Meet our keynotes and workshop facilitators

An incredible group of people from across generations, experiences, and locations will shape the conversation over our three days together. We will learn together from people who are building social connections and changing what it means to show up in community in towns and cities across North America. Check back often, new facilitators and speakers continue to join!


Deamon Harges

De'Amon Harges

About De'Amon

De’Amon is a faculty member of the Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) Institute, Community Organizer, Creator of the Learning Tree, chairperson of the Grassroots Grantmakers Association Board, and featured in the new documentary “The Antidote: On Kindness in America” - is a frequent speaker on ABCD in secular and religious groups around the world, and is a layperson at Broadway UMC, Indianapolis, IN. De’Amon's role is to listen and discover the gifts, passions and dreams of citizens in his community, and to find ways to utilize them in order to build community, economy, and mutual “delight.”

The bulk of De’Amon’s work is based on the principles and practices of the Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) that brings neighbors and institutions together to discover the power of being a good neighbor. De’Amon builds on what is already present and in place in the neighborhood, using those formally undiscovered assets to connect and empower rather than working only from the community’s needs and deficits.

De’Amon now describes his role on this planet as a social banker. He utilizes the intangible currencies that are cultivated and used by human assets and relationships to build a more abundant community.

Emily T. Circle

Emily Talen

About Emily

Emily Talen is a Professor of Urbanism at the University of Chicago, where she teaches urban design and directs the Urbanism Lab. She holds a Ph.D. in Urban Geography from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is a Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners and the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Emily has written extensively on the topics of urban design, New Urbanism, and social equity. Her books include New Urbanism and American Planning, Design for Diversity, Urban Design Reclaimed, City Rules and Neighborhood. 

John McKnight

John McKnight

About John

John holds an honorary doctorate from the University of Waterloo, Canada and is a Professor Emeritus of Communications Studies and Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. For more than four decades his research and teaching have focused on social service delivery systems, health policy, community organization, neighbourhood policy and the incorporation of labelled people into community life. John leads a group of more than 50 fellows around the world and has mentored the likes of Barack and Michelle Obama.

As a result of a national study of local neighbourhood initiatives, McKnight and his long-time colleague, Jody Kretzmann, created the Asset-Based Community Development strategy for community building. Together, they co-authored the basic guide to asset-based community development, Building Communities from the Inside Out: A Path Toward Identifying and Mobilizing a Community’s Assets. This book has become one of the nation’s best-selling guides to community development, and the methods it outlines are now utilized worldwide.

McKnight has also written two additional books – The Careless Society: Community and Its Counterfeits (which came out of a widely popular CBC radio Canada series) and, together with co-author Peter Block, The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighbourhoods.

Chief Wayne

Tribal Chief Wayne Semagani

About Tribal Chief Wayne

Tribal Chief Wayne Semaganis has dedicated himself to the betterment of his community and Nation his entire life. Chief Semaganis was raised by his elders in the teachings and traditions of his Peoples . As a leader, the traditional teachings and the sacredness of Treaty has guided Him always. Chief Semaganis has always maintained a focus that every conversation must begin with Treaty

Kim S Round

Kim Samuel

About Kim

Kim is an activist, educator, and a leading voice in the global movement for belonging. She founded the Samuel Centre for Social Connectedness, which works with advocates and researchers to fight social isolation and build belonging around the world. She is Visiting Research Fellow at Green Templeton College, Visiting Scholar at the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), and the Fulbright Canada Ambassador for diversity and social connectedness. Kim is the author of On Belonging: Finding Connection in an Age of Isolation, an exploration of the crisis of social isolation and our birthright of Belonging. 


Timiro Mohamed

About Timiro

Timiro Mohamed is a Somali-Canadian spoken word poet, inter-disciplinary artist and community educator inspired by the generations of storytellers who came before her.  Timiro has performed on over 100 stages across 6 cities, has competed nationally at the Canadian Festival of spoken word and has shared the stage with Dr. Angela Davis, and Grammy award-winning artist Yasiin Bey.

With over 5 years of experience in the non-profit sector Timiro is passionate about the uses of arts-based engagement  to create vibrant thriving communities. She often facilitates arts based workshops, community talk-balk sessions and performance spaces which center an anti-racist and Black Feminist praxis and prioritize the experiences of African, Black, Caribbean (ACB) and Muslim communities. She has curated performance showcases for artists both locally and beyond including Grammy nominated, Harvard fellow Amir Sulaiman.

