Erika Backberg (she/her)

Business Development Strategist
Social Impact Design Executive

Design Strategist, Social Impact Integrator,
Senior Equity & Regenerative Systems Leader

A highly seasoned social impact and design strategy leader with extensive experience in senior leadership and consistently transforming projects that advance access and equity in digital/hybrid/in-person services. Career is defined by a blend of strategic insight, empathy, and innovation, particularly in building diverse, equitable teams and managing client relationships.

An excellent collaborator who enhances organizational effectiveness by:

  • Providing expertise in controllership, P&L management, and cost reduction strategies.
  • Contributing to an organization’s financial stability by helping to streamline operations and risk management.
  • Exhibiting leadership that enables organizations to navigate complex financial landscapes and seize advancement opportunities.

612.314.9864  |  erikabackberg@gmail.com 

Bio

Experience

July 2023 – Present

International Design Strategy Consultant & Project Manager

Conduct ethical design workshops, create zero-waste solutions, and enhance wellness programs. Drive community dialogues on social entrepreneurship and boost revenue for small and mid-sized enterprises via strategic branding and content creation. Partner with local artisans and organizations to promote repurposing programs for sustainable material use.

January 2022 – October 2022

Executive Design, Leadership & Wellbeing Coach

Expanded MoMo Monocle’s reach and impact through coaching social impact visionaries and community leaders on work and well-being to support equitable leadership and holistic career development without burnout. Guided executives, HR leaders, and social entrepreneurs towards collaborative design-thinking leadership development and deepened community engagement.

January 2012 – January 2020

International Ethnographic Researcher & Experience Designer

Led global social impact projects focusing on ethical, sustainable solutions and cultural programming. Organized tours for over 1,000 students, enhancing educational and cross-cultural experiences. Applied ethnographic research as a UX design researcher and capital defense mitigation investigator for comprehensive client representation.

October 2022 – July 2023

Chief Executive Officer / Executive Director

Implemented strategic enhancements across financial practices, policy adherence, and technological infrastructure to align with equity and community needs. Collaboratively designed and led an organizational shift (systems, structures, culture) towards a more technologically empowered and equity-focused model, improving efficiency, accessibility, and program offerings. Managed a $1.2M budget, four direct reports, and multiple contractors.

January 2021 – December 2021

Chief Impact Officer

Directed the company’s holistic international social impact strategy, integrating human-centered design and health coaching. Developed strategic plans, advised leadership on sustainable growth, and fostered an inclusive culture. Led the DEIA team in evaluating and improving company culture.

January 2020 – January 2021

Director of Strategic Partnerships & Social Impact

Pioneered a social impact and design-focused strategy, improving business operations and global engagement. Developed a partnership framework to enhance health equity, creating a foundational global network and achieving significant operational improvements.

November 2009 – January 2012

Head of Sustainable Business Design & Donations

Led the inception and implementation of zero-waste initiatives for hundreds of international TV commercials, establishing EcoSet as a leader in sustainable production. Fostered strategic partnerships with major clients like Target, Honda, and Wieden+Kennedy integrating sustainability into every aspect of business operations and sales strategy.

Results

MoMo Monocle

Spearheaded a marketing campaign for a farm-to-table catering company, achieving a 300% increase in business growth across major cities.

EcoSet

Tailored a zero-waste donation program for Target, redirecting 1000+ tons of materials to 250+ partner organizations, sustaining its impact for over a decade.

Kresser Institute

Fostered a 40% increase in employee engagement and satisfaction through strategic DEI initiatives and culture-centric frameworks.

Expertise

  • Strategic leadership
  • Sustainable systems design
  • Social impact integration
  • Community engagement
  • Operational efficiency
  • Waste reduction
  • Equity
  • Sustainable business development
  • Ethical design
  • Leadership development
  • Financial management
  • Health equity advocacy
  • Strategic planning
  • DEI
  • Human-centered design
  • Strategic partnership development
  • Circular design
  • Ethical sourcing
  • Zero-waste initiative leadership
  • Media literacy education

I’ve helped visionaries worldwide navigate the challenges of innovation

Education

Bachelor of Science (BS)  |  Sociology / Anthropology
Bachelor of Arts (BA)  |  Family Studies
Bachelor of Science (BS)  |  Asian Studies

Testimonials

Lawrence Shubert, Principal and Founder, Zip Innovations

Erika has consistently demonstrated her prowess as an agile systems thinker. She is experienced in understanding and navigating complex ecosystems from a holistic perspective. As a behavioral designer, she adeptly applies her human centered design skills to address challenges large and small. As Chief Impact Officer at Kresser Institute, she was able to pull together members of the management team and present a compelling plan to create sustainable growth and a more collaborative and inclusive management structure. Erika is adept at ethnographic design research to gain insights into root causes of challenges and identify core needs of users and stakeholders. She is then able to synthesize these findings into an inspiring framework to drive the creative process. She has applied and demonstrated these skills throughout her career to create social impact solutions and strategies in the public and private sector.

