Washington, d.c., U.S.A

APRIL 28 - MAY 5, 2019



Join 25 youth leaders as we travel to Washington DC where Power is the most important currency. This is a unique opportunity to experience leadership, democratic engagement and outreach, and public policy development in the capital of the United States. This trip will provide participants an opportunity to examine up close who has power, how it is used and the impact these dynamics have on a local, national and international basis.

The trip to Washington, DC will run from Sunday, April 28th to Sunday, May 5th, 2019 and will have you engage with thought leaders, elected officials, entrepreneurs, journalists and community activists through a series of meetings, workshops and events that will explore the intricacies of power, divisiveness and how public policy and the agenda of issues on which the public engages, is developed.

Programs for students and youth leaders will be held directly before and after the trip, preparing you with relevant knowledge and providing opportunities to put what you have learned into practice. This will contrast the differences between the American and Canadian political, economic and social systems, and provide learning to address complex challenges here at home, just a few months before the next Canadian federal election.

This will be a singular, hands-on learning opportunity where participants will come to appreciate the dynamics of power as played out in a critical moment in history.



April 28 - May 5, 2019

We depart Toronto on Sunday, April 28th and are back in Toronto on Sunday, May 5th.


WHAT Will I learn?

The combination of "learning-by-listening" (through meetings and interactions with key changemakers) and "learning-by-doing" (through placements in non-partisan organizations working on civic engagement) will yield actionable insights for participants through the following themes of Power:

The Power of the Media – Is the pen really mightier than the sword?

The media is evolving, changing, and it is becoming harder for us to separate truth from fiction. Social media is changing the way that information and perspectives are shared. Traditional media organizations are facing crises trying to adapt to the ways the public consumes content. Despite all the ways the media is changing, the power of information (and misinformation) is one that is lasting and well tested. However, it should be noted, that those in control of creating content often influence public ideas and perception. During a time where truth is subject to debate without evidence, does the old adage still hold true: is knowledge really power?

The Power of People – Are people really the solution?

People have long organized into groups representing the societal change they wish to see. Groups that represent the people are often the first to identify where efforts should focus on tackling injustices. The recent #MeToo movement shows how people can organize to create and change a conversation about issues that certain segments of the population face daily. But the speed at which these movements become polarizing leads to groups representing people of the opposing point-of-view, creating a clash of ideology. Can it be confidently said that a collection of the voice of the people really has power?

The Power of Institutions – Can institutions really make change?

Longstanding institutions have a history of being active in creating rhetoric for the change it would like to see, but trust in our public and private institutions is slipping. These institutions can be government organizations, NGOs, special interest groups, educational institutions, among others. Some are the product of new movements; others are embedded in the everyday lives of the public. It is not a question of whether they have power; institutions are often able to influence the realms in which they operate, but whether their power extends beyond the groups which they represent. Does the power of institutions really translate into meaningful, progressive, change?

The Power of Money – Does money really rule everything?

There is no question that money is influential, and a driving force behind many decisions. So, the effects of “the almighty dollar” on civil discourse must not be underestimated. Money has long been a topic of debate on its influences on public policy, elections, and the ability to make change. This is more often the case in the United States, but its impacts can be felt in Canada too. It is believed that money can hold sway over the most important institutions, including the policies of those in elected office. Is this true, or is just perception? Can it definitively be said that money is really power?

The Power of Leaders – Do leaders really hold power?

Defining what makes an effective leader can often be difficult, but what kind of power those we identify as leaders have is an even more challenging question. The scope of what makes a leader is vast, and the amount of power they possess can be limited by geography, demography, ethnicity, or a challenge they have chosen to represent. Great leaders can be found in almost every discipline so, what stands to be measured is the extent of influence that leaders hold over institutions and ideas adjacent to their power. Does effective leadership really have power?  


Meet our youth leaders

24 Ryerson students, 4 community partners, 5 organizers, 1 veteran change-maker, 1 immersive journey.

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The Democratic Engagement Exchange and Ryerson Leadership Lab are committed to making this opportunity available to all youth leaders accepted as participants by heavily subsidizing the cost through sponsorships.

For Ryerson Students:

Each accepted student will be asked to contribute $300 CAD towards the trip. Otherwise, the cost of transportation, shared accommodation, program materials, group meals, on-the-ground travel and all programmed activities will be covered. Those facing financial hardship may contact Shoaib Ahmed to discuss options regarding this fee.

For Others:

Please email Shoaib Ahmed for more information



The Democratic Engagement Exchange and the Ryerson Leadership Lab are two Ryerson University-based initiatives with a shared commitment to strengthening the foundation of Canada’s democracy. The Exchange does this by developing tools and resources, providing training and consultation and showcasing best practices of democratic engagement. The RLL does this by developing the capacity of future leaders through innovative educational programming, convening leading thinkers and practitioners and providing meaningful experiential learning opportunities. Both initiatives will be drawing on an extensive network of Canadian and US based organizations and leaders to support this study tour.



Distinguished Visiting Professor / Special Adviser to the President

Karim Bardeesy is a public service leader who has worked at the intersection of public policy, politics, journalism and academia for the last 15 years...

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Senior Advisor, Democratic Engagement, Faculty of Arts, Ryerson University

John joins the Faculty of Arts, after leading community based outreach programs for Samara Canada. At Samara, John...

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Co-Founder of Ryerson Leadership Lab

Shoaib Ahmed has been working with executives, students and change makers to develop their programs and leadership potential at Ryerson University since 2011...

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Operations Lead, Ryerson Leadership Lab

Josie Verrilli has led operational initiatives and transformation agendas throughout her career within the Ontario Government. She has served…

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Director of Policy & Research, Ryerson Leadership Lab

Sam has advanced equity and inclusion through Ontario’s public education system for the past eight years. He served as Chief of Staff and Director…

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