Senior Fellows

Senior Fellows

The McConnell Senior Fellows are experienced leaders who have been identified by the Foundation as ideally positioned to provide mentorship and advice to staff on specific initiatives, and to conduct exploratory research on issue areas of interest.

Learn more about the Senior Fellows


Allyson Hewitt is Director of Social Innovation at MaRS Discovery District in Toronto. Previously she worked at the Toronto Sick Kids Hospital where, as Executive Director of Safe Kids Canada, she was a passionate advocate in preventing injuries to children. Prior to that, Allyson was the Executive Director of Community Information Toronto, an agency that brings people and services together. In this capacity, she helped lead the development of 211, providing telephone and online access to social service, community and government information.

Fellowship mandate: Allyson Hewitt has been leading the social innovation programs at the MaRS Discovery District. In this role, she helps develop innovative programs and services like the Centre for Impact Investing, Studio Y and Solutions Lab. She is most active advising existing and emerging social ventures on how to increase their social impact and sustainability.

James Hughes
was Executive Director of the Graham Boeckh Foundation, which focuses on improvements to mental health research and treatment. He was also New Brunswick’s Deputy Minister of the Department of Social Development (2008-11), with a budget of over $1 billion and nearly 2000 staff under management. He led public engagement and implementation of the province’s trailblazing poverty reduction plan. James has also served as the Director General of the Old Brewery Mission (OBM), Quebec’s largest centre serving homeless men and women, where he led the transformation of the organization from one that managed homelessness into one that focused on solving it. Hughes is a lawyer by training.

Fellowship mandate: James is looking at the intersections between early intervention and improved social services, and ascertaining the case for treating certain social investments as depreciable costs, in collaboration with the Foundation's Social Finance team.


Past senior fellows:

Cheryl Rose is interested in youth, education and social innovation and has many years of experience working on community-based initiatives at universities. She co-directed the Waterloo Graduate Diploma in Social Innovation, directed the Rockefeller Foundation Global Fellowship of Social Innovation, and is currently working on the second year of a residency in social innovation at the Banff Centre. She is one of the principal individuals in the national Social Innovation Generation (SiG) partnership and continues to support SiG initiatives, such as Alberta Social Innovation Connect. 

Fellowship mandate: Cheryl has been involved in supporting the ongoing development of the RECODE campus-based program, especially through sharing ideas and resources for post-secondary education system change. She has also worked to seed new forms of education and support for social innovation practitioners, including those leading on reconciliation in Canada.



Ian Gill is an experienced leader in the fields of conservation, community development, Indigenous issues, media and social finance. He was a founder of Ecotrust Canada and has served as its President and CEO. He served two terms as a director of Vancity Credit Union. Ian is also the author of three books, including All That We Say Is Ours: Guujaaw and the Reawakening of the Haida Nation. Ian has decades of journalism experience, including working at CBC Television, where he won a string of awards as a documentary journalist specializing in resource development and First Nations. He was also an editor and senior reporter at The Vancouver Sun. He currently writes a regular column for The Tyee.

Fellowship mandate: Ian investigated Canada's journalism landscape, identifyed its current and future challenges, and profiled emerging new journalistic forms. He also travelled abroad to study the latest innovative solutions for digital strategy and business development in the United States and Europe.

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