Leading Social Justice Fellowship

Leading Social Justice Fellowship - This moment calls for courage and a different kind of leadership.


What is the Leading Justice Fellowship?

Born out of a unique partnership between United Way Greater Toronto and U of T’s School of Cities, the Leading Social Justice Fellowship is a bold, new leadership development initiative for individuals from the public, private, and community sectors who want to rebuild an equitable and inclusive city.

This partnership integrates United Way Greater Toronto’s strong networks and deep history of work in communities with UofT’s School of Cities’ interdisciplinary approach to urban research, education and engagement. We aim to cultivate a 'fellowship' of leaders who will walk forward together and support one another—during and beyond the program—to drive actions that advance social justice across sectors and in communities.

The Leading Social Justice Fellowship is designed for teams of three people who are interested in dismantling systemic inequalities and building an inclusive and equitable society. 


Why Now?

The intersecting crises of the COVID-19 pandemic, systemic racism, and climate change have disproportionately impacted the most vulnerable in our communities. Social justice movements such as Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, Idle No More, and Fridays for Future have shone a spotlight on social inequities and captured the imagination of many. Realizing the opportunity for transformational change in this moment calls for courage and a different kind of leadership.

These crises reminds us that we need deeper solutions to urgent needs. These deeper solutions require cross-sectoral collaboration that is focused on true transformation of our systems, not temporary fixes. Creating systemic solutions challenges us to create connections between the latest research on these issues and the reality of how they manifest themselves in our communities.


The Team behind the Fellowship

Fellowship Faculty 

Prof. Nouman Ashraf


 Nouman Ashraf (He/Him/His)

Nouman is an Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream within the Organizational Behavior area at the Rotman School of Management.
He 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's headshot


Nation Cheong (He/Him/His)

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.
As United Way's VP of Community Opportunities and Mobilization, his 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.



Prof. Matti Siemiatycki


Matti Siemiatycki (He/Him/His)

Matti Siemiatycki is a Professor in the Department of Geography & Planning, Canada Research Chair in Infrastructure Planning and Finance and Interim Director at the School of Cities. His research focuses on delivering large-scale infrastructure projects, public-private partnerships, and the effective integration of infrastructure into the fabric of cities. 
Professor Siemiatycki was a faculty leader of StudentMoveTO, a joint initiative between the University of Toronto, York, Ryerson and OCADU that successfully developed a model for inter-university research collaboration and mobilization on city-building issues. 
Professor Siemiatycki is a highly engaged public scholar with a deep commitment to informing public discourse about city building. He regularly provides advice to governments, civic institutions and industry, and is a frequent commentator in the media and public realm on urban issues, with a honed ability to communicate with various audiences.


Fellowship Staff


Sophie Duncan's headshot

Sophie Duncan (She/Her/Hers)

Sophie is a researcher and consultant working at the intersections of social, economic, and environmental justice issues. Sophie has a particular focus on the role of food systems in building vibrant, equitable, and sustainable rural communities. She has worked with small-scale farmers and producers in the United States and Morocco, led food access and community development programming in Vermont, and consulted with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and the Fair Food Program. Sophie’s research includes Behavioural Insights research on Canada’s Food Guide and the role of guidelines as well as food systems research in Morocco as a Fulbright Research Grantee. Sophie is a Principal consultant at In Nova Consulting, a group specializing in organizational design and diversity, equity and inclusion. Sophie holds an MBA from the University of Toronto and is currently a Board member at the Fair Finance Fund.




Daniel Cowen headshot

Daniel Cowen (He/Him/His)

Daniel brings a broad set of experiences on advancing equity, diversity and inclusion both within organizations and in a broader systemic way. 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. 
When completing his MBA at Rotman, he continued to lead evaluation and resource development for the Build from Within Alliance, a cohort of entrepreneurship programs in 50 neighborhoods across the United States that aim to help marginalized individuals and neighbourhoods revitalize their own communities. Dan is a Principal consultant at In Nova Consulting, a group specializing in organizational design and diversity, equity and inclusion. 



Lara M



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.



This fellowship has also benefited from the invaluable contributions of many co-designers. We are grateful to Andrea Aramayo Balboa, Chris Brillinger, Debbie Douglas, Kandy Kennedy, Kwame McKenzie, Abigail Moriah, Naki Osutei, Anowa Quarcoo, Jennifer Sylvester, Leslie Woo and many others for sharing their insights, expertise, feedback, and time.


Watch this Information Session to learn more about the Leading Justice Fellowship:

Leading Social Justice Fellowship Information Session - 24 November, 2020


In Partnership with 

United Way Greater Toronto














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