Charitable Choices: Leigh Naturkach of Mosaic Institute

The Mosaic Institute is an internationally recognized charity that strives to equip people with skills, knowledge and tools to dismantle prejudice through education, training, research, and policy change. We spoke with Leigh Naturkach, the Executive Director of Mosaic Institute, to learn more about their work.

Mosaic Institute

Describe your charity/non-profit/volunteer work in a few sentences.

We are the Mosaic Institute, a registered charity with a mission to equip people with the knowledge, skills and tools to dismantle prejudice. We do this through our key pillars of education and training, research, unique dialogue, and policy. While we are an internationally recognized, action-oriented thought leader, our mandate has evolved to focus on issues of prejudice within Canada. We work with diverse individuals, grassroots initiatives, organizations, communities, and sectors to identify and address issues of prejudice that are affecting their ability to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion. In this way, we help create a more prosperous society for everyone.

What problem does it aim to solve?

Prejudice is the root of many of our society’s challenges – underpinning issues from climate change, polarization, and democracy, to mental health. Prejudice and the numerous ways it shows up, such as racism and ablism, is an obviously enormous issue. It can feel incredibly overwhelming to understand and address, let alone experience. People want to know better HOW to do this, which is where we come in. We aim to meet people where they are at and help them understand themselves to better understand others. Our programs and initiatives provide opportunities to learn skills that are often neglected but are essential in all aspects of our lives. We help people communicate through difference, engage in respectful dialogue, and develop practical action plans to create change within their sphere of influence on local to systemic levels.

When did you start/join it?

The Mosaic Institute was founded by Vahan and Susie Kololian 16 years ago. I started in this role on Valentine’s Day in February 2022, standing on the shoulders of all of the contributors before and with us now who have built this organization, and have been in love ever since!

What made you want to get involved?

Justice, accountability, and empathy have always been important values to me. Growing up in a small town as a white person as part of settler and immigrant families, I did not have the education, knowledge or tools to understand and address prejudicial attitudes of my own or in my town, particularly around anti-Indigenous racism. I thought about my maternal grandparents, who were 10 and 15 years old, growing up in Germany, when WWII began. I wondered what would I have done at that time to fight Nazism and fascism.

As I matured, my world expanded and my viewpoints changed. I realized I needed to start with myself, understanding my identity, mistakes, and gaps to better understand others. I had a LOT to learn, and still do – it’s a very humbling and necessary undertaking. It’s a lifelong, intentional process and practice in understanding and addressing prejudice, and our related action or inaction.

I am grateful for the teachers and teachings in my own journey, wanted to provide pathways for others on their own. Mosaic is an amazing vehicle and movement for this. To me, there is a difference between ignorance and willful ignorance. Addressing ignorance is a matter of curiosity, humility, empathy, and education. Willful ignorance is a choice.

Mosaic has always punched above its weight. Many large charities do wonderful work, and I wanted to dedicate my time, resources, and knowledge to a small organization whose values aligned with my own, would challenge me personally and professionally, and whose work is doing the heavy lifting for the kind of transformational change I may not see in my lifetime, but strive for. I’ve always valued being part of things that are larger than myself.

What was the situation like when you started?

In February 2022, symbols of racism and hate appeared during the Freedom Convoy protests in Ottawa, Russia invaded Ukraine, the Beijing Olympics highlighted issues of racism, the officers in George Floyd’s murder, which ignited the largest global racial justice movements, were convicted on federal charges in the United States, and a Saskatchewan First Nation discovered 54 possible unmarked graves on grounds of former residential schools.

These events, though troubling and devastating, are important to acknowledge as highlight attention to issues here in Canada, their connection globally, how far we have come, and how far we have to go.

How has it changed since?

Awareness, approaches and galvanizing action around issues of prejudice continue to advance, deepen and evolve, while incidents of prejudice and their impacts continue to occur, including rising incidents of police-reported prejudice and hate, misinformation, and polarization.

What more needs to be done?

We have made progress, but need to be vigilant and more proactive because of increasing backlash and threats that impact us all, whether we see that or not. Each of us has an important role to play – within ourselves, in our own spheres of influence – I firmly believe that. Every attitude and act matters – big or small. From evolving our own language and thinking to intervening on public transit when witnessing acts of prejudice or hate, to voting for political candidates who demonstrate the values of diversity and inclusion, it all matters. I am continually sustained by every positive seed planted, positive interaction experienced, and positive action taken. There is a seemingly disparate, but diverse and collective movement fueled by a shared sense of hope, justice, and vision where everyone can live free from discrimination.

Mosaic Institute

How can our readers help?

We would love for you to join us, from a personal, professional and/or philanthropic perspective. Get in touch with us at to chat about opportunities to work together, amplify our messages through your socials, sign up for our e-news, or donate to our work at Mosaic Institute. Without philanthropic support, we cannot continue our mission.

Do you have any events coming up?

Yes! We are going to register a fun team once again for the 2023 Toronto Charity Challenge and galvanize our team of volunteers, walkers and runners, and donors who are willing to take literal steps toward dismantling prejudice. Connect with us at to find out how you can get involved.

We also have our Peace Patron Award and Celebration event, an awareness and fundraising event honouring BlackNorth Founder Wes Hall on November 1. If you’d like to support, volunteer or be involved – reach out to

Where can we follow you?

Please do! You can access our website, and sign up for e-news there. As well, you can follow and amplify our socials on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?

It’s so hard to decide on just one! I will highlight Say Soomali, a Black youth-led, grassroots organization that aims to increase the number of successful and self-fulfilled Somali youth. We have partnered on a few initiatives with this wonderful group. Partnership is what it takes to advance this work – none of us can do it alone, and we are stronger when we work together.