Creating space for transformative conversations


The honorific appointment of Dialogue Associate reflects strong achievement in dialogue and a sustained, active relationship with Centre for Dialogue programming.

Senior Associates

Joanna Ashworth is a former Director of Dialogue Programs at the Centre for Dialogue, leading numerous projects and programs from 2002 to 2010. Today she is Associate Director at the Centre for Sustainable Community Development, where she is also a faculty member in the Centre’s academic program. She was a program founder and teaches in SFU’s Certificate in Dialogue and Civic Engagement.

Tony Penikett spent 25 years in public life, including: two years at the House of Commons as Chief of Staff to federal New Democratic Party Leader Ed Broadbent; five terms in the Yukon Legislative Assembly; and two terms as Premier of Canada’s Yukon Territory. Between 1997 and 2001, Penikett served as B.C.’s Deputy Minister of Negotiations and, later, Labour. In 2006, Douglas & McIntyre published his book, Reconciliation: First Nations Treaty Making. In 2017, UBC Press will release Hunting the Northern Character, Penikett’s book on Arctic identities in the 21st century.

Ann Cowan was a founding member of the Centre for Dialogue. Serving as the Director of Program Development, she helped Mark Winston develop the Undergraduate Semester in Dialogue and other key initiatives. During her 23-year career at SFU, she also served as Executive Director of the Vancouver campus and founded SFU’s Writing and Publishing Program and the Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing.

A mediator, lawyer, facilitator and negotiator, Glenn Sigurdson is internationally known for his work related to complex multi-party challenges involving environmental, resource and land use issues. From 2001 to 2005 he led the Dialogue Forum, a research initiative exploring protocols and effective tools for successful dialogue.


Michael Alexander

Michael Alexander is Director of SFU’s City Conversations. Working with SFU’s Gordon Price and Public Square, he created this bi-weekly forum to encourage public participation and engagement on topics of interest to residents of Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. Michael comes from San Francisco, where he was a Commissioner for two national parks appointed by the Secretary of the Interior. He represented the leading citizens groups helping to create a national park at the Golden Gate, and championed and helped find funding for a new and appropriate parkway to replace the deteriorated highway through the park from the Golden Gate Bridge to San Francisco. He helped remove the Embarcadero Freeway which blighted the city’s northern waterfront, and promoted the rezoning and urban design of a new commercial and transit district and a residential neighbourhood south of the historic downtown. He helped with the design and funding for six miles of San Francisco Bay Trail around the edge of the city. Michael’s first career was as a photojournalist, primarily for Time & Life. He was a Director of the American Society of Magazine Photographers. He is a Sloan Fellow at the London Business School, and an urban design graduate of SFU’s City Program.

Laurie Anderson

Dr. Laurie Anderson is the Executive Director of Simon Fraser University, Vancouver. Laurie is also an Associate member of SFU’s Faculty of Education, and a lead facilitator for SFU’s Public Square.

Laurie has been a teacher, principal, Director of Curriculum, Associate Superintendent and Interim Superintendent of Schools in Vancouver. Laurie has also consulted in international education throughout Asia, and taught in Hong Kong, Thailand and various cities in China. Laurie has been an Adjunct Professor at UBC, a curriculum developer and instructor for VCC, Director of the Canadian Bureau for International Education, a mediation consultant, a facilitator of the VSB's Leadership Development Program and their Instructor Training Program, and the co-facilitator of Balanced Leadership, a program offered locally and at the Hollyhock learning centre on Cortes Island. Laurie obtained his BEd, MA and PhD at SFU.

Laurie’s current interests include contemplative education and archetypal leadership.

Nicole Armos

Nicole Armos is in her fourth year at Simon Fraser University, pursuing a major in World Literature and a minor in Counseling and Human Development. For several years she has been actively involved in her community, and currently is a volunteer facilitator for Check Your Head's workshops on gender representations. She also works for Simon Fraser University as a TA, and for the City of Surrey as a program instructor and daycamp leader where she has been able to combine her interests in art, health, the environment and community-building as she designs and facilitates programs for all age groups. Her participation in the fall 2011 Semester in Dialogue program inspired her to seek out further facilitator training and practice, recently facilitating dialogues at the Girls In Real Life magazine launch and the 2012 SFU Leadership Summit.

