Shakiba Shayani: Community Developer and Changemaker
Shakiba Shayani is dedicated to community development. In her youth, Shayani and her family came to Canada from Iran as refugees. Though she grew up with limited means, she remembers being surrounded by people and agencies that deeply cared about her well-being. These experiences instilled her lifelong commitment to community engagement. Her mother, Mitra, encouraged her interest and, from kindergarten, Shayani’s teachers provided invaluable support and guidance along her journey. In August 2006, she enrolled in the Criminal Justice and Public Policy program at the University of Guelph. In August 2009, she became a Citizen Services Officer with Service Canada, her first professional position in community development. For Shayani, it was an opportunity to explore working in public service. She found it to be rewarding work. After graduating with her degree in 2010, Shayani continued at Service Canada until 2011. Confident in her pursuits, she began a Graduate International Development Program at Humber College, which she completed in 2012.
Shayani's position was as Program Assistant for DreamCatcher Mentoring, an organization that pairs students from northern communities with educators and professionals around the country through virtual communication. Her work with DreamCatcher encapsulates Shayani's belief that, while international initiatives are incredibly important, there is so much work to be done in our local communities.
In 2013, Shayani began a new initiative as Manager of Community Investment at United Way Guelph Wellington Dufferin. She became Director in 2016. Through this role, she faced a number of factors impacting the local community, including poverty, child wellbeing, newcomer inclusion, mental health, and marginalized individuals and communities. Shayani had the opportunity to meet, learn from, and work with a number of experts to address these important issues. It opened her eyes to the issues affecting the community and put her in contact with impassioned individuals who are committed to helping.
During her time at United Way, Shayani worked alongside socially-conscious corporate partners which inspired her to learn about and become more active in the “business network.” She joined the Guelph Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. In 2019, Shayani became the first female CEO of the Guelph Chamber of Commerce, an organization that is over 190 years old. As CEO, Shayani pledges to continue her spectacular record of community development. She created a diversity and inclusion committee that is the first step to increase the diversity within the organization itself and its membership. This commitment extends to the development of programs that reflect the varied needs of the membership network. Many of these programs are virtual and can be found online.
To Shayani, being a changemaker means looking for ways to improve the collective wellbeing of your community. To those who are interested in pursuing such ambitions, she recommends active community participation. Get to know what activities are happening in your neighbourhood and who your neighbours are. Contribute your time or your money to organizations and resources you feel matter. Above all, remember that you are not alone. Through collaboration, innovation, and action, Shayani says, anyone can be a change-maker.
Shakiba Shayani. This is a head shot of Shayani.
Shakiba Shayani graduating from the University of Guelph in 2010 pictured with her brother (left) and mother (right). She is wearing her convocation gown and holding flowers.