The Dept of Words & Deeds is nimble and flexible, able to scale up and collaborate on projects as needed. Our team has the ability and experience to deliver on a wide range of engagement assignments in urban and transportation planning, housing affordability, culture policy, strategic planning, economic development and workforce planning.

Key Expertise

  • Consultation Strategy & Design
  • Facilitation & Community Engagement
  • WalkShops
  • Moderating Panels & Events
  • Immersive Engagement
  • Intercept Surveys, Pop-up Engagement
  • Project Discussion Guides, Backgrounders & Presentations
  • Survey Development & Research Analysis
  • Project Reporting
  • Stakeholder Mapping & Outreach
  • Focus Groups & Stakeholder Roundtables
  • Communications & Website Design

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.

– Spacing Magazine

Jane’s Superpower:
Using the telephone

Jane Farrow

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.

Leah’s Superpower:
Keeping it simple. Jargon-buster.

Leah Birnbaum

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.

Zahra’s Superpower:
Process alchemy, musing & board games

Zahra Ebrahim

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.

Mia’s Superpower:
Bytown trail-blazer, design shape-shifter

Mia Hunt

Mia is a multidisciplinary urbanist with broad expertise in community engagement, research-led design thinking, project management, communications, and visual cultural. She has collaborated with Jane Farrow and the Dept of Words & Deeds for 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.

Gillian’s Superpower:
Objective setting, making lists

Gillian Kerr

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.

Brandon’s Superpower:
Industrial strength patience and persistence

Brandon Riddell

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.