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Meet Narinder Dhami: Managing Director of LEAP | Pecaut Centre for Social Impact

A leader in social finance and innovator in venture philanthropy, through her role at LEAP Narinder, catalyzes large-scale change for social ventures, and equips Canadian business, political and social sector leaders to “do good, better”. LEAP, Pecaut Centre for Social Impact is a Canadian non-profit that works to enhance social impact, by supporting and scaling breakthrough social ventures. Dedicating her life to social impact, she is also the founding executive director of Rise Asset Development, where she designed and scaled a Rotman/CAMH financial initiative to provide an entrepreneurial path to employment for those with a history of mental health and addiction challenges. Narinder has also worked to deploy impact investments to social enterprises across Ghana and Nigeria with Acumen. As a lecturer at the University of Toronto, Narinder created the first course in Impact Investing. She currently teaches at Ryerson University in Social Innovation and Social Finance. Narinder was recently named one of 2019’s Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 — an annual recognition of the exceptional achievements of 40 outstanding Canadians under the age of 40.


My first job was… as a math tutor when I turned 14. By 17, I had three jobs — I continued to tutor math, worked as an usher for my local OHL team, and drove a forklift at a warehouse.

My proudest accomplishment is… Designing and building two social ventures: Rise Asset Development and LEAP | Pecaut Centre for Social Impact. Rise Asset Development I started at the age of 28 and it’s now growing across the country to provide microloans to individuals with a history of mental health and addiction challenges. LEAP is my current focus – we scale the most effective social ventures across Canada and the globe. 

My boldest move to date was… Moving from investment banking in Toronto into microfinance in Burkina Faso, Mali and Cote d’Ivoire in Africa.

My biggest setback was… There have been many — mostly when I am underestimated or discounted.

I overcame it by… My focus, resilience, grit and intellect. 

If I didn’t do what I do, I would be a … An entrepreneur.

I want all girls to know… Share your voice and your views with confidence.

The best part of what I do with LEAP is… Each day I work with inspiring, smart leaders in both the social and private sectors who are driven to do good, better.

The most challenging part of what I do is… Social challenges are growing faster than solutions. And with over 200,000 social ventures operating in Canada, identifying those that drive the strongest outcomes is difficult. Most social ventures also lack access to the resources and support to create the impact that will transform communities at scale. To overcome growing challenges, the right set of high-impact potential social ventures must be selected and scaled nationally — that’s where we at LEAP come in.

The worst professional advice I ever received was… A career counsellor during my MBA cautioned me about going into the social sector – she noted that it was better to volunteer or sit on boards than work in the sector.  I would not be where I am today if I had taken that advice.

If I were to pick one thing that has helped me succeed, it would be… great people — from mentors to colleagues to clients.

If you googled me you still wouldn’t know… I learned how to drive a manual car on the streets of Ouagadougou, and discovered the power of bar soap to solve for an overheating car.

The future excites me because… We have an opportunity to design an inclusive and equitable society where everyone is able to reach their full potential.