Herb Barbolet

Herb Barbolet has been active in community development for more than 30 years - Working in community planning, energy conservation, citizen participation, cooperative housing, and food and agriculture. He now works in food policy research, projects and programmes: linking food to community economic development, health and safety, environment, social justice, and international development - from the very local to the global. He is one of the leading food activists in North America. Herb has a B.A. in Urbanism, a Masters in Community Development, and doctoral studies in Community Development and later in Community Planning and Political Economy. As Associate with the Centre for Sustainable Community Development at Simon Fraser University since 2003 he has co-authored food assessment studies for provincial health authorities and a guide to food assessments for the provincial health services authority.

Herb consulted on the establishment of the Vancouver Food Policy Council and Year 3 of the SFU Imagine BC Programme. He was the founder, and for 10 years, executive director of FarmFolk/CityFolk, an internationally recognized NGO. Earlier he was the executive director of the Community Planning Association of Canada (BC) for five years and developed cooperative housing for 10 years. He appears regularly on CBC radio Almanac's Food Panel, and in all media. Herb was a founding member of numerous non-profits (including the Cooperative Housing Federation of BC and the BC Association for Regenerative Agriculture).

Sean Blenkinsop

I came to dialogue from two different directions. First, through my practice as an outdoor and experiential teacher/facilitator in various alternative venues including wilderness places and second, through my philosophical and theoretical interest in the work of Martin Buber. I have long wanted to better understand and help grow our relationships with ourselves, others, and the larger world. I grew up in Northern Ontario and spent 15 years as an outdoor, environmental, and experiential educator. Believe it or not, I have only ever made a pay-cheque through my teaching. My doctoral work in philosophy of education was completed at Harvard and focused on existentialism with a deep interest in the concepts of choice, dialogue, community, and freedom. Currently I am the primary investigator for a large SSHRC funded environmental CURA grant which is involved in the creation, researching, and ongoing day to day work of a publicly funded K-8 environmental, outdoor, experiential, and place-based school in Maple Ridge (for more information see Other current research interests might be situated in the area of eco-philosophy focusing on epistemological and ontological questions related to ecological worldviews, semiotics, education for community, flourishing, and wilderness as teacher. Finally, I am an associate professor of education at SFU and have been seconded for five years, beginning in the fall of 2012, to the undergraduate semester in dialogue.

Duane Elverum

As a designer, sustainability educator and Co-Director of CityStudio Vancouver, Duane’s teaching and research aims to connect university students directly to urban sustainability through studio-based, collaborative and dialogic learning. He is currently a visiting professor and associate with SFU’s Center for Dialogue, and is a past board director for the eatART Foundation and Modo the Car Coop. Recently he juried Prefab 2020, an international architectural competition, as well as B.C. Hydro’s Invent the Future competition. He holds a bachelor’s degree with honors in architecture from the University of British Columbia. As an offshore sailor, he has crossed the South Pacific Ocean twice, and the North Pacific 4 times, most recently in 2010 sailing from Hawaii to Vancouver with OceanGybe’s Plastics Research Expedition.

Julian Griggs

Julian Griggs is one of the founding Principals of Dovetail Consulting, a Vancouver-based firm specializing in collaborative approaches to environmental planning, resource management and community development. With work experience from Canada, the US, and Southern Africa, and graduate training in both natural and social sciences, Julian brings an interdisciplinary perspective to his work as a facilitator, planner, strategist and trainer. His recent projects have included government-to-government negotiations on behalf of a BC First Nation, working with coalitions of First Nations and conservation organizations, strategic planning for various progressive non-profit organizations, brokering dialogue between senior industry and environmental representatives on energy and climate issues, and several research projects examining multi-party collaborative initiatives. Julian lives in Vancouver with his wife, Eva and three daughters and enjoys time in the clean air and wilderness of deserts and mountains.

