Ashoka Canada Team
Elisha Muskat, Executive Director, Ashoka Canada
Drawn to the systemic change approach that is the core of Ashoka's work, Elisha has been with Ashoka since 2009 and has been in the role of Executive Director of Ashoka Canada since 2011. Elisha has increased the presence of Ashoka within Canada through strategy, partnerships, program growth, and organizational stability, resulting in greater cross-country and global impact.
Elisha's knowledge of the social entrepreneurship ecosystem has enabled her to bring her expertise onto stages, inside classrooms and into the pages of top publications. Prior to joining Ashoka, Elisha gained experience working primarily within youth development, building and running programs in Toronto, New York City and Syracuse. Elisha has an MBA from Schulich School of Business at York University and a BA in Psychology from McGill University.
Claudia De Simone, Director of Partnerships, Ashoka Canada
Claudia leads fundraising and new partnership development at Ashoka Canada. She previously led the selection of Ashoka Fellows in Canada, Fellowship support, and the development of the Ashoka University Program. She began at Ashoka in 2008, after completing her thesis on environmental education initiatives with women community health workers in Sao Paulo, Brazil. In Brazil and Canada, Claudia co-designed and launched environmental workshops with grassroots community groups, the designs and partnerships of which are still vibrant today. Prior to joining Ashoka, Claudia was a senior writer at CBC.ca, a researcher at York University and a teacher with Equitas' International Human Rights Training Program.
Claudia holds a Masters degree in Environmental Studies, with a diploma in Latin American and Caribbean Studies from York University, and a Bachelor degree of Journalism from Ryerson University.
Jessica Lax, Canada Director, AshokaU
Jess spent a summer supporting the founding team of AshokaU in Washington DC back in 2008, hoping that one day she’d have the opportunity to help bring the program to Canada. Eight years later, Jess returned to Ashoka to lead Ashoka Canada’s university program as our Interim Director of Learning Networks.
Based in Ottawa, Jessica has been working in the education and support of changemakers for 12 years, including the development of a city-wide collaborative focused on social enterprise training, co-founding an online school for changemakers, called School For Change, and coaching hundreds of social entrepreneurs as a consultant. She started this work in 2002 when she co-founded The Otesha Project - a national organization that uses theatre and cycle tours to mobilize young changemakers.
Jessica holds an MBA from Saîd Business School at Oxford University, where she studied as a Skoll Scholar, and a B.A in Biology from Bishop’s University.
Alexis Duclos, Operations Manager and Program Associate, Ashoka Canada
Based out of the global office in Washington DC, Alexis splits her time between the Canada team and the Integrated Technology Initiative (ITI) team as Operations Manager and Project Manager. She is a dual citizen, born in Canada but raised in California, and studied at the University of the Pacific. Before joining Ashoka via the Youth Venture team in 2013, Alexis worked for a variety of organizations engaged in social entrepreneurship; women’s and LGBTQ+ issues; civil rights and social action; economic empowerment, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa; and science and technology. Specific projects included The Vagina Monologues and cementing a PRIDE-focused alumni group.
Alexis holds a Bachelor’s degree in Higher Education and Public Policy with a minor in Anthropology from the University of the Pacific.
Allen started NextGenLeaders to respond to the pressing need to develop our next generation. Leadership supply hasn’t kept up with demand and we need to invest in individuals who will be ready to fill mission-critical roles and lead our organizations.
NextGenLeaders is a collaborative network of 26 Ontario-based management consultants, organization development specialists, and coaches. They use an action-based coaching approach to support senior leaders and their ‘rising stars.’ They help leaders improve the quality and speed of execution, and in the process help the organization expand its capabilities in change management, learning, and talent building.
Allen’s purpose and passion is to help clients achieve their business results and personally grow as leaders. He does this by encouraging people to have the courageous and interesting conversations about their “preferred future,” understand their “current reality,” and develop practical actions for closing the gaps.
Prior to starting NextGenLeaders, Allen was a partner at the firms of Oliver Wyman, Mercer Delta, and Johnston Smith International. With 33 years of experience as an organization and leadership consultant, he wears a variety of hats: strategist, facilitator, organization designer, coach, team builder, and educator. He uses a collaborative, energetic, and creative style, which builds commitment to the change process and leads to innovative problem-solving. He is a Certified Management Consultant (CMC) working with a diverse set of clients in the private, public, and social enterprise sectors.
In his volunteer life, Allen has been closely affiliated with Ashoka Canada. He currently leads the Ashoka Fellows Support Network and helps out on other initiatives. His other major voluntary role is with Civic Action. He helped bring the DiverseCity Fellows program to life and has been a strategic advisor and coach to the program over the past five years.
