Building a network approach for positive community impact

As a nonprofit network, Pillar’s primary focus has always been to increase the visibility, credibility, capacity, and professionalism of the nonprofit sector. We know our sector is essential to building an engaged, inclusive and vibrant community, but also believe we must work with the business and government sectors to solve problems in our community. This approach to cross-sector collaboration is a unique aspect of our network approach at Pillar. We support strong local nonprofit sector leadership, engaging the public and private sectors, and encouraging thinking from a system perspective. Here are some of the ways we’ve developed our network approach and tips for how you can build a network mindset into your nonprofit or charity.

Expanding from a local to regional network

Our local and place-based focus is another unique factor of our network approach. We believe in leveraging the knowledge and assets of our region to enable us to think and act differently and to solve big issues. We started with a mandate to serve London and then expanded to serve London and area, including the three surrounding counties. From the beginning, we have also been tapped into provincial and national networks for shared learning and partnerships including Ontario Nonprofit Network, Ontario Social Economy Roundtable, Ontario Volunteer Centre Network, Imagine Canada and Canadian Federation of Voluntary Sector Networks to name a few. 

Over the years, Pillar has led various provincial projects including Community Action Forum: Creating diverse and inclusive nonprofit organizations, Social Enterprise for Sustainable Communities, DiverseCity onBoard, Project Impact, Social Enterprise Southwest and Women’s Ontario Social Enterprise Network. As our work expanded to encompass social finance and impact investing, we knew that we needed a broader investment pool and there was significant need across Southwestern Ontario.

Further, our social enterprise approach to leverage entrepreneurship and business supports was recognized provincially and we had an opportunity to train and infuse social entrepreneurship within the Ontario Network for Entrepreneurs (ONE) in Southwestern Ontario. Today our board is having strategic conversations about our geographic reach and we are committed to sharing our network approach recognizing that each community will resonate with various aspects of our mission, vision and programs.

Expanding our membership

Today, the three pillars – government, business and nonprofit – are blurring in pursuit of social and economic impact. As our organization has grown from our 340 nonprofit and individual members to include our over 400 co-tenants with Innovation Works, and our network of investors and investees with VERGE Capital, we recognized that each of these groups were working in silos.

Today, the three pillars – government, business and nonprofit – are blurring in pursuit of social and economic impact. Positioning your organization within a dynamic cross-sector network expands your capacity for learning and achieving positive change in your community.

As an organization, we wanted to connect our full network so they could lean on one another. We knew there was more we could do to facilitate deeper and expanded connections between our members so that we can share what we know collectively. For these reasons, we redesigned our membership program in 2019 to expand to include individuals, organizations and social enterprises, businesses and government invested in creating positive community impact. 

Using technology to connect networks

At Pillar, our vision for our network is one that is highly connected, serves to strengthen the voice and impact of the non-profit sector, and plays a leadership role in the community. We noticed that the co-tenants at Innovation Works naturally leaned on one another and that proximity and interactions that were continuous often lead to quicker collaboration and support for one another. We created our Pillar Online Community to open up the lines of communication among our members so they could connect and share ideas about creating positive community impact.

Enabling learning and development

Pillar hosts many networking and learning opportunities for our members to further their knowledge and connections. These include core organizational development functions such as finance, human resources, communications and marketing, leadership and board development, and emerging trends and shifts in collaboration, social enterprise and social innovation. In 2018, we had more than 70 networking and workshop sessions with 3117 attendees. We believe that in person learning and networking opportunities are a crucial component of building a strong network.

Mapping networks to measure impact

Pillar has embarked on an exciting partnership with CulturePlex Lab to map our network using data visualizations that will provide insight into the evolution of our network using the number of members after our membership redesign as our baseline. We are also testing this evaluation method and tool for CityStudio London to track the number and quality of the connections over time for student participants in the program.

Keys to building a network mindset 

Establishing a network mindset in your organization takes time, resources and strategic planning but is well worth the investment. Positioning your organization within a dynamic cross-sector network expands your capacity for learning and achieving positive change in your community. Here are some of the ways we’ve embedded a network mindset at Pillar.  

  1. Create opportunities for connection – Ensure both in person and online opportunities for members to connect, learn and lean on one another.
  2. Facilitate cross-sector collaboration – Create connections across nonprofit organizations and with business and government.
  3. Foster both organizational development and systems change – It’s important to strengthen the capacity of individual organizations, but a strong network must also encourage members to think beyond their individual mission and consider how they can partner with other organizations to achieve systems change.
  4. Prioritize member engagement – Engage your members or stakeholders in strategy and public policy. Ensure you are capturing their needs to be in service to them.
  5. Animate the network – Have roles within the organization that support and animate the network and nurture the relationships and connections.
  6. Highlight storytelling and impact – Share stories, build awareness and support the network to measure their impact.
  7. Anticipate future needs – A good network recognizes patterns, shifting systems and emerging trends and brings this knowledge forward to its members as an opportunity for learning and collaboration. 

Connecting to the entrepreneurship ecosystem to fuel social enterprise growth

At Pillar, we embed our network approach in the way we leverage the local, regional, national and global ecosystem for entrepreneurship and social enterprise to expand our social enterprise program. Connecting to these various networks has been a critical success factor in helping to support the development of social enterprises in our region and beyond. The connections we have formed across geographic locations have also helped to elevate the profile of social enterprise and illustrate the benefits of social purpose businesses as a key economic contributor. Read more to see how we developed these connections and learn about the social enterprise and entrepreneurship ecosystems you can connect to if you are part of a social enterprise or support network.

London Ontario’s entrepreneurship ecosystem

From the outset of our first social enterprise project at Pillar – Social Enterprise for Sustainable Communities – our advisory committee included representatives from the existing entrepreneurship ecosystem in London including, Community Futures Development Corporation, Ivey School of Business, London Chamber of Commerce, London Economic Development Corporation, Small Business Centre, and TechAlliance. Through these partnerships, we recognized that mainstream business supports are well equipped to deliver services to entrepreneurs at all stages of business creation. We leverage the specific business and industry expertise of our partners as we recognize we don’t have to be all things to all entrepreneurs, we can specialize in embedding social and community into business.

Another opportunity for collaboration with local support networks was BizGrid – an at a glance business support guide. In our work we often borrow ideas from other communities and this was a model developed in Windsor. The project was developed with the guiding questions “who am I”, “where should I go” and “what do I need” to help entrepreneurs connect to the right local business support organizations. This tool has been highly used and continues to be a valuable resource for entrepreneurs.

