Chief Executive Officer
Follow Sev on Twitter @SevaunP
Sevaun Palvetzian has been CEO at CivicAction since January of 2014. Under her leadership, the organization has launched the CivicAction Leadership Foundation and two new initiatives focused on youth unemployment and mental health in the workplace. Before CivicAction, Sevaun held several senior executive roles within the Ontario Government where she championed the next generation of leaders launching the Youth and New Professional Secretariat – a government-wide strategy to attract and retain future generations of leaders which included launching the award-winning Learn and Work Program for at-risk youth.
Prior to her work in government, Sevaun held positions at the University of Toronto, the World Bank Group, and Presidential Classroom, a Washington D.C. -based civic education organization.
Sevaun frequently contributes to city-building efforts including serving as a member of the Premier’s Community Hubs Advisory Group, The Toronto Police Service Board Transformational Task Force, and as a member of Mayor John Tory’s Advisory Panel for International Hosting Opportunities. She also sits on the Board of Directors for both Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC), NPower Canada, Waterfront Toronto, and is a member of Ivey Business School Leadership Council.
She completed the Ivey Executive Program at the Ivey School of Business and has an M.A. in history from the University of Western Ontario.
Chief Financial Officer
Chris runs an accounting firm based out of MARS that serves primarily start-up technology companies along with other Toronto-based non-profit organizations. He has served as CivicAction’s CFO since 2009 supporting the CivicAction Board of Directors and Finance Committee. Chris lives in Etobicoke with his family, and enjoys commuting by bicycle along the waterfront in the warmer months.
Project Manager, Escalator
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Neha Bhargava is CivicActions’s Project Manager of Escalator, a cross-sector initiative to tackle the issue of unemployment for youth facing barriers. Prior to joining CivicAction, Neha led a strategic cross-sector partnership at Target with police services across Canada to build better and safer communities. Here she, developed a five day cross-sector fellowship program for promising future police leaders to give them access to skills and knowledge used in the private sector. In addition, she led a nation–wide program to help at-risk youth connect better with police officers to help break the barriers of communication between the two groups.
Previously, she was Head of People & Brand at Paddle, and still serves as a Marketing Advisor to the Toronto-based tech startup that provides modern career advice to students and recent graduates. She has also served as the Director of Marketing & Communications for The InterSector Project, a non-profit empowering professionals to solve pressing social issues by collaborating across the private, public, and community sectors. Here she led the marketing, special events and global branding activities for the organization.
In addition, Neha has also worked with Hill+Knowlton Strategies, where she led public relations campaigns for Microsoft, Government of India and Brand South Africa. Neha started her career working as a marketing specialist for Enablence Technologies, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and United Way Ottawa. She graduated from the Telfer School of Management with a B.Com from the University of Ottawa.
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Leslie has been a Program Manager at CivicAction since 2011. Since joining, she has helped drive CivicAction’s award-winning Race to Reduce smart energy office challenge over the finish line, orchestrated CivicAction’s 2015 Summit – Better City Bootcamp, and is now immersed in two of CivicAction’s new focus areas – Mental Health in the Workplace and Infrastructure Investment.
Leslie’s strategic sense and knack for “getting things done” has served her well. Her career has included progressively senior marketing and communications roles managing a variety of gold standard programs for national and international clients. In recent years she has channeled her considerable energy and efforts to the non-profit sector, contributing extensively to several environmental non-profits organizations including Green Enterprise Ontario, one of Canada’s largest green business organizations and The Climate Group’s LightSavers initiative, a coalition of public and private sector leaders working to accelerate the scale-up of LED technologies.
Leslie holds a Bachelor of Commerce (Honours) and is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP).
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At CivicAction, Brooke focuses on our fundraising priorities and assisting in other initiatives as needed. Prior to joining CivicAction, she was the social media and event coordinator for a small non-profit in Etobicoke. She brings a passion for city politics and civic engagement to her work within and outside of CivicAction.
Brooke received her HBA in Political Science and Women & Gender Studies from the University of Toronto where she focused her studies on Canadian politics, urban issues, and community organizing. While a student she was an executive on the Women and Gender Studies Student Union, a mentor at UofT’s Accessibility Services, a volunteer at the Women and Trans Centre, and coordinator at the Innis College Registrar.