In addition to Erika’s design skills, she is also an excellent communicator and community builder. She is empathic, intelligent, passionate and enthusiastic, and she champions diversity, inclusion and equity. As a functional health coach, she uses her compassionate communication skills to listen to her clients carefully and without judgment. She values each of them unconditionally within the context of their lives validating their thoughts and feelings to make them feel safe and supported. She has leveraged these communication skills to build numerous strategic partnerships while working in consultancies and as an independent social impact and systems designer. She has demonstrated success in building partnerships and communities with a wide range of organizations including social enterprises, government organizations and start- up companies in technology and health.

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Jon Humberstone, Integrator/CMO/CEO, Kresser Institute

In my time working with Erika Backberg at Kresser Institute, I found her to be a strategic, human-centered leader who navigated complex dynamics, adjusting and improving her program design along the way.

Her training in design-thinking, along with her natural curiosity and her well-honed listening skills made her a strong program and culture designer and strategist for our company. Even amid the heightened uncertainty of 2019-2021 she was able to see the big picture and create practical programs to create growth that were in alignment with company vision and values.

A short time after joining us to create our brand-new strategic partnership program, Erika was able to understand our goals and values, and dream bigger for us than we ever had before. She also presented an incredibly detailed strategy for exploring this new program that incorporated a process for learning-by-doing, iteration and adaptation.

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Kelli Saginak, EdD, A-CFHC, NBC-HWC, Kresser Institute

In her role as Chair of our company’s DEI committee, Erika’s passion for cultivating connected and engaged teams was apparent when she invited the committee to articulate and design the committee’s purpose, values, and principles.

Creating and then beginning each meeting with reading our collective commitment aloud, underscores Erika’s commitment to fostering a trusting and psychologically safe company culture where each person is invited to the table and valued for their voice, ideas, and contributions.

Erika’s expertise in design research shines through her visionary, systemic, and curious investigative approach to understanding her colleagues’ experiences and behaviors. She is keen at bringing forth innovative and alternative ways of igniting and extracting insight, and inspiring teams and leaders to address people’s needs, through brave, bold, and optimistic design principles and strategies, which is key to leading and delivering integrative health and wellness to individuals in need.

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Q&A

What drives your approach to social impact and systems design?

My passion for creating equitable, sustainable solutions is driven by a blend of relational, regenerative, and decolonized universal design principles. With a focus on life-centered and planet-first methodologies, I’ve dedicated over two decades to investigating, advising, and developing innovative solutions across sectors. My work ranges from designing health equity programs for international functional health social enterprises like Kresser Institute and community health non-profits like Pathways to creatively crafting bespoke environmental sustainability initiatives for clients like Target, Honda, and Wieden & Kennedy, and resourcing the under-resourced and underserved as a federal and state mitigation investigator (full spectrum ethnographic researcher) advocating for indigent clients sentenced to the death penalty, all rooted in a deep commitment to holistic well-being and equitable systems change.

How do you integrate your design-thinking skills across diverse sectors?

My unique approach involves maintaining a dual perspective: one foot in the field conducting empathic and strategic research (boots on the ground), and the other in human-centered, equity-focused community and cultural design (30k ft. view). This method has been my secret sauce for catalyzing comprehensive, sustainable systemic change across various sectors, including healthcare, environmental sustainability, legal defense, and more, delivering impactful solutions locally, nationally, and internationally.

Can you share an example of a challenge you faced and how you overcame it through your strategic and design thinking?

One of my greatest professional achievements was during a federal pre-trial case in New Orleans. Using my design thinking skills, I developed a complex field investigation strategy and built trusting relationships with diverse communities. I located a crucial 42-year-old medical record from a closed institution, pivotal to the case’s success. This experience underscored my ability to navigate complexity with strategic persistence and community engagement, achieving a life-changing outcome for the client.

How do you lead and foster cultures of innovation and inclusion within organizations?

My leadership style fosters an engaging, professional culture that champions inclusivity, collaboration, and holistic well-being. I’ve successfully led organizations toward excellence, financial sustainability, and impactful community engagement by engaging diverse teams in co-creating strategic visions and nurturing an environment where everyone is and feels heard, seen, nurtured, and valued. I’ve also spearheaded DEI initiatives, coaching, and program design, prioritizing human-centered values at all levels.

What’s your vision for the future of social impact, and how do you plan to contribute to it?

My vision for the future of social impact is a world where social, structural, and systemic changes address individual and planetary sustainability challenges equitably, leveraging the power of design, research, and innovation. I plan to contribute to this future by collaborating on projects that disrupt the status quo, resource and strengthen marginalized communities, and create brave, safe, collaborative environments where individuals and organizations can align their operations with their values for the greater good. Through continuous learning in the field and from mentors, modeling and teaching ethical and mindful leadership, and building strategic partnerships because elders and futurists know that a village will always be stronger than any one individual, I aim to inspire and enact transformational change that benefits society and the ecosystem we call home, alike.

I seek an organization that embraces bold solutions to complex challenges, where my passion for making a difference and my diverse experience can drive significant, positive transformations.

Interests & Hobbies

Camping

Soccer

Art

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