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UofT’s School of Cities and United Way Greater Toronto partner to rebuild equitable, inclusive cities in Leading Social Justice Fellowship program

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This moment calls for a new and collective kind of leadership.

February 10, 2021 – Realizing the opportunity for transformational change, UofT’s School of Cities and United Way Greater Toronto have partnered to offer a bold, new leadership development initiative. The intersecting crises of the COVID-19 pandemic, growing income inequality, systemic racism, and climate change remind us that we need deeper solutions to urgent needs. These deeper solutions require cross-sectoral collaboration focused on true transformation of our systems, not temporary fixes.  

“This partnership integrates United Way Greater Toronto’s strong networks and deep history of investing in essential services for vulnerable communities with UofT’s School of Cities’ interdisciplinary approach to urban research, education and engagement,” said Nation Cheong, Vice President, Community Opportunities & Mobilization, United Way Greater Toronto. 

 The Leading Social Justice Fellowship brings together individuals from the public, private, and community sectors working in teams of three to apply intersectional, equity, and anti-racism lenses to social justice challenges they have identified in their organizations and communities.  

The inaugural group of 51 Fellows – organized in 17 teams of 3 – are tackling a wide range of social justice challenges including: bridging the “access gap” in recruitment and hiring in the private sector, how first responders approach mental health emergencies in the African and Black communities, racial equity and trans inclusion in amateur sports leagues, and advocacy for the rights of Personal Support Workers.  

“Leadership development can no longer be separate from the work of building equity and justice,” said Nouman Ashraf, School of Cities faculty affiliate, assistant professor and director of equity, diversity and inclusion at the Rotman School of Management. “The leaders that we need, that this moment demands, recognize that unless we are leading across differences, we are not truly leading.” 

Due to COVID-19, the Fellowship is being delivered through virtual sessions and course materials featuring prominent social justice educators, researchers and practitioners with deep experience reimagining and rebuilding equitable communities. Guest speakers include Nana Aba Duncan, Executive Director of Media Girlfriends podcast company and host at CBC Radio, Peter Dinsdale, President and CEO of YMCA Canada, Leila Sarangi, Director of Social Action and National Coordinator, Campaign 2000 at Family Service Toronto, and more.   

Fellows will have access to individual coaching and mentorship, seed money to assist in project expenses, a bursary program, and access to University of Toronto research tools and library system.  

The program kicks off on February 11, 2021 and runs through June 2021. Fellows will be encouraged to document and share their progress along the way, culminating in a virtual public presentation of their work. Follow #LeadershipMatters & #LSJ21 for updates. 

“Collaboration is wasted if it doesn’t lead to meaningful impact,” said Ashraf. “We have designed this program with and not for the leaders who are demanding real change. They want to be part of the impact they seek.” 


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