During her tenure as the City of Edmonton Youth Poet Laureate she developed a spoken word mentorship program for ACB youth encouraging self-expression, creativity and relationship building. She is the recipient of the Alberta Council for Global Cooperation’s Top 30 Under 30 award for her contributions to the UN’s sustainable development goals. She believes in the power of the spoken word as a means of activism and has shared words before the Canadian Senate where she presented a policy brief for a nation-wide strategy adressing Anti-Black Islamophobia. Between 2020 and 2022 she led a grass roots initiative which lobbied provincial and municipal governments and contributed to the development of the Edmonton Public School Board’s first Interfaith Calendar and mandated time off for students celebrating Interfaith and Intercultural holidays. Learn more about Timiro.


Karis Nsofor

About Karis

Karis has worked in a wide range of capacities within the nonprofit and social services sector in Edmonton. In recent years, she has focused mainly on the area of community development and organizational capacity building to help tackle the many inequities and barriers that grassroots community organizations and leaders face. She is passionate about building accessible opportunities, networks and resources for leaders from immigrant and BIPOC backgrounds. She currently leads a collaborative project, the Ethnocultural Capacity Building Collaborative, at the Edmonton Chamber of Voluntary Organizations.

Lisa H

Lisa Helps

About Lisa

Lisa Helps is the former two-term Mayor of British Columbia, currently working as Housing Solutions Advisor to Premier Eby for the start-up of BC Builds. As mayor Lisa worked hard to create deep collaboration across the community to get Victoria ready for the future, and across the province as Co-Chair of the BC Urban Mayors Caucus to advance shared priorities for cities. Areas of focus included economic development and prosperity, housing, climate action, resilient infrastructure, and reconciliation. Learn more about Lisa at  

Jim Diers

Jim Diers

About Jim

Jim Diers has a passion for getting people engaged with their communities and in the decisions that affect their lives. His work in the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods was recognized with an Innovations Award from the Kennedy School of Government. He was appointed the first director of Seattle's Department of Neighborhoods in 1988 where he served under three mayors over the next 14 years creating what some would say is a miracle of neighbors where he put his passion to work for a direct-action neighbourhood association, a community development corporation, a community foundation, and the nation's largest health care cooperative.

He teaches courses at the University of Washington and serves on the faculty of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute. Jim travels internationally to deliver speeches and presents workshops on neighbours and neighbourhoods. His book, Neighbor Power: Building Community the Seattle Way, is available in both English and Chinese editions.

Shelley B.

Shelley Biermanski

About Shelley

Shelley Biermanski is a St. Albert councillor and will be acting as Deputy Mayor for the events Leaders Panel on day two.  Shelley has been a St. Albert resident since 1989. Married her husband Cliff and raised her children in St. Albert.  Shelley is involved and volunteered in St. Albert municipal and provincial politics since 2010. She has Long term Sales and Management careers in both the Food and Auto industries, is a St. Albert Hockey and Soccer parent volunteer and organizer of the Art Shows for Charity project and is a contributor to homeless assistance options.  Shelley is an avid Gardener and life coach and is committed to preserving and improving the quality of life for our families and our future.

Ksenia Stepkina

Ksenia Stepkina

About Ksenia

Ksenia Stepkina (she/her) is a community builder and a grassroots community organizer in Kitsilano, Vancouver, BC, located on the traditional, ancestral and stolen lands of xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) peoples. Hailing from a small town in Siberia, she is passionate about building meaningful human connections and a culture of neighbourly care and active citizenship in a big city. Through her social change journey, working with a number of non-profit and social service organizations, supporting City-led community engagement, and organizing various grassroots neighbourhood initiatives, Ksenia realized the power of community coming together and taking action. 

During the pandemic, Ksenia started a community support group, coordinating neighbourhood volunteers to help seniors with grocery shopping and friendly phone visits. Through her visual storytelling project, Humans of Kitsilano, Ksenia shares the human stories of her community. In 2021, Ksenia joined Tamarack’s Cities Deepening Community membership to launch a resident-led community development project, Good Neighbour Kitsilano. Through the Block Connector Program and Community Action Network, the initiative aims to strengthen neighbourly connections and inspire community action to make Kitsilano the most connected, caring and civically engaged neighbourhood in Vancouver! 