Through our work to support social enterprises in our community, a goal for us has been that nonprofits and social enterprises become recognized for their role in economic development. With time and effort, the recognition of nonprofits and social enterprise as economic drivers has become easier. When Pillar was invited to London’s Entrepreneur Support Network table and the Economic Road Map Advisory Group, we knew we had turned a corner. As an outcome of London’s Economic Roadmap, we were involved in the creation of and the #LondonCan campaign. This website promotes local entrepreneurs though videos and a social media campaign, and connects prospective business owners to local resources.

Another pivotal moment that confirmed a shift in understanding of the impact and potential of social enterprise in London was illustrated in an article written by Gerry MacCartney, CEO, London Chamber of Commerce after he attended a breakfast hosted by Youth Opportunities Unlimited (YOU). In the article, he referenced that the Chamber’s partnership with Pillar to develop the London Business Achievement Award for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and to host two CSR workshops had shifted his thinking. He also shared that attending the YOU breakfast event and hearing the youth speak of the impact of social enterprise on their lives opened his eyes. 

Southwestern Ontario’s entrepreneurship ecosystem

As part of Ontario’s Social Enterprise Strategy for 2006-2021, the provincial government launched the Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs (ONE) Social Enterprise Partnerships program. The program includes four regional hubs in partnership with the Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs (ONE) to embed social enterprise components in their organizations and programs, and ensure that social enterprise support organizations are part of their entrepreneur support model. Pillar was a contributor in developing this partnership strategy and we were enthusiastic to see this approach that built on our experience of embedding social enterprise in our local entrepreneurship ecosystem being adopted around the province.

As part of the ONE Social Enterprise Partnerships program, we collaborated with Windsor University’s EPICentre, Innovate Niagara, Huron Small Business Enterprise Centre, and Waterloo Region Small Business Centre to launch Social Enterprise Southwest (SESW). SESW supports both social entrepreneurs and network organizations through education, funding and programing. The project demonstrated a capacity to leverage existing resources and partnerships to collaborate with non-traditional stakeholders, and a desire to support a strong, innovative economy that can provide jobs, opportunities and prosperity for their respective communities.

One successful outcome of the project was the way that Pillar’s Network Animator worked collaboratively with SESW partners to animate social enterprise in Southwestern Ontario through digital storytelling. A key element of Network Animation was transforming aspects of SESW programming into educational and inspiring media, such as videos produced in digital storytelling workshops, and blog entries spotlighting social enterprises and related events around the region. Additionally, we successfully collaborated with our partner organizations to develop a comprehensive program evaluation. Using data from multiple sources, the evaluation explored SESW’s impact for social enterprises, ONE members, and the social enterprise ecosystem and reported on what the partners have learned about supporting social enterprise in the course of their partnership.

Through our work to support social enterprises in our community, a goal for us has been that nonprofits and social enterprises become recognized for their role in economic development. With time and effort, the recognition of nonprofits and social enterprise as economic drivers has become easier.

In addition to these projects, we partnered with the other three regional hub projects for the Ontario Network for Entrepreneurs Social Enterprise Program and pooled some of our grant monies to create a Social Enterprise Network. We also worked with our partners and developed the Social Enterprise Coach Program to train traditional business coaches on the additional tools and resources available to support social enterprises. We developed the program with the recognition of the vast knowledge held by local entrepreneurship ecosystems and our desire for social enterprises to seek support through their local centres. Through this program, we set our to share our expertise so that it is housed locally in each community with the hope that each community is able to grow their knowledge and share their learnings back with us.

Canada’s entrepreneurship ecosystem

When Pillar had the opportunity to co-host the Canadian Conference on Social Enterprise with the Social Enterprise Council of Canada, this elevated our work to a national stage and connected us to the national social enterprise ecosystem. The three day conference with the theme of ‘Telling Your Story’ had more than 350 delegates, 40 speakers, and 20 exhibitors. All levels of government were in attendance and the event garnered extensive media coverage.

Our team has also attended and presented at other national conferences maintaining our relationships and connections for shared learning. We maintain national partnerships with CEDnet, Buy Social, Common Good Solutions and Social Enterprise Institute.

The global entrepreneurship ecosystem

Members of our team have also attended the World Social Enterprise Forum hosted by the Social Enterprise Alliance in San Francisco, California; Calgary, Alberta; and Edinburgh, Scotland. At the World Social Enterprise Forum in Calgary, we participated in a pitch competition for our social innovation shared space. While we were not selected as the award recipient, the learning and coaching was invaluable to our development particularly around ensuring that our model met the needs of a mid-sized cities because so many of the existing models were developed for large urban centres.

In 2017, our team headed to Ukraine to share our models for social enterprise and social innovation with local elected officials and city staff from municipalities in Ukraine. This project was initiated by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and was called Partnership for Local Economic Development and Democratic Governance. There was a growing appetite in Ukraine to explore social enterprise as a model of growth and community development. When we were invited initially, the team in Ukraine felt they were looking to grow social enterprise and by the time we got there they had done a research study that showed they already had more than 700 social enterprises, many of them women-led.

The next year, a delegation from Ukraine came to Ontario to explore how municipalities can set up programs and/or organizations to support social enterprise with a focus on programs that support and encourage women’s participation in business. We presented to the delegation along with Innovation Works, the Centre for Social Innovation, Artscape and the Waterloo Regional Small Business Centre about their experiences and learnings as intermediaries providing capacity building, shared space and access to capital to support social enterprises and women entrepreneurs. 

Future opportunities

Building on our previous work, along with our partners Centre for Social Innovation (Central Ontario), Okwaho Innov8 Centre (Eastern Ontario) and NORDIK Institute (Northern Ontario) we are leading the Women of Ontario Social Enterprise Network (WOSEN) that will connect siloed networks of diverse women with established entrepreneurship ecosystems and Ontario’s social enterprise assets. This program is just getting started and will offer accelerators for women social entrepreneurs, training for those in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, and gender lens investing.

