Annie and her team were midway through a significant project to test a new education methodology when they realized that they had failed to identify some problematic assumptions embedded in their approach. Several funders and experts had already invested significant time and resources into the project which made it extremely embarrassing to press pause, delay a scheduled announcement of findings, and rethink the strategy. It took every bit of courage for Annie to admit the mistake in front of a national meeting of advisors. Despite disappointment and some anger, the core partners stood by Annie and her team, enabling them to draw out valuable learnings and move forward.
Annie Kidder is the Executive Director and founder of People for Education. Through WellAhead, the Foundation supported People for Education’s ‘Measuring What Matters’ initiative, which leads important research and advocacy efforts to define a more holistic vision of what successful education looks like, and explores new ways to measure progress towards this goal.
Annie Kidder is the Executive Director and a founder of People for Education, an independent, non-partisan, charitable organization working to support and advance public education through research, policy, and public engagement. People for Education leads dialogue about the purpose, value and future of public education; builds links among key constituencies both inside and outside the education sector; and provides evidence to advance public education’s promise, and to ensure that all young people have an equitable chance for long-term success.
Kidder regularly provides advice to policy-makers and government, and her writing on education has been published in a range of media. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including, in 2018, an honourary doctorate from York University. She has spoken at conferences in Canada, the United States, Europe, Africa and South America. She is regularly quoted in the media as an expert on education issues. She lives in Toronto. Twitter: @anniekidder www.peopleforeducation.ca
The Strathmere Group helps Canada’s largest environmental groups coordinate their strategies and communications to be more effective as a sector. The group has long invested in building a strong culture based on trust and respect among environmental leaders. In 2015, when the political landscape shifted, this investment paid off. Building on their strong culture, the group was able to quickly adapt to the new context and engage in coordinated, effective action to advance shared policy priorities despite historic differences in approach and tactics among the groups.
McConnell became connected to Jessica Clogg during her time as chair of the Strathmere group of Canada’s largest environmental organizations, taking on a collaborative leadership role which took the group to a new level of government engagement. Her work with indigenous law is also an inspiration and aligned with the Foundation’s support for John Borrows work at the University of Victoria.
Jessica Clogg is West Coast’s Executive Director and Senior Counsel. She has worked there as an environmental and Indigenous rights lawyer for close to two decades and is the founder of West Coast’s RELAW (Revitalizing Indigenous Law for Land, Air and Water) program. Jessica has said that she does the work she does “because she loves the land, and because she believes in justice.” Her work has had a particular focus on providing legal and strategic support to Indigenous nations – working with Indigenous leaders and community members to use their own laws as a foundation for powerful strategies to protect the lands and resources of their territories and to catalyze broader shifts in Canadian law. Jessica holds a joint Masters in Environmental Studies and law degree from Osgoode Hall, York University, and an Ashoka fellowship recognizing her work bridging between Canadian and Indigenous legal traditions.
It was an unlikely inspiration that inspired Ben to re-think his approach to advocating for disability rights. While Ben had traditionally focussed on teaching support workers to recognize the rights of their disabled clients, this theory of change was disrupted when he traveled to a design thinking conference at Pixar and learned about a urinal designed with a small target painted in the basin to reduce cleaning costs. The tiny target proved far more effective than the “please aim” signage traditionally deployed by facility managers because its design considered the natural behaviour of the user. Equipped with this unusual inspiration, Ben returned to Edmonton and began the creation of MyCompass Planning, a digital case management system that helps humanize interactions and nudges support workers towards rights-affirming practices: an approach that is far more “target” than “sign.”
Ben Weinlick is one of Canada’s leading social innovators. His affiliation with the Skills Society and Think Jar Collective in Edmonton helped create ABSI Connect, a partnership of Social Innovation Generation (SiG) and Suncor Energy Foundation. ABSI Connect is a fellowship program seeking to bridge and amplify social, economic and ecological impact initiatives that are successfully challenging the status quo in Alberta.
