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International Women’s Day 2020

Lisa Amerongen

Lisa Amerongen

Director of Communications

CSI Women’s Work

This International Women’s Day we’re sharing the stories of our female and non-binary staff who make CSI what it is. Across all departments, from digital to programming to maintenance, women make up just over 57% of our staff.

We’re a women-run org and it shows! In the past decade there has been a growing focus in human resources and management on the non-traditional way women lead, and a push for leaders who are emotionally-available, caring, and invested. CSI’s core values, established over a decade ago, reflect these traits. We know that collaborative, healthy, and mindful workplaces not only increase productivity, they create the kind of communities we want to work in. 

We’re proud to work closely with these powerhouses every day and to share their stories here.

Personal Motivations

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is #EachforEqual: we’re stronger together, but individual action fuels collective movements. In our journey towards the Next Economy, we need to work together to change culture, policy, and markets to create the world we want to see. Read on for CSI-staffers’ individual reasons for working in the field of social innovation.

Profile Picture of Jane for Women's Day

Jane Zhang, Director of Online Services

I’m passionate about utilizing technology to increase staff capacity, make data-informed decisions, and build efficiency through automation so that we can focus on building community!

Profile Picture of Timna for Women's Day

Timna Ben-Ari, Project Manager

I have always felt strongly about justice; this has translated into a passion for equity and inclusion, as well as a passion for our individual responsibility for the future of our planet. I’m also intensely passionate about efficiency and have found that I can use that to push this work of social innovation forward.

Profile Picture of Devon for Women's Day

Devon Bond, Event Space Coordinator

I’m passionate about kindness and positivity, holding space for people, and validating the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of others. I am driven to work in social innovation so that I can feel good about what I wake up to do everyday… I also LOVE animals!

Seana Irvine, Chief Operating Officer

People who believe that change is possible and who want to help make it happen. The hard thinking of trying to go beyond end of pipe solutions to get at root causes. The belief that the social sector is allowed to be innovative for progress and not simply for survival or being reactive.

Raissa Espiritu, Director of Partnerships

I’m inspired by any woman who has the guts to do what she wants and sees it through. Who cries in public and refuses to apologize for who she is. Who can fail miserably but still laugh it off. I encounter these women everywhere.

Pearl Leung, Digital Marketing Coordinator

I love stories. If there is one thing I love more than hearing stories of vulnerability, perseverance, and success, it’s writing about them. It’s an honour to be around so many people who are working to change the world, and I want to be able to support them along their journey by telling their stories.

Tonya Surman, Chief Executive Officer

I want to make social change and have fun doing it! It’s one of the core values we came up in the early days of CSI. We need to get more people on board to understand that change is possible — not tomorrow — today.


Our team is connected to a huge network of change-makers and stays up-to-date with the latest social innovation news and trends, read on to learn about their latest interests.

Audra Williams, Content & Engagement Specialist 

My cousin Ava has brought a Charter Challenge against the London Police, regarding the problem of discriminatory conduct against sexual assault complainants among police forces. Ava’s challenge — and the investigatory work in the Unfounded series that she was the centre of — has resulted in over 400 formerly “unfounded” sexual assault complaints being re-opened in police jurisdictions across Canada.

Denise Soueidan-O’Leary, Community Manager

I’m excited by the uniquely integrative approach of the Participatory Cities model in the northern boroughs of London, England. I think it is a revolutionary concept to listen first, and then be a part of the solution: people know what they need, and will tell you if they can trust that you’ll honour what they have to say.

Chelsea Jackson, Partnerships Coordinator

Simone Biles is an incredible woman who inspires me daily. Her struggles and successes are only part of what make her so inspiring. As a sexual assault survivor, she uses her voice to fight for a future where young athletes will be protected from abuse.

Elvira Omarbagaeva, Executive Assistant

I love that Sobey’s doesn’t offer plastic bags anymore! I’m impressed with tree Planting initiatives from various countries, including the UK’s Woodland Trust. It’s a simple yet amazing thing to do to help the environment. 

