Maytree Policy School
Director, Research and Evaluation, Vision of Science Network for Learning
Dina Al-khooly is the Director of Research and Evaluation at Visions of Science Network for Learning. This organization is working to advance the educational achievements and positive development of youth from low-income and racialized communities through meaningful engagement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
Since joining the Visions of Science team in 2015, she has helped the organization deepen its impact and grow its knowledge translation and advocacy capacity towards influencing systemic change.
She holds a Master of Public Health from the University of Waterloo and has multidisciplinary experiences in science, public health, education, and community development.
Dina has a strong foundation in applied research, program evaluation, and program development and is driven by her commitment to economic justice, anti-racism, and community ownership.
Executive Director, Rideau-Ottawa Valley Learning Network (ROVLN)
Lisa Ambaye is the Executive Director of the Rideau-Ottawa Valley Learning Network, a Ministry of Labour, Training, and Skills Development Support Organization providing advocacy and capacity building for Literacy and Basic Skills (LBS) Service Providers.
Leveraging her recent Master’s degree as well as her background in training, adult education, and employment services, she uses her strong connections in the community to position LBS in a number of innovative initiatives such as three Ontario Centre for Workforce Development projects, pre-apprenticeship training, and a recent Skills Advance Ontario project for Personal Support Workers.
Deeply motivated to create opportunities for clients and learners to achieve their potential, Lisa strives to explore ways to strengthen the capacity of service providers to challenge the notion of the status quo and to develop skills for increased client outcomes.
President, Board of Directors, Urban Alliance on Race Relations (UARR)
Nigel Barriffe is a community organizer and elementary school teacher with the Toronto District School Board. He also serves as an executive officer with Elementary Teachers of Toronto.
He is a dedicated volunteer, currently serving on the Boards of Directors of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations (Chair), Toronto Community Benefits Network, Canadian Anti-Hate Network,F3 and A Different Booklist Cultural Center.
A passionate activist, Nigel focuses on the topics of quality public education, good green jobs, and a more just society for all inside and outside the classroom.
His educational background includes a Master’s degree from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.
Nigel’s impactful efforts have been recognized with numerous community service awards.
Staff Lawyer/Social Assistance Team Lead, West Scarborough Community Legal Services
Vanessa Emery is an experienced lawyer who has worked in community legal clinics in Ontario and British Columbia for over a decade.
She is the Team Lead for Social Assistance at West Scarborough Community Legal Services as well as the Co-Chair of the Social Assistance Action Committee, a group of Toronto and York region legal clinic advocates. Her practice is focused on representing clients with respect to Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program.
She brings a client-centered approach to her work developed through her joint JD/MSW degree, and is a practicum supervisor and Adjunct Lecturer with the University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work.
Increasingly, Vanessa has been engaged in policy and law reform work with regards to improving social assistance programs in Ontario to enable recipients to thrive.
Communications and Stakeholder Relations Officer, College of Midwives of Ontario
Former: Communications Officer, The Stop
With a background in journalism and community organizing, Kate is passionate about using data, storytelling, and ethnography to inform equitable policy development and spur social change.
At The Stop, she illustrates the connections between food insecurity and oppressive austerity measures. She works closely with The Stop’s Community Advocacy and Economic Justice teams to ensure people with lived experiences of poverty, oppression, and marginalization are centered and supported in this work.
Prior to her time at The Stop, Kate held roles at the Metcalf Foundation and Davenport-Perth Neighbourhood and Community Health Centre, and as a campaign manager and communications advisor for progressive political candidates.
Executive Director, Back Door Mission
Former: Team Lead – Community Development, Community Development Council Durham
Nathan Gardner was formerly team Lead of Community Development at Community Development Council Durham (CDCD) where his focus has been on social research and leadership development initiatives. He has worked within the Region for over ten years.
Policy Analyst, Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC)
Devorah Kobluk is a Senior Policy Analyst at the Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC). She has a special interest in advocacy and policy work related to people with disabilities.