Ben is driven by the desire to help people and community get better at navigating complex challenges together. He is the founder of Think Jar Collective, co-founder of MyCompass Planning and a senior leader at Skills Society leading Social Innovation Research & Development. Ben regularly trains organizations and facilitates human centred design lab explorations around complex issues for the public sector, corporate clients, non-profits, and community. For his work striving to lead systems change in human service organizations over the last 15 years he has received some awards including the MacEwan University distinguished alumni award, the Government of Alberta Community Disability Service Sector Leadership Award and the Avenue Top 40 under 40 award.
In 2016 Melanie was tasked with a mega-project of establishing the Turtle Island Institute: a project for which there was much fanfare and enthusiasm. While her funders were eager to get going, Melanie had some significant questions about the right approach. At risk of alienating funders, she decided to take time to go back to the land and connect with Elders. Through this process, the right way revealed itself. Rather than an elaborate building with staff as originally imagined, the Turtle Island Institute became a more modular project, focused on building relationships and prototyping ideas in partnership with Indigenous communities.
Melanie Goodchild has been an inspiration to the Foundation in her role at The Waterloo Institute for Social Innovation and Resilience (WISIR), most fundamentally in combining her wisdom as an indigenous (Annishnaabe) leader with her understanding of social innovation. She has also been a highly valued advisor to the Nourish initiative on the future of food in healthcare.
Melanie Goodchild is Anishinaabe, moose clan, a member of the Biigtigong Nishnawbeg in northwestern Ontario. Melanie has a Master of Arts Degree in Sociology and is currently completing her PhD in Social and Ecological Sustainability at the University of Waterloo. She is a Research Fellow and Indigenous Ambasssador with the Waterloo Institute for Social Innovation and Resilience (WISIR). She is Senior Counsel, Indigenous Relations at National Office for the Canadian Red Cross (CRC). Melanie was selected as one of 35 women from around the world to participate in the International Women’s Forum (IWF) Leadership Foundation’s 2015-2016 Fellows Program that includes Harvard Executive Education Training at Harvard Business School in Cambridge, MA, and the Women Leading Global Change program at INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France. She was also one of 28 Canadians selected by the Peter Lougheed Leadership Institute to participate in the first ever Getting to Maybe: A Social Innovation Residency for 28 days at the Banff Centre, in Alberta, in June 2015 and returned to Banff in 2016 as an Alumni Mentor. Melanie sits on the national boards of the Canadian Risks and Hazards Network (CRHNet) and Rhizome Institute for the Future of Food (RIFF). Melanie is an Advisor for the Nourish: The Future of Food in Healthcare program of the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation. She is also a member of the IBA – the Iron Butt Association, riding her Harley-Davidson 1000 miles in 24 hours earning her the badge of “one of the world’s toughest riders”!
When Diana’s organization, Food Secure Canada, met with large corporations and conventional farming organizations to discuss food policy, they didn’t expect to find much common ground. These expectations were disrupted by a representative from a multinational food corporation who turned out to be a champion for sustainability, forcing Diana to question her assumptions. While different institutions have different incentives and motivations, they are ultimately made up of people who aspire to higher values.
Food Secure Canada has partnered with the Foundation on a wide range of roles in connection with the Sustainable Food Systems initiative, from supporting granting to providing key convening and thought leadership on food policy. Diana has played a vital role in linking the food movement with government policies.
Diana joined Food Secure Canada as Executive Director in 2012 and has worked to strengthen FSC as the national voice of the Canadian food movement. She has been instrumental in mobilizing a wide diversity of organizations and individuals in a national movement for a food policy that would be equitable, healthy and sustainable. She is an event organizer, a powerful communicator, and a person known to bring diverse people and causes together. Diana is trained as a political scientist and sociologist and has a professional background in journalism (CBC radio) and international human rights (Rights & Democracy) as well as international climate and technology negotiations at the UN (ETC Group.)
