Ariella Tilsen, MA

Minneapolis, MN
Stories Move Mountains


Ariella Tilsen weaves together her nonprofit and business leadership experience with nearly 20 years of values-focused, mission-driven consulting and leadership development for public, nonprofit, and private organizations.

Since 2008, as the leader of the nonprofit Stories Move Mountains, Ariella has worked with community leaders and organizations throughout South Africa to create positive and sustainable change in addressing issues such as HIV/AIDS, gender equity, historical trauma, and intergenerational poverty in a post-colonial context.

As founder and president of Vital Edge Consulting, Ariella uniquely integrates relational and narrative practices in her work with large-scale social change, social innovation, intercultural communication, mindful and relational leadership, community engagement, and social, racial, gender, and economic equity. Her many clients include nonprofit, for-profit, and public-sector organizations in a wide range of fields, including health care; community development; education; philanthropy; international development; ending homelessness; refugee and immigrant resettlement; technology; and manufacturing and distribution.

Much of Ariella’s work focuses on bringing out the expertise, wisdom, and skills already present in organizations and their people, and in applying these to co-create meaningful, realistic, and effective solutions. She is adept at facilitating multi-stakeholder groups, in order to build collaborations and social movements across traditional and not-so-traditional divides, and to work together toward common goals on complex issues. Her experience in working with the stories, identities, and realities that make each organization or community what it is—rather than imposing a framework from the outside—has served as a catalyst for solving previously unsolvable problems.

While Associate Director of International Programs for the American Refugee Committee, Ariella directed recruitment for eight countries in Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe. As Assistant Director for the British American Arts Association in London, she managed public relations and special events. She also helped co-create cross-cultural, interfaith, and interracial dialogues and programs, including youth programs on leadership and social change.

Ariella holds an M.A. in Organizational Leadership from St. Catherine University, where she is an adjunct faculty member. She has also taught at the University of St. Thomas’s Center for Nonprofit Management. She has presented nationally and internationally on narrative and collaborative practices, relational and transformational leadership, and post-conflict/historical trauma transformation.

Ariella’s work is rooted in the traditional South African principle of ubuntu: I am because we are.