Generation Why: Young leaders edition
A special edition of Generation Why that highlights young leaders, innovators and opinion shapers in Canada
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It is often said that young people are the leaders of tomorrow. Well, it seems these 12 didn't get that memo. They're already hard at work today.
For these young Canadians, now is the time to start that project, build those partnerships . . . reimagine everything.
Welcome to the 12th issue and first special edition of Generation Why.
This week, we'd like to introduce you to 12 Canadians under the age of 30 who our readers have nominated as the most impressive young leaders, innovators and opinion shapers of today.
Lauren Friese, 29
photo courtesy Lauren Friese
But Lauren is not just a business owner, she’s also a passionate and vocal advocate for youth employment issues.
She frequently speaks with students, employers, media, government officials and other key stakeholders in an effort to improve youth employment in Canada.
She also encourages students to leverage TalentEgg initiatives, such as Student Voice and Bright Ideas, to help them have their voices heard and find solutions to the problems facing many young people as they transition into the workforce.
- Nomination by Cassandra Jowett
Lauren was among those who participated in our Generation Why open forum for big ideas. Click here to watch her respond to the question:
"Is the 30-year career dead?
Instead of just complaining that it’s hard for Gen Y to transition from school to work, Lauren Friese has actually done something about it.
At 24, she launched TalentEgg.ca, which, within a few short years, has become Canada’s most popular job board and online career resource for students and recent graduates.
Now 29, Lauren has been recognized as a successful young entrepreneur many times over, earning accolades such as the Canadian Association of Career Educators and Employers’ Excellence in Innovation award, the Canadian Youth Business Foundation’s National Best Business and Best Expanding Business awards, the Fuel Awards, and being cited as one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women.
Watch Lauren speak to a group of business students about how to stand out
Zahra Ebrahim, 29
photo courtesy of Paul Dowsett
As a 22-year-old graduate in architecture, Zahra Ebrahim looked for a place to take the skills she had learned and apply them more broadly than what the traditional profession and academy were offering.
Seeing the architecture community as ripe for disruption, at 23 Ebrahim started an architectural think tank, archiTEXT, intended to make the conversations surrounding architecture accessible to the public, to communities and to people who were affected by the changes in these built environments but who were not traditionally included in the conversations.
In the last seven years, Ebrahim has not only transformed the practice of architecture, launching community design initiatives with kids in Canada’s most at-risk communities and designed large capital projects.
But she has also transformed architectural design in Canada and the way the public, government, corporations as well as charitable organizations use design as a tool for social impact.
When she was 24 years old, Ebrahim was invited to join the Faculty of Design at OCAD University and was also invited to be the Innovator in Residence at the Design Exchange, Canada’s National Design Museum. She is also the Founder of the Design Walk-In Clinic.
At 29, she is an established authority speaking about the intersection of design, social entrepreneurship and innovation. Before turning 20, she has already transformed design and architecture in this country.
- Nomination by Paul Dowsett
Watch Zahra describe the importance of creative work
Assaf Weisz, 28
Photo by Norm Tasevski
Assaf Weisz is easily the most promising "young" person I know (that's in quotes as I don't think of him as a young person).
His current position offers one small glimpse into his potential.
Assaf is one of the co-founders of Purpose Capital, an new investment advisory firm that is humbly trying to "redefine capitalism" (Assaf's words) by focusing on investing in ventures that matter to the world.
If a 28 year old at the helm of an advisory firm doesn't impress, then his earlier exploits should.
At 26, he joined me and one of my colleagues to launch Venture Deli (which we then turned into Purpose Capital).
At 24, Assaf established Canada's largest network of young entrepreneurs under the banner of the Young Social Entrepreneurs of Canada.
At 22, he was involved in the creation (and is still Board member) of Operation Groundswell, an organization that fuels "backpacktivists" that blends travel with community service to build a new, socially aware and community minded breed of young people.
He's an Ariane De Rothschild Fellow, an author and leading blogger in the field of social innovation and entrepreneurship, a frequent lecturer/panelist/speaker.
The guy is just ridiculous.
- nomination by Norm Tasevski
This is an older video of Assaf during his YSEC days. It offers a window into his philosophy
Natalie Panek, 28
photo courtesy of Natalie Panek
Natalie is a robotic operator and aerospace engineer at MDA Space Missions and previously interned for NASA at the Goddard Spaceflight Center and Ames Research Center.
She’s driven a solar-powered car across North America, has a pilot’s license, and has skydived with Yi So-Yeon, Korea’s first Astronaut.
As a graduate with degrees in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Natalie has co-authored papers on Microgravity, Combustion and On-orbit Satellite Servicing.
Natalie is an advocate for women in technological sciences and encourages women to pursue challenging careers and take risks.
She is also interested in combining leadership with pop culture, using media proactively to showcase intelligent women interested in advanced career options.
Natalie has spoken at TEDx and on multiple panels for International Women’s day on topics ranging from revolutionizing women in technology to leadership and space exploration.