In her work, Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux advocates for a better understanding of history and the ways it shapes Canadian society. While her programs are focussed on popular education, most of her time is spent with policymakers, academics and other administrators. To avoid getting out of touch with Canadian society, Cynthia developed a habit of asking meaningful questions about race, colonization, and history to taxi drivers, people she met on the bus, and just about anyone she has an opportunity to speak with. These conversations challenge the theories she advances in institutions, and keep her theory of change accountable.
Dr. Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux sits on the Board of Directors of Teach for Canada. Teach for Canada received a grant from the Foundation in 2015. Learn more about the grant here.
A member of the Chippewa of Georgina Island First Nation in Lake Simcoe, Dr. Wesley-Esquimaux is deeply committed to public education and active youth engagement, and co-founded the Canadian Roots Exchange out of the University of Toronto. She held the Nexen Chair in Indigenous Leadership at the Banff Centre in Alberta, and is an Adjunct Asst. Professor at Lakehead University and the University of Toronto. She is a former Advisory Member of the Mental Health Commission of Canada and is a Board Member for the Lester B. Pearson College of the Pacific and United World Colleges, and Teach for Canada.
When McConnell first approached Luc’s team with a financing idea, Luc was surprised at how specific their proposal was. They were suggesting something very different to anything Luc’s team had done before, and their vision for the collaboration was already quite evolved. His interest was piqued however, when McConnell showed interest in adapting the vision to incorporate ideas, expertise, and constraints that Luc’s team brought. This approach allowed Luc’s team to know what kind of project they were signing up for, while feeling confident there would be room for their contributions.
Luc has long worked to advance innovation in social economy and community economic development at large. The Foundation has intersected Luc on multiple occasions, from his early work at the Urban Ecology Center of Montreal and later at PME Montreal. Most recently in his role at La Caisse d’économie solidaire Desjardins, Luc partnered with the Foundation to create the Garantie Solidaire. Learn more about this fund here.
Luc Rabouin is a social entrepreneur, an environmentalist and a dedicated observer of urban matters. He is currently Director of strategic development at the Caisse d’économie solidaire but has also occupied leadership positions at the Centre d’écologie urbaine de Montréal, Communauto France (in Paris) and the CDEC Centre-sud/Plateau Mont-Royal. He is an expert in social movement, local development networks and social economy. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Psychology, a Specialized Graduate Diploma (D.E.S.S) in Community Development and a Master’s Degree in Political Science. His book Démocratiser la ville was published in 2009 by Lux Éditeurs.
When Indy’s company, Dark Matter Labs, set out to create a more democratic and decentralized model of manufacturing, technical innovation came relatively easily. However, they soon realized that the institutions built around the old manufacturing model stood in their way. New kinds of property deeds, warranty models, and copyright regimes were necessary if they wanted to see widespread adoption of a new, better way of making things. While significantly more work, this would become the true legacy of their innovation.
Indy Johar is founder of Dark Matter Labs and co-founder of Architecture 00 and many social ventures. Dark Matter Labs is a strategic partner in the Foundation’s city initiatives, including on a Civic Capital Lab and on regulatory and civic innovation. Learn more about our cities work here.
Indy Johar is an architect, co-founder of 00 (project00.cc) and a Senior Innovation Associate with the Young Foundation and Visiting Professor at the University of Sheffield.
Indy, on behalf of 00, has co-founded multiple social ventures from Impact Hub Westminster to Impact Hub Birmingham and the Hub Launchpad Accelerator, along with working with large global multinationals & institutions to support their transition to a positive Systems Economy. He has also co-led research projects such as The Compendium for the Civic Economy, whilst supporting several 00 explorations/experiments including the wikihouse.cc, opendesk.cc. Indy is an Advisor to the Earth Security Initiative and a director of WikiHouse Foundation. Indy Johar is a co-founder of the Project00.cc Research Laboratory & Skunk Works.