Peter Ladner

Peter Ladner is a Dialogue Associate of the SFU Centre for Dialogue. His book The Urban Food Revolution: Changing the Way We Feed Cities, was published by New Society Publishers in fall, 2011, following a two-year Fellowship at the SFU Centre for Dialogue on Planning Cities as if Food Matters. He is a former Vancouver City Councillor, Metro Vancouver director, and publisher of Business in Vancouver newspaper, where he writes a weekly column. Twitter @pladner

Gary McCarron

Gary McCarron is an Associate Professor in the School of Communication and a recipient of Simon Fraser University's Excellence in Teaching Award. His interests in dialogue are wide-ranging, but are focused chiefly focused on the history and philosophy of rhetoric in relation to modern theories of public persuasion; and, as well as on discourse analysis, especially in the area of forgiveness and apologies.

Stu McNish

Dialogue is a venue that allows for the open and respectful sharing of ideas. It is focused, it has intent and it has purpose. At it’s best, dialogue, allows those involved to set aside differences and listen to one another with an open mind, a willingness to set aside preconceptions minus a need to win.

As each conversation unfolds differences and doubts surface, participants probe and explore and learn from one another. Given the appropriate setting participants and observers of the conversation can at times discover insights that modify and re-shape their worldview.

Award winning broadcaster Stu McNish founded Oh Boy Productions in 1997 and still thrives on the art of storytelling. When he weaves a story, whether over dinner or in a broadcast, his passion and ease of delivery means he always has a rapt audience.

Janet Moore

Janet is Director and Associate Professor at the SFU Semester in Dialogue. She has imagined, designed and facilitated intensive, interdisciplinary courses that focus on community engagement, resilience, lifestyle activism, food systems, group process and urban sustainability.

Janet is the Co-Founder and Co-Director of CityStudio - an energetic hub of learning and leadership where students design and implement Greenest City solutions in collaboration with the City of Vancouver and 6 post secondary institutions (Emily Carr, UBC, SFU, VCC, BCIT and Langara).

She has been involved with a number of innovative sustainability education projects in Vancouver, including university engagement on sustainability curriculum at UBC where she completed her doctoral dissertation “Recreating the University from within: Sustainability and Transformation in Higher Education” with the Department of Curriculum Studies, Faculty of Education. Her post-doctoral work focused on The Learning City Project at Great Northern Way Campus–an inter-institutional project working towards integrating real world issues into the university classroom.

Janet spent 4 years as the Provincial Leader of the BC Working Group and Network on Sustainability Education, a group that is now the UN Regional Centre for Expertise in Education for Sustainable Development – British Columbia.

She is a research associate with the SFU Centre for Sustainable Community Development and her interests include transdisciplinary higher education, transformative learning, community based learning, participatory action research, sustainability education and organizational change in higher education. Janet is passionate about teaching and learning, facilitating dialogue and participatory processes. She keeps busy riding bikes and planting veggies with her 2 kids.

Brenda Morrison

Brenda Morrison is the Director of the Centre for Restorative Justice and an Associate Professor in the School of Criminology, Simon Fraser University.   She is a social psychologist with field experience in outdoor education, government administration and restorative justice. Her teaching and research interests include transformative and restorative justice, responsive regulation, school violence and safety, conflict and cooperation, shame-management and social identity, the self and self-interest. 

She has presented papers at UNESCO, in Paris, and the House of Lords, in London. Nationally, she is a research partner with PREVNet (Promoting Relationships Eliminating Violence Network). In British Columbia, she is a member of the working group for Social Responsibility and Collaborative Learning in Education, and on the advisory board for the Victims of Homicide Support Initiative. She is an active board member for the North Shore Restorative Justice Society and an associate board member of Vancouver Association for Restorative Justice.

Avril Orloff

Avril Orloff is a graphic facilitator who literally 'draws out' people's thinking by creating visual maps of group conversations using a combination of words and images. She has graphically facilitated and recorded meetings, dialogues, workshops and conferences in all sectors, on a wide variety of topics including health care, education, change management, community planning, and leadership development. Avril gets great satisfaction from the way her visuals contribute to effective dialogue by helping to surface issues, clarify ideas, build shared meaning, and make people feel heard. Avril's previous work includes three years as Convenor of the Philia Dialogue on Caring Citizenship - a cross-sector initiative to nurture caring and inclusive communities - and 16 years as a graphic designer and art director. Her academic background includes degrees in fine arts, design, philosophy and communication, and she has done training in facilitation and Compassionate Listening.