Prior to joining ISAC, she worked in the anti-violence community at a rape crisis centre, as well as on Parliament Hill. In that role, she managed communications and worked on policy related to seniors’ and low-income constituents’ income security. In addition, she worked on an energy and environment policy review panel where she collaborated with several community organizations and Indigenous nations.
Devorah holds a BA, Honours in Political Science, International Development and Gender Studies from Carleton University, and an MA in English and Critical Theory from the University of Alberta. She is currently completing her PHD in English and Critical Theory with a focus on addiction and mental health. She speaks English, French, and Spanish.
Executive Director, Government & Corporate Relations, OCAD University
Miriam Kramer is a senior government and corporate relations professional with nearly 20 years of experience working in policy, research, community relations, and advocacy. In her current role as Executive Director of Government & Corporate Relations at OCAD University, she is responsible for public, corporate and community relations, strategy, policy, and funding, as well as university relations with all levels of government.
Over the course of her career, her work has been performed in the contexts of government, NGOs and the private sector in Canada, the United States and Israel. She was a New Israel Fund Social Change Fellow (1998/99) as well as a CivicAction DiverseCity Fellow (2014/15).
Miriam earned a master’s degree in Gender Studies from the London School of Economics and Political Science, and a BA (Hons.) in English Literature (minors in Economics, Business, and Liberal Arts) from the City University of New York (Queens College).
Executive Director, Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorder Alliance
Jonathan Lai, PhD, is Executive Director at the Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorder Alliance (CASDA). In addition, he holds an adjunct faculty position in Health Services Research at the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation (IHPME) in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto.
He is responsible for running all facets of the organization and his current work involves building consensus among stakeholders. He does this by responding to emerging gaps in the sector and being a constructive policy idea generator to guide the development of a federal National Autism Strategy.
Jonathan is passionate about systems change and real-world collective impact. He has built bridges between evidence, practice, and policy by running TEDx events, hosting national Summits, facilitating policy tables, and conducting research and program evaluations at various levels.
Ilana Dodi Luther
Executive Director, Access to Justice & Law Reform Institute of Nova Scotia
Ilana Dodi Luther has a background in law and policy and is the Executive Director of the Access to Justice & Law Reform Institute of Nova Scotia. This non-profit organization is dedicated to law reform and acting as a center of coordination, research, education, and action on access to justice.
Ilana first joined the Institute as legal research counsel in 2011, transitioned to work as a policy analyst for government in 2017, then returned to the Institute to serve as Director in 2018.
She earned her Doctorate in Law from the Schulich School of Law and teaches poverty and law reform on a part-time basis.
Coordinator, Guelph & Wellington Task Force for Poverty Elimination
Dominica McPherson leads Guelph-Wellington’s poverty elimination strategy as Coordinator of the Guelph and Wellington Task Force for Poverty Elimination.
In this role, Dominica manages the engagement of key players and decision makers from a wide range of sectors in working collaboratively, informed by diverse voices of experience, to take local action and advocate for system and policy change to address the root causes of poverty.
With over a decade of experience in policy advocacy, political strategy, and community development, Dominica believes in action and advocacy that is community driven, evidence-informed, and centers the voices of those most impacted.
Grounded in the values of equity and social justice, Dominica’s past experience includes developing social issue campaigns, generating neighbourhood level asset-based community development, leading strategic advocacy to influence policy change, and managing collaborative initiatives to increase community engagement and well-being.
Project Director, Centre for Refugee Children
Steve Meagher works as Project Director, Centre for Refugee Children. Formerly he was Shelter Manager of Christie Refugee Welcome Centre, an emergency shelter for refugee claimant families in Toronto.
Since 2018 he has served as co-chair of the family sector table with the Toronto Shelter Network. He is also an active member of the Shelter and Housing Justice Network (SHJN) and the Ontario Coalition of Service Providers for Refugee Claimants.
Through his work with refugees and precarious migrants, Steve chairs the Unaccompanied and Separated Children Network, which focuses on advocacy and public policy issues impacting refugee and migrant children who are navigating the immigration, child welfare, and education systems in Ontario without their parents or legal guardian.
