2023 Leading Social Justice Collective

LSJC Graphic

APPLY HERE by Wednesday, March 1 2023, 9am ET

What is the Leading Social Justice Collective?

The LSJC is a cross-sectoral leadership development program for individuals engaged in social justice transformation in the GTA, co-hosted by United Way of Greater Toronto and the University of Toronto’s School of Cities. If you’re passionate about social justice, please form a team and join us in 2023.

The LSJC offers network building, project support, and leadership development centred in principles of equity and anti-racism to strengthen participants’ social justice practices and help them make progress on a social justice challenge within their organization or community in the GTA.

APPLY HERE by Wednesday March 1 2023, 9am ET


"This program has truly helped me to think about not just the space I need to be in, but the space I want to be in. I wholeheartedly recommend this program to anyone looking to make a real impact in the world." – Amanda Ottley, The Pamoja Institute


Program Overview

The Leading Social Justice Collective is a free program with financial support available to individuals and teams. See below for more details.

The Leading Social Justice Collective will run from April 20 to July 20 2023. Participants can expect to spend 5-7 hours a week on program activities, including: 

  • Biweekly, VIRTUAL live classes focused on leadership development with a social justice lens
  • In person engagements (kickoff, all day intensive, graduation)
  • Monthly project workshops
  • Monthly team coaching sessions
  • Targeted network building within teams’ focus areas and across sectors
  • Access to research from the University of Toronto (U of T) and living cases from United Way of Greater Toronto (UWGT) and local leaders

This program is a dynamic, diverse learning community. Full participation is essential to creating a quality learning experience for all. We expect each team and individual to actively participate in all live course sessions and monthly coaching sessions. We appreciate that life can change unexpectedly -- participants that attend at least 80% of live course sessions and monthly coaching sessions during the program will be eligible to earn a certificate.

Next Steps:

Course Dates (subject to change):

The dates are in 2023
IN-PERSON Engagements

  • Kickoff Session (6 pm-9 pm) | April 20
  • Saturday Full-day Intensive (9 am-4 pm) | June 10
  • Graduation (6 pm-9 pm) | July 20

Live VIRTUAL Engagements

  • Biweekly Thursdays (6 pm-8:30 pm) | May 4, 18; June 1, 15, 29; July 13
  • Workshops Thursdays (6 pm - 7:30 pm) | May 11; July 6

Course Assignments

  • Acceptance materials | April 10
  • Short team video | May 8
  • Ecosystem map | June 19
  • Final project information | July 6
  • Final project presentation | July 13

    Who is this for?

    Teams of 3 individuals from the private, public and community sector or independent activists addressing a social justice challenge within their organization or community. These individuals and teams should have:

    • Demonstrated leadership, commitment, and capacity in advancing social justice 
    • A mandate from professional or community roles to advance this work OR other support to devote 5-7 hours per week to their team and project
    • An orientation toward systemic and cross-sector solutions. Applicants are encouraged, but not required, to form teams with individuals from different sectors.

    What will I get out of this experience? 

    Participants will become part of a cross-sector network of changemakers equipped with tools and practices to create inclusive and equitable organizations and communities. This will enable them to further develop their own approach to leadership and to advance their social justice project. 

    • Prototyped action plan to address the team’s specific social justice challenge that can be used as a lever or starting point for larger systemic change
    • Skillset to develop ecosystem maps of stakeholders and opportunities to advance change
    • Ability to initiate and lead cross-sectoral and systems-level approaches to tackling social justice challenges 
    • Fluency in critical and reflective practice to identify entrenched biases 
    • Understanding of how to design for the disparate needs of stakeholders, many of whom have been conventionally excluded
    • A U of T and UWGT Leadership Certificate

    It helped us understand the intentionality required to become an impactful, compassionate leader by emphasizing how much leadership requires a personal transformation and never-ending curiosity and humility. We are excited to use learnings from the LSJF to build a community-centric Hub that nurtures a culture of mutual respect, trust, collaboration, and creativity.” -Sundus Haji-Jama and Fatima Mussa, Data for Black Lives - GTA

    LSJC Financial Supports

    • Needs-Based Stipend: The Leading Social Justice Collective offers stipends of up to $1,400 per person to reduce barriers to participation for individuals. Applications will be available after acceptance to the program.
    • Team Project Funding: Every team can apply for up to $2,000 in Team Project Funding to use for the purposes of advancing their project. Applications will open mid-way through the program.

    What is a Social Justice Challenge?

    Applicants should apply with a specific social justice challenge in their organization or community that they would like to make progress on through this program. We define social justice as inclusive of economic and environmental justice issues.

    • Projects should address an issue in the GTA, including but not limited to housing and homelessness; inclusive employment; climate justice; gender-based violence; reconciliation; systemic racism; food justice; inclusive infrastructure and city-building
    • Projects should use a specific starting point or lever to address systemic inequities in the long term 
    • This could be a project you are already working on or a project you have just begun that could benefit from new tools, networks and/or skill sets to create the change you wish to see 
    • Upon acceptance, teams will work with program staff/coaches to map where the project is currently and to set goals for project progress during the program.
    • Past project profiles

    Why now?