Michelle Patterson

Michelle Patterson is a Scientist and Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University. She obtained a PhD in Clinical Psychology from the University of British Columbia (2002). Since 2005, she has worked with non-profit organizations and multiple levels of government to examine the impacts of housing, poverty, and mental illness on various facets of health and social inclusion. For the past four years, Michelle has been a co-Investigator on the At Home/Chez Soi project, a randomized controlled trial taking place in 5 cities across Canada to examine various models of housing and support services for people who are homeless and have mental illness. Before joining SFU, Michelle worked for three years as a lecturer in the Department of Psychology at Yale University and as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Yale Child Study Centre where she was involved in a project that examined a home-based intervention for poor and high-risk mothers with young children. Michelle also has a part-time Clinical Psychology practice in Vancouver. In her spare time, she enjoys climbing mountains, skiing, riding her bike, and working in the garden.

Tony Penikett

Tony Penikett is the author of "Reconciliation: First Nations Treaty Making in British Columbia," published by Douglas & McIntyre in 2006. Currently a Vancouver- based mediator, Penikett was deputy minister of negotiations for the British Columbia government and, later, deputy labour minister. He was also senior advisor on self-government policy to Saskatchewan Premier Roy Romanow and has acted as SFU's Centre for Dialogue's Senior Fellow on First Nations' Treaty Issues. A former Yukon premier, Penikett has been involved in aboriginal rights negotiations for over twenty years.

Jillian Stirk

Jillian Stirk is a former Canadian ambassador with more than thirty years experience in public policy, foreign affairs, international trade, and multinational negotiations.

Until June 2013, Jillian was the Chief Foreign Policy Officer and Assistant Deputy Minister-Strategic Policy, Global Issues, and European Affairs at the Department of Foreign Affairs, International Trade, and Development. Jillian served as Canada’s Ambassador to Norway from 2005-2009.

She has conducted multilateral negotiations during assignments to the Canadian Delegations to NATO, the United Nations Office in Vienna, the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE), as well as with the European Union and the Arctic Council.

During the course of her career she managed a wide range of issues including political and trade relations with Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. In 2009-10 she served as Assistant Deputy Minister for the Afghanistan Task Force and led work on the transition from a military to a civilian mission.  

Jillian is a Dialogue Associate at the Simon Fraser University Centre for Dialogue and a Mentor with the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, where she is co-leading a project on Diversity, Pluralism and the Future of Citizenship. She currently sits on the Advisory Board of the Allam Advisory Group, a global trade consulting firm and she is also a member of the Board of Trustees of the West Vancouver Memorial Library. She volunteers with the Minerva Foundation for BC Women, and with several other academic and community organisations.

Vince Verlaan

Vince specializes in the challenging field of community engagement, leading the engagement practice at Modus Planning Design and Engagement Inc., and helping diverse organizations connect meaningfully with stakeholders and citizens on issues of shared concern. 

Drawing on 20+ years of experience, he first works closely with clients to design robust engagement strategies and processes. Vince then helps facilitate events, forums, and workshops of all kinds (often integrating digital engagement) to engage large and diverse audiences. Analysis of input received, thorough reporting back, and driving findings into evolving policies, plans or projects is key to success. Communications support, engagement policy development, staff training, and public speaking round out the skills Vince brings to this field. 

Vince draws from the "Art of Hosting Transformative Conversations" and uses dialogue-based techniques like circle, world cafe, open space and interview matrix. He also maintains a large set of interactive tools for different audiences and situations, with a recent project winning the gold medal from the Planning Institute of British Columbia (PIBC), and a client being named Canada's leading municipality by IAP2.

For six years, he has helped develop and deliver the thriving “Certificate in Civic Engagement and Dialogue” at Simon Fraser University, where he teaches the core practice course. Vince has been on the Boards of SmartGrowth BC, GPI Pacific, the Canadian Community for Dialogue and Deliberation (C2D2) and the BC chapter of the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2). He is also an experienced strategic planner, and has melded staff, board, stakeholder and client engagement successfully with long-range planning exercises many times.

Specialties: Community and/or stakeholder engagement, public participation strategies and process design, facilitation of small and large group events, dialogue processes and events, strategic planning for organizations and communities, communications/media relations, capacity building and training.

Read Vince Verlaan's Summary of Squamish WLNG Engagement Process HERE