Beginning in March 2021, Steve will be launching the Centre for Refugee Children, a new initiative to provide direct settlement services and enhance access to justice for unaccompanied and separated refugee children living in Ontario.
Executive Director, Canadian Centre for Excellence in Caregiving, Azrieli Foundation
Former: Director, Accessibility and Inclusion, Miles Nadal JCC
Liv Mendelsohn, M.A., M.Ed., is Executive Director, Canadian Centre for Excellence in Caregiving, Azrieli Foundation, as well as the Artistic Director of the ReelAbilities Film Festival Toronto.
She is currently a member of the City of Toronto’s Accessibility Advisory Committee, the City of Toronto Museums’ Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility Committee, and the Civic Re:Action Toronto COVID-19 Recovery Task Force.
In 2019 she was recognized as a recipient of the City of Toronto Equity Award.
Liv has been a field instructor for the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Toronto and a CivicAction DiverseCity Fellow. From 2021-2023 she will be a Mandel Executive Leadership Program Fellow.
Director of Communications, Right to Play
Christina Palassio is a non-profit professional with more than 20 years of experience in strategic communications and advocacy in the arts, food security, and international development sectors.
In her current role as Director of Communications at Right To Play, she works to mobilize public engagement on issues of access to education, gender equality, and child protection, and collaborates with the organization’s policy and government relations leads on achieving Right To Play’s policy and program goals.
Previously, Christina was a member of the team that founded Community Food Centres Canada, a national non-profit that builds health, community, and social justice through the power of food.
Christina is also the co-chair of Unlock Democracy Canada, a grassroots, non-partisan organization committed to strengthening Canada’s democracy through democratic renewal and proportional government.
Executive Director, End Homelessness St. Johns
Doug Pawson is the Executive Director of End Homelessness St. John’s, a system planning entity leading the development and implementation of the St. John’s Community Plan to End Homelessness. A systems-based thinker with an entrepreneurial appetite for social change, Doug is committed to serving the most vulnerable neighbours in his community.
Active in the community, Doug currently serves as a Board Director with the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness and as vice-chair of the United Way of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Board of Directors.
Prior to joining End Homelessness St. John’s, Doug spent over 12 years in Ottawa working in community mental health where he led innovative and nationally recognized social enterprises and social finance programs through significant periods of growth.
He holds a BA in Political Studies and English from Bishop’s University, an MBA in Community Economic Development from Cape Breton University, and a MPhil in Policy Studies from the University of New Brunswick.
Director, Social Policy and Strategic Initiatives, Community Living Ontario
Shawn Pegg is the Director of Social Policy and Strategic Initiatives at Community Living Ontario. He has worked for more than two decades as an advocate for policy change to reduce economic disparity, stigmatization, and vulnerability.
In a previous role at Food Banks Canada, Shawn built the national HungerCount report into an influential barometer of food insecurity in the country.
He also has extensive experience in HIV and hepatitis C research and programs, as well as income security and affordable housing policy.
Jasmine Ramze Rezaee
Director of Advocacy and Communications, YWCA Toronto
Jasmine Ramze Rezaee is an experienced public affairs leader and is the Director of Advocacy and Communications at YWCA Toronto, one of Canada’s leading women’s organizations. Additionally, she is a Board Director at Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services.
An advocate for gender equality, racial justice, and poverty reduction, Jasmine has more than 12 years of non-profit experience in progressive leadership roles spanning Vancouver, Montreal, and Toronto. Her work has been published in NOW Magazine, Ricochet Media, Policy Options, This Magazine, The Toronto Star, and Rabble.ca. She has also appeared as a media commentator on gender equity issues.
Jasmine is committed to working with government, media and civil society partners to build inclusive, livable communities. She graduated from the University of Toronto in 2009 with an MA in Political Science.
Executive Director, Meal Exchange
Suman Roy is the Executive Director of Meal Exchange, a national not-for-profit that inspires and empowers students to create healthy, just, and sustainable food systems.
The contributions he has made during his extensive career in private and public sector business operations globally have led to the successful development and support of social planning programs, business ventures, and community initiatives.
