Staff - About Us - Samara



Jane Hilderman

Executive Director

Jane works to bring Samara’s mission--to reconnect citizens to politics--to life. She frequently discusses Samara’s work in the media and with Canadians across the country. Her previous roles at Samara include Research Director, where she shaped Samara’s groundbreaking research that explores Canadians’ participation in democracy, how Members of Parliament do their jobs, and citizen perceptions of politics.

Jane joined Samara after working on Parliament Hill for both government and opposition MPs through the longstanding Parliamentary Internship Programme, a prestigious program for young professionals. She holds degrees from the School of Public Policy & Governance at the University of Toronto (MPP) and Queen’s University (BAH). Jane is also a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, which seeks “to make Canada better known to Canadians and the world.”

Originally from Camrose, Alberta, where she grew up on a family farm, Jane uses her marathon training to explore her new home, Toronto.

Jane holds a special place in her heart for the very first report she worked on at Samara – The Real Outsiders. Released in 2011, but still timely, this report features the voices of Canadians who feel disempowered by politics. Fortunately, Samara is working to change that.

Kendall thumbnail

Kendall Anderson

Managing Director

Kendall oversees all the programming and internal work of Samara, including the production of ground-breaking research reports and educational materials, as well as interactive online engagement projects like the Everyday Political Citizen. Before joining Samara in 2011, Kendall was an editor for ten years at Random House of Canada where she worked with bestselling authors of both novels and non-fiction. Kendall studied publishing at both Ryerson University and Simon Fraser University, and she has a BSc from the University of Guelph, which she currently only uses to prevent her two young children from contracting food-borne illnesses.

Kendall recommends checking out what Canadians expect from political parties


Michael Morden

Research Director

Mike joined Samara from the Mowat Centre, a public policy think tank at the University of Toronto. Previously, he was a SSHRC postdoctoral research fellow in Canadian politics at Western and Wilfrid Laurier Universities, a senior policy advisor in the government of Ontario, and a research associate with the Mosaic Institute. Mike holds a PhD in political science from the University of Toronto. He's thrilled to lead Samara's program of democracy-boosting research and to contribute to its mission of asking critical questions, producing new evidence and linking knowledge to action. Michael is originally from London, ON, and he aspires to one day have a small cabin in the woods.

Mike recommends reading Cheering or Jeering, Samara’s study of heckling in the House of Commons, because he’s trying to keep it civil.


John Beebe

Manager of Outreach

John’s passion for building strong communities has led him to work which spans many worlds including education, community organizing, photography and politics. Most recently, John worked for Pathways to Education Canada, strengthening their tutoring programs on a national level. He began his formal political engagement working for Congress in the United States where he saw first-hand the benefits that people who can effectively engage the political system derive from it. And, on the flipside—the disadvantages for those who remain on the outside. John’s work has all been tied together by a belief in strengthening people’s understanding of the power that they have. At Samara, John runs Democracy Talks and is currently tackling the bigger project of enhancing the impact of Samara’s work through community partnerships and programs. In November of 2014, John swore allegiance to the Queen of Canada and became a Canadian citizen, thus allowing him to vote in the 2015 federal election.

John wants you to know that the Vote PopUp toolkit is not just for elections. Check out North York Community House's International Women’s Day activity.


Jenn Phillips

Senior Manager of Development and Marketing

Before joining Samara, Jenn spent several years in the trenches of politics at every level of government. From the House of Commons, to municipal government, to the gruelling world of political campaigns, she has seen the mechanics of how our institutions function from the ground up. Jenn has a Political Science Degree from Simon Fraser University, where she focused her studies on Canadian politics and government. She also studied publishing. Born and raised in Vancouver, BC, Jenn moved to Ottawa, ON in 2009 and now calls Toronto home. Fundraising is essential to the survival of any charity, and Jenn is proud to lead this effort at Samara.

Jenn knows it isn't as mysterious to get a job in politics as you might think--get in on the secret with the How'd You Get That Job? blog series.


José Ramón Martí

Communications Manager

Raised in London, ON, the son of Mexican immigrants, José has been a strong champion of everyday democracy. His concern for the state of democracy in Canada and abroad led him to study political science and mass communications at Western University, including placements in Toronto, New York City, and Kuala Lumpur. He then completed a master’s degree in public policy at New York University, where he conducted outreach, facilitation, and research into the city's participatory budgeting process. At Samara, Jose is responsible for developing and coordinating a variety of communications materials and activities. In his spare time, he provides strategic support to his local community land trust and throws parties for charity.

