The iconic marketing and sales money by Canadian Tire touches just about everyone in Canada on a regular basis. Perhaps not as a frequent customer, but as one who has stashes throughout the car or house, or in the case of my mother, a stack clipped to the fridge; a constant reminder of the Canadian tire brand and potential cash discount.

As a child I loved when my parents would allow me to collect their 5 cent, 10 cent and when lucky, 50 cent bills. For those not from Canada, the bills are in denominations ranging from 5 cents and up, all paper. I was able to use those precious bills at my local store; after riding their on my trusty CCM.

My local Canadian Tire store is where my love for Jumpstart started. Canadian Tire was always local and invested in the community (as they are today). The day I saw the first sign was the day I was outfitting my son for his first season of hockey. There I was, a young parent, with a single income household and mortgage. I was calculating the cost of leaving the store with a fully outfitted hockey player. This was all new to me as I did not play hockey and to this day still consider the rink walls my most important piece of equipment.

Watching the sales clerk walk my son through the aisles, trying on the chin guards, gloves, pants and on and on my wallet started to hurt. What had first started out as a continuous calculation as the cart filled, soon turned into that question, “how can families afford this?”

Ours had no true understanding what expense we were getting into until that day but it was too late now as the next great one’s parents had already committed. It was at that point I saw the poster for Jumpstart at the end of the skate aisle; rather strategic I would say. A reminder to us that could afford our children’s foray into the expensive Canadian past-time, way more expensive than a Beavertail on a winter afternoon. A sign telling us how Canadian Tire cared about youth activities, youth health.  Issues that had already started to be part of the national discourse on child and youth obesity.

The sign had shocking stats about the need and the way they were assisting families meet the wishes of their children. It was a very overpowering moment. Not because they told me the need, was prevalent in the media. It was the fact they had a simple, community-based solution. A solution that looked at many activities (70 today) for children with diverse interests but with one dream, to be part of activities with classmates and other peers in their community.

Since that day I try to make sure my Canadian Tire money goes in the bucket. Having the blind faith that Jumpstart was doing exactly what they claimed. Having spent a career working for non-profits I had become conscious of the new charities and foundations constantly sprouting up when our country already had over 60,000 registered charities: way more today. Each with a board, executive director, fax machine… But I trusted the brand and continued to give and continued to see in the media all the incredible work the program was doing. Simply put, Jumpstart showed results for a critical need in the country.

Then I started working for a large well-established Canadian non-profit that was also entrenched in communities across the country and my appreciation grew for Jumpstart. As I moved from community to community in my role I learned about our partnerships with Jumpstart. The long standing and trusted relationships based on a common goal, helping disadvantaged families. Active living was not my organizations’ focus, our focus was on assisting families and individuals to overcome socio-economic obstacles in order to lead healthier more independent lives. The health and well-being of children and youth was a common goal. And I would add, a goal that looked at the recipients holistically. Jumpstart created an avenue for us to talk to families about other needs once they came under the umbrella of the two entities.

My appreciation of Jumpstart runs deep. In my opinion the beauty of the program is twofold:

  • Community based delivery based on local knowledge and brand trust; and,
  • Using sport and activities for children and youth as an opportunity to recognize and address broader issues through program linkages that provide whole solutions while helping children be active and have FUN.

I hope you will join me in placing all of your Canadian Tire money in the buckets when you next go to their stores. Or, if you have children, teach them how a few cents can make a difference in the lives of children in their own community and school.

More about Jumpstart can be found on their website below:

Canadian Tire’s Jumpstart: Over 1.6 Million Kids Supported




Eight  years ago I sat in the National Art Centre in Ottawa with my daughter to enjoy a night of comedy at the Cracking Up the Capital finale. Expecting a night of laughs and joys I gained so much more from the comedians. I learned that comedy was a wonderful way to break the silence about issues: mental health, race, gender, politics… and yes, father daughter relationships. See my daughter was in those complicated tween years and I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.

As we sat and were entertained by one then another comedian we went from high stress at the mention of teenage sexuality to a total ease as the comedians broke the silence and the tension. They reminded my daughter and I that no issue was too big nor too unimportant for us to discuss openly; pushing it aside had too great a risk for both of us.

The next year I started my long tenure as what we like to call a volunteer beaver. While I was not able to dedicate my time every year I have done what I can whether that was carry equipment and signage, review fundraising proposals, or as with this past year fill the role of Director of Communications. Wherever I could be of the most assistance is where I was.