Connect to the entrepreneurship and social enterprise ecosystem 
Whether you’re part of an organization that supports social enterprises, are looking to start your business, or are just interested in learning more about social enterprise and entrepreneurship, explore the links below to see how you can find support and expand your professional network.
London and area
  • Pillar Nonprofit Network – Check out the social enterprise supports we offer at Pillar including, workshops, coaching, consulting services, funding, and the Libro Social Enterprise Incubator. 
  • Innovation Works – Innovation Works is London’s first co-working space for social innovators. There are many ways to join our community such as becoming a cotenant, or dropping in for our Socialpreneur Chats.
  • Findyouranswers.bizFind your answers aims to be a first step in making connections between entrepreneurs and service providers in London. Join the conversation and share your entrepreneurship story by using the #LondonCan hashtag. 
  • TechAlliance – If you’re looking to launch or grow your tech business, want education opportunities or to attend networking events, be sure to familiarize yourself with Tech Alliance. 
  • Small Business Centre – Connect with the Small Business Centre if you’re part of a new or growing business for education, networking, mentorship and funding opportunities. Experienced professionals are welcomed as mentors. 
  • The Business Help Centre of Middlesex County – The Business Help Centre provides business consulting, financing, workshops and economic development for eight municipalities in Middlesex County. 
  • London Economic Development Corporation (LEDC) –  LEDC is the lead economic development agency for London, Canada. The organization works with business, government and community partners to attract business investment and develop a connected and supportive business climate in London. 
  • Propel – Propel is a start-up accelerator located at Western University. The centre provides co-working space, seed funding, mentorship, training programs, events and workshops for startups at all stages of growth. 
  • Leap Junction  – Leap Junction is a student entrepreneurial support organization offered through Fanshawe college. The program offers mentorship, workshops, in-class learning, pitch training and competitions, networking events and campus marketplace opportunities.
Southwestern Ontario
  • Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs – The Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs brings together a group of business support centres across the province who provide support whether you’re looking to start, grow or finance your business. 
  • Social Enterprise Southwest (SESW) – SESW supports both social entrepreneurs and network organizations through education, coaching and connections.
  • University of Windsor Epicentre – EPICentre provides programs and services that are intended to help students and recent graduates start and grow their businesses.
  • Innovate Niagara – Connect with Innovate Niagara for networking, collaboration, prototyping, and business development. 
  • Huron County Small Business Centre – Supporting small business owners in Huron County, the Small Business Centre offers professional consultations, free business plan reviews, seminars, and networking opportunities.  
  • Waterloo Region Small Business Centre – Entrepreneurs in the Waterloo region can find all the support they need through the Small Business Centre including programming, networking and the option to join a Business Club providing access to exclusive online content. 
  • Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) – CSI is a coworking space for social entrepreneurs in Toronto that provides access to promotional opportunities, networking and community, free consultations with experts, access to capital, exclusive programming and more.
  • The Social Enterprise Council of Canada – The Social Enterprise Council of Canada is a membership organization for social entrepreneurs and supporters. They aim to link social entrepreneurs to resources and to develop a policy environment to support the growth of social enterprise in the county. 
  • Common Good Solutions – Located in Halifax, Common Good Solutions helps governments, community organizations and entrepreneurs achieve impact through consulting, training, a business incubator, and their co-working space – The Good Hub. 
  • The Canadian Community Economic Development Network (CCEDNet) – CEDNET is a national member association for organizations and people who are committed to strengthening communities by creating economic opportunities that enhance social and environmental conditions. 
  • Social Enterprise Institute – Check out this online learning platform for courses on everything you need to know about running a social enterprise including investment readiness and marketing. You can also sign up for one-on-one or group coaching through the Institute. 
  • Okwaho NetworkOkwaho Network is a dedicated social network for Canada’s First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples and serves the greater global Indigenous community. It was designed to act as an alternative or complementary social media outlet for Indigenous peoples to connect and share news and information.
  • Northern Ontario, Research, Development, Ideas and Knowledge InstituteNORDIK Institute partners with communities to solve practical issues that are important to municipalities, First Nations and community organizations in Northern Ontario offering business, organizational and community development support.
  • Social Enterprise Alliance (SEA) – A member organization that acts as a champion for the development of the social enterprise in the United States. SEA works to foster a thriving social enterprise ecosystem and provides social enterprises and entrepreneurs with tools and resources they need. 
  • Impact Hub – Impact Hub is one of the world’s largest networks with over 100 hub locations in 50 countries focused on building entrepreneurial communities for impact at scale. Impact Hubs across the globe offer community and workspace, startup support and educational programming. 

From dream to reality: The start-up of Innovation Works

In 2008, London had been experiencing significant growth and change and was yearning for an innovative approach to explore solutions to the accompanying economic, environmental, social and cultural challenges. This type of social change doesn’t usually happen by doing the same old thing the same old way. Change occurs when we introduce something different; a different idea, perspective, or approach that stimulates new ways of thinking.

In this climate, the idea for Innovation Works was born in a living room amid a small gathering of great minds. Together they imagined London’s very own co-working space, where change-makers and innovators could intersect and cross-pollinate. A space dedicated to social innovation. This small living room gathering hatched an idea that would soon be embraced by a community of champions eager to make it happen.

Exploring feasibility and our business model

Community interest in a social innovation shared space for London continued to build over the next several years. Then in 2010, Pillar Nonprofit Network partnered with Downtown London, Emerging Leaders, London Arts Council, London Heritage Council and other community groups to explore the possibilities for a shared space in our community. Pillar also engaged the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) to support the development of the coworking space for London. CSI was Canada’s first co-working space and has been a globally recognized leader in the field of collaborative communities and innovation since its inception in Toronto in 2004. Working from CSI’s models and best practices, the project was propelled forward. 

In 2013, Pillar and Emerging Leaders conducted a detailed feasibility study and created a business plan thanks to a grant from the London Community Foundation. The grant also allowed London to bring in social innovation experts, Purpose Capital and CSI, to share significant real life experience that helped the partners hone the financial plans and operating model.  Our partnership with CSI continues today and has been an invaluable resource that has helped to shape our community in many ways, from our values to our volunteer program. 

Getting the community on board

To create a roadmap of what Londoners were looking for in a shared space, we hosted four Design Jams with more than 300 community members in attendance. Participants provided input on the values and principles they wanted to have at the heart of the project along with ideas on the requirements and functionality for the space. We partnered with on this project who generously captured these sessions for us.  

We hosted “Get on the Bus” Tours to Toronto for our partners, potential tenants, and potential funders to see and hear from other social innovation shared spaces including Centre for Social Innovation and Artscape. This shifted people from hearing about the potential to seeing the potential for London and literally and figuratively ‘getting on the bus.’

Pillar steps up as backbone

The feasibility and business plan and community engagement opportunities helped the project gain considerable momentum, but it was clear that a leader was needed to move the project forward. According to the collective impact theory of achieving social change, there must be a backbone organization that is dedicated to organizing the work of the group. When asked to step up as the backbone, Pillar was well positioned to take on this role and bring our work in community impact and cross-sector collaboration to the next level.  Today, Pillar programing, staff and resources support the space but at its heart, Innovation Works is a community-driven initiative, made by and for London.

Spreading the word 

As the project progressed, we did a roadshow and spoke to groups, service clubs, nonprofit boards, businesses, partners and anyone who wanted to hear more about the idea of a social innovation shared space for London. We shared our vision and the journey through videos, photos, social media, mainstream media and created a first-phase website. We looked at our communications and marketing as an engagement strategy. The end result we were striving for was not only a physical space, but also to inspire people to a vision of nonprofits, social enterprises and businesses coming together to spark social innovation and change.