Ksenia is a Community Food Developer with Kitsilano Neighbourhood House, coordinating the Westside Food Collaborative and leading a collective impact effort to address local food insecurity while developing community-informed policy advocacy efforts with Vancouver Neighbourhood Food Networks.  She is currently working on her Master’s Thesis engaging people with lived experience of food insecurity in Community-Based Participatory Action Research to help inform municipal food policy and help support meaningful participation of underrepresented groups in democratic processes.

salima headshot in circle

Salima Ebrahim

About Salima

Salima Ebrahim is the Chief of Staff for the City of Edmonton, and formerly the head of External and Intergovernmental Relations for the City. Prior to joining the City of Edmonton, she was the Executive Director of the Banff Forum. She spent a number of years in Toronto and Abu Dhabi as a management consultant with Deloitte and was a former fellow with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, based in Geneva. 

Salima is an active volunteer and is currently serving as a Director with CARE Canada and is a board member with Pier 21, Canada’s Immigration Museum. She is an alumnus of the University of Alberta (BA, Political Science and Sociology) and the London School of Economics (MSc, Public Policy and Administration), and has received several awards for public service leadership, including being a recipient of Avenue Magazine’s Top 40 under 40, a SHEInnovator that profiles Alberta women who are working to solve complex challenges in our province, and a national “Women Who Inspire'' recipient.

Lorelee M

Lorelee Marin

About Lorelee

Growing up on a farm, Lorelee was fortunate to know her neighbours, to feel a strong sense of community, and to pitch-in when needed; her whole life she has been passionate about creating a vibrant connected community that people want to call home. Lorelee feels so privileged to serve the community of Lloydminster as a City Councillor and is an advocate and champion for asset-based community development. Along with Lloydminster community agencies, she shares the vision of creating a community where kids can grow up great. Lorelee is dedicated to giving back to community – it is an integral part of her daily life.  She is involved in practical and meaningful initiatives that help citizens connect with each other and to the supports that help them on their life journey. Lorelee’s greatest accomplishment is her love story with her husband Henry. They have enjoyed 39 years of marriage, raised 3 children who are now married, and have been blessed with “soon to be” six sweet grandchildren who bring them so much joy! 

Lisa Allen Scott

Dr. Lisa Allen Scott

About Lisa

Dr. Lisa Allen Scott has been working globally and locally in public and population health for over 20 years.  She holds a PhD in Community Health Sciences with a specialization in Population and Public Health from the University of Calgary. In 2015 Dr. Allen Scott joined the Alberta Cancer Prevention Legacy Fund (ACPLF) as a Scientist and led the development of the Alberta Healthy Communities Approach and the Alberta Healthy Workplaces Program. From 2017-2022 Dr. Allen Scott was the Senior Scientist overseeing scientific rigor and strategic planning for the Workplace, Community and Individuals and Families Stream within ACPLF (now known as Cancer Prevention and Screening Innovation – CPSI). Currently, she is the Director of the Healthy Settings Department within Provincial Population and Public Health (AHS) responsible for the collaborative scale-up of settings-based approaches across Alberta. Dr. Allen Scott also holds Adjunct Lecturer positions at the University of Calgary in the departments of Oncology and Community Health Sciences and is a Scientist with the Centre for Healthy Communities, School of Public Health, University of Alberta.

Nadia Powers

Nadia Power

About Nadia

Nadia will tell you that the best experiences in her life emerged from the ashes of her very worst experiences. It was at these times she leaned on mentors who would challenge and inspire and sought out people she could work alongside to get things done.  

For more than a decade, Fort McMurray has been her home. When the 2016 Wildfire swept through, she joined the task force responsible for recovery, focusing on resident well-being and psychosocial recovery. When Fort McMurray flooded in 2020, she was again involved in recovery by leading post-disaster public engagement during a global pandemic.  

She’s relentlessly optimistic and (almost irritatingly) positive. Nadia embraces challenges like old friends and has a way of inspiring others to lean into more difficult situations and conversations too.    

Meet the Workshop Facilitators

Heather K

Heather Keam

About Heather

Heather is the Associate Director for the Deepening Community practice area. She has been at the Tamarack Institute for over 6 years.   Heather has 13 years in public health and 20 years of experience generating action at a grassroots level using ABCD and Collective Impact.  Heather has been working closely with John McKnight to learn what is a community connector and how can they be sustained. She is passionate about community and in her spare time is volunteering on many community projects and currently working in her small town to build a sense of belonging and connection. Heather loves guiding groups to learn how to put people at the centre of  community plans that will lead to more sustainable local community plans.