    In a time marked by ecological crisis, global reckonings on racial injustice, ongoing impacts of (neo/settler) colonialism, and COVID-19, the Leading Social Justice Collective provided necessary space for creative and diverse city-building practitioners to come together and re-imagine socially just alternatives. From the Participants to the faculty, I am very grateful for those I met throughout this process, and I look forward to the collaborations still to come.” -Lena Phillips, African Centre for Cities

    It is time for collective action to address longstanding, interconnected social, health, housing, and climate justice issues, including Truth and Reconciliation and broader equity and anti-racism imperatives. Now is a rare and unique opportunity to remake our economies, communities, and systems to be more just, inclusive and equitable. Doing so requires leaders in all sectors to act collectively, challenging what we’ve come to accept as normal. Rebuilding requires organizations and communities to equip changemakers with the long-term resources, capacity and agency necessary to initiate and sustain deep change.

    The Team Behind LSJC: 

    Nouman Ashraf (He/Him/His), Academic Director

    Nouman is an Associate Professor, Teaching Stream within the Organizational Behavior area at the Rotman School of Management. Nouman is also the Managing Director of In Nova Consulting. 

    Nouman possesses a broad range of professional, academic and research interests, with a specialized focus on enabling inclusive and innovative practices within teams, organizations and boards. For the last decade and a half, he has held progressively senior roles at the University of Toronto, including most recently as the Director of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion at the Rotman School of Management. He is a recognized thought leader in governance and has taught thousands of directors in the national Rotman program on Not for Profit Governance in partnership with the Institute for Corporate Directors since its inception in 2007. 

    Nation Cheong (He/Him/His), Program Director

    As United Way Greater Toronto’s (UWGT) VP of Community Opportunities and Mobilization, Nation’s role weaves relationships across public and private sector partners and community service agencies to plan and build better communities collectively. Nation oversees UW's Research, Public Policy and Public Affairs strategies, the Indigenous Collaboration Framework, Regional Engagement, and the advancement of Community Benefits practices across the GTA.

    For over 20 years, Nation has dedicated his professional and personal time to community development strategies. He started on the frontlines supporting individuals experiencing chronic mental health, addictions and inadequate housing. His work later focused on positive youth development for young people across the GTA including the influential Youth Challenge Fund and United Way’s Youth Success Strategy. Known for his integrity and ability to bridge diverse perspectives, he is a respected organizational leader, strategic partner, community animator, artist and teacher.

    Sophie Duncan (She/Her/Hers)

    At In Nova, Sophie co-manages the Leading Social Justice Collective and leads our work with sexual and reproductive rights and women’s rights organizations. As a co-manager of LSJC, Sophie works with the team on program design, evaluation, and strategic planning and supports LSJC teams through the management of their projects. 

    Sophie also works on projects related to reducing on-farm climate emissions and supporting farmer livelihoods in Canada. Her previous work includes research on the behavioural effects of Canada’s Food Guide, consultation to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers on a new development strategy, leading food access and community development programming in rural Vermont, and research on gender lens climate investing and international youth development programs. Sophie was also a Fulbright Researcher in Morocco, studying traditional foods and ideas about innovation and authenticity. Sophie holds an MBA from the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management and is a board member at the Fair Finance Fund, a non-profit social finance fund dedicated to providing loans and mentorship services to local food and farm enterprises.

    Daniel Cowen (He/Him/His)

    At In Nova, Daniel co-manages the Leading Social Justice Collective and co-leads the education practice. As co-manager of LSJC, Daniel contributes to the overall strategy of the program, and is tasked with his co-workers to bring the program to life through creating recruitment materials, identifying and securing speakers and arranging other program supports, among other contributions. Daniel also helps manage the Build from Within Alliance, a national network of community development organizations supporting local entrepreneurship in neighbourhoods across the United States.

    Before joining In Nova, Daniel spent four years advancing equity, diversity and inclusion both within organizations and in a broader systemic way at CenterState CEO. As the Deputy Director of Economic Inclusion for the largest regional chamber of commerce in New York, he designed and implemented initiatives that helped the organization’s business membership identify and act on opportunities and barriers to creating a more diverse and inclusive culture. In this role he launched and directed a business development program supporting intergenerational wealth generation in low-income neighbourhoods. 

    Lara Muldoon (She/Her/Hers)

    Lara is the Senior Partnerships Engagement and Projects Officer at the School of Cities. She has experience in the design and delivery of executive and adult education programs both in her current role and during her time at the Toronto Region Board of Trade. She is a world traveller and passionate city-builder who excels at creating partnerships and places to explore the economic, social, and cultural vitality of city regions. A graduate of U of T, Lara has also worked in educational publishing, financial services, and the public sector and served as co-chair of Environmental Education Ontario.

    Sandi Trillo (She/Her/Hers)

    As Senior Manager, Strategic Initiatives, she is part of UWGT’s Community Mobilization and Engagement team, advancing reconciliation and equity as part of UWGT’s mission to address urgent needs and the underlying conditions that contribute to poverty and inequality in Peel, Toronto and York Region. Prior to her work at UWGT, she consulted on strategy, governance and leadership development in the non-profit sector; and on performance improvement in the corporate sector. Sandi is passionate about creativity and learning, multi-sector collaboration, and systems thinking. 
    Tasleem Thawar (She/Her/Hers)