2021 Young Impact Leaders: 21 social change intrapreneurs to watch
From coast to coast to coast, these young changemakers are making Canada’s social purpose organizations more resilient and impactful
Why It Matters
Intrapreneurship is essential to a resilient social impact world. But intrapreneurs — and particularly young people — working within organizations are too rarely celebrated for the world-changing work they do every day.
It’s often the entrepreneurs and founders who get the most accolades for their work. And rightly so, in many cases — starting something new takes courage.
But what also takes an incredible amount of courage, but with far less public recognition, is working to better the social impact sector from the inside. These professionals are called intrapreneurs: people who push the boundaries of their organizations’ practices, programs and policies in order to do good better.
A strong team of intrapreneurs is what makes an organization — and ultimately, a community — resilient and innovative. Presented by RBC Future Launch and supported by MENTOR Canada, Future of Good’s second annual list of 21 young impact leaders celebrates young people doing this game-changing work, day in and day out.
A selection committee* of leaders and social change experts from across the country carefully pored through hundreds of nominations for this year’s list to narrow it down to 21 incredible intrapreneurs under the age of 39.
*Scroll to the bottom of the story for a list of selection committee members.
Alyssa Luttenberger (She/her)
Director of impact, development and granting, Canadian Roots Exchange
Alyssa Luttenberger oversees the Canadian Roots Exchange Community Support Fund, which provides grants to grassroots projects serving Indigenous youth. Luttenberger designed a process that put money in recipients’ hands in less than three weeks, and has now grown the fund to a multi-million dollar granting program. “Being able to support projects that were rising up from community is something that was so powerful to do,” Luttenberger says.
Amnesty Cornelius (She/her and they/them)
Support specialist, Coalition Against the Sexual Exploitation of Youth, Thrive
Amnesty Cornelius coordinates a provincial coalition of organizations in Newfoundland and Labrador committed to ending the sexual exploitation of young people. And last year, Cornelius worked with the Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking to create a national community of practice around the issue. Cornelius’s nominator describes them as “resilient, brilliant, and someone who makes and inspires change in their communities.”
Brigette DePape (She/her)
Grants specialist, Winnipeg Foundation
With 10 years experience in the non-profit world, Brigitte DePape is responsible for a number of the Winnipeg Foundation’s granting streams. She recently helped create the Walk Together grants for youth-led Truth and Reconciliation projects. She also spent much of 2020 helping to develop and deliver the foundation’s stabilization grants for organizations struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic, an experience she calls “rewarding.”
Bruno Lam (He/him)
Manager of research and operations, Canvas Impact
Bruno Lam works at Canvas Impact, an impact investment advisory firm based in Vancouver, BC. Lam has worked on a number of big projects with Canvas’s clients, not the least of which being the launch of the TELUS Pollinator Fund for Good, where he helped the team identify early ventures and assess their impact change theory. Lam’s nominator describes him as “the epitome of a quiet leader,” and says he’s had “an astounding level of impact” within the Canvas Impact organization.
Courtney Rink (She/her)
Manager of community engagement, Conexus Credit Union
As the COVID-19 pandemic hit North America last spring, Courtney Rink and her team redirected their focus toward the credit union’s crowd-sourced Kindness Capital Fund, which granted $5,000 each to 42 businesses and community members who responded to the pandemic in inspiring ways. Rink describes this project as the one that made the biggest impact on her, her team, and her community this past year.
Danisha Bhaloo-Shivji (She/her)
Development and communications manager, Boys & Girls Club Big Brothers Big Sisters of Edmonton & Area
After returning from maternity leave, Danisha Bhaloo-Shivji and her team were reflecting on what the pandemic has meant for the children and families they work with — and the resilience so many of them have shown. They decided to create a “good news” video highlighting this resilience, which “uplifted so many people, including (Bhaloo-Shivji’s) team members, staff, volunteers, and families” she works with. Bhaloo-Shivji is also a new mother, and credits making it through postpartum anxiety as the “project” she’s most proud of this year.
Darryl de Dios (He/him)
Youth engagement coordinator, Volunteer Alberta
Darryl de Dios works for an organization supporting Alberta’s non-profit sector. When the pandemic began, de Dios completely resigned the organization’s seven-month social lab to be delivered digitally. “His quick thinking helped our participants develop two meaningful prototypes including an environmental asset map and a zine advocating for incorporating more BIPOC youth experiences in climate dialogue,” de Dios’s nominator says.
Doussouba Konaté (She/her)
Global program manager, Accountability Lab
Described by her nominator as a “world class intrapreneur,” Doussouba Konaté “works every day to make governments more accountable to citizens. She is able to build bridges among people and connect dots.” Most recently, Konate created the Accountability Lab’s CivicActs program, which is working to counter pandemic-related misinformation in 10 countries around the world.
Fae Johnstone (She/her and they/them)
Principal consultant, Wisdom2Action
Fae Johnstone is a community organizer, 2SLGBTQ+ advocate, and principal consultant at Wisdom2Action, which helps non-profits, health and social services, governments and other organizations facilitate change. Fae’s nominator says she “has been instrumental in supporting Wisdom2Action advocacy efforts to move forward a federal conversion therapy ban, increase support for 2SLGBTQ+ community organizations, and address the unique safety and health needs of trans communities in Canada.”
Fatima Al-Samak (She/her)
Program Manager, Mothers Matter Centre
Fatima Al-Samak’s 10 years in social impact work has led her to Mothers Matter Centre in Vancouver, BC, which works with mothers facing systemic barriers. Fatima’s most rewarding recent project was a ‘Stay ‘N’ Play’ program, which provided parents who were self-isolating alone with their kids with a weekly schedule of at-home activities informed by critical components of development, like physical activity, playtime, learning time, and family time.