Celina Loyer

Celina Loyer

About Celina

Celina Loyer was raised Métis in amiskwaciwâskahikan, now known as Edmonton Alberta, by her Cree and Métis parents. She has been representing Metis dance, culture, and traditions since a very young age.  She’s willing to share her knowledge with all. 

Shari Strachan

Shari Strachan

About Shari

Shari Strachan has lived in the community of St. Albert for 20 years, raising her family and working at the Musée Héritage Museum.  She has an education degree and taught junior high before “falling” into museum work, leading educational programs and discovering Cultural Resource Management.  She works with an awesome team of people at the museum! 

Emily Baker

Emily Baker

About Emily

Emily Baker has worked as the Curator at the Art Gallery of St. Albert since January 2021. But she has been working as part of the exhibition team at the Gallery since February 2015. A passionate arts enthusiast, she likes nothing more than talking with visitors about the exhibitions that she works on, finding out what intrigues them, what stories they see, and sharing some of the artist’s stories and inspirations in turn.

Carmen L

Carmen Lawrence

About Carmen

Carmen has lived 35 years in Edmonton's Highlands neighbourood. She has a long history of neighbourhood participation. She has been a Block Connector, Soccer Coach, Neighbourhood Connector and part of a Community Leadership team. Years ago in her graduate studies she read John McKnight’s book “The Careless Society” which opened her eyes to the possibilities of new levels of effectiveness in her vocation and for a rich neighbourhood life or as she has subsequently realized, life in an Abundant Community.

Carmen’s experience of connecting with neighbours and leading neighbourhood initiatives brings a rich perspective and real stories to her professional practice and leadership role in supporting Neighbourhood Health. Carmen is currently working as a Provincial Health Promotion Facilitator with Alberta Health Services. 

Rehana M-1

Rehana Malik-Mbanga

About Rehana 

Rehana Malik-Mbanga is a social entrepreneur with a science and psychology background. She studied at Griffith University Australia and the University of Cape Town, South Africa. She is the CEO of Stimbok Corporation a sustainable development company, which works to create a platform for partners to invest in Women of African descent through their renewable energy and agriculture projects.

Rehana is also the founder of When African Women Talk, an organization that celebrates Black Canadian Women that includes women of African and Caribbean descent. When African Women Talk is currently based in Alberta and is very ready to expand to other parts of the country.  Rehana is an advocate for gender equity and diversity inclusion. She believes that when we work together we make our communities stronger and better.

Lorelee M

Lorelee Marin

About Lorelee 

Lorelee lives in Lloydminster, AB/SK and is actively involved in her neighbourhood and community. Her favourite place to be is in her back yard, hands in the dirt and visiting with the many people who use the pathway and the Little Free Library hanging on her back fence. In 2019, she attended the ABCD Conference in Edmonton and learned from many of the great thought leaders; fueling her commitment to create community and to practice the principles of ABCD in her personal life and to embed it into her professional practice. She practices the “art of neighbouring” and is becoming more comfortable with awkward moments and messy interactions, because they often lead to beautiful connections and relationships. Lorelee currently works as a Health Promotion Facilitator in Central Zone, Community Addiction and Mental Health with Alberta Health Services.

Marianne Cerilli

Marianne Cerilli 

About Marianne

Marianne is a health teacher, whose work moves between education, politics, and community development. She has shape shifted from a recreation, sport and fitness champ to, youth employment consultant, and high school guidance counsellor, to three term Manitoba MLA, university contract faculty, community and political organizer. She has worked as a social policy analyst, and community animator with Social Planning Council Winnipeg as well as eight years as an advocate/ community mentor with an inner-city women’s centre. She most recently was a college Community Development/Community Economic Development Instructor.  She envisions an ethical world of “enough for all forever” by investing in the social and ecological determinants of health. In 2019 she transformed into Marianne Cerilli – Change Agent spreading ‘Community Development for Health, Sustainability, Peace’ wherever she goes.  


Heather Wheeliker

About Heather

Heather has devoted much of her professional career to developing and delivering education and outreach materials that encourage understanding about the environment. For the past 13 years she’s focused on mobilizing Edmontonians to take action on climate change.

SarahDanahy (1)

Sarah Danahy

About Sarah

Sarah loves to work at the intersection of designing for user experience and enabling community action. As engagement and communication design lead at O2, she guides the public engagement and education of planning and design projects for municipalities across Canada.

