BECAUSE THIS IS WHERE WE LIVE

Our Team


WHO WE ARE

 

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 including serving as a member of the Premier’s Community Hubs Advisory Group, the City of Toronto’s Poverty Reduction Strategy Advisory Committee, 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, 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.

Chris Adams

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.

Tamara Balan

Project Director
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Tamara leads CivicAction’s Escalator: Jobs for Youth Facing Barriers initiative, focused on creating economic opportunities for youth, while also meeting the needs of employers. A new mom herself, Tamara also oversees an initiative that aims to provide babies in our region the best start in life – beginning with their first 1000 days.

Tamara has been at CivicAction since 2007. She believes in collective leadership to overcome the status quo and make the Toronto region better. She’s been breaking down barriers across sectors, municipal boundaries and continues to do that in her current work. Tamara holds a Bachelors degree in Urban Studies and Political Science from the University of Toronto. In 2012, Tamara was named a Vital Person by the Toronto Community Foundation.

Neha Bhargava

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 nationwide 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. 

Labiba Chowdhury

Intern
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Labiba joins CivicAction as an intern through the Urban Studies program at the University of Toronto. Passionate about cities and the unique challenges and opportunities they present, she is excited to use her research, analytic and communications skills to support CivicAction’s programs and initiatives. She is a strong proponent of community engagement and multi-sector civic collaboration in enacting meaningful social change.

Labiba is currently in the fourth year of her undergraduate degree, majoring in Urban Studies and minoring in Sociology and Philosophy. Prior to CivicAction, she has worked with the Ministry of Attorney General on program support and evaluation projects, and with Housing Services at U of T on communication and outreach initiatives. At U of T, she is an executive member on both the Undergraduate Sociology Student Union and Amnesty International. In her spare time, she can be found exploring the diverse neighbourhoods and food in Toronto.

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).

Brooke Downey

Office Coordinator
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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.

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 at CivicAction 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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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 and the Space Coalition.

Toota Hassanien

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.

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.

Jelena Lazarevic

Project Coordinator
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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.

Taher Mahmood

Bookkeeper

Taher is a CGA CPA & 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.

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.

Herleen Sayal

Project Assistant, Escalator
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Herleen is the Project Assistant for our Escalator: Jobs for Youth Facing Barriers initiative.  She has over five years of experience in the non-profit and education sector, and has worked on various initiatives across the GTA and internationally to support the development and overall well-being of women, children, and youth. 

Prior to CivicAction, Herleen worked with the YMCA of GTA as a Youth Employment Specialist, coaching and supporting youth with multiple barriers to find meaningful employment opportunities. In addition, Herleen is currently working on a Fellowship with the Laidlaw Foundation, researching factors that contribute to York Region youth dropping out of high school.

Herleen holds a M.Ed specializing in Social Justice Education from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, a Bachelors of Health Sciences from Western University, and is an Ontario Certified Teacher. To further explore her passion in education and community development, Herleen volunteers with the City of Markham’s Race Relations Committee, UnitedWayTYR GenNext Cabinet, and York Region Social Planning Council. In her spare time, Herleen enjoys baking, competitive board games, and reading South Asian novels.

Stevelle Steer

Project Intern, Mental Health In The Workplace
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Stevelle Steer is a recent graduate from the University of Toronto with an Honours Bachelors of Arts with a major in Sociology and double minors in Philosophy and Psychology. He has experience in communications and stakeholder engagement . Previously, he worked in the Ontario Legislative Assembly as a Legislative Usher, and later, as the Student Assistant to the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Stevelle believes in the importance of community involvement and mentorship. He was a mentor with the IMANI Mentorship Program and served as a Peer Academic Coach as a student at the University of Toronto. He has also volunteered as a Youth Justice Committee member at the West Scarborough Neighbourhood Centre. In his free time he enjoys playing soccer.

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 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.

Adrianne Yiu

Program Manager – Leadership Programs
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Adrianne Yiu is a city-builder who is passionate about issues relating to diversity, inclusion and civic engagement. Adrianne helps drive CivicAction’s leadership development initiatives, which include the DiverseCity Fellows program – an award-winning program for rising leaders who are interested in urban issues and impacting change – and the Emerging Leaders Network – a platform to develop, connect, and activate the GTHA’s future leaders. 

Prior to CivicAction, Adrianne worked at the City of Toronto where she provided communications support on a transportation demand management program and local food initiative.

As an avid volunteer, Adrianne sits on the Board of Directors for the Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter, an organization that promotes diversity, equity, social justice, and inclusive civic participation. She has also volunteered with other local organizations such as the Toronto Environmental Alliance, CultureLink, Toronto International Film Festival, Planet in Focus, and Impact First International.

Adrianne holds an honours degree in Environmental Studies from York University and a graduate certificate in Public Administration from Humber College. She is a proud Torontonian/Hong Konger with a serious appreciation for food and people who love food.