Our community engagement efforts also failed along the way when we tried to crowdsource the name of the space. We learned that there is a branding journey that must be followed with the help of communications professionals, and that you must capture the essence, feel and intention of the brand before jumping to the name.

Show us the money

With CSI’s template and model, we developed a financial model to demonstrate the viability of the project. As we searched for possible spaces, we were able to test the model based on the size, cost of the building and opportunity for rentable space and shared amenities. 

London had been experiencing significant growth and change and was yearning for an innovative approach to explore solutions to the accompanying economic, environmental, social and cultural challenges. In this climate, the idea for Innovation Works was born in a living room amid a small gathering of great minds. The end result we were striving for was not only a physical space, but also to inspire people to a vision of nonprofits, social enterprises and businesses coming together to spark social innovation and change.

Early on we had three impact investments come forward totalling $1.2 million that demonstrated the community and financial support for this innovative model in London. We then started to meet with possible mortgage holders to share our business plan and financial model. We learned that the process of meeting with credit unions and banks was more than a mortgage for a building it was about sharing a vision of social innovation and what was possible in London.

When we started our fundraising efforts, McCormick Canada provided a $50,000 grant to support the McCormick Kitchen and the Ontario Trillium Foundation provided a $275,000 grant for the Solutions Lab. These grants created momentum and credibility to the idea and kick started a $2.2 million campaign of donations and grants from individuals, corporations, foundations and government. We also had a crowdfunding campaign that raised $27,000 where our community could donate $10 or more as a community engagement strategy. 

Pillar worked with VERGE Capital to offer London’s first ever community bond which was sold out well ahead of schedule. Innovators across all sectors were rallying behind the project and it wasn’t long before future co-tenants were signing on the dotted line. Our finance and fundraising model infused social innovation integrating new finance models and approaches and most importantly engaging the community to create a sense of ownership and co-creation.

Our final fundraising strategy was the the IN Crowd campaign which used crowdfunding to raise $27,000. This was firstly a community engagement strategy where people could be a supporter for as little as $10. To recognize our donors, we created a word cloud with their names that was updated online and put on reusable bags as a token of our appreciation for each of the IN Crowd donors. 

Finding our home

After an extensive search looking at more than 25 buildings and spaces, Pillar announced the purchase the Garvey Building at 201 King Street in downtown London. Innovation Works finally had a home. Located in London’s core, the building was a perfect fit both in terms of amenities and being part of the downtown revitalization initiative. 

Before you could say “innovation”, committees with more than 40 dedicated volunteers and partners were formed including a Project Manager, Communications, Finance & Fundraising, Design & Construction, IT, and Tenant Cultivation. Having these skills-based volunteers leading and co-creating this project made it truly community based. The expertise and influence these volunteers brought forward generated credibility and buy in from the community.

Read Building our community: Innovation Works from implementation to scale to find out more about how we designed our space and brought our community to life.

Lessons learned from the startup of Innovation Works 
  1. Determine backbone organization – According to the collective impact theory of achieving social change, there must be a backbone organization dedicated to organizing the work of the group. We learned early on that our project would need one of the partner organizations to play this role and coordinate the efforts of the group and were eager to step up to the task. 
  2. Create a strong project team – Take time to choose those you want to help create.  Choose a variety of backgrounds and skills – something that could represent the types of tenants you want in the space. A strong project manager with a proven project management background and a lens to impact will be key.
  3. Establish continuous communication – To co-create with community requires constant communication to keep them in the loop even when you are doing the behind the scenes work.
  4. Borrow from others – Look for inspiration and instruction from those who have gone before you. We developed a consulting relationship with Centre for Social Innovation where they shared their best practices with us including their financials, policies, programming, and community bond model. 
  5. Determine economies of scale – When creating a shared space you must have room for enough rentable space and shared amenities. Having too small of a space puts pressure on the financial model.  
  6. Show and tell – Take interested community members, such as possible co-tenants or investors, to see and learn from similar models. Seeing similar spaces first hand creates energy and excitement and they share it across the community. 
  7. Engage branding experts – We do not advise crowdsourcing your brand and name from the community. Your brand will be one of the most important things you build so it’s important to work with experienced communications professionals from your community. 
  8. Implement innovative finance models – When creating a shared space that has innovation as its core, having an innovative fundraising and finance model that includes elements like social finance or a community bond is necessary to demonstrate social innovation.
  9. Be patient in finding the right home – We looked at over 25 buildings in our search. While it was intense and time consuming, it was important not to settle. Doing financial modelling and valuations about each building helped us make solid decisions.
  10. Walk the talk – Be able to call yourself a social enterprise with a model of both revenue and social impact. 
  11. Develop a welcoming atmosphere – Invest in a welcoming culture and appealing design. Start planning early for ways to make tenants and the community feel at home in your space; don’t skimp on design elements that give your space soul. 
  12. Finding the right fit takes time –  Your first co-tenants may not be exactly the right fit but i it will eventually level out to the right mix.  As your brand and community presence builds over time, word will get out to the right people. 

Building our community: Innovation Works from implementation to scale

This article is a continuation of From dream to reality: The start-up of Innovation Works, start there for more context on how it all began. 

Getting the keys to 201 King Street brought us one giant step closer to realizing our dream to bring a social innovation shared space to London; but first we had to make sure the physical space would foster social innovation. We needed the space to have standard resources like desk space, meeting space, and shared office amenities, and also  comfortable open spaces that promote both focused work or an impromptu chat. After all, diversity in your perspectives or in your environment is what stimulates new ways of thinking. A dynamic space is an innovative space.

Moving on up 

On June 15, 2016, our first co-tenants moved in to the second floor, our first renovated floor of Innovation Works. During this time, GoodLife, the previous owners of the building, co-existed with us in the building as we renovated our new space and they built their new home. This was ideal for both partners and a great example of collaboration between nonprofit and business as we were able to scale up rather than owning a large empty building in our start-up phase. GoodLife also donated all their furniture and shared their vast knowledge of this beautiful historic building including its soon-to-be-known to us ‘special attributes’. The building has old lungs and strong bones, while adding to the character, the age of the building brought its own set of challenges. GoodLife’s knowledge, connection to existing contracts and availability to help problem solve was priceless. 

During the Design Jams, we heard loud and clear that neighbourhood revitalization was a core value to this project. Soon after we opened our doors, we hosted a block party where we invited our neighbours, business owners and all those involved in the journey to create Innovation Works. We had more than 500 people come to join us to celebrate the milestone of opening. Creating opportunities to bring community together is what we’re all about and this event was just the beginning.