Currently, Brooke lives in the west end of Toronto where she volunteers her time with local community groups in the Parkdale-High Park area. Brooke has an interest in Toronto’s built heritage and can often be found exploring the city looking for unique, timeless architecture.
Intern, CivicAction Leadership Foundation
Jill Foster is a summer intern at the CivicAction Leadership Foundation who is assisting with the upcoming ELNstudio event. Jill is going into her fourth year at Ryerson University receiving a double major in Arts and Contemporary Studies and Diversity and Equity.
Since moving to Toronto from the small town of Prescott Ontario to pursue her studies she has become deeply passionate about social justice issues and has spent her time volunteering for the ARTeries Undergraduate Research Conference, Ryerson’s Centre for Women and Trans People and Ryerson’s Sexual Assault Survivor Support Line.
As a current research assistant at University of Toronto, Jill looks forward to continuing to put her research skills to use as well as to gain experience with the city building initiatives at CivicAction Leadership Foundation.
Chief of Staff to the CEO
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Laura brings her experience from the public, private, and non-profit sectors to her role at CivicAction as Chief of Staff to the CEO to support the CEO, programs and initiatives across the organization and ensure smooth day-to-day operations.
Laura is one part policy wonk and one part post-it notes. She loves to see small changes start within communities and witness the spread and replication of good ideas. Laura has worked with many community organizations such as Bcurrent Theatre Company, Jane’s Walk, and Alternative Spring Break Ryerson where she enjoyed working on collaborative city-building projects in Toronto and abroad.
Laura holds a BA in Arts and Contemporary Studies from Ryerson University and recently completed her Masters of Public Policy from the University of Toronto where her interests in social policy, arts and culture, and community development drove her research and projects.
After growing up in both the Maritimes and Southwestern Ontario, Laura has found a home in Toronto and continues to be inspired by it’s people and endless activity. She is thrilled to join the CivicAction team to make the GTHA a better home for all to live, work, and play.
Senior Director, Integrated Communications and Public Affairs
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As the Director of Communications, Sarah Harris leads the development and execution of the organization’s strategic communications goals, guides CivicAction’s narrative, and directs all aspects of the organization’s external communications. She plays a key role in managing CivicAction’s stakeholder relationships across multiple mediums and channels.
Before joining CivicAction, Sarah worked for the Ontario government where she held various communications positions at the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport. Her work in government focused on strategic communications planning, crisis communications, reputation management and media relations.
A Toronto native, Sarah is passionate about making the GTHA a better place to live and work. She draws on her communications and leadership expertise to promote the work of CivicAction and advance the organization’s city-building priorities.
Sarah earned her Honours BA in History and Art History at the University of Toronto and her Post Graduate Certificate in Public Relations at Humber College. She sits on Artscape’s Sidra Project Committee and is a member of the NXT City Advisory Board.
Program Advisor, Leadership Programs
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Nihal Toota Hassanien has joined the CivicAction team to support the development and execution of our Leadership Programs. Driven by a passion for innovation & lifelong learning, she is always looking for opportunities to support the sustainable growth of our city and of the individuals within this city that can drive change forward.
Toota has obtained both an honours degree in Psychology from York University and a Graduate Certificate in Human Resource Management from Seneca College. She has developed her skills and passion for city building primarily through her work in the Jane & Finch community, with the Success Beyond Limits Education Program. Toota aims to use this experience, as well as her lived experience, to positively impact and support individuals and organizations to cultivate a shared vision, tap into their talents and achieve their best. She believes that through smart dreaming, designing and collaboration, a vision that was once distant can come to fruition and real change can happen.
Director, Partnerships and Development
Magda is a successful development professional with over ten years experience in fundraising and donor relations.
As a Director of Partnerships and Development at CivicAction she will develop and execute a multi-year fundraising plan as well as manage and grow the entire donor portfolio.