This year was so special for the festival. Through a sequence of past and present events a partnership has been established and flourished in less than 12 months. The festival sprouted wings and flown to Iqaluit, Nunavut.  First for one component of the annual festival in March, and now heading to its own Nunavut wide comedy festival. A festival founded on the same idea, use comedy to talk about mental health and addiction and the proceeds to help organizations on the front line of service delivery.

How did this happen. Listen up, you may be the next influencer.

CBC was a past sponsor of the festival. A member of the CBC team moved to First Air, and with him blossomed an idea. He loved the festival and cause and in his new position was looking for a cause that First Air could support and bring to Nunavut where of course they made a lot of money but also had a lot of influence as they are the main transporter of people and things.

The idea was launched to support Cracking Up the Capital, but even more, take the festival to Iqaluit. One night, one competition and the winner would be flown down to participate in the finale in Ottawa: a huge opportunity for Nunavut comedians. The night was a huge success. The community bought up the tickets, every spot in the competition filled and the fabulous Mary Walsh egging on comedian and attendee alike.

As I watched the show unfold and felt the energy in the room all I could think of was wow, this all started with the passion of a man, a single man that changed jobs.  Of course there was a lot of back and forth between the heads of Cracking up the Capital and First Air, but a partnership was launched and matured in such a short period of time.

These two entities have very different mandates but they share a common interest. The common interest is all it took to endure all the logistical challenges and distance divide. First Air is not just the voice of Nunavut now, they are the face of comedy, comedy with a message, Mental Health matters.

What brought me to write on this topic is that from that humble beginning a year ago has led to the first ever First Air Arctic Comedy Festival, with all its proceeds in support of the Kamatsiaqtut Help Line . This initiative was able to leap from the Capital festivals decade of experience and now will have a very direct impact on mental health for all in the Arctic. That was made possible by trust, risk, passion, technology, money, shared resources, comedians across this country…. But most of all, one man that changed jobs and carried the torche.

Join me in congratulating all my old friends and colleagues at Cracking Up the Capital on this huge success. While I have moved away, I will never forget all the festival has done for me, my daughter and mental health in Canada. Today, I know there is no issue too big for me to talk to my daughter (or son) about, and if I struggle to find the words a comedian a few clicks of a mouse away can assist.

Take a read about this wonderful event coming up in October.

Crackup Comedy brings festival to Iqaluit

In the early hours tomorrow I start my position on the Board of Easter Seals Nova Scotia. As I have previously mentioned  it is an organization very dear to my heart.  Reading tonight I came across a very good reminder of the role of board members, especially those working ion the non-profit sector; and those concerned with broader collective impact. Kris Putnam-Walkerly  reminds us that “It’s (board membership)  about being a good steward of resources and sharing responsibility for the foundation’s impact.”

Putnam-Walkerly identifies and illustrates six key questions members of a board should ask the CEO to break from routine and focus limited time on the big picture. From experience, not enough time is allocated to the following six questions by most boards:

1. How does this fit within our strategy?
2. What’s our progress on our strategic plan?
3. How much time do staff spend preparing for board meetings and what does that cost?
4. What can we do to reduce the cycle time of grantmaking?
5. Are we taking enough risks?
6. How can we be more helpful to you?

With so much going on in the province right now it would be prudent to add a seventh question:

7. What is our collective impact?

Asking such a question ensures the CEO and board are focussed on the operational environment, building mutually beneficial strategic partnerships, positioning itself for changes in the marketplace, marketing its value added, and contributing to the larger question of sustained economic growth in all areas of the province for all residents.

As with most things in life, this article popped up at a perfect time. Timing is everything.

Putnam-Walkerly’s article from Forbes follows:

6 Questions A Foundation Board Should Ask Its CEO

The beauty of Peoples Partnership is that it recognizes that we are all part of a citizenry, community or nation (nation state), we all have a voice. The challenge is to create a safe environment where all people feel they can exercise their freedoms without retribution. I hope you will take time to read and reflect on how this proposal mirrors or not your own view on development at any level.

The beauty of such a broad approach of dialogue is that it recognizes that farmers, fisherfolk, artists, businesses, athletes all have a common interest; the betterment of the places they live and work, raise their children and rest their elders.

A Peoples Partnership 

Barbados Underground

Submitted by DAVID  COMISSIONG, President, Clement Payne Movement

In the months and years immediately ahead of us, our country — Barbados — will be facing the dual but inter-related tasks of dealing with the IMF and revamping our model of national development.