Co-tenant cultivation committee 

In our early days, we were fortunate to have an energetic co-tenant cultivation committee that started with those who attended the design jams, donors, investors and other dedicated volunteers who were engaged in the Innovation Works journey to date. We had to re-invigorate the committee with new people, new ideas and new processes along the way to keep momentum and ensure we had solid tracking processes. We also had an ‘I’m IN’ social media campaign that profiled our new co-tenants, donors, investors and team members to create excitement and a sense of belonging. Johnny Fansher who seeded the idea of a shared space for social innovation and was our first signed co-tenant. We also had a ‘Are you IN?’ video that featured our early adopters and tenants that created buzz and showed the diversity of people and organizations signing up to be part of Innovation Works. We opened with more than 50 co-tenants and quickly continued to grow our flex desk users, permanent desks and offices. What originally began as a committee effort to actively mine co-tenants has shifted to individuals now seeking us out to join our space. 

Animating our community

While the design of a space can spark collisions and encourage collaboration bringing a social innovation shared space to life requires community animation. Community animation involves a variety of activities that encourage connections between co-tenants and to the community at large. Community animation has included our Block Party building kick off party with more than 500 people, hosting workshops, weekly salad clubs, monthly mixers, holiday parties, summer barbeques, participating in the Pride London parade, hosting International Women’s Day events, and more. Community animation creates a culture of participation. It is an offering, not a requirement, allowing co-tenants to dip in and out of the community in a way that feels comfortable and natural to them. It has quickly became the key differentiator for Innovation Works and other existing co-working spaces.

Creating our culture (club)

A culture club made up of a committee of co-tenants was started to spark community animation ideas and to live out the values of the space. This group led the co-creation of the Innovation Works values that guide us daily. 


■ Put people and planet first
■ We are innovators
■ Together we are better
■ Keep it real
■ Make social change and have fun doing it
■ Anything is possible
■ Community is our culture
■ Blow people’s minds
■ It’s up to us​

What started as a vision amongst a small group of dreamers has become the physical representation of the three pillars of our community coming together and all of the beautiful collisions that result.

This committee also facilitated an environmental audit and birthed Wellness Works, a program to diffuse stress and encourage mental well-being for co-tenants and members of the downtown community. The Wellness Works program includes complimentary yoga and meditation sessions contributing to an inclusive space that welcomes the community. Wellness Works has now hosted two annual “Wellness Day” events during Mental Health Awareness Week in May where over 100 community members join in a conference style day with yoga, meditation, art, music therapy and mental health workshops.

Valuing co-tenant input

Annually, we do a survey to check in with co-tenants about how well we are meeting their needs. We ask questions about the physical space, shared amenities, responsiveness, interactions with the staff team, connections between the co-tenants, the quality of service from volunteers, our communications, and the best thing about Innovation Works. The results are shared out along with how we plan to improve going forward.

We also host a town hall annually to get in-person feedback from co-tenants and do some collective planning together for the future. Providing the best customer service to our community is our primary focus, and we can tell that our efforts are appreciated in the response rate of both the survey and the attendance of the town hall.

Growth and scale

Over time our co-tenancy has grown substantially and today we have more than 200 co-tenants and 400 people at Innovation Works. With our new membership re-design where and all co-tenants being members of Pillar, we are working to create connections across our network both inside and outside Innovation Works. The growth we have experienced and the volume of people through the space has brought us to a point where it is time to have a dedicated staff for the building and customer service. 

As we have grown, we have also had to assess some of the programs of our cafe partners, Edgar & Joe’s of Goodwill Industries. The café was offering “Community Coffee”, inviting those less fortunate to have a free coffee when others top up their own orders. Recently, we have had to evaluate how we can continue to offer support to this population and be inclusive while balancing the safety of our co-tenants, and we’re continuing to explore solutions. 

Today, we are well on-track to achieve sustainability through our social enterprise model and are now consulted by other communities as they venture into the co-working movement. The integral connection of Innovation Works and Pillar Nonprofit Network continues to evolve as we leverage and weave programming, space, members in a shared network. What started as a vision amongst a small group of dreamers has become the physical representation of the three pillars of our community coming together and all of the beautiful collisions that result. 

Lessons learned from the implementation of Innovation Works 
  1. Engage your community – By engaging the right partners and community members at every stage in our development process, we were able to raise awareness about social innovation and build connections between individuals and community organizations. 
  2. Adapt space continuously  – We are always looking for ways to update our space to better meet the needs of our co-tenants and the community. Changes we have made include a yoga studio, new meeting rooms, flexible workstations, and a new elevator.
  3. Balance community animation and building needs – We have learned that the needs of the building trump all other day to day tasks. When a contractor shows up or a toilet needs fixing these immediate needs must be addressed. While we always try to keep a balance between building needs and community animation, sometimes maintenance requirements can take away from activities fostering intentional connecting between our co-tenants, and the comfort of our co-tenants is the priority.
  4. Co-create values – One of our co-tenants led the process to co-create our shared values at Innovation Works along with input from others. Today we are looking at how we keep these alive with check ins and tweaks to make sure they are more than just words.
  5. Pace your scale up – Having a business model that allows you to scale up into a space over time eases the pressure on the financial model and allows the organization to adapt to as growth happens. We had a good pace when we opened up and more recently the growth outpaced our resources and capacity and we are adding more staff to recalibrate.
  6. Act on feedback – When conducting any surveys or gathering feedback from co-tenants, we have learned that we need to share what actions we will be taking to address the feedback when sharing the results. 
  7. Build your network beyond the walls – Having our networks both inside the walls and outside the walls interact and create connections is our next focus. We want to ensure that there is not an exclusivity that comes from being part of the space and want to have a hub and spoke model of connecting in and outside the space to spark impact.
  8. Evolve operations over time – Be prepared to stop boot-strapping as a start-up and evolve into a full fledged business. There will be a tipping point, likely around the three year mark, where the excitement of newness wears off and operations need to be sound.
  9. Mind the bottom line – The Innovation Works budget was broken out on a line by line item basis and monitored carefully with attention to space revenue, meeting room and event revenue, and the costs associated with running a heritage building as a co-working space.

Mobilizing community and capital to build a social finance program

VERGE Capital was created to mobilize capital – simply said, money – to help support organizations who aim to solve complex problems in our community. We began as a collective to find ways for local investors to make investments that have both a financial return and a positive social and environmental impact. So how did we do it and what was the impact? Here’s how we got started, found the money and we have engaged our community in the social finance movement.

Cultivating community interest

We started the process to build a social finance program for London with an understanding of who we wanted to serve and who in the community could help us. Our very first activity was to host a half-day social finance roundtable conversation with key organizations that were interested in exploring how we might create a community-based social finance framework to leverage community capital for social enterprise investment. Out of this gathering, the members formed Social Finance London, the precursor to VERGE Capital. 