José is interested in all the ways we can make our democracy better. For a good place to get started, he recommends checking out Samara’s 50 Ways to Redesign Parliament.

José Ramón Martí
José Ramón Mart


Erica Chan

Executive Assistant

Having embraced social activism at an early age, Erica bridged her passion for the common good to the realm of politics. She holds an HBA from the University of Toronto in Political Science and History and, after a brief stint at the Munk School of Global Affairs, she embarked on work in the corporate sector. Shortly after, she dedicated her energy to a women-led social service non-profit. She is a proud feminist and endeavours to apply an equity and inclusion lens to as many aspects of her day-to-day life. In her role at Samara, Erica supports the Executive Director and the team in various projects and functions. When not in the office, she is likely haunting a used bookstore or exploring (by foot!) her beloved city of Hamilton, ON.

As a proponent of small, incremental wins, Erica urges you to read Samara's Lightweights? report for inspiration on how to maintain active participation between election periods.


Sameen Zehra

Everyday Political Citizen Program Coordinator

Sameen leads the Everyday Political Citizen contest at Samara. Having recently completed her bachelor’s degree in Peace, Conflict and Justice studies at the University of Toronto, Sameen spent the last four years researching global politics and volunteering as a community leader in areas of refugee aid and accessible youth education. Being a first-generation immigrant and working hand-in-hand with diverse groups in Toronto has taught her the importance of connecting various viewpoints to engage honestly with issues that affect Canada’s most marginalized populations. Her experiences doing political canvassing, shadowing an MP, and interning at the U.S. Consulate have shown her that healthy democracies require inclusive systems of representation.

Interested in how political parties engage with young people in Canada? Sameen suggests checking out How Parties Mobilize Youth to learn more about how Canadian strategies compare to those of similar countries, including the U.S. and U.K.


Miriam Fahmy

MP Exit Interviews Project – Québec Coordinator 

Miriam joins the Samara team from Montréal, Québec, where she is conducting MP Exit Interviews in la belle province. She has worked as the Director of Research and Publications at the Institut du Nouveau Monde, taught at the Université de Montréal and has extensive research and interview experience.



Alison Loat


Alison Loat is the co-founder of Samara and was the executive director from 2008-2015. She is also the co-author of the #1 best-selling book Tragedy in the Commons. Samara’s work was used to develop federal legislation on democratic reform, improve politics curricula, the orientation of newly elected MPs and initiatives to improve citizens’ participation in politics. 

Alison is a member of the Premier of Ontario’s Highly Skilled Workforce Expert Panel and is on the board of the Banff Forum. She was also a fellow and instructor at the University of Toronto from 2007-2014 and served as the past president of the Canadian Club of Toronto, a director of the Toronto Community Foundation and a member of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Alumni Board.

Alison received several awards for her public service leadership, including the Queen’s Gold and Diamond Jubilee Medals. She is a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, where she co-leads a disability rights initiative, and was named one of the WXN 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada. She has degrees from Queen’s University (BAH) and the Harvard Kennedy School (MPP).


Michael MacMillan

Co-founder and Chair

In 2007 Michael co-founded Samara Canada which is a charity that is dedicated to reconnecting citizens to politics.

In 2011, Michael co-founded and is CEO of Blue Ant Media, a Canadian-based media company with operations in Canada, USA, New Zealand and the UK.

In 1978, Michael MacMillan co-founded Atlantis Films Limited with fellow Queen’s grads Seaton McLean and Janice Platt. He was Chairman and CEO of Atlantis (which later became Alliance Atlantis) for almost 30 years.

Michael is also the co-owner of Closson Chase Vineyard and Winery in Prince Edward County, Ontario.

A member of the Order of Canada, Michael has volunteered with numerous community and industry organizations over many years, and is currently involved with Open Roof Films, Human Rights Watch, Civix, and Community Food Centres Canada, amongst other organizations. He is a Senior Fellow at Massey College and co-author of the book Tragedy in the Commons.

  • Monday, October 16, 2017

    EPC: Anna Pippus

    Anna is an animal rights activist and lawyer, who volunteers legal and strategy assistance to individuals and organizations working to help animals, especially animals used for food.
  • Monday, October 16, 2017

    EPC: Stephen Andrews

    Stephen has donated land and worked hands-on to transform private space in downtown Toronto into two community gardens.
  • Sunday, October 15, 2017

    EPC: Vass Bednar

    Vas Bednar is a Senior Advisor on Public Policy to Airbnb in Canada and Chair of the Expert Panel on Youth Employment for the Government of Canada.