Who's Leading?

Meet Izzy Gifford

Our COnnect Community Ambassador

As Community Care Bear, Izzy Gifford is committed to supporting your journey on the COnnect platform. Welcoming newcomers and answering your questions are just a few of her delights. When she’s not facilitating events, or participating in community activities, you can reach her by email ([email protected]) or on the COnnect Facebook group.

Izzy is passionate about cultivating satisfying and sustainable community for everyone. For 10+ years she has been creating playful healing spaces that welcome the fullness of the human experience. She is fueled by fascination with emotional intelligence, communication, and group dynamics. After experiencing the healing power of community in her own life, she is convinced that it takes a whole community to raise an inner child.  

Meet Our Facilitators

Sara Ness


Olga Shustryakova

Inna Nirenburg

Sara Ness

Sara Ness is the Founder and Chief Instigator of Authentic Revolution. She began teaching Authentic Relating in 2012, founding a thousands-strong learning community in Austin, Texas and going on to train over 350 leaders and help found 30+ other communities worldwide. Sara is passionate about exposing the joy of human connection and exploring our creative potential through relationship. She has facilitated at schools, companies, yoga studios, a funeral, Burning Man, and more, bringing playful social technology into the mainstream and the….non-mainstream? Sara is into suggesting ideas like push up contests in fancy restaurants and convincing other people to do them too. Hence, community leadership.

Sara works most of the time. When not doing that, she’s into acroyoga, Ecstatic Dance, cooking, and spending time with the many people she loves. She’s most lit up by creating things – projects, books, movements, systems, anything that her heart and brain can chew on at the same time.

Mark Boughton

Mark Boughton has been studying communication skills and the psychology of relationships and interpersonal dynamics for over a decade. By the time he was twenty two, he had worked, traveled or volunteered on every continent of the globe, and had discovered a deep passion for understanding people. He stumbled upon Circling eight years ago, immediately fell in love with the practice, and has been facilitating relational practice ever since. He has a love for building community and bringing people together to connect, and also works as a coach helping people vision and actualize their deepest desires. 


Brandon Field

Brandon Field started circling with Authentic Portland in 2010. In 2014 he moved to a zen monastery to live in community and practice meditation and mindfulness. He is excited about meditation, trauma and recovery, parts work, embodiment and authentic relating. He wants to help create a more connected and compassionate society. He also facilitates a trauma recovery support group.

Barbara Samson

Barbara Samson has been Circling and going to Authentic Relating Games since 2014, and attending immersions when possible. She trained as a facilitator in 2017 at the Boston Circling Training. She has lived a diverse life, dedicating herself to science and pragmatic matters, working, travelling, getting married and giving birth. Along the way she noticed some work to be done on herself, and a growing curiosity about all things esoteric. She followed her curiosity and it led her to explore the heart connection she felt with others. She brings that curious attitude into the Circles she leads, which are usually Organic, and she always challenges herself to expand her capacity to welcome what’s true. She is not a healer or therapist, but a human being who loves to create a space for herself and others to discover connection.

Christine Kennedy

Christine Kennedy has a big heart, and a passion for kindness, connection, truth, growth, and unconditional love. She was introduced to Authentic Relating by Shay Pausa and to circling training by Sara Ness.  It was love at first site, and as a result, Christine completed ARC and T3 at the Integral Center in Boulder, CO and became a certified circling facilitator. She has hosted circling and Games Nights in her home in Phoenix, AZ for the past 4 years where she has gratefully witnessed amazing growth, healing, transformation, and connection – what she calls the magic of circling!

Christine’s professional career includes many roles in health care, hospice, ministry, mental health, teaching, consulting and public speaking.  She is mom to a 17 yo son and 19 yo daughter who she loves dearly.   When she isn’t working, spending time with family, you will likely find her hiking, reading, meditating, doing crafts, or hosting a circling or authentic relating event in her home or here on COnnect.

Caroline Johnson

Caroline Johnson is a graduate of The Circling Institute’s Art of Circling training with Guy Sengstock.  She also completed Authentic Leadership Facilitator Training with Sara Ness and brings skills in group process and facilitation, counseling and NVC (Nonviolent Communication). 

