Born and raised in Alberta, she developed her activist roots in Lethbridge – a small city in the southern part of the province. She moved there from Calgary, “the heart of the new west,” to attend the University of Lethbridge. Throughout her time at the U of L, she found a love for independent media through campus-community radio and the campus newspaper. She developed a deep appreciation for public organizations through her time in student politics and the activist community.
Her passions are driven by community, by people, and by their passion and beliefs that there is a better way forward. While finding her place in communities surrounded by opposing views, her deeply-seated ideological purpose fostered her dedication to find and build new communities. The values that have been instilled in her – dedication, passion, respect and strength – have been her driving force to continue working for change.
Through her experiences exploring rivers, mountains, lakes and sewage treatment plants, Karen has found that water connects us all. It’s also a gateway to developing a more conscious relationship with the natural world. These experiences have contributed to Karen’s commitment to positive community building, and finding balance, joy, and playfulness in the everyday. Karen is currently an associate of the Natural Step Canada, where she designs and facilitates social learning processes with organizations, communities, and networks of leaders to enable transformational change toward sustainability.
Karen holds a B.Sc. in Environmental Science and an M.Sc. in Strategic Leadership Towards Sustainability. Outside of her work, Karen is an active contributor to the Art of Hosting Community of Practice. She enjoys playing the guitar, writing songs, and outdoor adventures both large and small. You can find her music on CBC Radio 3.
Lauren was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She graduated from the University of Manitoba with a B.A. in Global Political Economy, an interdisciplinary program that allowed her to explore many of her interests. She is currently pursuing graduate studies at Carleton University, working towards a master’s in communication.
While Lauren attended the U of M, she interned with Canadian Physicians for Aid and Relief, an organization partnering with vulnerable groups to overcome poverty and build healthy communities in Africa. Through this experience, she was able to travel to Malawi and worked with local staff to acquire accurate stories for Canadian donors. During this time, Lauren learned about the importance of food security, leading to a job in office administration and special projects with Food Matters Manitoba, a registered charity focused on healthy, sustainable and fair food for all.
Through these experiences, Lauren has seen firsthand the positive impact of communities coming together to build better livelihoods. She strongly believes in connecting people together to create meaningful discussions because being committed to one another is important. She looks forward to being a part of Next Up Ottawa, engaging with key issues and meeting like-minded people who are passionate about social change.
Maggie is thrilled to be part of the Next Up program. She views it as an opportunity to learn and engage with others who are actively working towards social change. Currently working for the labour movement, she hopes to be a part of community level change that has a national impact. Maggie thrives on active listening and encouraging people to ask questions, both personal and political, on what impact they want to have on the world around them. She loves the honesty of live music, exploring the outdoors, and people of her hometown, Sudbury, Ontario. Maggie now lives in Ottawa, where she can often be found skating on the canal and exploring the trails in and around the city.
“Don’t complain unless you’re at least willing to try.” This is one of N’kem’s many simple yet provocative philosophies on activism. Born in Nova Scotia and raised in culturally diverse Toronto, N’kem is a lover of challenge, learning and imagination. To give herself a dose of that invigorating joy we all need sometimes, N’kem takes solace in podcasts and TED Talks – especially those that propose novel ideas, contain a strong call to action and bring people together.
N’kem’s love of the sciences and public health led her to study biotechnology at Seneca College, biological sciences at the University of Guelph, and then regulatory affairs and quality assurance at Seneca College. She practices this love everyday in her current work with the Canadian Blood Services. N’kem is passionate about issues that allow communities to recognize themselves in the other. She believes the divisions that we create often prevent us from seeing the many similarities and common ground that we share. By connecting with the Next Up community, N’kem hopes to deepen her involvement in local and international projects that promote community involvement, education, media literacy, positive action and inclusivity. Off the clock, N’kem enjoys music of all genres, outdoor running, pottery and sci-fi.
Prajeena has been advocating for issues related to peace building, clean water and sanitation, gender equality and food security in developing countries, particularly in Nepal where she was born. She has managed and evaluated projects funded by the Department for International Development (DFID), WaterAid, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Oxfam, the United Nations Millennium Campaign (UNMC), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and World Education, among other international organizations. She has coordinated policy and advocacy events at a distance with civil society organizations based in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Cambodia, Nepal and Sri Lanka on issues related to gender equality, food security, peace and demilitarization. Having traveled to Uganda, Ethiopia and Ghana, Prajeena has liaised and lobbied with African civil society organizations, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the African Union, and European and North American partners on aid effectiveness and the increase of development commitments to the world’s least developed countries (currently 48 countries around the world).