Deanna Butz

Deanna Butz

About Deanna

Deanna is a Community Development Officer with the Town of Stony Plain, a mid size urban centre in Alberta where she is passionate about creating connections between residents, levels of government and community. Deanna believes that Together We Shine and is working to make Stony Plain a welcoming, safe and inclusive community. In her work and home life, she is always connecting and navigating, whether its at the rink, driving kids to sports or walking dogs she can be found chatting and building relationships. Deanna is a member of the Cities Deeping Community and has actively participated in this collective impact movement for several years now. Deanna co hosted a fireside chat around the Art of Neighbouring and has kept the conversation going with work on the Unravelling the Traditional Community Development Mindset workshop.

Templeton S

Templeton Sawyer

About Templeton

Templeton is an Employment Support Practitioner with Teamwork Cooperative, the host of Tweet the Leader in You podcast, and co-facilitator of the Centre for Employment Innovation and Teamwork’s Youth-Focused Community of Practice in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

He brings a great deal of lived experience to the table and is a passionate Youth Advocate who seeks to help youth in both Nova Scotia and the Bahamas believe in themselves and increase their self-confidence through leadership and skill development programs. When Templeton thinks about the word inclusion, he has a passion to place action into including everyone.

Justin E

Justin Eweka

About Justin

Justin is an African Nova Scotian with lived experience with people who identify as having a disability. Born and raised in Halifax, he is a strong advocate for people who identify as having a disability.

He has been involved in this community both professionally and recreationally for 20 years through various non-profit organizations, supporting various stakeholders and community engagements.

At present, Justin is an Employment Facilitator at Easter Seals Nova Scotia, working with youth and adults helping those to further educate and gaining meaningful employment within the community. Justin enjoys meeting new people, playing sports and supporting people in reaching their goals.

C. Costa

Christa Costas

About Christa

Christa began her career as a Registered Nurse, then switched careers, after completing an undergrad degree in Physical Education, to become a physical activity promotion specialist. Over the past 30 years, she has worked with ParticipACTION, Hamilton Public Health Services, and as a physical activity, sport and recreation consultant. Christa is currently the Director of Partnerships at the Canadian Parks and Recreation Association and a volunteer board member with the Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute, KidSport Ontario, and the Canadian Sport Film Festival.

Gord Tate

Gord Tate

About Gord

Gord is the Active Living Coordinator for the Municipality of Chester in Nova Scotia – a position that often finds him in the middle several departments’ strategic priorities. Over the past thirteen years in this position, Gord has tried to inspire and activate citizens, and create a culture of physical activity that is supported by the built environment and policy changes that are needed to sustain the change. Most recently he has led park and open space developments, spearheaded active transportation infrastructure projects, and has supported citizens to plan and develop their own community projects that advance physical activity and health outcomes. Gord is the Past President of Recreation Nova Scotia, and currently sits on the Board of the Canadian Parks and Recreation Association.  He also volunteers on the Board of Our Health Centre, a community-led, collaborative health care center that serves residents across the municipality.

Troy Glover

Troy Glover

About Troy

Troy Glover is a Professor and Chair of the Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies and Director of the Healthy Communities Research Network at the University of Waterloo. Professor Glover's research explores transformative placemaking as a means to shape the public realm to facilitate social connectedness and improve the quality of community life.

Justin W

Justin Williams

About Justin

Justin brings experience managing research and public relations projects to his role as Manager, Policy and Development.

Prior to completing a Master of Environmental Studies focusing on environmental justice, community development and the cognitive structures of environmental ideologies, Justin spent six years working in higher-education research and advocacy in Ontario and Alberta. During this time, Justin was fortunate to manage a team of researchers and communications professionals to promote affordable, accessible and high-quality post-secondary education.

Having previously focused his studies at the intersection of economic and environmental equity and community building, Justin is passionate about working with partners, learners and members to create the conditions to successful address the complex challenges we face.

Outside of work Justin spends time chasing frisbees, wandering in forests with his toddler, and getting distracted by wildlife. Justin lives in Kitchener with his fantastic partner Samantha and the amazing Morgan Glory.

Connor J

Connor Judge

About Connor

With a degree in Health Studies with a minor in Political Science from the University of Waterloo, Connor has a deep understanding of the social determinants of health and its intersection with policy. From his time as an intern at Tamarack, he was able to intertwine his understanding of health with the theory of Asset-Based Community Development.

Connor's experiences span program evaluation, community-based research, food sovereignty and policy analysis. He believes food insecurity is a symptom of poverty, thus an important piece of the complex puzzle that is poverty to address. He is a strong believer that food can be a powerful vehicle to build relationships, develop community and act as a catalyst for social change.