For years, Elaine has been influenced by the fast-moving social innovation movement. She now plays a complex role at the City of Montreal, and has questioned how it could ever be compatible with the careful, deliberate and slow-moving processes of government. A couple of years ago she started to tackle a critical problem: Montreal has many buildings that are vacant or derelict. And yet the city has a growing need for functional space, and neighbourhoods want to support community-led revitalization. When she was approached by Entremise, la Maison de l’innovation sociale and McConnell about a project to unleash urbanisme transitoire, she realized she would have to depart from conventional city practice to capitalize on the opportunity. As a result, more vacant and underused buildings are being repurposed as neighbourhood hubs that address community needs.
Elaine Gauthier is a heritage planner and ‘intrapreneur’ at the City of Montreal. In her role at the City, Mme Gauthier was catalytic in forging a partnership with Entremise, la MIS and the Foundation to create a new policy and hub for transitory urbanism. Learn more about our cities work here.
In her role as design consultant for the City of Montréal, Élaine Gauthier is putting to use her law and urban planning education, namely by establishing planning agreements with major universities and development agreements for large urban development and redevelopment projects. Since joining the Heritage Division, she has also helped create the evaluation tools required to assess the heritage value of various sites in the city. She played a role in the creation of Montréal’s Heritage Action Plan, which was implemented in August 2017. She helped organise the Montréal transitoire symposium and is now in charge of the transient use project specified in the Heritage Action Plan.
In an effort to behave in accordance with their principles, Open North publishes all of its work under a creative commons license. When Jean-Noé proposed this approach to an Indigenous client, Elders pushed back because of a history wherein their knowledge was used without permission. While this was initially difficult for Jean-Noé, who prizes freely available knowledge, the Elders helped him gain a more nuanced understanding, causing him to recognize that even his core principles must be placed within a relevant cultural context.
Jean-Noé Landry is executive director of Open North and Fellow of the Centre for Law, Technology and Society. Open North is a partner and advisor to the Foundation, particularly on initiatives related to open data, civic tech and democracy, and open smart cities. Open North also recieved a Social Innovation Fund grant in 2012.
Jean-Noé Landry is a social entrepreneur and Executive Director of OpenNorth, Canada’s leading not-for-profit organization specialized in open government, open smart cities, and civic technology. As an open data expert, he convenes data stakeholders, promotes data standardization, and connects governments to their data constituents. As a co-founder of Montreal Ouvert (whose mission is now complete), he advocated for Montreal’s adoption of open data as official policy. As an entrepreneur, he scaled CitizenBudget, an online budget simulator designed to engage citizens in budget decision-making, to more than 150 cities across North America. With a background in organizational change and conflict resolution, he spent 15 years in international development and has worked in more than 12 countries, including Serbia, Kenya, Tunisia, and Ukraine providing support to political institutions and civic movements on coalition building, policy development, and electoral processes. He has led OpenNorth to collaborate with all levels of Canadian government, from Federal institutions to small municipalities, while connecting Canada’s open data community to the global open government movement. With its values-driven mission and applied research approach, OpenNorth develops models and engagement practices for inclusive and open smart cities and shared data governance in an era of open data and government transformation. Starting in 2019, OpenNorth will be delivering a new one-to-one advisory service on open smart cities for communities across Canada as the Lead Technical Partner of Evergreen’s Future Cities Program for the Government of Canada’s Smart Cities Challenge Community Support Program.
Senator Omidvar spent many months working diligently to amend bill C-25 — a bill about corporate governance — with a diversity policy that established numerical goals and timelines for representation of marginalized groups on corporate boards and in executive positions. While the amendment failed in the Senate, there were two points of comfort for the Senator. First, regulations following the bill will reflect a definition of diversity, including women, visible minorities, persons with disabilities and indigenous people. Second, the bill will be reviewed by parliament in 5 years so progress can be monitored.