Lately, Allen has been humming that old folk classic “Kisses Sweeter than Wine” as he thinks about his wonderful and growing family (3 grandchildren so far). When Allen is not with them, he enjoys working in his studio, bicycling, going on canoe trips, hiking, or obsessing in his vegetable garden.
Sheldon Levy, President and Vice Chancellor, Ryerson University
Sheldon is the President of Ryerson University, the first and only designated Ashoka U Changemaker campus in Canada, and has been a respected postsecondary leader and analytical visionary for the past forty years.
Sheldon is recognized for seeing the spark in an evolutionary academic model developed at Ryerson that connects learning and discovery to entrepreneurial and social innovation. He is dedicated to a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion, and encouraging student initiative, engagement and success. His belief in the university's role as city-builder is seen in award-winning campus and community projects such as Ryerson's Mattamy Athletic Centre at the former Maple Leaf Gardens, the Ryerson Image Centre study and exhibition space renowned for its thought-provoking focus on history and current issues, and the architecturally stunning Ryerson Student Learning Centre.
Among his recent distinctions, he was on the list of "The Power 50 Most Influential in Canadian Business Today" (Canadian Business) and the "The 50 Most Influential (Toronto Life)." He also received the 2013 Toronto Region Board of Trade Builder Award and the 2014 Canadian Urban Institute David Crombie Award.
Wendy Cukier, Vice President Research and Innovation, Ryerson University
Wendy is responsible for increasing the University's research and commercialization and chairs the University's Ashoka Changemaker Steering Committee. An expert in innovation processes and entrepreneurship, she is the founder of Ryerson's Diversity Institute and served as the Associate Dean of the Ted Rogers School of Management. A changemaker in her own right, she was named one of 25 Transformation Canadians by the Globe and Mail and one of 100 Alumni who shaped the century by the University of Toronto.
Her many awards include YWCA Woman of Distinction, Top 25 Women of Influence, City of Toronto's Bob Marley Award, Canadian Public Health Association's Award of Merit, and the Meritorious Services Cross, one of Canada's highest honours.
Susan Pigott, Strategic Advisor, Ashoka Canada
Susan joins us following six years at CAMH (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health) where she was Vice President of Communications and Community Engagement. Susan is a lifelong changemaker and closely connected to the social change ecosystem in Canada. Having served as a panelist for Ashoka Canada in 2004, and being a close collaborator with many Canadian Ashoka Fellows, ASN members and advisors, Susan is ideally positioned to support our profile-building and fundraising in Canada. Her experience ranges from introducing beekeeping to the Tari Basin in the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea to co-leading an initiative to modernize income security policy for low income families in Ontario.
Krista Pawley, Strategic Advisor, Ashoka Canada
Krista is a seasoned global communications executive with over 20 years of experience leading global organizations in the public, corporate and social profit sectors. A reputation and culture architect by trade, Krista works with global brand leaders and category disruptors to design reputation and culture strategies that enable them to take their reputations and impact to the next level.
Driven by a passion for empathetic culture and brand building, Krista’s focus is on leveraging design thinking and reputation tools - communications, media, public affairs, CSR, sponsorships and investor relations - to mitigate risks, uncover new opportunities and strengthen organizations’ reputations with all key stakeholders.
Inspired by a deep curiosity and vivid interest in people and cultures, Krista is a proud global citizen and changemaker, living her values in every aspect of her life. Committed to supporting communities at home and abroad, Krista is an active volunteer and advisor to national and international social-profit organizations and has personally helped to raise over $1million to drive social change.
Bill Drayton (President)
Bill Drayton is a social entrepreneur. As a student at Harvard, Oxford and Yale, he founded a number of organizations including Harvard’s Ashoka Table, an interdisciplinary weekly forum in the social sciences, and the Yale Legislative Services to help legislatures across the Northeast.
In 1970, Bill graduated from Yale Law School and began his career at McKinsey and Company in New York. From 1977 to 1981, Mr. Drayton served as Assistant Administrator at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, where he launched emissions trading (the basis of Kyoto) among other reforms. He has also taught at Stanford Law School and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
In 1981, while working part-time at McKinsey and Company in New York, he launched both Ashoka and Save EPA and its successor, Environmental Safety. After being elected a MacArthur Fellow in 1984, he was able to devote himself fully to his career as a social entrepreneur.
Bill is currently the Chair & Chief Executive Officer of Ashoka: Innovators for the Public. He is also Chair of Youth Venture, Community Greens, and Get America Working! and is a trustee of the Black Rock Forest. He is an Honorary Fellow of Balliol College at Oxford University and also of Pennsylvania Law School; Polytechnic University gave him an Honorary Doctor of Laws. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, The National Academy of Public Administration, and the Council on Foreign Relations. Yale’s School of Management gave him its Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence and the Law School its Award of Merit.
