Meet the Department
of Words & Deeds
The Dept of Words & Deeds is nimble and flexible, able to show up, scale up and collaborate on projects as needed. Our team has the expertise and experience to deliver on a wide range of engagement assignments in urban and transportation planning, housing affordability, culture policy, strategic planning and communications, graphic and website design, social media integration, economic development and workforce planning.
& Community Engagement
Virtual Engagement Platforms
& Online Surveys
& Pop-up Engagement
Project Discussion Guides, Backgrounders & Presentations
& Research Analysis
& Stakeholder Roundtables
& Website Design
& Social Media Integration
“When Jane Farrow is present, good things happen. Her warmth, energy, insight and respect for people mean that she can tell it like it is… and get people off their rear ends to do good work—all while generating an atmosphere of enthusiasm and mutual support.”
Jane Farrow is a public consultation specialist working in the areas of city building, transportation planning, culture strategy and economic development policy. She worked for 10 years as a CBC radio producer for shows like This Morning and The Sunday Edition and hosted shows like Workology and Wanted Words. She is the co-editor of the two editions of The Book of Lists (Knopf Canada, 2017 & 2005) and Any Other Way, a queer history anthology of Toronto (Coach House Books 2017) shortlisted for the Toronto Book Award. Jane was the founding Executive Director of Jane’s Walk, a global initiative involving free, locally-led walking tours inspired by urbanist Jane Jacobs’ ideas about connected, livable neighbourhoods.
Mia is a multidisciplinary urbanist with broad expertise in
community engagement, research-led design thinking, project management, communications and visual culture. She has collaborated with Jane Farrow and the Dept of Words & Deeds for well over a decade and is now directing projects in Ottawa. Mia’s community, professional, and academic projects incorporate ethnography, creative methodologies, and participant action approaches to bring people together and create meaningful dialogue. She has a BFA in Design from Concordia University, a Master’s in Urban Planning from the University of Toronto and a PhD in Cultural Geography from Royal Holloway, University of London.
Leah is Principal at Leah Birnbaum Consulting and an Associate with the Dept of Words & Deeds. Leah provides consulting, research, writing and editing services on a broad range of issues related to community planning and public policy. In her work with the Dept of Words & Deeds, Leah specializes in co-designing beautifully simple engagement processes and then producing clear and concise written summaries.
A full member of the Ontario Professional Planners Institute, Leah Birnbaum holds a Master of Science in Planning from the University of Toronto. A planner with over 15 years of experience in both the private and public sectors and has operated her own consulting practice since 2008.
Pauline has a varied professional career that spans several years working as a project coordinator and manager for municipal policy and infrastructure projects, and has operated her own consulting business providing planning expertise to governments and non-profits. Pauline is an entrepreneur and in 2020 started a business in sustainable agriculture, growing and selling native plants that attract pollinators and beneficial insects. In all her work and business endeavours, Pauline brings her strengths of adaptability, resilience, creativity and resourcefulness.
Felicia is a community outreach expert who is passionate about socio-cultural expression and development, collective celebration and personal histories. She has spent over 16 years in the non-profit sector, specializing in organizational development, project coordination, event production and volunteer recruitment and management. For eight years, Felicia worked for some of Toronto’s premier arts and cultural festivals including TIFF, Hot Docs, City of Toronto cultural events like Nuit Blanche, the ROM, 6 Degrees and the Toronto Biennial of Art. In projects past and present, Felicia works to foster a sense of togetherness and encourage people to make meaningful change in their communities. She holds a BA (Hons.) in History and Political Science from the University of Toronto and a Certificate in Sports and Event Marketing from George Brown. Felicia is a devoted aunt of seven nephews and holds her Caribbean heritage dear.
Zahra is a designer and urbanist, using participatory practices to engage citizens in the design of services, policies and infrastructure. She is an Executive Advisor to Deloitte on Civic Innovation, and a senior advisor to political and public interest initiatives across the country. For the past three years, she led Doblin Canada (Deloitte’s Human-Centered Design practice), engaging diverse sets of stakeholders to co-create solutions to complex organizational and industry challenges. Prior to Doblin, Zahra founded and led archiTEXT, working with communities to co-design towards better social outcomes and leading some of Canada’s most ambitious participatory infrastructure and policy programs. Zahra has taught at OCADU, MoMA, and currently teaches at UofT. She sits on the board of Jane’s Walk, St. Stephen’s Community House, Toronto Biennial, and CP Planning, and is an advisor for a range of organizations including Toronto Public Library, Progress Toronto, Code for Canada and ResilientTO.
Gillian Kerr is a marketing and communications professional with over 20 years of experience as a senior leader working in the corporate grocery sector leading brand portfolios. Now, as an independent consultant, she helps organizations, project leaders and small companies bring sustainable ideas to life. She is committed to supporting Toronto as a livable city, and is a board member of the Gooderham and Worts Neighbourhood Association.
Sneha Mandhan is a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto, and a proud dog mom to a rescue mutt named Luna. She is an urban planner, urban designer and architect who has worked on several urban planning, environmental planning and urban design projects in the US and India. She is a graduate of the Master in City Planning course at MIT, and holds a professional undergraduate degree in Architecture from India. She is interested in the integration of physical form with social and cultural forces within cities, social justice and equity issues, urban informality, community co-design and spatial planning pedagogy. Her current research focuses on the influence of ‘integration’ practices on the culture and use of space among immigrant communities in Toronto, and connecting their experiences transnationally to their families ‘back home’.
Brandon is a talented innovator in collaborative product and process design. He has a degree in Management and Organizational Studies, which he has put to use as the Team Lead on multi-platform product innovation initiatives for Deloitte Canada, Canadian Tire and RocketSpace. He has a specialized understanding of artificial intelligence and human centred design, and their related impacts and applications. Brandon has extensive experience coordinating and communicating with complex teams, reporting and convening.
Industrial strength patience and persistence
UNDER DEPARTMENTAL REVIEW
Chiyi is an urban planner, a second-generation Canadian-Chinese settler raised in Vancouver, on unceded Coast Salish lands and waters. Just as the shore translates between water and land, she was raised in the translation between places and culture. A descendant of political refugees, she strives to bring this lens into community engagement practice. Through her Masters in Planning, she is researching democratic processes in economic development with a focus on worker cooperatives, mutual aid and anti-displacement strategies. She aims to reciprocate this knowledge into community.