Who We Are
A city is its people.
Founded by a group of passionate individuals in 2011, Synapcity works to amplify the voices of the people of Ottawa.
We bring people and institutions together and give them the tools to make our city more beautiful, more diverse and more prosperous for all.
At Synapcity, we believe that overcoming our city’s challenges brings it closer to reaching its full potential. When this happens, citizens move closer to reaching their own.
In 2011, inspired by a visit to Citizens Academy in Syracuse, New York, Manjit Basi and Ken Victor convened a small group of people made up of Caroline Andrew, Maureen Molot and Judith Maxwell.
They all shared a vision for Ottawa, that of inspiring progressive dialogue for positive change between the City, its people and civil society, and of a healthy and happy city where people collaborate, share ideas and take action to make it better.
Birth of Citizens Academy (former name)
Launch of marquee program – Civics Boot Camp
Rebrand to Synapcity – “the synapses of the city”
Celebrating 10 years in the community
Synapcity is a non-profit organization, incubated since 2013 by the Social Planning Council of Ottawa (SPCO), a registered charitable organization (107987208 RR 0001).
nicholas hebb, program director
Throughout his career, Nick Hebb has worked with several nonprofit and community-based organizations to help them deliver dynamic events and campaigns around the country. In 2017, he began working for the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association (OSEA) as Principle Coordinator on the Canada wide Green Energy Doors Open (GEDO) Campaign. Most recently, during his tenure at SMARTNet Alliance (SNA), he has been working to increase awareness of sustainable solutions at a local level. No matter his role, helping to support and promote sustainability has been in constant in Nick’s career.
Nicholas Harrison, board member
Nick loves making great things bigger and is fascinated by public policy and community building. A graduate of the Ivey Business School at Western University, he currently serves as an associate at two venture capital firms – the BreakawayGrowth Fund and Communitech’s True North Fund. He likes to be involved wherever he can bring value, whether it’s fundraising, strategy or operations.
A former actor at Kanata Theatre, Bell High School and in the Ottawa Fringe Festival, Nicholas launched his own company Trivial Theatre while at school in London, Ontario.
Susan Johnston, board member
Susan is passionate about dialogue and in creating new spaces for people to learn and collaborate on topics they care about. Susan is a federal public servant based at the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat. She has had the privilege of hosting radio programs on CKCU FM in Ottawa since 1999. She has worked with Community Mediation Ottawa and the Canadian Institute for Conflict Resolution to help people and groups strengthen their capacity to talk through and learn from their differences. In 2014, she co-founded Ottawa (de)tours, a social enterprise with a mandate to help people explore and discuss all things Ottawa.
Anjali Ramburn, board member
Anjali brings a youth perspective to Synapcity. She has extensive experience in co-creating social impact projects around diversifying and democratizing access to quality experiential learning opportunities in Ottawa for BIPOC youth, women, and neurodivergent communities. Anjali was formerly a member of the Ottawa Youth Engagement Committee (OYEC) and worked in collaboration with the City of Ottawa to engage and amplify the diverse voices of youth. In 2019, she founded Createpreneur, a social enterprise focused on connecting cross-generational disrupters to incubate & accelerate impact.
Sharif Virani, board member
Sharif Virani is an environmental scientist with a rebellious right-brain. He has a background in media and technology and has had experience working on creative and engaging advocacy campaigns at the government, industry and non-profit levels. His past experience in e-commerce, SME growth marketing, public advocacy/education and corporate relations, has developed into a capacity for evolving plans and campaigns aimed at achieving measurable results in the tri-sectoral implementation of targeted digital and social media strategies.
More recently he has refocused his career towards development focused specifically on projects/initiatives designed for measurable maximum social impact and geared towards more effective, sustainable and affordable solutions for the intended end-users.
Glen Barber, board member
Glen was born and raised in Ottawa and studied economics at Carleton University. In the past he worked for the federal government and now works as an IT Consultant and Auditor. He volunteers with a number of not-for-profits and community organizations across the city. He lives with his wife in Orleans.
Gwendolyn Cormier, board member
Gwendolyn was born and raised in Ottawa, and has always been interested in municipal affairs. With a background in social work and recreation, Gwendolyn now works for the Federal Government. She has volunteered for many community groups, such as the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women, and currently sits as a member of the grants committee with Youth Action Now.
Gwendolyn holds a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Toronto, and a Bachelor of Social Work degree from Carleton University.
Glennys Egan, board member
Glennys is a partnership builder and strategic communicator who is passionate about bringing people together for impact. Before joining the federal public service in 2020, she spent nearly a decade working on social innovation initiatives across Canada, East Africa, and at the global level. Glennys has been an active contributor to the Ottawa community through organizations like Horizon Ottawa and JustChange Ottawa, and as a board member for the Ottawa Rape Crisis Centre and Arc Poetry Magazine. She holds a Master of Arts in Political Economy from Carleton University.