As is to be expected, our newly elected Government will take the lead on these two crucial national tasks, but it is critical that we — the people of Barbados — do not simply sit back and leave it all up to our Government !

Indeed, we need to mobilize and organize ourselves to develop, advocate for, and commence the implementation of initiatives that demonstrate that a properly mobilized and energized Barbados is capable of solving its economic problems without the imposition on it of negative, anti-people , inhumane austerity measures.

We need to create a national Network whose mission would be to demonstrate that we — the…

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It is true that when I created this blog I set out to discuss my vision, philosophy and models of effective partnerships: and share my utter dismal mistakes. As readers would know from even a cursory review of my blogs I see partnerships everywhere in life as I do air. The problem is too often the air is polluted.

When we stop and take a look at singular events in our community we see the role individuals and organizations fill to carry them off without fail. They are complex processes that require creativity, analytics, resources from fibre to steel, blood, sweat, tears, brawn and of course cold hard cash. When all these pieces are brought together by a great conductor they sing a happy song. A song that praises the unseen partnerships.

From the sidelines this looks like a well rehearsed orchestra. But in fact it is an event  beyond complicated, it is full of complexities as with all living organisms and processes involving bits that can not be controlled.

What is a Complicated event?

Today at 1801 Hollis St Drop Zone was hosted by Easter Seals Nova Scotia. Simply put 30 volunteers repelled down Halifax’s tallest building. Each volunteer pledged to raise $1,500 each to earn a spot in the drop. The public, staff, donors, board members, volunteers and media came to watch and celebrate in the spectacle: which did cause more than one frustrated bus driver…

Sounds simple? Now consider that every person responsible for putting on the day was first delegated or contracted in a role some time ago. In the case of Michelle Mahoney, Board member and repeller it started when she was born with Arthrogryposis. A condition that forever shaped her life – not constrained it- today she repelled for her third time and at last count exceeded $3,000 this year. For Michelle being involved started years ago through a recognition of the need for Nova Scotia to do more to improve access and inclusion for persons with different abilities; a desire triggered by circumstances of birth.

Then lets consider the outfitters for the day. Thirty volunteers nor the board were going to hire any dude with a rapelling kit from MEC. The safety of volunteers can not be risked. The liability of Easter Seals needs to be covered by insurance: imagine the consequences of a fatality. As a complicated event it has complicated pieces, and Tacten Industrial Ltd. has the skills, equipment and expertise to provide a safe and enjoyable experience; they come with over 20 years of experience; and an ISO rating (whatever that means).

In between all of those pieces are EDs,Presidents, PMs, DOFs… and other staff that do all of the administrative duties and deep thinking to maximize the fundraising and awareness raising potential and script for the day.  This includes all sorts of departmental log frames and drop calls, shoulder rubbing, outreach, contracting, media twisting, number crunching, social media peddling and even a few hours of sleep. Sounds simple? But hold on, they are a team of individuals that have been brought together by a cause, for a cause.

The non-profit staff is an interesting creature. They often have claws and teeth for a good reason. They must. It is their goal in life to make a difference where others turn the other direction, are too busy or frankly don`t care about the cause or any other cause for that matter.  Making a decision to work in the non-profit space is a huge commitment. Individuals in this field are highly educated (multiple degrees and diplomas the norm), experienced, analytical, multilingual, with huge hearts that can often double their income by moving into government or the private space of the economy. But wait, they don`t leave. They stay to make Nova Scotia a more civiliazed place to call home and indirectly promote to the world.

What pulls all these pieces together is the dollar. The dollar comes in many forms, hard cash, volunteers hours, in lieau services and products to name a few. All provided by a range of sponsors and donors. They range in shape and size: all for another blog. What is essential is that there must be a strong fit. A fit driven by cause, culture or perhaps a deeper and yet more complicated connection called friendship or connection. A fit with a personal or corporate mandate, a thin one or a large obvious mandate of the two organizations. As a member of a board I once sat on coached me years ago, don’t ask for something you can`t return in the future through cash or kind.

These bits and pieces come together through a long process. For some of them it started at birth, others their marketable expertise, corporate social responsibility, government mandate, media bylines and still others passion and humility. I would be bereft if I forgot you, the potential volunteer or individual donor deciding IF to give a frog or buck.

What is my point? All the complicated pieces can and do come together more often than not. Partnerships of many forms and layers are brought together and executed to fantastic results for all involved. If this example was too simple to get my point across, think about all the pieces that go into building the Bowing DC10 we all fly through the skys without much if any concern for plunging to the earth in a ball of fire. I should be honest here, I never take a flight without that thought crossing my mind at least twice.

