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PlexusCalls:Welcoming Syrian Refugees
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Canada has welcomed some 30,000 Syrian refugees. John Sewell and Liz Rykert and a group of friends are sponsoring a family forced to flee their home in Aleppo. Lisa Kimball and friends in Washington D.C. are helping welcome an Afghan family to the U.S.

When: Friday, September 30, 2016
1 PM - 2 PM ET
Where: United States

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Friday, September 30, 1 PM – 2 PM ET

Welcoming Refugees from Syria  

Guests: John Sewell, Liz Rykert and Lisa Kimball 

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Canada has responded to the humanitarian crisis in Syria by welcoming and resettling some 30,000 Syrian refuges, nearly a third of them sponsored by citizens and grass roots organizations. John Sewell and his wife Liz Rykert, are part of a group of 21 neighbor and friends who are sponsoring family of five who were forced to flee their home in war-ravaged Aleppo. Canadian sponsors agree to provide the family’s needs for a year.  The U.S. is trying to reach its goal of  admitting 10,000 Syrian refugees. Lisa Kimball and colleagues in the Washington D.C. area are working with Lutheran Social Services to sponsor a family from Afghanistan.    


John Sewell was a member of Toronto City Council from 1969 to 1984, and was  Mayor of Toronto 1979 – 80. As mayor he was far ahead of his time, advocating an end to discrimination against gays and lesbians. He also helped rethink transit service in Toronto including freezing fares and introducing a monthly pass and helped establish an independent police complaints commission.


 He has engaged in politics in Toronto as a community activist, city councillor, journalist, writer, housing administrator, and social entrepreneur, often speaking for those who do not have access to the levers of power.  He has authored a dozen books, most recently `How We Changed Toronto, 1969 – 1980.’ In 2005, He was awarded the Order of Canada, which is the cornerstone of a Canadian honors system designed to recognize outstanding achievement, dedication to community and service to the nation.  Since the mid 1990s John has been involved in several international consultations. He  worked with local residents and the municipal council to restructure and manage local government in the City of East London (now Buffalo City), South Africa, following the election of President Mandela in 1995. He advised on the re-establishment of local government in Malawi in 2000, and in 2004 he was retained to chair an evaluation panel of the housing and local government programs of UN-HABITAT in Nairobi, Kenya.

He was a founding member of Lifeline Syria in December 2014, and continues to be involved in issues surrounding bringing Syrian refugees to Canada through, which he founded in the Spring of 2016.

Liz  Rykert began her career as a social worker, primarily working in community development in various downtown Toronto neighbourhoods. Her interest in finding new approaches for supporting and engaging the changing communities led her to an early adoption of technology for collaboration, activism and citizen engagement. Meta Strategies, which Liz founded in 1997, was born out of her application of community development skills to the burgeoning world of online community and engagement.

Over time, Liz has developed her coaching and facilitation skills to reflect her knowledge of complex systems. She has identified and introduced concepts such as Network Mapping and Analysis and Positive Deviance to her community of colleagues and clients through workshops and dynamic learning events. Through Meta Strategies she provides consultation, coaching, project development, strategy design and facilitation services.

Liz is also an associate with Ignite Consulting Services at University Health Network. She is an active practitioner of high-energy engagement methods such as Liberating Structures. She practices Developmental Evaluation on the often uncertain and emergent projects she works on to carefully track and monitor progress and impact. Liz is a graduate from Ryerson’s Social Work program. Liz works with health and academic systems with a focus on culture change and human interaction as part of large systems change to improve patient safety and workplace culture.

 Liz has recently co-founded Shape My City, a network for city builders and anyone who wants to make the city a better place. Liz is a student of complexity science and a big believer in the power of networks.

Lisa Kimball, is an entrepreneur with more than 30 years experience as an organizational consultant with business, government and nonprofit organizations. As CEO of Metasystems Design Group and Executive Producer of Group Jazz she supported the efforts of teams, task forces, communities and organizations and specialized in helping them leverage the power of new technology and social media. She is active in online community work, organizational development (she also serves on the Board of the Organization Development Network (ODN) and is skilled in applying complexity-inspired principles. She has worked with hospitals and health care facilities applying Positive Deviance methodology to the problem of eliminating transmission of hospital acquired "superbug” infections. She has trained PD consultants and coaches as well as designed and developed materials to support hospital teams to use and train others to use PD methods. She holds a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology; Cognition & Learning from Catholic University of America where her research focused on problem solving strategies of senior executives in complex systems. Lisa served as Plexus Institute President for three years.

The ODN gave Lisa the Share the Wealth award for her years of support to the OD Network and the unstinting gifts of her extensive experience within the OD community. She also received the ODN Service to the Network award for her six years on the board and for chairing the Network’s conference planning committee for five years. Lisa is also long time contributor to the Chesapeake Bay ODN

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