Caroline is passionate about awareness and intention, curiosity and leading from the core self. 

When Caroline isn’t facilitating Authentic Relating Games or Circling, she is probably traveling!  She holds an MS in Rehabilitation Counseling with a particular interest in Internal Family Systems.


Kim Crowley

Kim Crowley completed Authentic Leadership Training with Sara Ness and brings additional skills in dialogue facilitation, workshop design and delivery, teaching, conflict transformation, Non-Violent Communication, music therapy, and a variety of methods for structuring conversations around issues that matter. Values infused in her life and work include curiosity, perspective-taking, social mindfulness, managing bias, co-creation, collective critical thinking, authentic spirituality, and building clarity.  Kim holds an MS in Industrial and Organizational Psychology as well as multiple certificates in facilitation and meeting management.

Kim organizes her life around helping people hear each other. Her heart-felt hope:  When we’re truly seen and heard, we become more able to connect deeply, get needs met together, and co-create some pretty amazing stuff. 

Whitney Waterbury

Led by endless curiosity, Whitney Waterbury has been questioning “normal” and talking with strangers since she could speak. She went on to study psychology, human development, sexuality and somatic therapy, which she uses to help people find healing and deepening aliveness through embodiment, connection and pleasure.

Whitney instigated the first Authentic Relating community in Memphis in 2018 where she continues to serve and delight in witnessing the power of connection to transform people and communities. When not facilitating events she can be found playing in the forest with her young ones, wild foraging and mushroom hunting, practicing yoga, learning to build things, traveling, Circling, dancing in public, hosting spontaneous gatherings, and cooking for the people she loves.

Scott McClellan

Scott McClelllen navigates a wide variety of different worlds, bringing this experience to life in his facilitation. He works as a software engineer, pursues a career as a professional racquetball player and referee, and incorporates authentic relating as a way to build better bridges to others. He brings to his facilitation a mind for technical complexity in a way that's welcoming, thoughtful, and insightful. Scott describes his facilitation style as gentle yet structured.

Gabe DeRita

Gabe is a personal development coach helping mission-driven humans live in alignment with their purpose. He left his tech job to travel the world by bike, and in the process found his calling in coaching.

His approach to personal growth is rooted in neuroscience-based coaching techniques and Authentic Relating, with a heaping spoonful of Japanese philosophy on top.

Gabe was born in Philadelphia and currently lives in Ft. Collins, Colorado. He's passionate about cycling, foraging wild mushrooms, social/climate justice, and the transformative power of psychedelics. You can learn more about Gabe's work, his story, and connect with him at his site: www.effectiveconnection.com

Damian Gallagher

Damian Gallagher has a passion for people and exploring what is available in every moment. He loves the simplicity of living a life in connection with self and others. Damian considers one of his greatest relational strengths to be revealing his inner world when he’s feeling awkward or vulnerable (and he feels awkward writing this Bio). He thrives when working with others and enjoys facilitating Circling, AR games and Relational work. Damian also facilitates one on one Personal growth and Transformational work, as well as Men’s work exploring accountability, shadow, and presence. He finds pleasure in movement and embodiment and also delights in finding moments of slowness and stillness. Damian lives in Santa Barbara, CA with his wife and son.

Olga Shustryakova

Olga Shustryakova is the leader of Authentic Relating Moscow. She first met with Authentic Relating in 2018, and immediately fell in love with the practices. Since then, she has been leading ARG Nights for various Moscow communities, including Burning Man Russia and more.
Besides that, Olga is a professional translator and transcreator, localizing global ideas for Russian people.  She’s into psychology, meditation, literature, and digging in the depth with her loved ones.

Kyla Sokoll-Ward

Kyla Sokoll-Ward is a speaker, facilitator, and professional community builder who speaks about loneliness in the millennial generation and how millennials can use their emotional experiences as tools for connection. She has shared her message internationally, on multiple TEDx stages, and has facilitated millennial-focused programming around the world for thousands of young adults. Through keynotes, workshops, and 1:1 mentorship, she aims to disrupt the status quo of connection and challenge others to connect more intentionally, vulnerably, and empathically with those around them in order to build more effective communities for young adults. She’s a firm believer that we’re only one good question away from connecting with the entire world.

