Community-Builders Fellowship

The Community-Builders Fellowship provides a funded, capacity-building opportunity for teams of three people who are committed to working on an initiative or project related to neighbourhood change in the Toronto region. 

The program will equip fellows to advance their knowledge and capabilities as community-builders and leaders.

It will provide participating teams with the opportunity to:

  • Participate in a series of monthly in-person learning seminars that focus on building participants’ skills and understanding in areas including: urban leadership, diversity and inclusion, organizational development, community-based research, and policy processes;
  • Be matched with a U of T faculty member to exchange research, knowledge and ideas through 2-3 mentorship meetings;
  • Receive a stipend of $2,000 to support the pursuit of a community-based initiative that addresses the broad theme of neighbourhood change; and
  • Join an alumni network of Community-Builders Fellows.

If you are a community-based leader working on an urban advocacy initiative, policy intervention or placemaking effort, and would like to participate in a fellowship program focused on building neighbourhood capacity through learning and exchange, this program is ideally suited to you. 

Applications for the Community-Builders Fellowship are now closed. More information on the 2020-21 program will be announced in Fall 2020.

The program will run from September 2019 to June 2020, with seminars hosted by the School of Cities.

Monthly seminars will be held on the following dates from 6:00-8:00 P.M. at locations to be confirmed. Dinner will be provided at 5:30 P.M. in advance of each session. 

  • Tues. Sept. 24, 2019
  • Tues. Oct. 22, 2019
  • Tues. Nov. 19, 2019
  • Tues. Jan. 21, 2020
  • Tues. Feb. 11, 2020
  • Tues. Mar. 10, 2020

In addition to these seminar meetings, each fellowship team will be matched with a U of T faculty member to exchange research, knowledge and ideas through 2-3 mentorship meetings.

Teams are expected to lead a public presentation at the end of the program and share their work. Fellows are welcome to schedule their public presentation after the seminars conclude, and no later than June 30, 2020.

Participants may include non-profit employees or board members, volunteers or those otherwise active in community in the Toronto region.

To be eligible, members of applying teams must:

  • Have at least one employee of a non-profit community agency partner on the team;
  • Not be currently enrolled in a university degree program; and
  • All be working on the same neighbourhood initiative/project.

The Community-Builders Fellowship is open to candidates from various backgrounds, including those who may need accommodation. We are committed to creating a meaningful opportunity through this Fellowship by incorporating different backgrounds, perspectives and ideas.

A total of six fellowship teams will be selected to participate.

An Information Session was held Thursday, July 18.

The Information Session addresses:

  • Eligibility criteria; 
  • Application process;
  • Examples of city-building initiatives (such as urban advocacy, policy intervention, and placemaking activities);
  • Program outline and timeline; and
  • Questions from participants.

Additional questions are welcome at any time (

Prof. Nouman AshrafNouman Ashraf
Faculty Lead

Nouman Ashraf 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 teaching 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. 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.

Winner of numerous teaching awards, Nouman teaches Emancipatory Leadership within the GEMBA program, Leading Social Innovation with the 2 and 3 year MBA program and Leading Across Differences within the Rotman Commerce Program.

Nouman has advised numerous organizations across sectors including Shoppers Drug Mart, Tory’s, the Canada Pension Plan and Investment Board, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the Ontario Trillium Foundation, United Way Toronto, and numerous post-secondary and healthcare institutions.

Nouman serves as Teaching Fellow at the Institute for Gender + the Economy. He is also an Associate at Trinity College within the University of Toronto.

At lunch time, he can be found at Massey College within the University of Toronto, where he mentors exceptional post-graduate students in his capacity as Senior Fellow Emeritus.

Nakia Lee-Foon

Nakia Lee-Foon
Research Assistant

Nakia is a PhD candidate in the Social and Behavioural Health Sciences division of the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto. Her award-winning research focuses on exploring the sexual health literacy of young, self-identified Black-African, Caribbean and Canadian gay, bisexual, queer, non-hetero+ youth in Toronto, Ontario. Nakia completed her Master of Health Sciences with specialization in Community Health from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. She has experience teaching in the community and at the undergraduate and graduate levels at several Ontario universities. Additionally, Nakia has assisted with the curriculum development of a post-doctoral fellowship as well as courses focused on survey design 101 and beginner and intermediate program evaluation.

Prof. Shauna Brail

Shauna Brail Associate Director Outreach and Partnerships, School of Cities

Shauna Brail, PhD is an Associate Professor in the Urban Studies Program, Associate Director, Partnerships & Outreach, School of Cities at the University of Toronto. She is also Director of the Urban Studies Program. She is a champion of experiential learning, and led the development of academic internships and community engaged learning in the Urban Studies Program for over a decade, working with students, university administrators and partners at urban-focused institutions across the city. From 2015-2018, Brail was the Presidential Advisor on Urban Engagement, and worked both within and outside of the university to develop partnerships and support initiatives which enhanced the university’s strategic priority of leveraging our location(s). Prior to joining the University, she worked in management consulting and in the Ontario provincial government. As an economic geographer, Brail’s research focuses on the transformation of cities as a result of economic, social, and cultural change. Her current research examines the disruptions taking place in urban mobility, particularly focused on the emergence and shifting strategies of ride-hailing firms and associated impacts on cities.

Q: Can I have more than three people on my team? 
A: The Fellowship program currently has the capacity to accommodate only three members per team. However, teams are welcome to share ideas and learnings from the Fellowship with others in their organization or community.

Q: Can I apply by myself?
A: All teams must be comprised of three members. We see collaboration and working with partners as a key part of a successful project and a key learning. 

Q: What is the time commitment involved?
A: The Community-Builders Fellowship program runs from September 2019 to June 2020 and includes an estimated twelve hours of programming, in six in-person learning seminars held between September and March. Seminars will take place on weekdays and evenings. At least one member of the team is expected to attend each seminar. In addition teams can expect to spend one hour in preparation for each seminar and one hour on follow-up after each seminar.

Fellows will also work on their team initiative and plan a public presentation for their peers and therefore must be able to meet regularly with their team members and complete related work.

In addition, it is anticipated that Fellows will meet with their faculty mentor two to three times over the Fellowship term. Project team and mentorship meetings take place outside of the Fellows seminars.

Successful candidates will receive a comprehensive program schedule at the first session in September.

Q: What are the timelines for project completion?
A: The seminars will run from September 2019 to March 2020. Fellows are welcome to schedule their public presentation after the seminars conclude, and no later than June 30, 2020. Assistance is available for teams in scheduling their presentation.

Q: Can I apply with more than one project or initiative?
A: You are not limited to one project/initiative, but you must prepare a separate application for each idea. We encourage you to focus on the idea that you think would be the most appropriate fit for the Fellowship.

Q: Do I need a non-profit organization as part of my team? What role do they play?
A: Yes, all teams require at least one member who is an employee of a non-profit organization. The non-profit organization is required at a minimum to receive and administer the funds.

Q: What does the selection process look like?
A: Applications will be reviewed by a selection committee comprised of representatives from the School of Cities, community members, and United Way Greater Toronto. Successful applicants will be contacted by the end of August, 2019.

Q. What flexibility does the team have in using the stipend?
A: Each team will be provided with a $2,000 stipend. The stipend can be used to support any costs incurred as part of participating in the Fellowship and is intended to reduce financial barriers to participation.

Q. What initiatives/projects are eligible?
A: We welcome any urban advocacy initiative, policy intervention or place-making effort that addresses a challenge you’ve identified in your neighbourhood.

In partnership with: 

United Way Greater Toronto