The Honourable Ratna Omidvar, Senator for Ontario, and the Foundation’s President and CEO have been collaborating to encourage the federal government to create a Social Finance Fund for Canada. This Fund was announced in the Fall Economic Statement on November 21, 2018. Learn more here.
Ratna Omidvar is an internationally recognized voice on migration, diversity and inclusion. She came to Canada from Iran in 1981 and her own experiences of displacement, integration and citizen engagement have been the foundation of her work. In April 2016, Prime Minister Trudeau appointed Ms. Omidvar to the Senate of Canada as an independent Senator representing Ontario. As a member of the Senate’s Independent Senators Group she holds a leadership position as the Scroll Manager. Senator Omidvar is also the Deputy Chair of the Special Senate Committee on the Charitable Sector.
Senator Omidvar is the founding Executive Director and currently a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Global Diversity Exchange (GDX), Ryerson University. GDX is a think-and-do tank on diversity, migration and inclusion that connects local experience and ideas with global networks. Previously, Senator Omidvar was the President of Maytree, where she played a lead role in local, national and international efforts to promote the integration of immigrants.
Senator Omidvar serves as a Councillor on the World Refugee Council and is also a director at the Environics Institute, and the Samara Centre for Democracy and is the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council’s Chair Emerita.
Senator Omidvar is co-author of Flight and Freedom: Stories of Escape to Canada (2015). She was appointed to the Order of Ontario in 2005 and became a Member of the Order of Canada in 2011, with both honours recognizing her advocacy work on behalf of immigrants and devotion to reducing inequality in Canada. Senator Omidvar has received Honorary Degrees, Doctor of Laws, from Ryerson University and York University.
Aki Energy’s value proposition to government seems clear: let us save you money. Despite their strong track record and clear value proposition, the complicated relationship between government and Indigenous nations meant that Shaun and his team struggled to gain buy-in from the government. By virtue of their familiarity as a longstanding, urban, settler institution, McConnell’s support lent credibility to Aki’s proposal, enabling them to capture the interest of potential government clients.
Shaun Loney is co-founder of Aki Energy and supporter of Indigenous social enterprise development. Aki Energy is an important partner of the Foundation as we navigate what it means to create the conditions for a reconciliation economy to flourish. They received a grant from the Foundation in 2018.
Shaun has co-founded and mentored 11 social enterprises, including BUILD Inc, which won the 2011 Scotia Bank EcoLiving Green Business of the Year, and the 2013 Manitoba Apprenticeship Employer of the Year. Before co-founding BUILD Inc, Shaun was Director of Energy Policy for the Government of Manitoba. Loney is the first prairie Canadian to be awarded an Ashoka Fellowship (2015) and was Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year in 2014. Shaun lives in Winnipeg, with his partner Fiona. Between them they have three boys – Aandeg, Weslee and Owen. Shaun is proud to be part of a strong and visionary social enterprise team that is flourishing across the country. Shaun is the author of An Army of Problem Solvers: Reconciliation and the Solutions Economy. Shaun’s latest book, The Beautiful Bailout: How social innovation will solve government’s priciest problems is now on sale at www.encompass.coop.
We believe that when we all learn together, we can transform systems, and we hope that this project contributes to a larger dialogue of learning among diverse audiences.
12 Lessons is a summary of lessons learned, old practices and beliefs to be unlearned, or things to learn in the future — typically expressed by staff of the McConnell Foundation, but also sometimes by others in our networks. Each year the theme and look of 12 Lessons varies. The project has been conducted annually from 2016 to 2020. The goal is to be transparent about the work of philanthropy, and to share what we’re learning about what is going well and what needs to be improved.
Why is it 12 Lessons? Initially we wanted to collect a lesson for each month. We retained the number 12, even though the lessons are no longer associated with any particular month of the year. 12 is manageable. We can hold ourselves accountable to 12 lessons annually!
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