She’s the recipient of the 2013 University of Calgary Graduate of the Last Decade Award and the 2013 Elsie MacGill Northern Lights Award as a rising star in Aerospace.
- Nomination by Camile Daye Trottier
Watch Natalie talk about how we can encourage woman to enter science and engineering
The methods we are using to encourage women to go into science and engineering just aren't good enough.
- Natalie Panek
Anne Connelly, 28
photo courtesy of William Jones
Anne Connelly is a step ahead of many of her peers.
At 28, she has a BScH in Life Sciences from Queen’s University, an MBA from the DeGroote School of Business and certification in Corporate Social Responsibility from HEC/University of Geneva.
While most MBAs would go on to take a high paying salaried position on Bay Street, Anne chose to work for Médecins Sans Frontières -- or Doctors Without Borders -- where she worked in the Central African Republic as a Field Finance and HR Manager.
It was here that Anne led the HR team at two hospitals and six clinics, working in French, Spanish, and Sango, the local language.
She published a blog about her experiences in El Mundo, Spain’s largest online newspaper.
Upon her return, she continued with MSF in both the Toronto and Dublin offices, where she planned and managed many successful fundraising campaigns.
Currently, Anne is the Director of Fundraising and Marketing at Dignitas International, where she is making promising strides.
With field experience in four countries, over 6 years in NGOs and the non-profit sector, as well as the ability to work in multiple languages, Anne epitomizes the best this generation has to offer.
She is gaining the necessary experience to reshape Canada in the coming years.
- Nomination by William Jones
Alkarim Nasser, 27
photo courtesy of Greg Carron
Listen to Alkarim talk about creating popular social games
Educated in business, technology and design, Alkarim Nasser is the founding partner at BNOTIONS, a Toronto-based innovation company and thought leader in Toronto’s digital media industry.
Alkarim’s ability to excel in a rapidly changing field is a result of his constant pursuit of knowledge, his understanding of the features and benefits of a wide variety of web platforms and technologies, as well as his insight into the use of technology to obtain a competitive edge for clients while expanding his own investment portfolio.
Alkarim co-founded the not-for-profit Yorkville Media Centre, which fosters learning and continuing education in the tech community.
He also created one of Canada’s most successful open-source technology events, AndroidTO, and launched profitable start-ups.
He is on the board of advisors at CYBF, GEW and many Canadian and U.S. startups, as well as being an active angel investor in several other local startups.
Alkarim has recently been recognized as one of Canada's Top 30 Under 30 marketers, and BNOTIONS, where he is a managing partner, was recently ranked #5 on Branham’s Top 10 Growth Companies and #11 on Profit magazine’s Fastest Growing New Companies in 2012.
- Nomination by Greg Carron
photo courtesy of Laura Adams
With her background in political science and passion for community event planning, Butterill is committed not only to growing organic vegetables, but also to fostering change through collaboration and education efforts.
She works with Sustain Ontario, a province-wide alliance to promote healthy food and lifestyles through research and policy development, and she is also a founding partner of the Conestogo River Local Food Co-Op in Drayton, Ont., which promotes convenient access to local, organic and fair-trade food.
She’s also active in community events, and delivers in-farm tours to local school groups.
Through small-scale farming and community engagement, Butterill is planting the seeds of change in our food system.
-- Nomination by Laura Adams
Katie Butterill is building a more sustainable food economy and promoting access to wholesome food in her community, one tiny vegetable at a time.
Butterill is the sole farmer and owner at Smallholdings, a two-acre farm in Moorefield, Ont. that specializes in sustainably produced vegetables for local markets and restaurants.
Butterill’s lifelong passion for food, which involves cooking for loved ones, attending culinary classes, and studying local and global food systems, inspired her to work on an organic farm in 2010, a far cry from her suburban childhood in Markham, Ont.
After two seasons as an apprentice, Butterill launched her small-scale organic farming business to grow wholesome, delicious food in a sustainable way.
Brad LeBlanc, 24
Photo courtesy of Olivia Chandler/by Craig Norris Photography
Each event drives to inspire and support leadership, entrepreneurship and creativity for anyone who has a dream.
Brad’s determination, optimism and desire to push the limits has enabled him to accomplish what many may view as impossible.
For instance, he called Branson for four months before getting him to appear as the first keynote speaker of the Atlantic Dream Festival.
Brad has also raised more than $500,000 for charities across Canada.
He is leading and inspiring many others of his generation to believe in their dreams and to change the world.
- Nomination by Olivia Chandler
Not many Canadians have created and hosted events featuring some of the world’s highest-profile public speakers, like Sir Richard Branson, Donald Trump, Gene Simmons and Michael J. Fox.
Imagine being able to say you did all that in your early twenties.
Atlantic Canada’s Brad LeBlanc is a big dreamer.
His taste for entrepreneurship began in his early teens with Engaging Entertainment, a small DJ business.
Today, Brad is the CEO of The Momentum Group, which plans, organizes and promotes a major consumer trade show, The Atlantic Dream Festival, and major conferences, such as, SPARK Canada, IGNITE, LeaderQuest and more.