Bill has won numerous awards and honors throughout his career. In 2005, he was selected one of America’s Best Leaders by US News & World Report and Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership. Other recognitions include The National Public Service Award from the National Academy of Public Administration and the American Society for Public Administration, the Public Service Achievement Award from Common Cause, the Vanguard Award for Achievements in Nonprofit Law from the American Bar Association, the Conservation Achievement Award from the National Wildlife Federation, the 2007 Goi Peace Award (Japan), and the Civil Society Development Award from the World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations. In 2008, he was recognized by Tufts University’s Institute for Global Leadership with the Dr. Jean Mayer Global Citizenship Award, and Americans for Informed Democracy’s Social Innovator in Smart Investing Award. In 2009, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Yale University.
William Carter (Vice President)
Everyone a Changemaker Leader, Ashoka Africa
Bill Carter was one of Ashoka's founding Board members. After stepping down from the Board of Directors in February 2009, Bill joined Ashoka as its Everyone a Changemaker Leader for Africa. In this role, he guides Ashoka's overall strategy for our programming in Africa. Before working fulltime with Ashoka, Bill was the CEO of an independent power company, the Long Lake Energy Corporation, that developed hydroelectric, cogeneration and other types of power generation which was sold to public utilities in the US and Canada. He also played a leading role in developing Ashoka's Indonesia program starting in 1981. He spent a number of years in McKinsey & Company's international practice and served at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, where he was responsible for wide-ranging management reforms.
Mary Gordon (Secretary)
Founder/President, Roots of Empathy
Mary Gordon is recognized internationally as an award-winning social entrepreneur, educator, author, child advocate and parenting expert who has created programs informed by the power of empathy. Ms Gordon created the aggression/bullying prevention program Roots of Empathy in 1996 and named her not-for-profit organization after the program. Roots of Empathy now offers programs in every province of Canada, New Zealand, the USA, the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, Wales, Scotland, Switzerland and Germany. In 2005, Ms Gordon created the Seeds of Empathy program, a social emotional and early literacy program for 3 to 5 year olds in child care. She is a Member of the Order of Canada, the Order of Newfoundland, an Ashoka Fellow (2002) and Ashoka Globalizer (2011). Ms. Gordon was awarded the Commemorative Medal for the Golden Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in Education (2002) and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for significant achievement and remarkable Service (2012).
Ms Gordon is also the founder of Canada's first and largest school-based Parenting and Family Literacy Centres, which she initiated in 1981. They have become public policy and have been used as a best practice model internationally. Ms Gordon speaks and consults to governments, educational organizations, and public institutions. In the late 90’s The Nelson Mandela Children's Foundation brought Ms Gordon to South Africa to share her parenting expertise. Ms Gordon has also presented to the World Health Organization, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, and the United Nations, among others.
Ms Gordon is the recipient of several prestigious awards recognizing her contribution to innovation in education. In 2009 she received the Public Education Advocacy Award from the Canadian Teachers' Federation.
As a leading expert on empathy, Ms Gordon has had several dialogues with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama has expressed that programs like Roots of Empathy will build world peace.
Ms Gordon has been featured in several documentary films and scholarly books. She frequently appears in popular print and electronic media. Her book Roots of Empathy, Changing the World Child by Child is a Canadian best seller and available in several languages.
CEO, Corporate Knights
Toby is the CEO of Corporate Knights Inc. He spearheaded the first global ranking of corporate sustainability leaders in 2005. Toby sits on the Sustainability Accounting Standards Advisory Board and the University of Toronto’s Environment and Finance Committee. He also is a Director at the Natural Step Canada. Toby has been published in the Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, and the Globe and Mail, and is a regular guest speaker on CBC. In 1998, he played centrefield for the Yugoslav National Baseball Team.
Edward J. Waitzer (Former Treasurer)
Senior Partner, Stikeman Elliott
Ed Waitzer is the Jarislowsky Dimma Mooney Chair in Corporate Governance and is Director of the Hennick Centre for Business and Law at Osgoode Hall and the Schulich School of Business at York University. He was Chair of Stikeman Elliott from 1999 to 2006 and is a senior partner whose practice has focused on complex business transactions. He also advises on a range of public policy and governance matters. He has served (1993-1996) as Chair of the Ontario Securities Commission (and of the Technical Committee of the International Organization of Securities Commissions) and (until 1981) as Vice-President of the Toronto Stock Exchange. He has written and spoken extensively on a variety of legal and public policy issues and serves or has served as director of a number of corporations, foundations, community organizations, editorial boards, and advisory groups. Ed is the former Falconbridge Professor of Law at Osgoode Hall Law School and earned his LL.B. (1976) and LL.M. (1981) from the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto. Called to the Ontario (1978) and the New York (1985) Bars.