Peggy-Sue Deaven, Program Lead

I’m inspired by community building, community economic resilience, quality of life for all. I’m really into the Dollar Street photographic matrix and Jane’s Walk – beautiful way to empower the community to be more of a community throughout the world. It’s a great concept and community resilience/awareness initiative.

Shea Sinnott, Senior Program Manager

Indigenous community renewable energy! There are lots of projects and the APTN just released a show, Power to the People, with Melina Laboucan Massimo as host. Also: the Green New Deal and how the Sunrise Movement / Our Time ( led) groups are organizing. It’s so intersectional and so exciting, also very women-led!

Shona Fulcher, Chief Community Officer

From Silos to Systems – Indy Johar’s work on dismantling, re-imagining and democratizing our financial systems is blowing my mind at the moment. Tilting the way we see significant problems and how we can use data to unlock our abilities to heal cultures.

Tara Marina Pearson, Community Animator – CSI Annex

There’s nothing more energizing than a group of women working together to solve a problem or achieve a goal. I’m a food person at heart and I’ve had the joy of working with an incredible start up social enterprise here at CSI Annex called Bruized. They are a catering and food business that uses imperfect produce to create delicious menus and they are led by two incredible women!

Lisa Amerongen, Associate Director of Communications 

I’ve recently started listening to the podcast Next Economy Now on a recommendation from my colleague Joey Jakob – it’s fantastic. Their first episode came out in 2015 and it was really ahead of its time. Each episode highlights the leaders who are taking whole-systems approaches to using business as a force for good.


Mentorship is essential for building a high functioning team, one that celebrates the collaboration that can lead to systems change. We’re all in this together, these are just some of our stories. 

Gloria Torku, Accounts Manager

Anita Arkutu is a lawyer, business owner, wife, mother of two and so much more. She inspires me because of her strength, confidence, and the unapologetic way she lives life. Like many womxn, she is multi-faceted, and shows up fully in all the spaces she occupies. She strives for excellence in all things, lives life on her terms and is blazing a trail for womxn behind her, all while looking fabulous!

Maryam Sahebol Amri, Systems Specialist

Donna Won’s systems-thinking mindset, documentation practices, professionalism and technical know-how are still legendary on our team, even though she moved on from CSI a long time ago. She supported me by advocating for my ability to fill her role, and for teaching me how to advocate for myself in the workplace. Thanks for everything, Donna!

Mitalie Makhani, Senior Program Manager

My best friend Rebekah inspires me more than she knows. She taught me that it is important to evolve at your own pace. For me, it was a life changing lesson. I live more freely now than I used to before!

Jo Reynolds, Social Innovation Specialist

There are so many inspiring womxn! P.K. Mutch, who started the Feminist Enterprise Commons. Through her I am learning how a decolonized feminist approach to business and life opens new pathways for sustained development. Chi Nguyen who is holding the hard work of social innovation with grace and courage. Finally for all of the womxn who are speaking the truth and standing for Indigenous sovereignty. Elizabeth May whose voice in parliament is profound, Wet’suwet’en Matrilineal Coalition, and the many, many other indigenous womxn who are standing strong.

Morgan McDonough, Accounts Manager 

My grandmother, Ann Roberts. She was born in South Africa during apartheid and was outspoken about her opposition to the segregation and racism she saw in her home country, even when it wasn’t a popular opinion to have. My grandmother worked as a sculptor and ceramicist, as well as a professor of fine arts at the University of Waterloo. She made a point of supporting other women artists throughout her career and has never been afraid to tell you her opinion. One of her biggest accomplishments was co-founding the Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery in Waterloo. I credit her with teaching me to value my own insights and to never feel shy about being vocal about what I believe in.

Victoria Mork, Accounts Manager

Diana Weatherall sponsored my mother’s family from a refugee camp in Thailand, during the Vietnam War. She remained very present in our lives after that time. She taught me how effortless it is to be genuine and compassionate.

Thanks to all the CSI staff who shared their words with us. We believe that leadership comes from all levels and should ascend traditional power structures: once unlocked we can all be part of the solution. We hope that everyone continues to find ways to support women in leadership on International Women’s Day and beyond!

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