Leslie Woo: Building Back Better: Cities of the New Normal

photo of observatory tower behind skyscrapers and electric wiring

Javon Swaby, Pexels

Glenn H. Beyer Memorial Lecture


Leslie Woo is a respected leader with over 25 years of experience building sustainable communities and shaping urban growth in Canada’s fastest-growing urban region, greater Toronto. Woo assumed the role of CEO at CivicAction in September 2020. A premier civic engagement organization that convenes established and rising leaders from all sectors, backgrounds, and experiences, CivicAction catalyzes actions and impactful solutions to address pressing challenges in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area and beyond. Before joining CivicAction, Woo was at Metrolinx for over a decade, including her time as Metrolinx’s Chief Planning Officer. Woo is a tri-sector athlete with experience in the public, private, and not-for-profit sectors, as well as her experience as a planner, architect, and community activator. An accomplished leader, Woo was named One of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women in 2017 by WXN, Spacing Toronto’s Transit Changemaker in 2016, and Canada’s Women’s Infrastructure Network’s 2015 Outstanding Leader. Founder of shebuildscities.org, Woo uses her voice and platform to amplify and celebrate other women city builders.


We are all experiencing a seismic social and economic shift that has the power to reshape our cities—a new normal. Between COVID-19, which has disproportionately impacted certain groups and the growing imperative to address racism against Black, Indigenous, and people of color, people across the world are taking to the streets, literally. The public infrastructure traditionally needed to deliver prosperous cities is now in question. All the elements that traditionally create synergies for innovation are in question. Can we double down on human-centered design, social equity, and public collaboration into decision making, so that we build back better? What does it mean for decision makers, in terms of public policy and investment?

If you would like to attend this lecture, please register here.


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