Engaging our community to develop a sense of awareness around new economic models, while rallying a renewed generation of asset activators has been an important part of building VERGE. A lot of our work has been presenting, teaching and discussing social finance and impact investment. We have held events that engage community members to to see social finance in action like London’s Social Economy. The list of audiences includes angel investors, nonprofit leaders, investment professionals, students, economic development corporations, and collaborator board members, our teams and even our families and friends.  We have seen that once people learn about the possibilities of impact investing they see how it aligns with their values and how it is a fit for them.

Building a network of support 

After a few years of sharing education on social finance in London, we received seed funding from the Government of Ontario. This funding launched our Startup Fund in 2015 allowing us to expand our work supporting social enterprises to include access to capital. While this funding enabled our Startup Fund, the conditions to setup that fund were created before this strategy. We received support from Goodwill Impact Loan who provided a template on how we could collaborate with our local credit union, Libro Credit Union, to start a community loan fund. In addition, we had support from our VERGE collaborators, including Sisters of St. Joseph and London Community Foundation, matching our operational dollars, and catalytic donation from Ursuline Sisters of Chatham matching lending dollars. We can’t say that this is a replicable template, as the context was unique and the relationships were developed before VERGE or Social Finance London had ever been dreamed of, yet we know it is possible. You can read even more about how we worked with multiple partners to develop community support for social finance here.


VERGE Capital was created to mobilize capital - simply said, money - to help support organizations who aim to solve complex problems in our community. Engaging our community to develop a sense of awareness around new economic models, while rallying a renewed generation of asset activators has been an important part of building VERGE.

It wouldn’t have been possible for us to build VERGE without the support of our partners. Having a credit union willing to lend their expertise for loan administration and sharing in the risk is key for us. Without Libro Credit Union we would not have been able to offer the funds we did. Additionally,  the government funding we received for operational funding and risk capital enabled us to get other donations, grants and investments. 

All of the above organizations, and the people in the roles for supporting and making decisions, all shared in a collective vision that resulted in a national leading place-based social finance intermediary – a notion we only dreamed of prior to our public launch. Also being connected to the local, provincial, national and global social entrepreneurship ecosystems contributed to our success.

Establishing new investment models

Impact investing is not like traditional investments since the market and financial products don’t exist. Our work at VERGE was to figure out how to make it possible for people to invest. A key component of this process was understanding the regulatory environment. Early in our social finance learning journey, we were able to test a community bond structure, that helped Pillar borrow money from the community that we needed to develop and launch Innovation Works, a social innovation shared space modelled after the Centre for Social Innovation in Toronto.

The community bond is a fairly easy structure to implement and it provides the opportunity for all community members to participate, even in a small way. The bond was a five-year investment with three percent interest paid each year. We raised $1 million from 47 investors for our bond and learned there was an interest in investing funds, not just donating like in traditional philanthropy. 

Our Breakthrough Fund, also seeded by an Ontario government grant, was the realization of our vision of redirecting investment capital for local impact. To launch this fund, we also received support from SVX, the VERGE collaborative, and early adopter impact investors in the fund development process. We hired Miller Thomson with the leadership of Susan Manwaring to determine which legal structure would fit best and work within the limits and regulations that govern financial markets. We created a structure that had no precedent in our community allowing us to pool nearly $2.3 million in investment capital from 20 investors. 

Today, we are on the cusp of scaling our current model and innovating new ones, which includes a Conservation Impact Bond and other products as part of our VERGE 3.0 strategy. We are encouraged by the interest in and support of social finance in our community and we continue to balance the needs of those needing money and those willing to invest. 

Collaborating to build a local market for social finance

We recently paused to reflect on our journey and the evolution of VERGE Capital as our regional place-based social finance intermediary. What were the key conditions that led to the successful roll out of a community bond, two loan funds and a new understanding of how caring wealth holders can invest for both a financial return and community impact? While there were years of work that went into creating VERGE,  the underlying factor to our success has been the way we have been able to collaborate effectively with so many community partners and supporters. 

Everyone knows that collaboration is not easy, but we also know that blending diverse skills, vantage points and resources provide the best outcomes. VERGE’s Founding Manager, André Vashist, shares his reflection about collaboration: ‘To explore tension in a creative way, we change “or” to “and” – then we can see the truth from all perspectives.” Our collaborative has survived this tension and has explored differing truths and perspectives along the way. In this article we explore how each collaborator contributed to our success, which includes compelling testimonials of how VERGE has changed over the years and what being a part of VERGE means to them. 

Our local collaborators

Three local key organizations have been vital collaborators in Pillar Nonprofit Network’s ability to get VERGE off the ground: Libro Credit Union, London Community Foundation, and Sisters of St. Joseph of Canada. While at times, each partner may have been unsure of their role in making VERGE a success, they all played critical roles. These organizations provided matching operational funding that enabled Pillar to receive grants, administrative support, engage impact investors, launch VERGE social finance products and be impact investors themselves. Along the journey to develop VERGE, we have also seen each collaborator embark on their own social finance journey in parallel to helping VERGE flourish. 

London Community Foundation (LCF) has bounded forward with their own commitment to investing five percent of their endowment funds. VERGE and LCF have worked very closely on due diligence processes and have leveraged each other’s areas of expertise. With LCF’s developed expertise and review process for affordable housing initiatives, and VERGE’s honed due diligence and expertise in social enterprise, it was a natural next step to co-invest and each play a lead role in our own areas of expertise. This partnership has significantly increased our capacity to review potential investments. 

Libro has always provided expertise to VERGE and have been generous in supporting through in-kind loan administration. For the Startup Fund, Libro is effectively the lender, with VERGE providing 75 percent of the loan amount. Working with a local credit union to take on the administration of the loans means the entrepreneurs get backed by a real finance institution and can establish a relationship for the future.  In addition, Libro has begun the journey of formalizing their own impact investing journey as a leading B Corp in the region with their first investment in the VERGE Breakthrough Fund.

The Sisters of St. Joseph have been on their own impact investing journey and engaging in VERGE has helped them better understand their own mission-based investment opportunities.  Since the start the Sisters have always wanted to create systems change as their roles in community have changed from providing direct services to being able to empower others. 

Here are some of the reflections provided by collaborators at our 3 year anniversary since the launch of our VERGE collaborative in 2015:

The landscape is changing in Southwestern Ontario and VERGE Capital is helping to support a conversation across the region, which is helpful for Libro. Your name pops up in all the conversations, in all the regions when they talk about social innovation and social enterprise, VERGE pops up.

Shane Butcher, Libro Credit Union

When we started, it was all about theory, and now we have actual results. It’s a lot different when we are storytelling, for potential enterprises and real application, to share what worked and what hasn’t worked. From wraparound support we are in better shape because of real examples. When partnerships are strong, the work becomes easier to do.

