Naheed Nenshi – first Muslim mayor of a Canadian major city

On October 18, 2010 at the Calgary municipal election, a son of immigrant parents won over 39% of the votes to become the first Muslim mayor of a major Canadian city.

The victory was compared to US President Obama’s election victory, as the new mayor used social media tools including youtube, facebook, twitter to connect with the voting public.

Naheed Nenshi is a passionate Calgarian, an accomplished business professional, and a community leader with a solid track record of getting things done. He’s run a large nonprofit, he’s been a trusted advisor to corporate leaders in Canada and the US, and he literally wrote the book on Canadian cities.

Naheed spent many years at the international business consulting firm, McKinsey & Co., where he advised large telecommunications, banking, retail and oil and gas companies in corporate strategy. After leaving McKinsey, Naheed formed his own business, the Ascend Group, a consultancy that assists public, private, and nonprofit organizations to grow. In this role he designed major policy for the Alberta government, helped create a Canadian strategy for The Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy and worked with the United Nations to determine how global business can help the poorest people on the planet. Naheed is now Canada’s first tenured professor in the field of nonprofit management, at Mount Royal University’s Bissett School of Business.

His real passion, though, is making cities, especially Calgary, work better. He’s the lead author of Building Up: Making Canada’s Cities Engines of Growth and Magnets of Development and has long been putting his ideas to work in Calgary. He’s been the Chairman of the EPCOR CENTRE for the Performing Arts, and has lent his expertise to nonprofits across the city, including the Calgary Foundation, the United Way, the Coral Springs Community Association, and Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids. He’s also served on the leadership team of imagineCalgary, where he was a primary author of Calgary’s 100-year vision, and is a co-founder of the Better Calgary Campaign and of CivicCamp.

Naheed grew up in Calgary and has lived and worked in cities around the world before coming back to make his home here. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree (with distinction) from the University of Calgary, where he was President of the Students’ Union, and a Master in Public Policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, where he studied as a Kennedy Fellow.