Our Team


If you would like to reach a member of our team, please contact

Sevaun Palvetzian

Chief Executive Officer
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Follow Sev on Twitter @SevaunP

Sevaun Palvetzian has been CEO at CivicAction since January of 2014. Before CivicAction, Sevaun held several senior executive roles within the Ontario Government including leading the Ontario Place Revitalization project and 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 serving as a member of the Premier’s Community Hubs Advisory Group and the City of Toronto’s Poverty Reduction Strategy Advisory Committee. She currently sits on the Board of Directors for both Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC) and NPower Canada and is a member of Mayor John Tory’s Advisory Panel on international hosting opportunities.

She completed the Ivey Executive Program at the Richard Ivey School of Business and has an M.A. in history from the University of Western Ontario.

Zainab Abbasi


Zainab comes to CivicAction via the University of Toronto Urban Studies program. She is currently double majoring in Urban Studies and Architectural Design. She brings her design, critical thinking and analytical skills to support a variety of CivicAction projects. She previously worked with Friends of the Pan Am Path collecting data to populate the Pan Am Path App and as a Sales Office Administrator in various Condominium Development offices in the GTHA. She has worked on the creative and design side of projects as a design student and as a videographer for the STEPS Initiative.

She recently volunteered as the Sponsorship Coordinator for the University of Toronto Students’ Union helping to organize some of the largest University orientation events in Canada, at the University of Toronto.

Zainab has an interest in urban design, environmental gentrification and how social change and the built environment influence one another and the greater urban fabric of the city. She is a foodie and a tree hugger, with a love for nature and enjoys exploring architecture in new places.

Tamara Balan

Project Director
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Tamara leads the Private Sector Youth Jobs and Mentoring initiative, focused on increasing economic opportunities for youth facing barriers and meeting the needs in the labour market. Tamara oversees CivicAction’s preeminent leadership programs – the Emerging Leaders Network and DiverseCity Fellows, a network of more than 700 rising civic leaders strong. Working with Maytree, Tamara directs CivicAction’s continued commitment to diversifying the region’s leadership through DiverseCity: The Greater Toronto Leadership Project.

Tamara has been at CivicAction for more than six years. She believes in the collective leadership model to overcome status quo and make the Toronto region better. She’s seen this in action and is inspired by its potential. Tamara holds a Bachelors degree in Urban Studies and Political Science from the University of Toronto and joined CivicAction in 2007. In 2012 Tamara was named a Vital Person by the Toronto Community Foundation.

Nicole Beayni

Project Officer
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Nicole provides support to CivicAction’s environmental initiative, the Race to Reduce, a friendly competition that engages commercial landlords and tenants to reduce energy use by 10% over four years. She also supports CivicAction’s work on regional transportation and activity related to the 2015 Summit – Better City Bootcamp. Passionate about cities and the unique challenges and opportunities that they create, Nicole has been exploring urban issues in the Toronto region and globally for over a decade through academic, employment, volunteer and personal experiences. Formerly, she worked with a transportation demand management association, Smart Commute Markham, Richmond Hill, encouraging commuters to reduce single occupant vehicle trips, with the goal to reduce traffic congestion.

Nicole holds a degree in Urban Studies and Sociology from the University of Toronto and a graduate certificate in Project Management from Centennial College. In her free time she can be found paddling on the waterfront with her dragonboat team, on yoga mat, or travelling to visit friends on the east and west coasts of Canada.

Hilary Best

Project Officer
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Hilary is the Project Manager on our Escalator: Jobs for Youth Facing Barriers initiative and supports our Partnerships and Development team. Prior to joining CivicAction, Hilary served as a consultant to impact investing firm Purpose Capital, where she led the firm’s Impact Measurement practice and helped individuals and organizations with complex social or environmental goals to identify, target, and track progress towards these goals. Prior to joining Purpose Capital, Hilary was the research lead on The Fourth Wall: Transforming City Hall, an exhibit which identified opportunities to improve civic engagement practices in Toronto.

Hilary is an accomplished writer and editor who has published extensively on impact measurement and contributed to publications including Spacing Magazine, Corporate Knights Magazine, and Alternatives Journal. Hilary holds a B.A (Honours) in Geography from McGill University and a Masters of Design in Strategic Foresight and Innovation from OCADU.

Leslie Domenico

Program Manager
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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).

Lauren Dwyer

Communications Intern

Lauren joins CivicAction as a student from Ryerson University’s Master’s of Professional Communication Program. With a background in psychology and mental health Lauren will be working with the team on the new initiatives discussed at the 2015 Better City Bootcamp Summit.

