Our Team



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.

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.

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).

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.

Toota Hassanien

Project Coordinator – 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.

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

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.

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.

Herleen Sayal

Project Intern, Escalator
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Herleen is the Project Intern 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 wellbeing of women, children, and youth. 

Prior to Civic Action, 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.

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

Project Officer
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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.