Building Paths to Inclusion.

CivicAction’s 2019-2020 Annual Report

Letter from the Chairs.

This year has seen profound shifts affecting our lives and livelihoods. The Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) is tackling the many challenges arising from COVID-19, while having to take a serious look at how systemic racism, particularly anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism, shapes our society and affects access to economic and leadership opportunities.

We face two pandemics that have disproportionately impacted communities that were already being left behind. This year has not created these problems, but it has cast a brighter and much-needed spotlight on where and how we need to change.

We have faced complex challenges before, and we will face what lies ahead by uniting in a common purpose and working together. We must collaborate across all sectors—not-for-profits, business, government, education and civil society—and co-create new solutions at scale to realize our vision of a better, more inclusive region.

Our region’s diverse peoples must be at the centre of these efforts. This year, CivicAction’s work focused on supporting and investing in our communities. We hope you will read the stories of our network and see the impact we made together.

In September, we were delighted to welcome our new CEO, Leslie Woo who is a respected leader with over 25 years of experience building sustainable communities and shaping urban development in Canada’s fastest-growing urban region, greater Toronto. We also express our deep gratitude to Tamara Balan, CivicAction’s COO, for stepping into the interim CEO role earlier this year.

CivicAction continues to be a convenor to catalyze collaboration to build a better region. We see new opportunities and roles we can play. We will continue to bring our region’s diverse risen and rising leaders and residents together to take action on the issues that matter.

We hope more of you will join us in building a more inclusive future.

A photo of Zabeen Hirji.

Zabeen Hirji,
Board Chair, CivicAction

Headshot of Tim Hockey.

Tim Hockey,
Board Chair, CivicAction Leadership Foundation

Our Purpose.

To boost civic engagement and build better cities.

Our Values.

Drive Action

Harness Collective Wisdom

Cultivate Inclusion

Be bold.

Integrity at our Core

CivicAction continued to focus on our region and its residents in 2020. Through both longstanding programs and new, bold interventions, we sought to build trust in our region and invest in our people, particularly the young, diverse leaders who will take the GTHA forward.


Continued Collective Action.

This year the future of work accelerated. In a matter of weeks COVID-19 brought in changes that caused a number of impacts, many that disproportionately affected youth. With the youth unemployment rate hitting 30% and libraries, community centres and employment offices shuttering due to the pandemic, CivicAction stepped in.


YouthConnect programming expanded to Calgary and Halifax and focused on creating an online, flexible environment for young people to hone their knowledge on financial literacy and develop the skills needed to build resiliency and find jobs and opportunities.


youth joined webinars & training sessions with partners LinkedIn Canada, RBC & MENTOR Canada.



LinkedIn Learning licenses distributed to youth and youth workers in Canada.



youth and youth workers trained across Ontario, Calgary and Halifax.

Photo of Christoph ChingCivicAction along with NPower Canada helped propel me to heights I honestly didn’t think I could achieve. Using tools like Linkedin Learning helped me with professional courses such as the CompTIA A+ prep courses I took, to personal development. I am able to sharpen the skills I already have, and birth new skills I didn’t know I had. I will forever be grateful for the opportunities I was given to connect with such great people and events.

 Christoph Ching, NPower Participant


To help employers find more inclusive ways to attract, hire and keep young talent, we continued to share and promote our free HireNext toolkit.


users accessed our free HireNext toolkit and assessment. Learn more about HireNext in our minute long video here.


total organizations joined our coalition of HireNext Employers and committed to making their HR practices more youth-inclusive.

“HireNext helped bring youth from diverse backgrounds into Fiix and opened channels for communicating and learning. Updating our job postings, diversifying our sourcing through community partners, and creating a mentorship buddy program delivered fresh innovative ideas, new meaningful roles for staff as mentors, and a 43% improvement in youth retention rates in just 3 years.”

 Dean Delpeache, Senior Manager, Talent Acquisition, Fiix Software  

Our Re:Action to COVID-19.

Reacting to the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an all-hands-on-deck approach. We convened organizations and leaders from all sectors and backgrounds to help us connect people, elevate diverse voices, crowdsource solutions, and build back better through our ReAction initiatives: Digital Dish, the Re:Action Forum and the Re:Action Task Force.

The Re:Action Task Force of rising and risen leaders also met with Ontario Minister of Finance Rod Phillips and federal Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen, plus senior leaders at the City of Toronto.