Past and Present Collaborators
Judy spent 31 years in the federal public service, where she had the opportunity to work on many different areas of public policy that affect the lives of Canadians. Judy was very fortunate to have the privilege to spend four years at Canadian Policy Research Networks, doing research on public engagement and leading national dialogues with randomly recruited citizens on a variety of public policy issues. All this work helped to shape Judy’s strong belief that respectful, meaningful dialogue that engages people with different perspectives results in better public policies and programs and is necessary to get stronger communities.
Aaron G. Burry
Aaron Burry is a bilingual executive who brings a diverse background leading organizations of all sizes in the private, health and municipal sectors. Through periods of significant growth, financial challenges, complex change, and transformation, he has shown great strength in leading organizations to new heights. His career has been spent focusing on turning objectives into successful results by building forward-thinking, responsive, client-driven, transparent and financially-sustainable organizations. As a long-time supporter of Synapcity, he passionately believes in the value of city-building and civic involvement, and of making Ottawa a city of highly engaged residents.
Laurel brings extensive experience in the non-profit sector, having served in health and social services for well over two decades. A long-time resident of Ottawa, her outreach has extended all across the province and introduced her to many of the challenges facing urban and rural communities. Dedicated to the cause of Ottawa’s most vulnerable populations, she has mastered the art of collaboration and partnership for the sake of organizational success, positioning herself as a true community leader. Laurel is currently working to support youth living with complex mental health and behavioural needs.
An experienced leader of teams with a demonstrated history of growing social innovation programs and engaging diverse thinkers and doers, Laine Johnson is currently the Director of Tenant and Community Engagement at the Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation and is running for City Council in College Ward. Laine holds a Master of Philanthropy and Non-Profit Leadership from Carleton University and is a loyal Ottawa resident with a killer work ethic and unparalleled passion for organizational health and development in the non-profit sector.
Born and raised in Ottawa, Stephane has grown roots in this city he loves and where he’s chosen to settle with a family of his own. He first came to Synapcity with a background in ethics and philosophy and an experience in civic education, consulting for various projects in Ottawa and across Canada. Stephane specializes in civic literacy, curriculum design, public engagement and community resilience, and has been volunteering on many initiatives at the community level. A great thinker, he enjoys a good debate, especially if it relates to “the commons” or placemaking.
Ken Victor has had a varied career in both education and organizational development. He taught English for five years in Syracuse University‘s degree-granting prison education program. He worked with Outward Bound for fifteen years in the U.S. and Canada, where he directed its Professional Development Program. That experience led Ken to a corporate career in leadership development, learning design & facilitation, and team effectiveness. His passion for civic engagement was sparked by his years as a lead facilitator for Leadership Ottawa. A poet, Ken is the author of the collection We Were Like Everyone Else (Cormorant Books).
Building on her experience as one of Canada’s pioneers in deliberative dialogues in the early 2000s, Judith Maxwell is committed to creating opportunities for unaffiliated citizens to develop their voice on issues important to the well-being of Ottawans. Her own voice has made a difference on a range of social and economic policy issues since the 1970s. She was the Founding President of Canadian Policy Research Networks [CPRN] and Chair of the Economic Council of Canada. She has worked as a consultant and a journalist, and has served on the Board of Directors of several large Canadian companies. Since retiring in 2005, she has been actively volunteering in the Ottawa community.
For the past 35 years, Manjit Basi has been a founder, entrepreneur, coach, learning facilitator, advisor, and consultant in the business, voluntary, and government sectors. She is skilled at weaving disparate pieces into strategic coherency and fostering generative thinking. She believes that the wisdom of the room is far greater than any one individual. Manjit has served as Board Member of the Ottawa Community Foundation, Leadership Ottawa, the Ottawa Community Loan Fund, Immigrant Women Services Ottawa and others, and is currently Chair of the Harry P. Ward Foundation and the Telus Ottawa Community Board.
After 40 years doing urban research to help build inclusive cities for women and girls in all their diversity, Caroline Andrew retired as Director of the Centre on Governance at the University of Ottawa in 2020. A major contribution of hers was Youth Futures involving the City of Ottawa, Ottawa Community Housing, the Ottawa post-secondary sector and many community agencies. Caroline also implemented the Equity and Inclusion Lens along with the City for all Women Initiative, the City of Ottawa and the Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership (OLIP), and was involved in many community boards, including the Community Foundation of Ottawa, the Lowertown Community Resource Centre, the Catholic Centre for Immigrants, and Synapcity. She received the Order of Ottawa in 2013, and the Order of Canada in 2014.
Maureen Appel Molot is a Professor Emeritus and former director of The Norman Paterson School of International Affairs (NPSIA), at Carleton University in Ottawa Canada. She retired from Carleton at the end of June 2007. She has a BA and MA from McGill University and a PhD. from
the University of California at Berkeley. Her research focused on a number of areas, including the auto industry in North America, Canada-US economic relations, the North American Free Trade Agreement, and Canadian foreign economic policy. She has been fortunate to have held a number of positions in the voluntary sector, among them President of the Ottawa Vaad Ha’Ir, Chair and a 13-year board member of the Community Foundation of Ottawa, and a member of the board of Community Foundations of Canada.
Ready to Make a Change?
Through our civic engagement programs, passionate citymakers are empowered to make change.