Vijay Vankatesan, London Community Foundation

It feels more like a movement and VERGE is a true collective - all of us are sharing and learning. Each collaborator is well informed about the others’ work and the differentiators between us. We have refined how to evaluate loans since the start. The storytelling has been amazing and mainstream media picking it up – which is a real sign that the movement is happening. We are creating a local movement and are tapped into provincial and national networks – our city and region is on the map! Different levels of government are reaching out and people paying attention to our collective work.

Michelle Baldwin, Pillar Nonprofit Network

We just celebrated 150 years in London and we are always happy to be invited to tables where there are new ideas and possibilities. With unemployment and other challenges, we needed new ideas, we couldn’t do the same thing and achieve different results. It’s been good to see a group of people from many different perspectives come together and figure out how to make it happen and respond to the future we are creating, and a different future for the next generation coming to these tables. What I really appreciated about VERGE, when there is bump or snag, we don’t walk away, we keep trying again, that's an exciting way to learn, everyone has something to bring to the table. It's been exciting.

Joan Atkinson, Sisters of St. Joseph

We have answered the how question and made the collaborative happen. When we first started to gather, including working with LCF and Libro, we were asking: How does that work in our own organization? How does it overlap? VERGE brought it together to support independent journeys and a collective one. Having investors involved is exciting. What hasn’t changed, is everyone is at the table, working together as collaborators. We have seen an evolution of everyone’s understanding, not just in the collaborative, in the community as well. The understanding of social finance is growing.

Lina Bowden, VERGE Catalyst
Relying on national experts

Since our very first community roundtable about social finance, the SVX team has been on hand to provide advice and support. We have acknowledged that as a place-based social finance intermediary, we would be unsuccessful if we tried to duplicate other highly-funded groups that have earned a solid reputation as national leaders in the field of social finance. Where possible, we have leveraged their expertise in designing and developing funds and our ecosystem. The SVX sees VERGE as a leader in place-based work and have partnered with us as co-owners of VergeSVX, the trustee that governs the Breakthrough Fund. This governance structure creates investor confidence, especially for those who are not familiar with our work. Our relationship with SVX has also helped us connect to other place-based social finance groups across the country; groups that are trying to do the same work to connect local investors to local impactful ventures. 

Keys to a successful impact investing collaborative

What are the key conditions that make collaborations successful? These are just a few of our ponderings about some of the vital elements that have helped our work. 

  1. A neutral convener – A passionate convener that can bring the community together in a neutral way will be the glue that ensures people work well together. There will be overlapping goals in the group, but the convener should be able to help everyone at the table see the benefits of working together. This person can help the group to and stay focused on the mutual mission of creating a vibrant and resilient community.
  2. Regular engagement of collaborators – We have found it’s important to engage collaborators more regularly than just at quarterly governance meetings. We are fortunate to have a cross section of volunteers from across the region with a variety of skills and expertise who provide regular support in the form of review panels and  providing technical and strategic advice to us as well as our social entrepreneurs. Our collaborators have been a part of this group, rolling up their sleeves and staying engaged with the detailed work of assessing loan applicants.
  3. Create structure to meetings and roles – Structured meetings with agendas and two-way communication and sharing, not just reporting back to the management team, is essential for a successful collaborative. In our collaborative, roles evolved over time but there was always a keen need to understand how each collaborator was to contribute and what they were accountable for. 

Leading with empathy and communications during organizational change

Written by Michelle Baldwin, Executive Director, Pillar Nonprofit Network

It was two years ago when, in an executive leadership coaching session, the idea of a sabbatical or fellowship came up. It was with a laugh and the comment, “That does not happen in nonprofits,” then I brushed it off. Janet Frood, from Horizon Leadership, asked “Why not?” and sent me links to opportunities that exist in the U.S.

Fast-forward to Tonya Surman, CEO of Centre for Social Innovation (CSI), embarking on a three-month sabbatical that ended up being extended to six months. Tonya promised, as part of this opportunity, to support two to three other leaders to share this transformational experience: 

“Taking time, creating space for others to lead in my absence, was an incredibly powerful process to support the growth of CSI. After six months, I was transformed, I was finding my source, my power, my energy coming from such a good place, such a place of connection, to our mission and a new commitment to making the world a better place.”

As I considered what was next, I knew that documenting the origin stories of Pillar, Innovation Works and VERGE Capital was part of the next stage of work that I wanted to commit to. I started to look at formal fellowship opportunities but the timing did not line up, so I created my own reflective practice fellowship. I asked myself, “What do I hope to get out of this experience and what are the questions that I want to dig deeper on?”

When I presented to the board in December 2018, Tonya Surman joined us to share her experience. The proposal was met with enthusiastic approval and I shared the news with the staff team with exuberant excitement. Our Board Chair, Jason Kerr shares:

“In academic circles, the concept of a professional leave or sabbatical is commonplace. In nonprofit and other workplaces it is almost a foreign concept. The opportunity for a senior leader in an organization to both reflect on their own professional development, but also to research topics related to their organization’s strategic directions or plan is priceless. In Michelle’s case, you have a leader that has been operating at a high level for the better part of a decade. To be able to have this time allows a leader a chance to renew themselves and infuse new knowledge and concepts into the organization on their return while allowing others in the organization a leadership opportunity in the leader’s absence.

Further validation through augmentation

While staff response was positive, I quickly discovered that they were deeply curious about the concept. I sent the fellowship proposal to staff so they could see the good thinking and planning involved. Over the holidays, as I shared the news with staff and family, I felt incredible support but picked up on some subtext that maybe I was taking six months off. Whether this was real, or my own internal dialogue, I cannot be sure but I responded by promptly adding the word “research” to the title, updating it to “Reflective Practice and Research Fellowship” and sought out a research partner to provide mentorship and lend legitimacy to the project.

Preparing the team

A full transition plan was developed over the holidays and at one point the ED and Directors talked about sharing parts of it with staff. One Director shared an article that was a turning point for me; “The Secret to Leading Organizational Change is Empathy” highlighted that teams adapt better to change with more information and this inspired me to share more and share often. The transition plan was sent to staff and almost immediately I noticed a shift. One staff member said, “You have really thought this out,” and the sense of uneasiness and discomfort decreased.

I knew that documenting the origin stories of Pillar, Innovation Works and VERGE Capital was part of the next stage of work that I wanted to commit to. I started to look at formal fellowship opportunities but the timing did not line up, so I created my own reflective practice fellowship. I also added the word “research” to the title, updating it to “Reflective Practice and Research Fellowship” and sought out a research partner to provide mentorship and lend legitimacy to the project.