“2020 has been an unprecedented year and it’s amplified the complex challenges that we face. CivicAction has long played a critical role in identifying and taking action on key issues in our region. As we build a better region, their work has never been more important. It will require the leadership and support of each of us to move forward – and Team BMO is all in.”

Cameron Fowler, Chief Strategy and Operations Officer, BMO Financial Group, CivicAction Board Member

Headshot of Cameron Fowler.

Our Re:Actions by the Numbers

Re:Action Forum


Civic leaders from all sectors and backgrounds attended the Re:Action Forum*


ideas for action submitted by participants.

The Re:Action Forum focused on three interconnected opportunities: helping young adults enter or re-enter the workforce; supporting mental wellbeing and combating loneliness; and building and maintaining trust in our communities and leaders.

Digital Dish


GTHA residents registered to host their own Digital Dish a campaign that helped residents stay connected and generate ideas for COVID-19 recovery.


people attended a Digital Dish with regional leaders like Toronto Mayor John Tory, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie, Ajax Mayor Shawn Collier and Hamilton rising leaders.

Action on Anti-Racism.

The past year made it clear that we are facing a second pandemic: systemic racism. In June, CivicAction sharpened our focus to more acutely address anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism in the GTHA.

We held exclusive events to convene our Emerging Leaders Network, both to create space for Black leaders and for a broader conversation on how we can practice active allyship.

We also signed the BlackNorth pledge and piloted a new program called CivicMatch to connect rising Black leaders with executive-level leaders from CivicAction’s Board of Directors, with plans to further scale.

“Working with CivicAction has provided me a seat at the table with senior level government in identifying ways to support Black owned business owners. In this difficult time it’s important to advocate for the businesses that are less visible in our community.”

Tennille Spencer, Founder and Owner, Deeply Dope Tees

Tennille Spencer

Anti-Sex Trafficking Initiative

Work also continued in 2020 on our Anti-Sex Trafficking file. Our Champions Council of 25 committed senior leaders met to lay out a plan for collective action and raise awareness on the issue. In February 2021, this initiative will launch a “Building Healthy Relationships” digital campaign aimed at girls aged 13 to 18 years.

Leaders for an Inclusive Future.

If we are to build better, inclusive cities, we need to do more to recruit different voices, tap into our collective strengths and come together to do the work.

That’s why we’re doubling down on building our next wave of diverse leadership.

View the message from our CEO.

Diversity Fellows and the Emerging Leaders Network

The DiverseCity Fellows and Emerging Leaders Network (ELN) continued to grow this year. In response to the COVID-19 epidemic, the 11th cohort of DiverseCity Fellows became our first fully digital version of the program and #ELNonline was launched to deliver programming on themes important to rising leaders like mental health, resiliency, allyship and more.

“Participation in the Diversity Fellows program and the ELN have supported my leadership development by connecting and aligning the regions’ city building “movers and shakers” – coming together to stretch the positive impact on this region even further.”

Sumeeta Kapur, Vice President, Resource Management Strategy, Infrastructure Ontario, 2017 DiverseCity Fellow

“Helping rising leaders connect and develop leadership skills is more important than ever. As the pandemic continues to impact marginalized groups, the ELN has risen to the challenge and demonstrated resiliency, creativity, and the drive required to tackle our region’s most pressing issues.”

Debora Jesus, 2020-21 ELN Executive Member, Marketing and Communications Specialist, LOFT Community Services


of DiverseCity Fellows alumni have moved into at least one additional senior role post-program.


people have completed the DiverseCity Fellows program to date.



believe their knowledge of community-building issues has increased since joining the Emerging Leaders Network.


people are active members of the Emerging Leaders Network to do date.


“We believe everyone deserves the best opportunities for success, and we know an equitable, sustainable, and just society requires diverse leadership. That’s why we’re proud supporters of the CivicAction Leadership Foundation, a catalyst empowering diverse young leaders to build the skills to tackle tomorrow’s big urban issues.”

– Luke Gilgan, Manager and board member, Peter Gilgan Foundation

Luke Gilligan


Support the next generation of leaders.

Donate Today

Board of Directors

CivicAction and the CivicAction Leadership Foundation are led by a separate-yet-connected Board of Directors made up of diverse, strategic leaders who represent all sectors and regions of the GTHA. Thank you to our Boards for their support, guidance and passion for city-building.