Prior to working for CivicAction, she was with the Ontario Liberal Fund where she has earned praise and trust for her capacity in developing and executing innovative and tailored partnership strategies. With a detailed knowledge of government and stakeholder relations, Magda was able to successfully execute fundraising events and brought valuable insight for the entire fundraising team.
Her unique skills are augmented by participation in many provincial election campaigns and events and development work at the University of Toronto.
She is thrilled to be working with like-minded and passionate individuals to tackle some of the GTHA’s toughest social, economic and environmental challenges.
Magda earned her undergraduate degree in Poland and her Post Graduate Certificate in Public Relations at Ryerson University.
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As Communications Manager, Jeff develops a broad range of communication and public relations activities aimed at growing CivicAction’s profile and fostering new connections with external stakeholders, partners, and media.
Prior to joining CivicAction, Jeff was Associate, Communications at The Change Foundation, a health policy think-tank that engages patients, family caregivers, health providers, and government agencies to improve the experiences Ontarians have in the province’s health care sector. At The Change Foundation, Jeff provided day-to-day communications management across all areas, as well as strategy and planning leadership for various projects and publications. He also brings social media, report publication, and media relations experience from the Council of Canadian Academies, a national non-profit providing evidence-based advice on science and health policy issues.
A Niagara-born guy at heart, Jeff calls Toronto’s burgeoning east end home. He is excited to be part of the CivicAction family and to aid the organization’s important work nurturing civic leadership and collaborative solutions that address key challenges that affect our region.
Jeff holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts in History and English from the University of Ottawa and a Master of Professional Communication from Ryerson University.
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From telling impactful stories in 140 characters, developing strategic communication plans, or supporting individuals at all levels to better understand how to leverage the digital world, Jelena Lazarević is a rising leader. She uses her deep passion and understanding of digital tools to create meaningful change across communities. Currently, Jelena helps manage all digital communications for CivicAction and the CivicAction Leadership Foundation – two organizations that take a cross-sectoral collaborative approach to solve our region’s most complex issues. As a graduate of the Master of Professional Communication program at Ryerson University, Jelena became fascinated with all things digital and with finding ways diverse people can use the digital sphere to connect with those around them.
Over the past 5 years she has developed her passion for global development, communication, and the arts through working with The University Students’ Council of Western University, UNICEF-at-Western, and helping manage a student-run elections blog. Today, as a young communications professional, graphic designer, and photographer, she continues to find ways to contribute her strong digital media and graphic design skills to a variety of causes. When she’s not tweeting away, you’ll find her traveling, behind the camera, or indulging in good food.
Taher is a CPA US professional. He has worked for the Chris J. Adams Accounting Firm for over seven years and provided bookkeeping services for CivicAction since 2010. He enjoys living in downtown Toronto with his wife.
Project Officer, Escalator
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Duaa Mohamed is a strong social and youth advocate who aspires to help empower youth by creating opportunities and breaking barriers. Duaa joins the CivicAction team as a Project Officer for Escalator. Prior to CivicAction, Duaa has worked with several non-for-profit organizations all with the aim of empowering disadvantaged youth. She most recently worked with the Black Experience Project, the African Social Development Council and the United Nations Development Programme, where she spent most of her time developing her experience in event management, project development, and capacity building. Her community development work has also included actively volunteering in grassroots organizations committed to youth development, social justice and community building. Duaa is very passionate about social justice and activism and hopes to continue bringing ideas that can strength youth initiatives.
Duaa holds a Honours Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in International Development Studies and minoring in Political Science and Anthropology from the University of Toronto. She is currently working on obtaining her Project Management Certificate (PMP), as well as a “Torture, Trauma, Psychosocial Impact and Mental Health: Meeting the Needs of War and Torture Survivors” certificate.
Project Coordinator, Mental Health in the Workplace
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Adri joins CivicAction’s Mental Health in the Workplace initiative as a project intern, bringing experience as a passionate mental health advocate.
Adri graduated from Western University’s Ivey Business School in June 2016, with a Bachelor of Arts in Honours Business Administration, and a dual-certificate in Entrepreneurship and Sustainability. Adri previously worked as a Residence Advisor at a Western University residence, fostering inclusive communities and mentoring first-year students. At Western University, Adri advanced important conversations around student mental health and LGBTQ+ inclusion. Adri led the launch of Ivey Business School’s first-ever “Break the Silence” conference, a three-day event dedicated to ending the stigma around mental illness in the business world. The event was sponsored by RBC, and engaged more than 400 students across the business program.