Suman is the Chair of the Scarborough Food Security Initiative. Previously, he served his community as a member of the Toronto Board of Health & Toronto Food Policy Council, as well as being one of the key consultants who helped write the first Food Strategy for the City of Toronto.
He has advocated for various food issues including Bill S228 (Child Health Protection Act) and Bill C291 (GMO Labelling legislation).
Suman is also the author of an International award winning and best-selling book, From Pemmican To Poutine – A Journey Through Canada’s Culinary History.
Project Manager, Progress Toronto
Saman Tabasinejad is the Project Manager at Progress Toronto. She believes that meaningful change cannot be achieved unless actions that address and remove systemic barriers are taken, and is particularly interested in how large policy decisions affect everyday lives.
Saman currently serves on the board of The Platform, an organization working to reshape the political landscape to advance the priorities of young Black, Indigenous, and racialized women and gender-diverse youth. She also serves as the Culture Chair at the Iranian Canadian Congress.
Previously, she worked at the DUKE Heights BIA and the Downsview Advocate, as well as served on the executive of Roofs for Refugees. In 2018, Saman ran for office in North York, ON.
Her educational background includes degrees in Political Science and Anthropology.
Saman is dedicated to building a progressive city and making room for women, especially young racialized women, to take space, influence policy-making, and run for office.
Director of Health Promotion and Community Engagement, Parkdale Queen West CHC
Bronwyn Underhill is the Director of Health Promotion and Community Engagement at Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre, which focuses on providing services to people who traditionally face barriers to improving their health and the health of their communities.
She is passionate about health and social justice and has spent the last 15 years working in the community health sector of Toronto. She has experience with research, front-line program delivery, food security initiatives, and coalition building.
Previously, she worked on research and health policy initiatives in Mexico and Peru.
Bronwyn holds an MPH in Health Promotion from the University of Toronto and a BA in International Development and Spanish Language Studies from the University of Toronto, as well as a Certificate in Advanced Health System Leadership from Rotman School of Management.
“[Maytree Policy School] is professional development par excellence! Changing the world does take “relentless incrementalism” and this program should be mandatory for every leader.”
Bruce Pitkin, Executive Director, ArtStarts (MPS ’20)
“Maytree Policy School is a comprehensive package on all the nuts and bolts of policy advocacy for your organization. The faculty and speakers bring timely issues and real-world experience to illustrate how the complex world of policy advocacy works.”
Jonathan Lai, Executive Director, Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorder Alliance (MPS ’21)
"[Maytree] Policy School represents a rare opportunity to learn how to successfully advocate for policy change directly from folks who've done it before. The program is worth it for the content alone. But what really has me energized is the community that Maytree is building through this work. The insights of those in my cohort not only rounded out the learning experience, but will also offer a wealth of experience, advice, inspiration, and friendship for years to come."
Terence Hamilton, Policy Specialist, UNICEF Canada (MPS ’20)
“The non-profit sector has an important role to play in advocating for progressive public policy. Maytree Policy School is helping to build the sector’s capacity to effectively do that work. A must-do program for anyone wanting to engage in advocacy and policy in our sector.”
Christina Palassio, Director of Communications, Right to Play (MPS ’21)
"Maytree Policy School is the perfect program to learn and enhance one’s skills and understanding of strategies to effectively influence government actions and decisions. Thank you to the fantastic faculty, superb speakers, and remarkable non profit colleagues for creating a vibrant community for growth and development."
Carol Zoulalian, Executive Director, St. Jude Community Homes (MPS ’20)
“Maytree Policy School provides participants with access to some of the foremost thought leaders and public policy professionals. The content, staff, faculty, and peers provide unparalleled access to nurture your ideas into action.”
Doug Pawson, Executive Director, End Homelessness St. Johns (MPS ’21)
"Maytree Policy School provided very practical tips and advice to effectively influence policy. Perhaps most importantly, the program connected me with a cohort of incredible peers that I can count on for mutual support as we continue our policy careers."
