The Centre of Learning and Development (CL&D) is a non-profit community-based literacy organisation founded in 1979 in Regents Park in Toronto, Canada, and focusing on leadership development, immigrant integration, civic engagement, skill development, and more recently supporting start up social enterprises.

The organisation has a staff of 10 to 13 people with around 20 volunteers from a wide variety of backgrounds who engage with the low-income community of the area, and in particular with new immigrant women, to enable them to be productive and support themselves and their families. The type of actions implemented by the organization are based on classroom-training. This “classical” way of delivering education is being modernized through development of digital programs and different training activities such as streaming and recording of lectures to increase their flexibility and audience of the activities.

Through a collaboration between CL&D Alfred Jean-Baptiste, Executive Director & John Alves, Development & Operations Lead, and Project Managers Without Borders’ Director Peter Monkhouse, volunteer Jamal El Ali is supporting CL&D for the opening of their new space and to upgrade their education programs by using distance learning technology to create Virtual Social Change Hubs across Neighbourhood Improvement Areas and inner suburbs. 

PMWB volunteer Jamal El Ali is a very passionate program and project manager based in Toronto. He has experience as a consultant in a number of different sectors such as banking industry, government, publishing, security, and real estate. In 2016 he became interested in the mission and values of Project Managers Without Borders and today gives back to his community by supporting three projects within the Centre of Learning and Development:

  1. Space Realization: A construction project through which new space is being prepared in a building to improve the current space limitations faced by the organization. The new space will be devoted to independent training activities like cooking and sewing for participants to learn practical skills to support themselves at home or to start their own business. Part of the space will also be equipped for cooking and to prepare catering that the users can then sell.
  2. Campaign for The Core: Is the fundraising campaign that will provide the funds for the space realization project to be completed.
  3. Virtual Social Change Hubs: This IT project targets immigrant women with beginner levels of English living across Toronto. The program includes 6-months courses for 10-15 participants who enrol to the training program and come in person to attend the classes. The current format presents some challenges for the participants such as commuting to the classes which involves transportation costs and possibly other additional costs to organise care for their dependents. The program is expanding to become more accessible and to make use of new technologies. Two locations for the courses have been set up in different areas of the city in addition to the headquarters. These additional rooms will be equipped with screens and videoconferencing systems so one instructor teaching in the main room will be able to reach three locations in real-time. Lectures will be recorded and made available on the organisation’s portal to further increase accessibility.

“Working for non-profit is a totally new experience for me,” explained Jamal, “it requires different approaches and styles of communication and stakeholder management and a very customized way to manage projects. I support CL&D in developing their strategy to manage these specific projects and use the opportunity to educate them on the basic principles of project management methodology. Working with volunteer teams is very challenging and project management methodologies need to be tailored to the teams. Teams are small and members need to be constantly motivated which requires patience and communication. The three projects I am managing are very challenging as they are very different but I absolutely love them! I am constantly being inspired by the fantastic people that work at CL&D and PMWB and I really enjoy working with them.” Jamal’s passion for volunteering in a project management capacity is an inspiration for others to get involved in their community. 

To know more about Jamal’s projects and the work of the Centre of Learning and Development or to donate to support their activities, please visit: