Alumni Profile Munira Ravji: Connecting the Dots in the Community Sector

2013-2014 Issue 1

PHOTO CREDIT: DERREL HO-SHING

PHOTO CREDIT: DERREL HO-SHING

Sometimes it takes 20/20 hindsight to put things in perspective. Contemplating her career to date, community worker extraordinaire Munira Ravji realizes that “McGill ignited everything for me.” Currently serving as the Constituency Assistant to Premier and MPP for the riding of Don Valley West, the Honorable Kathleen Wynne, Munira recalls how her studies at McGill kick-started an exciting and impactful career.

“The skills I learned at McGill have led me to a really great position in politics. Because the professors were professionals working in the field, they were able to lend us real world advice and tactics around effective partnership-building and corporate communications. They also offered us opportunities to apply our in- class learning with real-world projects and clients. Having that experience really helped me understand the nuances and dynamics of the business world and how to work effectively with clients. I think the most important aspect of this was learning how to develop proper messaging and how to market myself and my ideas.”

Ravji earned her Certificate in Public Relations Management at the School of Continuing Studies in 2004. “I did things in reverse,” she recalls. “I finished my B.A. in Community and Public Affairs [at Concordia] afterwards.”

On completion of the PR program, she was offered an internship with Tyndale-St. George’s, an organization she had done a class project on, in their fund-raising department. Her next job was with the Mile End Mission, writing grant proposals and developing a fundraising strategy. “Helping to build the capacity of staff members working at the mission, who were also participants of the organization’s programs for low-income residents, was a life-changing experience,” she recalls.

Ravji launched her own consulting business, providing project management, event management, media relations – “everything I’d studied at McGill.” Soon she was running Literacy Through Hip Hop Montreal, an innovative program for Grade 6 to 8 students, engaging kids with reading and writing via the hip hop culture. And then came the summer of 2005. A spate of shootings in Toronto sent shivers across Canada. Ravji packed up and moved down the 401 to take on a role as the lead researcher for a project aimed at building a youth social infrastructure in that city.

She eventually signed on with Maytree Foundation, which works with many different partners to fight poverty. “I wanted to be part of an organization that would move me into policy or politics.” She also worked as a publicist for the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC). “Everything I was doing involved building connections between a diverse range of stakeholders, from large national corporations to local agencies supporting newcomers. My whole focus has been networking, putting people together. I’ve always had that ability and that passion. It’s about knowing what opportunities there are out there to make a difference and making those connections. Every step has led to the next.”

She gives an example: “The past few years, more new immigrants have been accepted based on their skill sets, but there’s still a disconnect on the ground between employers and skilled immigrants. My role was to facilitate those conversations and put people and opportunities for employment together.

“Connecting the dots has been the theme of my career. I always had that raw talent for networking, but McGill really polished me up and gave me the communications and public relations skills I needed to excel.”

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