Cities are the solution to our global problems, because they create a platform for people to come together and innovate solutions.

But urban change is hard, as it demands navigating divergent priorities, regulatory environments, and stakeholder interests. Big problems in cities cannot be solved by a single department, ministry, think tank or company. Leaders must work together across sectors and be open to new ideas, tools and tactics.

The nine-week, intimate, hands-on Leading Urban Change program will remind you that urban development doesn’t need to be a zero-sum game, and will help you shift from a scarcity mindset focused on deficits, to an abundance mindset based on leveraging assets. It will also teach you how to build soft power — to convene people and surface ideas that draw others to the table. We will approach leadership as stemming from aspiration and commitment, rather than position.

Leading Urban Change is a project accelerator. We encourage you to bring members of a team that is stuck in progressing a particular city-focused project or program – and we will work together to build skills and an approach that will eliminate your roadblocks.

Submit your application

The application deadline for our Spring 2024 offering has passed.

Structure of the program

Leading Urban Change adopts a project-based learning approach. Our experts will discuss how you can influence and shape the change you want to see, drawing from cases in across urban domains. In breakout sessions, you will interact as a cohort, learning from peers from across North America working on similar issues. “Homework” will consist of short reflections after each session, with time to report back the following week.

As a bonus, you will have individual access to our faculty via up to three office hour sessions offered in May and June.

Who will teach Leading Urban Change?

Karen Chapple headshot

Karen Chapple, Director, School of Cities and Professor, Geography & Planning

Nouman Ashraf, Associate Professor, Rotman School of Management

Tiziana Casciaro, Professor, Rotman School of Management

Drew Fagan, former Deputy Minister of Infrastructure and Professor, Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy

Richard Florida, University Professor, Rotman School of Management

Lisa Helps, former mayor of Victoria and Housing Solutions Advisor in the Premier’s Office

Chris Murray, former City Manager, City of Toronto

Enid Slack, Director, Institute on Municipal Finance & Governance

Matti Siemiatycki, Director, Infrastructure Institute and Professor, Geography & Planning

Dates & schedule

The program begins online the week of April 29, 2024, with a mandatory in-person day on May 14, 2024 on U of T’s St. George campus (along with a reception the night before). Online sessions (eight in total) will be two hours in length, with two before the in-person day and six afterward.

Date/TimeDelivery MethodSpeaker(s)Topic
April 29OnlineKaren ChappleIntroduction and key concepts; meeting your cohort
May 6Karen ChappleBuilding the case for change
May 13: 4-6 PMIn-person in TorontoReception
May 14
9-10 AM In-person at U of TKaren Chapple, Lisa Helps, Nouman AshrafWelcome 
10-11:30 AMTiziana CasciaroPower, for all
11:30 AM – 1:30 PMRichard FloridaLunch
1:30-3:30 PMLisa HelpsBuilding soft power
3:30-5 PMNouman AshrafEmancipatory leadership
5-5:30 PMKaren ChappleReflection and next steps 
May 23, 12-2 PMOnlineMatti Siemiatycki & Drew FaganPartnerships & silo-busting 
May 28, 12-2 PMMatti Siemiatycki & Drew FaganPartnerships & silo-busting
June 5, 12-2 PMEnid Slack Fiscal logic
June 10, 12-2 PMKaren ChappleBuilding a narrative with data
June 19, 12-2 PMChris MurrayImplementation
June 24, 12-2 PMKaren Chapple & Nouman AshrafConclusion and celebration (with optional presentations)

Participant and/or team profile

Leaders with a passion and curiosity for integrating across traditional silos to build and execute an urban change agenda, including:

  • Mid- and senior-level city officials
  • Public, private, or not-for-profit sector leaders working on an urban project, program, or portfolio; staff members in a position of influence or collaboration on an urban project
  • We strongly recommend that all organizations be represented by a team of 2 or more. Teams should include participants working on different aspects of a project.

We welcome individuals and teams working in different urban domain areas, including (but not limited to): sustainability, housing, inclusive economic development, downtown recovery, transit-oriented communities, large-scale development, infrastructure, and municipal and regional governance.


Leading Urban Change costs $2,950 CAD + tax per person. We suggest a minimum of 2 persons per team (not including travel to/from and accommodation in Toronto)

The following discounts are available:

  • 15% for registered non-profits & charitable organizations
  • 15% for groups of two
  • 25% for groups of three
  • 40% for groups of four

More information from School of Cities

Feel free to contact us about fee and payment options, course content and applicability, or anything else: email us at