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Dave Meslin

Political Entrepreneur & Engagement Specialist

Using non-traditional methods and creative tactics, Dave Meslin spent twenty years as a social and political entrepreneur leaving a trail of non-profit start-ups, campaign victories, viral videos, new magazines, and public space interventions in his path. An urbanist, community organiser, author and trainer, Meslin inspires us to invert the traditional pyramid of hierarchy by creating meaningful opportunities to engage our employees, our members, our students. His thesis is simple: We’re stronger and smarter when we’re all involved. Transforming top-down leadership into bottom-up collaboration is the true challenge of the 21st century.

Toronto, Ontario, Canada


Building a Culture of Engagement
Apathy is all around us. Most people have become disengaged not only from politics, but also from our schools, workplaces and associations or organisations. Increasingly, those in leadership positions are asking themselves “How do we boost public participation?”, “How do we engage our students?” and “How can we inspire our membership to get involved?”. Dave Meslin encourages us to recognize apathy as a web of barriers that reinforce disengagement – and that we can work together to dismantle the obstacles. His seven-minute TED talk about apathy has more than 1.4 million views. This in-depth version of the talk for NSB clients, incorporates anecdotes, humour and examples of best-practices. He reminds the audience that we all have something to contribute and that the strongest cities, schools and associations are the ones that have learned how to tap into the collective creativity, passion and knowledge of their constituents.

More Than a Feeling: The Unlimited Potential of Community Organizing
With anecdotes from the non-profit sector, the electoral scene and the vibrant world of grassroots community organizing, Meslin paints an optimistic and inspiring picture of the possibilities that lie within all of us. With a sense of hope and urgency, audiences hear how we can build a new culture of political engagement in our communities. Dave Meslin offers concrete tips on how ordinary people can make an extraordinary impact on the world around them. This keynote speaker’s presentation can be tailored to be relevant to large well-funded non-profits, small grassroots student groups, or anything in-between.

FPTP, PR, MMP, STV, WTF? A Crash-Course in the Mechanics of Electoral Reform
CBC’s most popular video on Canada’s 2015 Election Night wasn’t Justin Trudeau’s victory speech, or Stephen Harper’s concession speech. It was Dave Meslin’s 90-second video clip, using colourful stacks of Lego bricks to explain how our voting system fails us each and every election. (The video has over 2.5 million views on Facebook alone.) Canada holds the unfortunate distinction of being the only OECD country that uses “First Past the Post” as its exclusive voting system for all levels of government. Increasingly, citizens, activists and politicians themselves are calling for change and renewal. But what are the alternatives? Using clear language, humour and interactive exercises with the audience, Meslin explains the pros and cons of various alternative voting systems. This topic might be relevant to any audience who’s interested in politics, and also to any organisation that wants to look at their own internal voting systems (regional chapters, school councils, etc) and think about how they could increase engagement by reforming their process.


Community Leadership Award | 8-80 Cities

12 People to Watch | Toronto Star

Leadership in Cycling Award | Cycle Toronto

Top Ten Activists | NOW Magazine

  • Your closing keynote was definitely a highlight – thank you for being there so much of the day, and for connecting so well with the audience. Your creativity, unassuming presence, sense of humour and inspiring community activism were a terrific capstone for our conference.

    - Faculty, Student Life & Development, Kwantlen Polytechnic University
  • Dave gave a great presentation, and had everyone laughing throughout it. He gave us all a lot to think about – all relevant to what we do. Dave pointed to some very real shortcomings in the way government interacts (or fails to engage) the public in planning efforts. His fun and humorous presentation kept it light. Many people who spoke to me afterwards thought it was the highlight of the conference.

    - City of Chilliwack
  • We were EXTREMELY pleased with Dave’s visit and keynote presentation... In my opinion it worked for all levels of experience in the crowd, and his humorous style was perfect for the closing spot in the conference day. Great guy and great presentation!

    - Faculty, Student Life & Development, Kwantlen Polytechnic University
  • Thank you very much for providing this wonderful, engaging and thought-provoking speaker. We enjoyed him as a speaker – and as a human being. He was so easy going and easy to work with.

    - Alberta School Board Association
  • “Wonderful!” is how Dave was. I was listening to the audience reaction, you can tell a lot by the tone and reaction. Dave had them right from the start...I’ve just tabulated our evaluations, of 38 responses, there were 34 who rated him as Excellent

    - North Central Local Government Management Association
  • Dave was fantastic and people referenced his presentation throughout the day which reinforced what a great fit he was for this conference.

    - Manager, Education | Ontario Municipal Social Services Association

Summary Profile

Multi-partisan and fiercely optimistic, Meslin’s presentations focuses on how we can overcome cynicism and create a culture of participation. His unassuming presence, creativity and sense of humour keep audiences enthralled. Meslin encourages those present to find what was important to them and become engaged in the process of promoting change by creative participation. The Toronto Star has described him as “mad scientist”, “a start-up genius” and “a peripatetic public convener”. The Globe and Mail simply calls him a “persuasive rabble rouser”. Dancing between the worlds of mainstream politics and grassroots activism, Meslin has found positive ways to bring them both together and turn energy into action. His 2010 TED talk “The Antidote to Apathy” has been viewed over 1.5 million times and translated into 37 languages. A CBC appearance in 2015, involving towers of colourful LEGO, has been watched 2.5 million times on Facebook. Meslin’s resume of non-profit start-ups also includes the Toronto Public Space Committee, the Ranked Ballot Initiative of Toronto, City Idol, Spacing Magazine, Unlock Democracy Canada, the Downtown De-Fence Project, Dazzling Notice Awards, and DandyHorse Magazine. While he feels most comfortable working with small grassroots non-profits, Meslin has also donned a suit and tie and worked as an Executive Assistant at both City Hall and Queen’s Park. Meslin is currently crowd-sourcing 100 Remedies for a Broken Democracy for his next book.

@Fleischmarket Exactly! This first chart illustrates Toronto’s terrible councillor/resident ratio, but the second… https://t.co/pVL6VA0ws2 (2019-02-21 03:17:48)
@chrisjamesdrew @stateofthecity @PlannerSean Hmmm... it appears that you need to add the Ws: https://t.co/tBeGQykrQg (2019-02-16 01:19:31)
@chrisjamesdrew @stateofthecity @PlannerSean https://t.co/sSQPsCsyTW. If you think a particular medal should exis… https://t.co/6iX72xlJ4Q (2019-02-16 12:59:07)