Now lets consider the complexities, just briefly.

  • An earthquake could have hit during the day.
  • A gun man could have shut down downtown Halifax as it did in Ottawa a few years ago.
  • The municipal government could decide that a volunteer plunging to the streets of Halifax would be bad for its profile.
  • A  scandal could have occurred that shook the confidence in the organization.

The complexities of many people, places and things are uncontrollable despite best efforts at planning and risk management  This is an area of inquiry that needs to be better understood in all aspects of life, work, production, governance, manufactuaring and research. Our communities and the world needs those of us that can, to do. Complicated and complexities influency every step and breath we take.

Perhaps this journey made you think a bit more about the complexities of partnerships and even more about the complexities that can come to play with them and all aspects of lime.

Having use the Easter Seals Nov Scotia Drop Zone for my example I should offer you the chance to help raise funds and thus join this crucial partnership driven to make our world, our communities and economies more civiliazed.

Easter Seals Nova Scotia Drop Zone

The world of human resources is full of many articles on best practices, dos and don’ts. What I enjoy most are articles that truly come from and highlight actual issues in a personal way. As employees or managers we have all encountered challenging situations, learned from great bosses or fallen flat on our face (at least I have).

I came across a post on LinkedIn that reminded me of many situations over my career where trust had to be explained. Natasha Bowman so effortlessly illustrates in her post key issues that help integrate a new team member, in a way that shows they are adults, professionals and responsible for their decisions and actions and contribute to the whole team.

One of the key lessons I have learned is that colleagues need to be trusted, hear it and feel it. Each person is different so it does take effort (but not too much) to focus on their individual strengths and areas of responsibility. Also to know how best they respond to coaching.

As Natasha states:

Leading with fear, hostility and incivility will get you nowhere.

Leading with respect, empathy, and compassion will take you everywhere.

My style is to ensure staff understand how they fit within the team, review their key areas of responsibility and how it contributes to the whole. The use of a focussed performance management system that connects the dots and links to the organization goals is very useful, though timely to set up. Doing it as a team, ensuring ownership is very effective. The last thing staff want is to be left out of a process for which they will be held accountable.

They key message I offer staff is that they are responsible for their portfolio, projects, and ultimately decisions. The key concern for my is that they own their decisions., I do not micromanage, but it is important if a decision is successful or a failure we can review the process understand what transpired, either to replicate, adjust or terminate. Risk management is key. The one aspect of review that I always insist on is what were the risks and did you assess them before moving forward.

Staff respond very well to this approach. Creates ownership, also they want to succeed so let them. It adds an area of encouragement , creativity and energy to the office and thus our culture. There is nothing like watching a team transform when given the decision making power.

I hope you enjoy Natasha`s small story:

Don’t send me a picture of that!!



The most wonderful part of looking for work is the people from all sectors and backgrounds I get to meet who share a passion to continue to build Nova Scotia and Canada to be the best place to live and lead.

We may not agree on all aspects, but we do believe in the same goal. I wish I had more time to write a book about my experience returning to Nova Scotia at such an exciting time, a time that has clearly benefited from so many who over the  years have made their impact in fields ranging from finance to the blue economy, on natural resources including cod and diamonds, or by setting up the manufacturing of biogas and e-bicycles.

In the spring, to say I was at 10,000 feet learning about the province and specific sectors may be an understatement. Over the last few months I truly feel I have descended to less than 5,000 feet. Over the time I have gained so much knowledge from traditional and non traditional sources: the news, brochures, legislation, lectures, special events, job postings and recruiters, the internet and most importantly, people.

Action research has permitted a glimpse into areas of opportunity and intervention for a professional development and communications individual like myself. A form of research relying on a network of technology experts, friends, former colleagues, community leaders, small business owners, academics, leaders in the blue economy, government officials, fish traders, non-profit leaders, men in poverty, farmers, women survivors of cancer, runners, artists, persons with mental illnesses, seniors and other retirees to name a few: connecting one by one and at times in small groups. Many of these were planned and held in boardrooms, others simply by engaging in coffee shops, hardware stores, doctor offices, at protests or just on the ferry and other public spaces. All together this research approach forms a community of practice to assist raising questions and solving problems.

One of my mentors comes to mind, Robert Chambers as he so reminds us in his books that a shift in understanding questions of development that affect livelihoods requires us to think, see, act and be in the world together to set out a path of positive change.

My journey to give back just a little to Nova Scotia requires connections..