Our Staff

Social Planning Toronto's staff team brings passion, skill, and decades of combined experience to our projects. We believe in our work and building lasting relationships with our partners and members.

Devika Shah

Executive Director

Devika is passionate about building a civic society in Toronto—the city she loves—that is grounded in diversity, equity, social and economic justice, and active democratic engagement. Her interdisciplinary background and experience in the environmental sector have strengthened her commitment to advancing grassroots, community-led, multi-stakeholder solutions, which she views as the most powerful lever for achieving systems change.

Through past positions with the World Wildlife Fund Canada, Pembina Institute, York University and KCI Philanthropy, and volunteer positions with the Catherine Donnelly Foundation, GreenPAC and the Children’s Aid Society of York Region, she has strengthened organizational capacity in the areas of public engagement, strategic integration and planning, fundraising, and operations management.

Devika holds an MBA from York University's Schulich School of Business and a B.Sc. from the University of Toronto.

Maria Serrano

Director of Operations

Maria has extensive experience providing creative, innovative, and strategic leadership in the community sector in the areas of operations, and organizational and human resources. She's responsible for the development and implementation of systems, human resources, overall management of the administrative needs of Social Planning Toronto, and supervision of program support staff.

Mary Micallef

Program Support

Mary brings decades of experience to Social Planning Toronto's offices. She provides program support to our staff operations.

Ryan Tilley

Membership Coordinator

Ryan Tilley brings over six years of experience with fundraising and development within both non-profit and corporate environments. Passionate about engaging with Social Planning Toronto's diverse membership on social justice issues, Ryan has been serving our organization since 2012.

Lisa Ferguson

Communications Coordinator

Lisa combines her love of storytelling with a passion for social change, community, and culture. Her journalism has appeared in publications such as NOW, CityLab, Spacing, Torontoist, and Ms. From 2014 to 2016 she wrote the annual Toronto’s Vital Signs Report (a city “report card” that drives civic engagement, debate, and advocacy). She has bachelor's and master’s degrees in communications, and a certificate in community engagement, leadership and development.

Community Planners

Shahina Sayani

Senior Community Planner

Shahina Sayani has 15 years of experience as a funder, Executive Director, community development worker, facilitator, consultant, and researcher. She is passionate about increasing access to grassroots and formal education, as well as developing community capacity building initiatives that facilitate sustainable leadership. She enjoys volunteering as a mentor and raising funds for youth scholarships.

Saroja Ponnambalam

Community Planner 

Saroja has over seven years of experience in resident engagement in Toronto's diverse neighbourhoods. She is dedicated to reducing barriers to civic participation through local governance, and has worked with numerous community groups and networks across the city to organize around systemic issues, ranging from racial discrimination to housing inequity. She holds a Master of Arts in Human Geography from the University of Toronto. Saroja also has a media arts practice which utilizes community arts and documentary film as tools for advancing social justice and influencing policy.


Israt Ahmed

Senior Community Planner — Scarborough

Israt Ahmed is Senior Community Planner at Social Planning Toronto, coordinating civic engagement initiatives and building resident leadership. She coordinates city-wide campaigns and local initiatives to make the city equitable, accessible, and affordable for Torontonians. She holds an MA and a PhD from the University of Sussex. She has taught courses on diversity, civic engagement, community development, and social planning at the University of Toronto, York University, and Ryerson.

Neighbourhood Grants

Priya Hawkins

Neighbourhood Grants Ambassador — East

Priya brings to SPT both corporate and community sector experience as well as strong collaboration and relationship-building skills. She worked for Sun Life Financial for 14 years (gaining experience in HR, internal audits, and process improvements) before discovering her true calling to community 10 years ago when she took on a neighbourhood capacity-building and resident-engagement project. She has also facilitated employment skills workshops at WCG Services. Outside SPT, Priya does consultations for the City of Toronto and is a member of the City's Resident Advisory Committee, Local Champions Network, and Neighbourhood Planning Table. Priya holds an economics degree from York University.

Sarah Ali

Neighbourhood Grants Ambassador — West

A community development consultant with over 10 years' experience in the community services, public, and business sectors, Sarah has worked with Fortune 500 companies, led grassroots organizations and mentored youth, and worked as a research and policy consultant. She has founded multiple projects in Neighbourhood Improvement Areas including the highly successful "Back to Basics" civic engagement workshops and conferences, and the iIMPACT movement to prevent gun violence and build leadership among hard-to-reach youth. Sarah is also a motivational speaker and coach and supports over two dozen grassroots organizations with grant writing and program planning.

Research & Policy

Beth Wilson

Senior Researcher and Policy Analyst

Beth Wilson is our lead on policy and research at Social Planning Toronto, starting at our organization in 2002. She has a Master of Social Work (MSW), Policy, Organization and Community.

Sharma Queiser

Researcher and Policy Analyst 

Sharma conducts community-based, action-oriented research and supports stakeholder engagement. Currently, her work focuses on academic streaming, access to recreation for equity-seeking groups, and community use of public spaces. A social worker by training, Sharma is dedicated to addressing the root causes of social injustices.

Angelica de Jesus-Bretschneider

Researcher & Policy Analyst

Angelica is committed to driving social change through community based research. She has led and supported numerous qualitative and quantitative research initiatives on public policy and planning matters that affect marginalized populations in Toronto and in various countries around the globe. Angelica has extensive experiences in the non-profit, government, and academic sectors. She has a Ph.D. in Planning degree from the University of Toronto.

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