Since moving back to the GTHA, Adri has become an advocate for queer and transgender youth in Toronto. Adri volunteers for Planned Parenthood Toronto’s LGBTQ Youth Initiative, and sits on the Board of Directors of LGBT Youth Line, a peer mental health support service for Ontario LGBTQ youth. Adri is also developing a short film for “New Visions”, a film mentorship program of “Inside Out”, Canada’s largest LGBT film festival.
Adri looks forward to working with CivicAction to inspire awareness and action on mental health in the workplace in the GTHA.
Project Intern, Escalator
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Austin K. Ofori recently moved back to Toronto from South Windsor, Ontario. He studied Business Administration – Accounting at St. Clair College where he then proceeded to work in a heavy work duty, youth-connected environment ensuring the safety and well-being of youth participants. Being youth leader since his own days as a youth have propelled him into the new world with a high dose of confidence and an enticing hunger for change. During 2014, he graduated highschool, which was definitely one of his prouder moments of his life! In his free time he enjoys solidarity, reading, playing basketball and spending time with family and loved ones.
Managing Director, CivicAction Leadership Foundation
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Jodie joined CivicAction in March 2015 as Project Director – Leadership Programs. In her role, she oversees the DiverseCity Fellows and Emerging Leaders Network (ELN) programs, and is responsible for the development of strategies to identify and prepare the future leaders of our region.
Jodie comes to CivicAction by way of the Ontario government, where she held progressively senior roles in key areas of the organization including marketing/communications, issues management, strategy, organizational transformation and leadership development. In addition to management roles with both the Ministry of Government Services and the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, she also recently spent three years as Manager – Organizational Dynamics at ServiceOntario where she led her team in producing creative and high-impact engagement, communication, and leadership initiatives.
Born and raised in Southwestern Ontario, Jodie moved to Toronto in 2007 and quickly adopted the city as home (yes – even its long-suffering sports teams). She has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science (Honours) from Wilfrid Laurier University and is a graduate of the Ontario Public Service’s Leadership Development Program. She has also completed management certificate programs at both the Schulich School of Business and Rotman School of Business.
Project Manager, Mental Health in the Workplace
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Seher is CivicAction’s Project Manager for the Mental Health in the Workplace (MindsMatter) project. Prior to joining CivicAction, Seher Shafiq managed the community engagement initiatives, government relations, and volunteer program at Lifeline Syria. Seher’s other experiences include working at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, as well as project management for a youth resiliency and mental health project in Ontario.
Seher is extremely passionate about civic engagement and was heavily involved in get-out-the-vote efforts during the 2015 federal election. She is a Director at The Canadian-Muslim Vote, which seeks to educate community members about the ins and outs of Canadian democracy, as well as the importance of being involved in the political process.
Seher completed both her degrees at the University of Toronto – a Masters in Global Affairs from the Munk School of Global Affairs and a BA with a double major in International Relations and Ethics, Society & Law.
In her free time, Seher is a big foodie and loves trying new restaurants and recipes!
Vice President, Initiatives
Linda draws on her business and communications leadership and passion for city-building as she drives action across sectors to improve the Toronto region’s economic, social, and environmental prosperity. Linda is leading CivicAction’s new initiative that will mobilize employers and employees to provide greater Mental Health Support in the Workplace, while sustaining CivicAction’s support for a regional transportation network and the means to pay for it. She is wrapping up the legacy work for the award-winning Race to Reduce that inspired 42% of all GTA commercial buildings to reduce their total energy use by12.1% and costs by $13.7 million over four years.
Linda brings to her work knowledge of the financial services and real estate sectors and environmental communications with private, public, and non-profit organizations, and has successfully advanced public policy objectives over two decades, particularly at the municipal level. Linda encourages vibrant, walkable neighbourhoods as an advisory committee member of neighbourhood walking tour phenomenon Jane’s Walk.