Public Interest Designer
Zahra is a public interest designer, engaging diverse sets of stakeholders to use human-centred and participatory approaches to address complex organizational and sectoral challenges, largely focused on public sector and urban innovation. For over a decade, she has built and led organizations that have worked extensively across the public, private, charitable, and philanthropic sector to conduct deep research with end-users to co-design towards better social outcomes. Most recently, she built Canada’s first corporate participatory design firm, Doblin, bringing the practice of co-creation to the country’s largest organizations. She previously founded and led archiTEXT, a social enterprise engaging communities in the creation of infrastructure and policy, most notably co-founding the Community.Design.Initiative., which engages marginalized youth in architecture and design in Toronto’s priority neighbourhoods.
She has taught at OCAD, MoMA, and currently teaches within the University of Toronto Scarborough’s City Studies program. She serves as a board member and advisor to Jane’s Walk, St. Stephen’s Community House, Progress Toronto, Centre for Connected Communities, Toronto Public Library, and ResilientTO.
Zahra has served as Innovator in Residence at Canada’s national design museum, was recognized as a Next City’s Vanguard “40 under 40 Civic Leader,” featured in Toronto Life’s “50 Most Influential People in the City” issue, and was named a United Way “Changemaker to Watch” in 2016.