Brad LeBlanc's various speeches
Photo courtesy Rania El Mugammar/by Reem El Mugammar
Rania El Mugammar is the director and Editor-in-Chief of Speak Sudan, a not-for-profit organization working to improve access to different avenues of creative expression for East African youth in Toronto and South Western Ontario.
As a community organizer, she develops programming that focuses on capacity building, community engagement and arts education.
She oversees the production of the magazine, which takes submissions from youth in the community, and eatures visual arts and literary pieces that reflect the roots of the community in the Canadian cultural landscape.
Her magazine bills itself as the first its kind, and they hope to continue to put down roots in the community and create creative spaces.
Rania has a background in Political Science and Women's Studies.
Her research interests include Queer theory, critical race studies, Islamic revival and text, Feminist philosophy, and much more.
She also teaches Arabic, and is a makeup and special effects artist.
- Nominated by Dave Scharbach
Watch community members gather for the launch of Rania's magazine, Speak Sudan.
photo courtesy of Jocelyn McLean
Watch Spencer explain the mindset of
Spencer Thompson is the 22-year-old CEO of Sokanu, a career-focused platform that matches people to careers.
He founded Sokanu right out of highschool, when he was only 19 years old, because he realized that his classmates did not know what they wanted to do with the rest of their lives — and those who did didn't know how to get there.
He heads up a young team at Sokanu, members of Generation Y who love what they do and want to help other people find work that they love.
They believe that like dating, career planning is a learning process: most people don't find the career they are meant for on the first try.
With Sokanu, they hope to take some of the guesswork out of the equation by helping people to learn more about themselves, learn more about their options, and pursue their passion in life.
Spencer is a mentor and speaker forTiE, the Indus Entrepreneur network, and sits on the board of several education startups includingVEFandVEF Momentum.
- nomination by Jocelyn McLean
Spencer's team at Sokanu
Donovan Taplin, 18
Bell Island, N.L.
photo courtesy of Emily MacIsaac
Back in Newfoundland, Donovan helped found Radio Bell Island Inc., and has had interviewed notable Canadians like Peter Mansbridge and Seamus O’Regan.
He has worked as a freelance journalist covering community affairs with the Northeast Avalon Times, and was a blogger for the Energy Diet Challenge.
In 2013, Donovan was one of eight Atlantic Canadian Global Youth Ambassadors who helped inspire more than 750 people to commit to action and make us all better global citizens.
Later this month, Donovan will be a featured speaker at the “2017 Starts Now" conference in St. johns, NL.
Last June, Donovan was awarded a TD Canada Trust Scholarship Award towads a degree in media and mass communications at Memorial University.
Donovan was also featured in Rex Murphy's two-part CBC documentary "This Island that we Cling to."
-Nomination by Emily MacIsaac
Already in his young life, Donovan Taplin has achieved a great deal by combining the storytelling traditions of his native Newfoundland with his passion for the environment.
In 2010, Donovan founded the Green Island Society, a community service group dedicated to increasing awareness of local environmental issues.
Later that same year, Donovan participated in youth expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctica as a member of the Students on Ice learning expedition.
In 2012, Donovan traveled to Brazil for the Rio+ 20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.
Donovan learned about the social, political and environmental crises faced by vulnerable regions around the globe. Since then, he has continued to share his experience through public speaking engagements and numerous community projects.
Watch Donovan explain how he became a global citizen
Ta’Kaiya Blaney, 12
Sliammon First Nation
Photo courtesy of Anne Blaney/by Naomi Grindlay
Ta’Kaiya Blaney is a 12 -year-old singer, songwriter and actress from the Sliammon First Nation located in British Columbia.
Ta’Kaiya was first inspired in Grade 3, when she studied otters and learned that their greatest cause of death was from oil spills. Shortly after, she learned about the Northern Gateway Pipeline and had the idea to write a song about an oil spill in the future called “Shallow Waters.” Before the song was finished, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico occurred, making her message that much more urgent.
Ta’Kaiya began speaking at events, festivals and schools around B.C. starting in 2011. Two years later at 12 years old, she has an impressive resumé that will only grow in the years to come.
Her accomplishments include speaking at international conferences, including UN meetings in Indonesia and Rio de Janeiro, as well as several youth conferences, rallies and environmental events across Canada.
She has had numerous appearances in the media (including the CBC).
Her vision is simple.
As she says on her blog: “we have a responsibility to help the earth...our earth is our home.”
Ta’Kaiya also advocates for providing better living standards in Indigenous First Nations territories and ending the oppression, racism, and corruption within governments and local communities. She has been vocal in the “Idle No More” movement.
I have seen Ta’Kaiya speak at a couple of events opposing the Northern Gateway Pipeline. I was impressed and inspired at seeing such a young, articulate girl motivating and the crowd with her message.
She is definitely a youth to watch out for.
- Nomination by Shayla Walker
Want a sense of how well-spoken Ta'Kaiya is? Watch this recent, uncut interview