We love working with open-minded, kind-hearted people. Here are some who make our work possible.


Our work is with and for the people of Ottawa. When our city engages its people, it competes with the best cities on the planet.

Current Board & Staff

Aaron G. Burry

Aaron is an accomplished bilingual executive who brings a diverse background and proven track record leading large, medium, and small organizations in the private, health and municipal sectors through periods of significant growth, financial challenges, complex change, and transformations. He has an established track record as top performer for well over 2 decades, turns objectives into results by building forward thinking organizations that are responsive, client service driven, transparent, and financially sustainable.

Ken Victor

Ken is a partner in the Edgework Leadership Group where he focuses on leadership development and facilitation in the private sector. His involvement with engaged citizens began when he was invited to serve as the lead facilitator for Leadership Ottawa’s nine month leadership journey, an experience that fostered his commitment to support citizen engagement. His experience with organizations has run the gamut from coaching senior executives in storytelling, facilitating policy conversations for think tanks, and hosting innovation charrettes for technology companies. Kens’ involvement with designing leadership development programs has received national awards from both the Canadian and the American Society...

Nicole Hurtubise

Nicole Hurtubise comes to Synapcity with extensive experience in fundraising, marketing and community engagement, in Canada and abroad. With a Masters of Arts in Arts Management from RMIT University in Melbourne, she has a proven track record of catalyzing creativity to effect social change, including as former Resource Development & Marketing Director of SKETCH, a Toronto organization that encourages marginalized youth to lead through the arts. As the founder of FutureWalksTO, Nicole has facilitated various community conversations around affordable housing, placemaking and revitalization of arts precincts. She currently works at ORION Ontario’s Research and Education Network as their Manager of...

Nicholas Harrison

Nicholas Harrison is a self-starter and problem-solver who is fascinated by public policy and community building. He is a 2019 alumnus of Civics Boot Camp, sparking his involvement with Synapcity and dedication to its mission. A graduate of the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario, he brings to the organization an experience in tech, business development and venture capital. He currently serves as an associate at BreakawayGrowth Fund, a venture capital firm that helps bold founders build extraordinary companies. A long-time actor in Ottawa, especially at Kanata Theatre and Bell High School, he launched his...

Board & Staff Alumni

Laurel Mackenzie

Laurel brings extensive experience in the non-profit sector, having served in health and social services for well over two decades. She has worked to support some of Ottawa’s most vulnerable populations and has given strong leadership to community engagement and community partnership activities. A long-time resident of Ottawa, her outreach has extended across the province and introduced her to many of the challenges that urban and rural communities face, and the various ways in which they come together to seek solutions around local issues. Laurel supports the Synapcity team and the critical role they play in increasing civic engagement and...

Stephane Pressault

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 has 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. Over the years, he has developed a number of programs and...

Judith Maxwell

Judith Maxwell 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 as a journalist, and has served on the Board of Directors of several large Canadian companies. Since she retired in 2005, she has been involved in the Ottawa community as a volunteer at the Community Foundation of Ottawa and other charities. While at CPRN, Judith was one of the pioneers in deliberative dialogues that give unaffiliated citizens a voice in public policy discussion. That experience convinced her that citizens have a vital role...

Judy Watling

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, improves social capital and is necessary for stronger...

Past Partners & Consultants

Rizwan Mohammad

Rizwan is a researcher, educator, and community builder. A graduate of the University of Toronto (Islamic Studies), he has served Muslim Students' Associations across Canada and coordinated advocacy initiatives for the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM). For ten years, Rizwan coordinated national projects for the Canadian Council of Muslim Women (CCMW). His work focused on mobilizing young Canadians to engage in creative activities designed to strengthen civil society. These projects enabled him to work at the intersections of community, academia and government to explore how active citizenship can help strengthen community resilience and how civic engagement can help prevent...

James Hanington

James is the CEO of Stiff, an Ottawa-based communications company that serves clients in Canada and across the globe. Having spent seven years heading the Asia office in Shanghai prior to assuming his current role, in 2014 he transformed Stiff from a group of writers into a full-service branding, marketing and communications agency. James has a deep understanding of communications strategy and a strong background in brand experience. He has a keen talent for getting into the minds of clients’ prospective audiences and then creating traditional and digital communications products that excite and motivate those audiences to think and act...

Ingrid Richter

Ingrid has 35 years of experience in leadership development focused on government, non-profit and business settings. She is particularly interested in supporting the development of change agents who are working on social development and change in many different settings. As executive-in-residence at Telfer she develops and delivers leadership programs for a wide variety of clients in the private, non-profit and health and public sector. As a partner in Threshold Associates, she has done many international projects supporting leadership development, multi-stakeholder engagement, organizational learning, and capacity-building.

Suzanne Taschereau

Suzanne Taschereau is a fluently bilingual adult learning and organization development specialist with more than 30 years of experience in public, not for profit and community-based organizations in Canada and in over 20 countries of the developing world. She is animated by a passion for building strong and inclusive communities through learning, dialogue, collective action and leadership development.

Mary Pat MacKinnon

Mary Pat is a seasoned engagement professional, with a large portfolio of projects, dealing with complex issues at the community, regional, national and international levels. She has experience and expertise in management, policy, government affairs, writing, facilitation, and stakeholder, public and community engagement. She writes and presents on the theory and practice of engagement and social change for diverse audiences at home and abroad.

support group

Katherine Graham Senior Advisor to the President and Provost at Carleton University   Ginette Gratton TV Host and Co-Producer, Rogers TV   Eli Fathi Chief Executive Officer, Mindbridge, Ai   Jane Hilderman Executive Director, Samara Canada   Kwende Kefentse Municipal Government, Music and Public Speaking

Ethan Kent Senior Vice President, Project for Public Places   Maureen Molot Co-Founder   Carl Nicholson Executive Director, Catholic Immigration Centre   Robert Plitt Executive Director, Evergreen CityWorks

Dianne Urquhart

Executive Director, Social Planning Council of Ottawa   Jonathan Rose Associate Professor, Queen’s University   Maryam Sheidafar Project Manager Consultant

Shauna Sylvester

Director of the SFU Centre for Dialogue

Our History

In 2011, a small group of people got together who shared the same vision for Ottawa—a healthy, happy city where people collaborate together, share ideas and take actions to make the city better.

In 2011, a small group of people got together who shared a vision for Ottawa—a healthy, happy city where people collaborate, share ideas and take actions to make the city better. They wanted to inspire progressive dialogue for positive change between disparate groups: the City, its people and civil society. Inspired by a visit to Citizens Academy in Syracuse, US, Manjit Basi and Ken Victor wanted to create something similar for Ottawa. Over coffee, they convened with three other people who became the founders – Caroline Andrew, Maureen Molot and Judith Maxwell. Citizens Academy was born: a non-partisan social enterprise. Its mission: to provide learning resources, tools and an empathetic environment to enable positive, lasting change in Ottawa. And in turn help people of all backgrounds find their voice and channel their energy into improving our city for all. Thanks to the incredible generosity and knowledge philanthropy of volunteers a curriculum was created. In mid-2013, an anonymous donor provided a generous grant through the Community Foundation of Ottawa. Months later, Citizens Academy received a small community grant from the Community Foundation of Ottawa, and a two-year Ontario Trillium Fund grant to run the first ever Civics Boot Camp in Fall 2013. The organization grew. Synapcity In late 2015, Citizens Academy won a re-brand competition and began working with local communications agency, Stiff. The result of which is Synapcity. This new brand aims to reach a wider circle of people within Ottawa, equipping them with the knowledge and skills they need to achieve their goals for our city—whatever these goals may be.