Jorge Moreira

Jorge Moreira has been immersed in the Authentic Relating community in Toronto since 2017. He studied Circling Facilitation and Master Circle (Surrendered Leadership) through Authentic Relating Toronto where he has led T-Group, and Circling nights, as well as occasionally co-facilitated Connection Lab (AR Games). He has also taken the Authentic Relating Training Level 1 through Authentic Relating Training in Boulder, Rifle, and Toronto.
Involved in the Toronto improv scene for over 15 years as a performer, instructor and host,  Jorge revels in adapting his present-focused improv skills to help others foster awareness. He enjoys creating and leading workshops designed to cultivate self-awareness through connection that lead to authenticity and genuine connection. Along with some colleagues, he is currently looking to bring Authentic Relating into prisons in Canada, as well as other underserved communities.

Shane Orton

Shane Orton has been facilitating Authentic Relating Games and Circling since early 2017.  He lives in the Austin, TX area where he has been doing Circling and AR Games almost every day since 2016.  Shane also highly values meditation and has done at least an hour a day since 2013.  His vision is to build an ability to drop into more intimacy with anyone regardless of whether they know these connection modalities or not.

Cameron Grayson

Cameron Grayson was living at the Omega institute when she was introduced to Authentic Relating. These practices were so impactful for her because they served as a grounded way to deepen all of her connections within the community. These tools completely shifted her relationship with herself and the world around her. She quickly realized how perfectly AR and Circling intertwined with other tools she practiced such as Internal Family Systems, Life Coaching, and Conscious Communication. When she moved back in with her parents she joined the online platform as a participant. Having a daily reminder of pure connection supported her in moving through relationships that felt disconnected. Her practice on COnnect started to shift those disconnected relationships with her family to feel more open, grounded, and clear. Seeing this impact, she signed up for the ALT where she learned what it meant to truly feel like herself. She now uses Authentic Relating and circling in her work as a container to help facilitate meaningful connection and develop a deeper understanding of self. Having an accessible way to impact the world through facilitating on COnnect supports her passion of being in deep connection with others while witnessing the present moment unfold.

A. J. Bond

A.J. Bond is a Toronto-based writer, filmmaker, and shame educator currently completing his certification with the Center for Healing Shame in Berkeley.

David Garrison

David Garrison has been facilitating Authentic Relating Games since early 2018.  He lives in Austin, TX.  David is a part-time life coach and seeks to help people live more intentionally and aligned with their life's purpose.  He loves putting on workshop experiences that encourage connection, personal awareness, and relational skill development.  Some of the experiential workshops he's led or is working on include "Leading From Within", "Be a Relationship Architect", "Austin Energetic Connection Games", "Transcending Porn: Mastering Your Sexuality", "Self Expression Support Community", and "Connected Celebrations". 

Daniela Reichert

Daniela Reichert is a researcher of Authenticity and Relationships and how our words, thoughts, feelings and body sensations influence ourselves and others.  Along with her twin sister Melanie, she combines Embodiment with Authentic Relating, because we need the expression with words and with our body. Our bodies never lie.
Daniela loves to open the vulnerable world in a safe and trustful space, so that everyone can be honest and express what's alive in this moment. She has completed Sara Ness'  Authentic Life Course and the ART  Level 1 and 2.
Daniela is an actress, dance teacher, lecturer for Communication and Acting and AR & Embodiment Facilitator. She gives live workshops and courses, and festivals in Berlin and all over Germany and the world.
Her vision is that everyone can find their own truth, wisdom, peace and love.

Melanie Reichert

Melanie Reichert loves researching authenticity, connection and relationships. Her vision of creating connection between herself and others brought her to Embodied Authentic Relating. Melanie found out how important it is to express what's alive in this moment (feelings, thoughts, body sensations) and to embody it.
For Melanie, it's really important, that there is a safe and trustful space, where everyone can express what's alive. So Melanie shares through courses, workshops and festivals in  Germany and worldwide. Her passion is that everyone find more peaceful ways of communication and connections in relationships.
Melanie is also an actress, dance teacher, lecturer for Communication and Acting and an AR & Embodiment Facilitator.
She completed Sara Ness' Authentic Life Course and the ART International Level 1 & 2.