In the past year Lauren has also spent 10 weeks volunteering for Azafady, a British charity working out of South-East Madagascar to provide sustainable solutions for community development issues. In her Master’s program Lauren also works as a research assistant on the hitchBOT robotics team as well as for Virtual Hamilton – a participatory urban planning project focused on re-envisioning the city of Hamilton.

Her passion and research interests for her Major Research Project surround mental health and human-robot interaction – areas she hopes will be beneficial to her work with CivicAction.

Laura Hache

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 as Executive Assistant to the CEO & Office Manager to support 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.

Sarah Harris

Communications Director
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Sarah Harris serves as the Director of Communications. In this role, Sarah develops and executes the organization’s strategic communications plan, crafting CivicAction’s narrative and leading all aspects of the organization’s external communications.

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. Sarah has received many accolades for her work including being the recipient of several communications awards within the Ontario Government.

A Toronto native, Sarah is passionate about improving the GTHA, making it 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 goals.

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.

Magda Hjartarson

Director, Partnerships and Development
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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.

Emily Lau

Rotman MBA Fellow

Emily Lau is a Rotman MBA Fellow and MBA student of the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto. Emily joins CivicAction as part of the Rotman OnBoard Fellows Program.

Emily has extensive experience in human resources. Over the course of her HR career, she has worked in Hong Kong and New York in several global banks: Citigroup, Credit Suisse and Nomura.

Outside of work, Emily enjoys travelling and spent two summers volunteering in Africa. She is also a long distance runner with former national athletic rankings, a triathlete, and a ballet dancer.

Emily holds a bachelor’s degree in Global Business from HKUST Business School in Hong Kong and is working towards completing her MBA at Rotman this year.

Jelena Lazarevic

Communications Officer
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As a new graduate of the Master of Professional Communication program at Ryerson University, Jelena joins CivicAction to contribute her strong social media and graphic design skills to the communications team. From creating 140 character tweets to writing up communications plans, Jelena helps manage communication for all CivicAction initiatives across many different channels. Over the past 5 years Jelena 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 run a student-run elections blog.

Now, Jelena is committed to discovering more about how we can use the digital sphere to connect with those around us. She’s started on this journey of delving into the digital sphere by writing a Major Research Project on the presence of social capital in online hashtag communities during a natural disaster.

Alanna Mager

Senior Communications Advisor
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Alanna is an experienced communicator who has worked on some incredible projects in the arts and culture, health, and technology sectors. As Digital Communications Strategist with hitchBOT, she turned the hitchhiking adventures of a robot into a viral, international phenomenon. Most recently with the Wellesley Institute in the role of Communication Assistant, Alanna led online content and digital strategy and was responsible for community management, public relations, graphic design, and event planning. No stranger to CivicAction, she is an active member of the ELN and helped lead communications for ELNstudio 2014. Alanna holds a Master’s degree in Professional Communication from Ryerson University, an Honours Specialization in English Language and Literature from the University of Western Ontario, and is working toward a certificate in Digital/Multimedia Storytelling from the University of Toronto. 

Jodie Rawn

Project Director, Leadership Programs
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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.

Siva Vijenthira

Project Officer
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Siva is a Project Officer on our Escalator: Jobs for Youth Facing Barriers initiative. She is passionate about equity and empowerment across a range of city-building issues. Prior to joining CivicAction, Siva managed city-wide outreach and education initiatives at Cycle Toronto, worked with newcomer youth at CultureLink Canada, and conducted research for the City of Toronto’s Youth Engagement Strategy, which aims to bring more youth into city-building conversations by addressing systemic barriers. Over the next year, she will be helping to implement recommendations from the Youth Engagement Strategy for TOcore, Toronto’s downtown planning consultation process. Siva holds an interdisciplinary degree in Arts & Science from McMaster University.

Linda Weichel

Vice President, Initiatives
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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 guiding the development of initiatives coming out of CivicAction’s 2015 Summit, while sustaining CivicAction’s support for a regional transportation network and the means to pay for it. She is overseeing the final leg of the Race to Reduce that is transforming the commercial real estate market through a landlord-tenant challenge to reduce energy use by at least 10% 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.

Adrianne Yu

Project Officer
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Adrianne Yiu helps coordinate CivicAction’s leadership programs. She has previously worked at the City of Toronto by providing communications support on a transportation demand management program and local food initiative. In the past, she has volunteered for a number of local community organizations, such as the Toronto Environmental Alliance, CultureLink, and Impact First International. Adrianne holds a degree in Environmental Studies from York University and a post-graduate certificate in Public Administration from Humber College. She is passionate about cooking, baking, eating, and talking about food.