Paola and Geoff Telfer joined SVP Vancouver in 2013. They have been together for 19 years, happily married for 16 years this past June, and have a five-year-old son, Mateo. The Telfers recently became full-time Whistler residents after living on the North Shore for more than 20 years. They embrace the effect the outdoors can have on the human spirit and hope to instill this in their son.
How were you introduced to SVP? What path brought you here?
Geoff: I was introduced by fellow SVP Partner Stephen Hill. Both Paola and I have been involved at the grass roots level in various charities and community groups while separately earning a living in technology businesses. In a New Years’ resolution discussion a few years ago, when reviewing our proverbial lists, we decided to start searching for a way to contribute our professional skills to organizations that were making a positive social impact. I shared this with Stephen Hill. Needless to say, SVP was an obvious fit and perhaps the shortest sales pitch Stephen has ever made!
What inspires you to make a difference?
Geoff: It is quite a rare situation to be free from worrying about basic survival or discrimination. We live in a beautiful, safe, and inclusive pocket of the world that so few experience. We feel it is our responsibility and privilege to help those around us reach their potential such that they may help others. If we can’t do it, who can? If not now, when? Life is short.
What do you think is the biggest barrier to creating social change?
Geoff: There are many barriers that hold people back from being part of positive change. One barrier is how society and individuals view success. The majority of people naturally want to make progress and “succeed”, but by what measure? Personal credentials, wealth, fame, influence? These are often what very capable people are taught are the measures of success in life – so they naturally focus on them. This comparative lens does not encourage giving, trust, or humility. Fortunately, social norms are changing and many are overcoming these barriers and pursuing progress by transparently opening their hearts, using their talents to benefit others, and giving selflessly.
What projects are you working on with SVP? Why did you choose to get involved this way?
Geoff: We are currently Lead Partners for Zero Ceiling and members of the SVP Opportunities Committee. The work Zero Ceiling does spoke to our hearts in understanding firsthand how embracing outdoor activity can enrich individuals’ lives. However, it spoke even louder to our pragmatic side when we discovered how effective Zero Ceiling’s programs are in steering at-risk youth away from a life of social-support dependency , to one of self-sufficiency and dignity. We look forward to supporting Zero Ceiling in their first year as an SVP Investee.
What social issue are you most passionate about?
Paola: Global Health. Emerging technologies – especially exponentially growing ones like artificial intelligence, robotics and nanotechnology – are ripe for creative and altruistic minds to provide billions with low-cost ubiquitous healthcare.
Which non-profit organization do you wish everyone knew about?
Paola: Access Knowledge Africa. I had the privilege of visiting their village in Uganda last November. They do tremendous, impassioned work in educating and supporting youth in Uganda who are seeking a better future.
What are you passionate about personally? What do you really enjoy? What can’t you stop talking about?
Paola: I’m working on a Smart Cities project using Whistler as the sandbox. Geoff will attest that I can’t stop talking about it. I’m thrilled to be working with innovative and enthusiastic people and on a project that has a life of its own. It is an exploration really and I am keen to see where we find that Internet of Things and other digital technologies will have the most impact on people’s experience with the city.
Where can we find you when you’re not working? What’s your favourite way to spend a weekend or a Sunday afternoon?
Paola: Away from work, we’ll be in Whistler on a bike, skis, or on a lake with Mateo enjoying the Great Outdoors.