David Reed

A lifelong student of philosophy, world religion, and mythology, David Reed discovered Authentic Relating in 2017 and has been facilitating ever since.  David approaches relational mindfulness as a pathway for deepening human affinity, and his events have been affectionately referred to as "Love Soup.”

David is a Certified Professional Coach, a Laughter Yoga Instructor, and a partner with the Corporation for Positive Change, a global organization that uses Appreciative Inquiry as a tool for unleashing human potential.  David's passions include mountaineering and doing nothing.

Axios Papaflessas

Axios Papaflessas has been learning, practicing and exploring the healing and relational arts for 15+ years.  He's facilitated connection events in a prison, a medical lab, retreats, theaters, basements, and the world wide web! He also co-founded Austin Improv Connection in 2015, leading and organizing over 300+ free improv events for the Austin community.

As a trained Authentic Relating and Circling facilitator on COnnect and Authentic Communities, Axios is passionate about guiding and inspiring group relational experiences. His superpowers include navigating open relationships, supporting and informing community leaders, and inviting presence, depth and intimacy into connection.

Jennifer Ludders

Jennifer Ludders is passionate about spreading the gospel of Authentic Relating to as many diverse populations as possible. She first discovered Circling during a difficult personal period while living abroad and it evoked a sense of nourishment and aliveness she hadn’t felt in a long time. So much so that she felt inspired to move to Boulder in 2016 to immerse in Circling and AR practices at the Integral Center, and eventually also a six month facilitator training at the Circling Institute.

Currently, in addition to working as a healing practitioner and coach, Jennifer is a primary Course Leader for Realness Project, which brings two-day Authentic Relating workshops into prisons and other underserved communities. She also hones her AR skills as a moderator for Braver Angels, an organization aimed at bridging political polarization and creating understanding. Jennifer hails from the great state of Idaho, loves strong coffee and finding and flipping thrift store treasures.  

Nat Smith

Nat Smith (they/them) is a writer, coach, and teacher based in Boston. They're passionate about cultivating queer spaces, and untangling the authentic self from the influences of power structures. Balancing playfulness and groundedness, Nat welcomes creativity into their work with relationship and self-growth. They also facilitate events through kinkED.


Matt Davis

Matt Davis is a coach, consultant, entrepreneur, musician and professional community builder. Founder of UIHumanics.com, teaching how to cultivate success, growth, systems and wealth mindset. He has a tech and business background including work with the Air Force Intelligence Agency and HolacracyOne. He is the Executive Director and co-founder of Boys to Men Mentoring NorCal which provides quality, compassionate attention and mentoring to middle school and high school boys throughout Northern California.  Matt is committed to helping individuals and communities tap into and commit to their full power, potential and unique destinies to have massive and maximum positive impact on the future of humanity.

Josh BIllings

Josh Billings believes that any sufficiently advanced authenticity is indistinguishable from magic, and uses his wizardry to inspire people to let go of their limitations and meet themselves with love. Born with an allergy to any advice that didn't sprout from joy, Josh confidently deviated from convention by dropping out of school and becoming a professional poker player. Disillusioned by the hollow happiness of meaningless money, he quit poker in his mid 20s to run a 1000+ member community where he taught people to consciously cultivate joy over the next seven years. After relocating and finding himself bereft of community, Josh took the Authentic Life Course and found his true calling in liberating people from the belief that success is found in being anything other than themselves. Feeling truly seen and heard for the first time in his life, within months of finishing the course he joined AuthRev, moved to Austin, and is now immersed in the magic that was all but trained out of him as a child.

