute of Technology and a MS in Industrial Administration from Carnegie Mellon.

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Julie Reuben, PHD

Professor Julie Reuben directs the Center for Public Service and Engaged Scholarship at Harvard College and is a historian of American higher education. Her research supports Venly’s efforts to develop next generation training that combines in-person and online learning. Her scholarship addresses broad questions about the purposes of education, the relation between educational institutions and social concerns, and the forces that shape educational change.

As the daughter of a refugee from Iraq, she has written extensively on the historical development of U.S. civics education in promoting active citizenship. She holds a BA from Brandeis University and a PhD from Stanford.

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