Talia Bronstein, VP, Research and Advocacy, Daily Bread Food Bank (MPS ’20)
“Maytree Policy School is an exceptional training program that is engaging and informative. Understanding policy work, and being able to do it well, is a key tool for people working in the community and non-profit sectors, and [the program] ensures that graduates of the program are well-equipped to do this work.”
Bronwyn Underhill, Director of Health Promotion and Community Engagement, Parkdale Queen West CHC (MPS ’21)
"A thoughtfully-designed program that provides access to an incredible group of faculty and subject-matter experts. A powerful experience that has improved my ability to influence."
Sibel Cicek, Senior Manager, Government Relations, YMCA Ontario, YMCA of Greater Toronto (MPS ’20)
“The generosity and insight of the Maytree Policy School faculty and instructors combined with dedicated and thoughtful non-profit peers, brought the policy materials to life. I left the course feeling supported and capable of wading into the important policy debates impacting low-income Ontarians.”
Vanessa Emery, Staff Lawyer/Social Assistance Team Lead, West Scarborough Community Legal Services (MPS ’21)
"For grassroots and small non-profit organizations trying to enhance the scope and impact of their work through policy, Maytree Policy School is a powerful place to enhance the capacity of senior leaders to deliver results for the communities we serve. From the faculty to the Maytree Policy school peers, everything is designed to increase your impact."
Paul Bailey, President, Black Health Alliance (MPS ’20)
“Maytree Policy School was an incredible opportunity that elevated our policy work. The engaging presenters and faculty, practical learning and tools, thought-provoking curriculum, and peer connections created a dynamic learning environment that will have lasting impacts for the effectiveness of our work.”
Dominica MacPherson, Coordinator, Guelph & Wellington Task Force for Poverty Elimination (MPS ’21)
“Maytree Policy School completely surpassed my expectations. It's a course anyone should take who strives to be a strategic influencer at any level of government and regardless of who's in power.”
Brian Davis, Executive Director, Houselink Community Homes (MPS ’19)
“Maytree Policy School has been a crash course in government, systems, data, communications, and everything in between that is relevant to influencing policy. The faculty as well as the participants are extremely knowledgeable, generous with their expertise, and not afraid to ask the tough questions. The strategic learnings from this program have transformed our organizational advocacy initiatives to be much more thoughtful and productive.”
Dina Al-khooly, Director, Research and Evaluation, Vision of Science Network for Learning (MPS ’21)
"Maytree Policy School brought together a highly skilled and generous group of instructors. My organization has gained new tools and resources, and connections to fabulous peers and organizations."
Shelagh Pizey-Allen, Executive Director, TTCRiders (MPS ’19)
“Maytree Policy School was an outstanding opportunity to fine tune my policy strategy skill sets and connect with other like-minded individuals and organizations. I highly recommend this program!”
Nigel Barriffe, President, Board of Directors, Urban Alliance on Race Relations (UARR) (MPS ’21)
“Maytree Policy School was invaluable. It helped me systematize and move forward our policy work. The faculty were knowledgeable and engaging, and the other participants have now become a close network I can call on.”
Sasha McNicoll, Policy Manager, Community Food Centres Canada (MPS ’19)
“Maytree Policy School gave me the opportunity to carve time from my busy schedule to focus on policy strategy and engage in interesting policy discussions among peers. I am looking forward to incorporating these learnings and to continuing to engage with the network moving forward.”
Miriam Kramer, Executive Director, Government & Corporate Relations, OCAD University (MPS ’21)
“Having the focused time along with the incredible depth of knowledge from the presenters and other participants made this program worth every minute. The shifts in our approach and development of a policy strategy will have long-term impact for our organization and our mission at Pillar.”
Michelle Baldwin, Executive Director, Pillar Nonprofit Network (MPS ’19)
“Maytree Policy School brought together an expert faculty team who generously shared their wealth of knowledge and experiences. I really appreciated how each session was meticulously planned and specifically tailored for us in the non-profit sector.”
Tesfai Mengesha, Executive Director, Success Beyond Limits (MPS ’18)