Her interest in traveling and experiencing different cultures took her to the Netherlands, where she completed her second master’s degree in Public Policy. It was from there that she traveled to different parts of Europe. In her lifetime, she plans to visit all seven continents of the world. Prajeena currently sits on the board of Peacebuild and serves as a steering committee member for the Women, Peace and Security Network in Canada.
Prajeena enjoys gardening. She has many plants in her apartment, where she often picks fresh herbs for cooking. She also loves biking around but feels that Ottawa is yet to construct enough safe biking lanes for bikers.
Siavash was born in Tehran, raised in Waterloo, and now calls Ottawa home. Having lived in these diverse communities, he has become cognizant of the issues facing each of them. He has become especially passionate about local economic issues, individual rights, and equality. After becoming involved with Waterloo Collegiate Institute’s Human Rights Club and volunteering with Me to We’s Build a Village program in Kenya a few years ago, he decided to pursue a degree in International Development and Globalization at the University of Ottawa. He largely focuses his passion for local and global activism through participating in party politics and volunteering in community development projects. He aims to set sail for a meaningful life working in the field of human rights and development, while working to strengthen the impact of various activist networks locally.
Tara is a former fashion model turned feminist and women’s rights activist. Fitting the stereotypical physical requirements, Tara was encouraged from a young age to pursue a career in modeling. After finishing a year of an arts and science degree at the University of Guelph, she signed with agents in several different European countries and found herself immersed in a destructive work environment alongside other young women struggling with eating disorders and body image issues. For over a year, she remained working under a high degree of bodily regulation, exploitation and objectification. Exhausted by the experience, Tara returned to Canada confused and unsure of what to do next. Soon after, she re-enrolled at the University of Guelph, switching into business administration, then later into international development. For the first time, she was exposed to the tools she needed to be able to critically engage with global social, economic and political systems. During her time in the program she was fortunate enough to travel to India on a semester abroad, which took her to various parts of the country and gave her the opportunity to live with a host family. Changed by the experience, she decided to pursue a master’s degree in social work with a focus on community development and social and economic policy. In 2009, she moved to Ottawa to complete her degree in social work at Carleton University.
As a Carleton University student, Tara was actively involved in student advocacy. She was co-chair of her departmental students’ association, and served as a student representative to the Senate and Graduate Faculty Board. Since 2009, she has interned with the City for All Women’s Initiative, the International Development Research Centre, and in the office of a member of parliament working on poverty issues. Tara now works at the Canadian Federation of University Women, advocating for policies, programs and services that promote equity and advance gender equality at home and abroad. When Tara is not fighting to end patriarchy, coordinating letter-writing campaigns, or protesting on Parliament Hill, she can be found doing yoga or spending time with her friends.
Ashley is passionate about creating and sustaining collaborative spaces and events centred around environmental and social justice. Using grassroots approaches to community organizing and evolving an understanding of effective popular education techniques such as poetry, film, and arts are central to Ashley’s work.
She graduated from Carleton University with a Bachelor of Social Work and a Minor in American Sign Language. During her time at Carleton, Ashley was the founder and co-president of the Carleton American Sign Language Society (CASLS) and she has worked with a number of other noteworthy NGOs and community groups such as Families of Sisters in Spirit (FSIS), a grassroots community group led by the families of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada. Ashley identifies as a non-Indigenous settler and ally and has worked to educate non-Indigenous Canadians on the impact of our colonial history in her anti-violence and anti-oppression work.
The name Ainsley Munro isn’t the only Scottish thing about Ainsley Munro – she attests her resilience and strong family values to her Scottish Highlander roots. Growing up in Haliburton with a 27-acre backyard of thick forests and vast meadows, she always had a keen love for nature. Her parents encouraged this passion with summers spent camping, bear watching, and learning how to build shelters in case her infamous skill of getting lost left her stranded in the woods. Her interest in the natural world led her to start an environmental action group in high school after noticing that the school buses idled while waiting for students to board after classes. This group worked on various campaigns to make its school a more socially aware and environmentally sustainable community for students and teachers alike.
Her interest in nature and the environment led her to enter academia at the University of Waterloo, majoring in Environment and Resource Studies. She took advantage of the university’s co-op program to participate in Katimavik, a youth leadership and service program that brings 11 youth together for six months to take part in projects that help change Canadian communities. She volunteered in Quesnel, BC at a rural school, and in Montreal, QC with ATD Quart Monde and Santropol Roulant.
During her undergrad, she became heavily involved in The Otesha Project, a youth-led organization that uses bike touring to deliver theatre plays and interactive workshops for environmental advocacy. Her experiences with Katimavik and Otesha solidified her passion for community engagement and the intentional community lifestyle.
At all times, she strives to enjoy everything life has to offer and continues to engage in life with youthful wonder. Her passions and distractions include listening to folk music, painting, reading fiction, cycling, singing to songbirds and all things outdoorsy.