Armed with soul-piercing intuition, a heart that draws from the depths of infinity, and a playful spirit capable of charming the pants off of impossibility; Josh models a way of being that restores faith in humanity simply by being human. Dripping with confidence and self-love swagger, Josh flows his seemingly ceaseless energy toward creating a world where everyone can make a living by simply being themselves. He now turns his loving gaze to you, smiling wide at the sight of your full potential, welcoming you with open arms.

Bibi Gratzer

Bibi Gratzer is the keeper of truth. Her greatest life lesson and teaching is the distinction between power, empowerment and surrender. She loves creating and facilitating events, workshops and online journeys that bring out people's full potential, self-awareness and radical compassion with themselves and others. She is a Systemic Constellation Practitioner, trained in Authentic Relating, Circling and Archetypal Psychology.

Topics that she embraces in her teachings are relational boundaries, inner and outer feminine and masculine frequencies, sacred leadership, sovereignty, and the archetypes.With a background in science, she is a bridge-builder and an embodiment researcher in the fields: consciousness, relationships & sexuality, manifestation, evolution and spiritual ecology. She works as a coach supporting women through and after the dark night of the soul and heal their relationship with the masculine.

Vix Anderton

Vix Anderton guides overachievers, overthinkers and recovering perfectionists to be more authentic and more resilient. With her own experience in high-stress environments from the RAF, to international development and the tech start-up world, she is an advocate for using the principles of cyclical living to help people manage their energy and their emotions to build a more sustainable and authentic way of living and working. Vix discovered Authentic Relating purely by accident in 2018 and instantly fell in love with it. It was a doorway into embodied practices and Vix has been immersing herself ever since.

Nadia Isaenko

Nadia Isaenko has dreamed of having a job that would help people achieve unconditional deep happiness and which focuses on the non-dual practices.  Accompanying people in their journeys through the darkest and brightest moments, she is fascinated by the inner wisdom, guidance and resources that can be accessed through presence, right questions and connection with the body.

Nadia has a private practice, working online mostly. She has a Masters degree in Psychology, is certified in many therapeutic modalities (transpersonal body-oriented, existential analysis, positive psychology, EMDR, process work, IPF, IFS, CFT) as well as coaching. She also works as a holistic massage practitioner and Craniosacral therapist.

Nadia is passionate about working with LGBTQ teens to heal stigmatization. Curious to meet allies to create a non-profit. She loves facilitating retreats in powerful places like Lake Baikal, Altay mountains, and Bali island.

Everything she does is based on methods which integrate Western and Eastern practices rooted in Taoist, humanistic and existential philosophy. This holistic approach transcends the physical and the psychological, connecting with the spiritual dimension of the psyche and leads to self-transformation, enabling one to progress to a life with inner consent, filled with more freedom and responsibility, vitality, authenticity, self-value and expression, connection to oneself and others in a deep way, feeling safe, trusting oneself and the world.

Marta Jankowska

Marta Jankowska aka Happiness Fairy is a facilitator, traveler, artistic soul, and uploading psychologist. Her word is creation. Marta sees everything as an art, whether it is building relations, going on an adventure, or completing daily chores.

She was introduced to the idea of Authentic Relating in 2017 while attending a transformative festival. It was a turning point in her life's journey. For the first time, she felt a strong calling to make this world a more joyful place.

Since then, Marta has become a certified facilitator. She has been leading women’s circles, organizing festivals and retreats in the spirit of Self-connection. Recently Marta has graduated from the Foundations of Facilitation training course with AuthRev. Her mission is to build joyful and colorful communities based on authentic connections.

Nadia Isaenko

Inna is a coach, facilitator, and leader, working with individuals and groups since 2003.  A series of serendipitous events led her to find Authentic Relating and Circling, to much delight that the thing she’s been making up for her Conscious Evolution groups has a name - Authentic Relating games - and that there’s literally a manual for it!  Inna enjoys learning and playing with various creative, healing, and spiritual pursuits -  most recently making herbal digestive bitters, painting, drumming, IFS parts work, tarot, writing, and calligraphy.  While she can’t claim full proficiency at any of these pursuits, the path sure is fun.  Inna has a strong affinity for deep work, and is excited to create more spaces and opportunities at the (not always comfortable) intersection of deep work, play, and connection.