Gwendolyn Natsiq (She/her)
Educator, Inukshuk Infant Development Centre
Described by her nominator as “an exceptional Inuk leader who is committed to promoting Inuit culture and language and the overall wellbeing of young people in her community,” Gwendolyn Natsiq works at a childcare centre while going to school to become a teacher. Natsiq also worked as a youth ambassador to the youth mental health organization Jack.org, to bring its Northern Jack Summit to life.
Jessica Farber (She/her)
Community readiness coordinator, SeeChange
With a background in international development, Jessica Farber’s work focuses on community readiness at SeeChange, an organization that works to help communities develop and lead their own solutions to health issues they face. When the pandemic hit, Farber worked “tirelessly,” her nominator says, to roll out a toolkit that helps communities prepare for and respond to COVID-19.
Juanita Gnanapragasam (She/her)
Diversity and inclusion advisor, Edmonton Foundation of Community Leagues
Before June 2020, Juanita Gnanapragasam was working in a different position supporting Edmonton’s community leagues. But after George Floyd’s murder and the uprising of the current Black Lives Matter movement, Gnanapragasam co-created with her team the role of diversity and inclusion advisor. She’s since created and rolled out a course on inclusion specifically for community leagues and hosts monthly community meetings where citizens gather to talk about inclusion.
Julie Segal (She/her)
Senior analyst, impact investing, McConnell Foundation
At the McConnell Foundation, Julie Segal has an important mandate: overseeing impact investing activities and developing a strategy for a just transition across the foundation’s portfolio of assets. She was also involved in the foundation’s COVID response, designing a granting stream that allowed community members to support their local small businesses, and is currently working on a social justice lens through which to evaluate the foundation’s impact investing.
Katie Davey (She/her)
Policy lead, Public Policy Forum
As part of her role at Public Policy Forum, Katie Davey created a podcast called Policy Speaking, where she and her co-hosts break down organizational silos and talk through hot topics in the policy world. Since the podcast began last spring, Davey and her team have hosted nearly 100 guests, including academics, cabinet ministers, expert practitioners, and economists, and celebrated their 50th episode in May 2021.
Lizzie Howells (She/her)
Director, shared platform, MakeWay
Lizzie Howells works on MakeWay’s shared platform, which Howells describes as “a unique model through which 60+ social, environmental and economic justice projects share a suite of central operational resources and expertise.” During the pandemic, Howells says she’s “so proud of how quickly the MakeWay team pulled together to coach and advise project directors on closing community services, overhauling programming, making heartbreaking budget decisions, fundraising to keep the lights on, creating safety plan upon safety plan, and fostering a supportive team environment.”
Meredith Langille (She/her)
Community coordinator, Social Innovation Fredericton
On top of her work as community coordinator at Social Innovation Fredericton, Meredith Langille also works as a research assistant on the organization’s non-profit data collection project. Her nominator writes that “Meredith is passionate about the power of data in the social sector and how it can help address community needs, increase social impact, and influence policy development. She works tirelessly to engage with our charitable sector to help them to use their data to make more informed decisions, perform data analysis and complete funding applications.”
Michael Vegh (He/him)
Climate action and connectivity coordinator, Coastal First Nations
Michael Vegh works with Indigenous communities to support climate action and digital innovation. Vegh recently worked on a major digital stewardship project with eight First Nations, including building partnerships and securing funding. According to his nominator, “Michael’s work inspires big-picture, long-term thinking.”
Robyn Romano (She/her)
Director of operations, Distress Centre Calgary
Robyn Romano’s job has presumably been intense during the pandemic, as the director of operations at a distress centre in Calgary, AB. In less than a week, she led the centre’s transition from entirely in-person to entirely virtual, and is now working on a return strategy as chair of the organization’s risk management committee. According to her nominator, Romano “does all of this while demonstrating that she cares deeply for those around her...emphasizing self-care and building a community of care both within the agency and in the community as a whole.”
Shalaka Jadhav (She/her and they/them)
Design and community manager, Youth Climate Lab
One big project Shalaka Jadhav is especially proud of is Youth Climate Lab’s Climate Resilience Collective, which brings together youth-led climate initiatives “to bridge cross-cultural contexts and explore the socio-cultural impacts of the climate crisis,” Jadhav says. “This work has been energized and truly co-designed with 24 youth from two distinct, and hard-hit by climate change regions – the Bay of Bengal (across Bangladesh), and the sub-Arctic (across the Yukon Region, Canada).”
Steve Vanderherberg (He/him)
Director, family finance and employment supports, WoodGreen Community Services
Steve Vanderherberg’s favourite part of his career thus far has been collaborating with other leaders to “develop creative and innovative solutions to complex social issues, especially heightened during this pandemic” — especially those at the WoodGreen Community Services, where he leads the financial empowerment team. Vanderherberg’s nominator describes him as a “values-driven leader who is motivated by a deep sense of purpose and responsibility to create positive change.”
Special thanks to the selection committee for helping us choose this year’s list of young impact leaders:
Anjum Sultana, YWCA Canada
Bailey Greenspon, G(irls)20
Diandra Bruised Head, Kainai First Nation and 2019 Future of Good Young Impact Leader
Jace Meyer, 2019 Future of Good Young Impact Leader
Tristan Smyth, Canadian Roots Exchange and 2019 Future of Good Young Impact Leader