Our Team

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, as well as 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.


Yeleka Barrett, Venture Representative, Ashoka Canada

Yeleka has been with Ashoka Canada since 2011. Beginning first in an administrative capacity, she now leads the search and selection of Ashoka Fellows in Canada. Prior to Ashoka, Yeleka worked for Scotiabank in their wealth management division. Yeleka holds a BA in Kinesiology from the University of Western Ontario, and a BASc in Public Health from Ryerson University. Yeleka has extensive volunteer experience, including spending 2 months in Zanzibar, Tanzania with Youth Challenge International working with local community based organizations on youth employment, peer education, and HIV/AIDS awareness and stigma reduction campaigns. She also completed a CIDA internship as a Capacity Building Officer in Kilimanjaro, Tanzania where she spent 7 months working to integrate and provide support for projects run by the charity Canadian Support of Rural African Initiatives (CSRAI). Yeleka served as a member of the Board of Directors and Project Committee Chair for CSRAI until 2012. She is especially passionate about community health development and innovative solutions to health care.


Kelly Hall, Strategic Communications, Ashoka Canada

Kelly joined Ashoka as an intern in the Fall of 2014 where upon she created the 2013-2014 Annual Report. In her current role, Kelly's work focuses on the development of Ashoka Canada's strategic communications by means of engaging content and stories of impact. Kelly also assists in areas surrounding donor relations, events and media support. Previous to Ashoka Canada, Kelly worked in a communications capacity for some of the largest companies in Canada, giving careful attention to projects under the Corporate Social Responsibility umbrella. Kelly holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and History from Wilfred Laurier University as well as a certificate in Public Relations from Conestoga College.


Jessica Lax, Director of Learning Networks

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.


Strategic Volunteers

Allen Hirsh

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 5 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, opening this winter on Toronto's Yonge Streer as the new university gateway.

Among his recentdistinctions, 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)", and 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 higest 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  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


Board Members

Bill Drayton (President)
CEO, Ashoka

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, and 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.


Bill Carter

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 it’s 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 was the first female Canadian Ashoka Fellow. She is recognized internationally as an educator, best-selling author, child advocate and parenting expert who has created programs informed by the power of empathy. In 1996, she founded Roots of Empathy, which now offers programs in Canada, New Zealand, the United States, the Isle of Man, the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Mary 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 in Ontario, with hundreds of schools involved. They have been used as a best practice model internationally.

Mary speaks and consults to governments, educational organizations, and public institutions. She is the recipient of several prestigious awards recognizing her contribution to innovation in education and international social entrepreneurship, including the 2009 Public Education Advocacy Award from the Canadian Teachers' Federation. Her 2005 Canadian bestseller, Roots of Empathy: Changing the World Child by Child, was ranked as one of the Top 100 Books of the Year by the Globe and Mail. She was a recipient of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee medal for her outstanding commitment to education. She is a member of the Executive Board of Directors of Ashoka and a Member of the Order of Canada.


Toby Heaps 
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.


Ed Waitzer

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.