Michelle Dagnino is Executive Director of The Critical Thinking Consortium, a not-for-profit association located in Vancouver, British Columbia, that promotes critical thinking in education. She is the past Executive Director of the Youth Action Network and holds degrees in law and political science. In recognition of her contribution to her community, she has garnered more than a dozen awards including the YWCA Woman of Distinction Award and Toronto’s Persons Day Certificate of Honour. She has been declared “one of the Top 25 Leaders under 30”, and the Globe and Mail included her in their list of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women. She is an expert in social justice, youth engagement, and intergenerational issues in the workplace.
You’ve been an advocate for youth and social justice, Michelle, since you were a teenager. What drives this passion?
I was an active volunteer as a high-school student, but it wasn’t until I entered university that I found my passion for working in the social justice field. It was a shift from being a civically-engaged citizen to a critically-engaged citizen. I felt it wasn’t enough for me to volunteer in a homeless shelter— I started questioning, why. Why in this very wealthy country of ours, were there people without homes. This shift lead me to being a more questioning, curious individual. It sparked an interest in work that is largely contained in the non-profit sector. Youth engagement was a natural avenue for me, as I was a young person myself. I felt aligned advocating for youth, which led to exploring intersecting issues of gender, race and class. Trying to create a more socially-just world lead me to work in certain spaces. I love working with young people because there is so much hope for the future. I love my work because of its on going sense of optimism—that collectively, when given access to opportunity and skill, we can create better communities for all.