Meet Our Board

Team Action

Learn more about CivicAction’s history, our unique model and our stellar staff team.

Meet Our Team

Our Partners and Donors

Our work wouldn’t be possible without the support of countless organizations and individuals from all sectors and walks of life. We gratefully acknowledge the following donors of CivicAction and the CivicAction Leadership Foundation for your commitment to building a better region and investment in diverse rising leaders. We also want to acknowledge and thank our Boards of Directors who have all personally donated to the Foundation.  

CivicAction Partners

Leadership Foundation Donors

In-Kind Donors

CivicAction's 2020 Donors

Leadership Founders (Multi-year)

Legacy Champion (min. 5 years of $150,000+)

BMO Financial Group Tim and Lana Hockey  

Founders Circle ($150,000+ per year)

Ed and Fran Clark The Peter Gilgan Foundation Newton Glassman Charitable Foundation
Joe Natale and Melissa Martin    

Founding Members ($50,000-$149,999 per year)

Jon and Nancy Love Fund at Toronto Foundation Metcalf Foundation RBC
TD Bank Group    

Founding Friends ($25,000-$49,999 per year)

EY Barb Hackett and John Tory IBM Canada Ltd.
Manulife Oxford Properties Group Rod and Lydia Phillips
Andy Pringle Som and Kerry Seif  

Founding Contributors (up to $24,999 per year)

Aaron Bennett and Karen Chu Helen Burstyn & Family City of Toronto
Cam Fowler Zabeen Hirji Jarislowsky Fraser Partners Foundation
LinkedIn For Good Fund at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation Angela Longo Leadership Fund at Toronto Foundation Zada, Alyn and Sevaun Palvetzian
Salima Rawji and Michael Simone Aaron Regent Poonam Singh
Godyne Sibay Spencer Stuart TELUS
Nan DasGupta & Michael Bernstein  


Leadership Partners

Leadership Friends ($10,000-$24,999)

Accenture Music Canada    

Leadership Contributors ($1,000-$9,999)

Jill Black Leslie Woo Mark Boyajian
Members of the Emerging Leaders Network and DiverseCity Fellows Alumni Mike & Martha Pedersen Mark Sam
Rob MacIsaac Yulena Wan  Daniele Zanotti
Salima Rawji  Beth and Brent Wilson  

Accenture | Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP | The Boston Consulting Group | Canadian Club of Toronto | CBC | CGI | Centre for Social Innovation | Edelman Canada | Empire Club of Canada | Goodlife Fitness | Hamilton Chamber of Commerce | McCarthy Tétrault LLP | Morneau Shepell | NextGenLeaders | SteamWhistle | Talent Canada | tiff |


“CivicAction afforded me the opportunity to influence the future of an entire industry – the accelerated integration of my network across public, private and not-for-profit sectors continues to pay dividends.”

Mark Sam, Business Development, PLAID

Quote“CivicAction encouraged me to embrace my introverted leadership style, break out of my comfort zone, and expand my network. I support the Foundation as a way of giving back and paying forward the incredible experiences I benefit from as a Fellow and ELN member.”

Yulena Wan, Director, Finance & Operations at the Hamilton Community Foundation

Yulena Wang

Quote“At TD, we believe that we need to work together to build an inclusive tomorrow where everyone has a chance to succeed in an ever-changing world. When we bring our resources, influence, capacity and expertise together, we grow our reach and potential, and CivicAction is all about that. That’s why we are proud to support CivicAction and its ability to join forces for positive collective impact.”

Our Financials.

Financials as reported in this annual report capture revenue and expenses between April 1, 2019 and March 31, 2020 (our fiscal year). Program activities reported above are from the 2020 calendar year.

For a full copy of our financial statements, please contact Tamara Balan, our Chief Operating Officer at

The following information is derived from the 2019-2020 financial statements of both organizations as audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.

Revenues 2019-2020

Year ended March 31, 2020

CivicAction Expenses

Expenses for CivicAction

Year ended March 31, 2020

Graph for CivicAction financials.

Leadership Foundation Expenses

Expenses for the CivicAction Leadership Foundation 2019-2020

Year ended March 31, 2020

Graph for CivicAction Leadership Foundation financials.

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