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Social Innovation Panel

Social Innovation Panel

Valerie Chort, Geoff Cape, and Narinder Dhami moderated by Allyson HewittSocial Innovation in the Age of Disruption: Bringing new models, new partners and new ways of thinking to address Canada’s major social issues.
Tue, Apr 18, 2017
11:45 AM - 1:30 PM
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Fairmont Royal York, 100 Front Street W
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Social Innovation is an emerging field that brings together the corporate, philanthropic, government and civil society/NGO sectors to collaborate and address some of the most pressing and urgent social issues of our time. Social Innovation, by its nature, invites creativity, and collaboration, building new practices around innovation, finance, social enterprise and technology. It fosters often disruptive, strategic and tactical approaches to build solutions to complex social problems, and to explore new systems and new approaches to drive social change.

How do we build, develop, influence and re-engineer social systems to drive positive change in this age of disruption. What role can philanthropy and corporate citizenship play in this?

Join us as some of Canada’s pioneers in Social Innovation discuss the challenges, the successes and the way forward to a more socially productive and better Canada.



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Sponsored by


Geoff Cape (CEO, Evergreen)

Geoff Cape is the founder and CEO of Evergreen and has grown the organization to become a nationally recognized leader on urban sustainability with over 160 staff and programs across Canada. Evergreen has enabled over 7,100 projects over the past 25 years in communities across the country. The largest is Evergreen Brick Works—a unique collection of 16 buildings on a 41 acre campus with exhibit space, conference facilities, event space, market space, offices, demonstration facilities and a spectacular park setting. More recent projects include downtown revitalization work in Hamilton, laneway housing planning and policy in Toronto, and a national program called The Future Cities Network that will connect government, industry and academics on the theme of innovation and urban development in Canada. Mr. Cape is on the Board of Sustainable Development Technologies Canada, a Fellow with the Rockefeller Foundation, a founding member of the World Entrepreneurship Forum, a regular participant at the World Economic Forum, Davos, and a past member of the Selection Committee for the WEF Technology Pioneers Awards. In 2015, Geoff Cape was on Mayor John Tory’s “Transition Advisory Team” at the City of Toronto. Mr. Cape has been recognized as one of Canada’s Top 40 under 40, an Ashoka Fellow, winner of the Peter F. Drucker Award, and the Governor General’s Golden Jubilee Medal and more recently awarded Canadian Social Entrepreneur of the Year by the Schwab Foundation.

Valerie Chort (Vice President, Corporate Citizenship, Executive Director, RBC Foundation)

Valerie Chort is VP Corporate Citizenship at RBC and Executive Director, RBC Foundation. She has responsibility for RBC’s global corporate citizenship strategy which includes social impact, impact measurement and reporting, employee engagement, and corporate environmental affairs.

She joined RBC in 2015 after more than 14 years with global consulting firm Deloitte, where she was a Partner with Enterprise Risk Services and the America’s Leader of the Sustainability and Climate Change Practice. Valerie has helped national and international businesses, governments and non-government organizations create opportunity by proactively managing environmental and social risks, and implementing programs that deliver shareholder and stakeholder value.

She earned a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry and a Bachelor in Applied Science in Chemical Engineering from Ottawa University and graduated summa cum laude.

Narinder Dhami (Managing Director, LEAP: The Centre for Social Impact)

Narinder is the Managing Director of LEAP, Canada's leading venture philanthropy firm.  LEAP (incubated by the Pecaut Centre) mobilizes the private sector (BCG, EY, McCarthy Tetrault, Perennial, Offord Group and H+K Strategies) to partner with game changing interventions in the non profit sector, scaling their impact across Canada.

Narinder is the founding Executive Director of Rise Asset Development - a Rotman/CAMH financial initiative, providing an entrepreneurial path to employment for those with a history of mental health and addiction challenges. She led the design, growth of Rise from the pilot phase to its expansion across Ontario. Narinder has also has spent multiple years working across West Africa, both as program manager at the Première Agence de Microfinance (PAMF) across Burkina Faso, Mali and Cote d'Ivoire and as a member of the portfolio team with Acumen Fund (West Africa office focused on social enterprises across Ghana and Nigeria). 

 As a lecturer at the University of Toronto, she co-created the first course in microfinance and impact investing at the University. Further, she worked with Ryerson to launch the Professional Master's Diploma in Social Finance this September, designing, and teaching the “Investing for Impact” course.

She holds a Master of Business Administration from the Rotman School of Management at University of Toronto, and a Bachelor's degree from the University of Toronto in Electrical Engineering.

Allyson Hewitt (JW McConnell Family Foundation Senior Fellow, Social Innovation @MaRS)

Allyson has assisted hundreds of social ventures to become economically sustainable and increase their social impact. She has developed and helps lead the social innovation programs at MaRS which includes Social Innovation Generation (SiG); the social finance programs of the Centre for Impact Investing; the MaRS Solutions Labs, designed to tackle complex challenges; and Studio Y, which supports youth to lead in the innovation economy. She has also helped grow the social innovation ecosystem through such programs as the School for Social Entrepreneurs; is a sought after public speaker; and has had significant impact on public policy. She is currently leading an initiative to develop a pro bono marketplace for Canada.

Allyson is also the Social Entrepreneur in Residence in the Master in Business, Entrepreneurship & Technology (MBET) Program at the University of Waterloo. She is an educator and mentor in programs like the Social Innovation Graduate Diploma and Residency at the Banff Centre. Allyson is a member of the Dean’s Council at the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University where she helps lead the social responsibility work.

She last worked at SickKids where she was a passionate advocate for children.  She was also the Executive Director of Community Information Toronto where she initiated 211, providing streamlined access to human service information.  She received the Head of the Public Service Award and several other prestigious awards for meritorious public service.  

Allyson’s academic background is in Criminology, Law, Public Affairs, Voluntary Sector Management and Organizational Development.

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