We created a culture around the fellowship of asking questions; one question that kept surfacing was how the Interim ED was going to continue to fulfill her existing role and take on added responsibilities. Would this put pressure on staff, who are already at capacity? Finding the proper project management supports for an upcoming elevator upgrade and for building management were essential to create space for the added role. We also created a shared document where people could ask questions and the ED and Interim ED could answer them. We only received one question (about a staffing update), but the “in-person” questions followed, and were more personal in nature.

At a team meeting, Lore Wainwright, Interim ED, shared why she was open to taking on this role: “I’m thrilled to be leading an exceptional team like the one at Pillar. The next six months will be a critical piece of work in leadership, transformation and community impact. This is a servant leadership moment, as I want to make this possible for Michelle and the organization. It’s sort of a ‘pinch me’ moment for me.”

Early lessons

Here’s what I know at this first lap of the journey; to navigate a leadership transition takes a village. The board and staff were all essential in creating the conditions for a leadership transition that acknowledged the instability that change can bring, and they leaned into our values of openness, transparency, communication, embracing failure, and learning and co-creation.

Naturally we got some of this right and there were things we could do better. If you’re interested in an overview of the process and practices we followed to prepare our staff team, Board of Directors and network for this interlude, you can find that here.

As we navigate these six months we will be sharing the learning and experience about network building and cross-sector collaboration as well as our high dream for other nonprofit and social impact leaders to have the opportunity for a fellowship experience.

You can read more of Michelle’s thoughts on her reflective practice and research fellowship here. 

A networked approach to strategic planning

Pillar has embarked on a three-year strategic planning process since our early days. At the time we developed our last strategic plan, we were growing at a fast pace and had many new board members and new staff. Before we started looking ahead, we wanted to make sure that our board, staff and network were all on the same page. We didn’t want the development of our next strategic plan to be just a one-day event, but rather a journey of ideas, dialogue and reflection with our whole community. Below, we’ll share the steps we took to engage our network in our unique strategic planning approach to help you ensure your own strategic planning process represents your stakeholders.

Asking good questions 

The first step we took to engage our network in the strategic planning process was to carry out a survey. We received over 160 responses from both members and non-members of Pillar that helped us to assess our areas of focus going forward. We also posed the same questions to our co-tenants at Innovation Works. The following questions were included in our survey:

  • What do you love about Pillar (answers show in word cloud below)? 
  • What questions do you have about Pillar?
  • What should Pillar focus on in the next 3-5 years?
  • What else can Pillar do to help your organization?

Jamming about our future

The next step was to host a design jam to gather input from our network. A design jam is a creative brainstorming session that engages a diverse group of individuals to come up with solutions for a particular issue. We asked participants a variety of questions including those below. Out of the session, our members generated 49 ideas about Pillar’s strategic focus for the next three to five years, and we prioritized those ideas into our top three.

  • What does it means to be part of a network?
  • What is Pillars role in creating a network?
  • What is Pillar’s role in “system” work for the nonprofit sector?
  • What is Pillar’s “next level”?
Engaging past chairs in reflection 

We held an informal board social where we asked our past board chairs to reflect on the strategic planning journey during each of their times as chair. Together, they shared what they considered to be their key moments and learnings from Pillar’s past strategic plans. Below, Willy Van Klooster, founding board chair, shares his reflections on Pillar’s early strategic priorities.

Exploring our epic tale

Our past board members, current board members, past staff and current staff came together to participate in telling our “epic tale”, a session facilitated by Janet Frood of Horizon Leadership. The epic tale is a process of telling the story of an organization through the experience and lens of the many people who have been part of it. All members identify the major milestones and achievements, as well as the disappointments and challenges. This process allowed us to capture a snapshot of Pillar today and things to consider in preparation for our strategic planning process.

Leaving behind our baggage and packing our luggage

Part of the process of developing an epic tale for your organization involves looking at what “baggage” you want to leave behind and what to pack in your “luggage” for the future. Baggage includes those ideas and practices that no longer serve you and luggage are those things that have been successful for you or new ideas for the future. For example, one element of our baggage was that we had to fight to be at the table on important community issues and embrace that we’ve earned our right to be there. One element of luggage was that despite our growth we maintain the enthusiasm, innovation, heart and nimbleness of a small organization. 

Capturing our adaptive cycle

The adaptive cycle was originally born out of environmental research, but can be applied to natural systems, social systems and organizations. The concept is a four stage cycle that includes birth, growth, maturation and creative destruction. In the context of systems or organizations, it is meant to explain what stage of development the system or organization is in and how resilient it is. We use this concept, shown in the image  below, to help us monitor our various programs and services. 

Thinking of this concept as it applies to a forest ecosystem can be helpful to understand it. Creative destruction is when old trees decompose or get burnt down releasing energy and providing opportunity for new trees to grow. In the birth phase, new seedlings or ideas are planted that require ample care and tending. During the growth phase, trees get bigger but also compete for resources. Lastly, during maturation trees are well established but need to be tended to to keep them healthy so they don’t burn or decompose. 

We didn’t want the development of our next strategic plan to be just a one-day event, but rather a journey of ideas, dialogue and reflection with our whole community.

Reconnecting to our why

According to author, motivational speaker and organizational consultant Simon Sinek, every organization needs to define their “golden circle” in order to define their “why” or reason for being. The golden circle starts with the question why in the centre of the diagram, as in why does the organization exist and for what purpose. The second circle asks how, or what sets the organization apart. Lastly, the outward circle asks what, or what are the programs, products or services the organization provides. During our strategic planning process, we determined our golden circle – pictured below – as a team to ensure we stay focused on our core reason for being. 

Sharing a staff perspective

At Pillar, we define both board and staff strategic plans and feel it is important to ensure that there is an interplay between board and staff in the development of both plans. We asked our staff to contribute their ideas of what they would like the board to consider during their strategic planning process; these topics included:

  • Our nonprofit services are our foundation
  • Our mission must include social enterprise and social innovation
  • We will play a lead role in diversity
  • We will have work/life balance
  • We must consider the sustainability of Pillar 
  • Cross-organization communications is key
Committing to our priorities 

On the day of our strategic planning session, our staff discussed their top six considerations with the board. We reviewed Pillar’s golden circle and created an environmental scan using the PESTLE framework to identify external influences including political, economic, social, technological, legal and environmental. Out of this session, we determined our three strategic directions for the next three years and renewed our mission statement.

Pillar’s current strategic directions:
  1. Be Ready: Be ready for future opportunities and growth.
  2. Be Focused: Be focused to maximize our impact.
  3. Be Inclusive: Provoke discussion and action around equity and emerging cross-sector community issues.
Pillar’s mission statement:
  • To strengthen individuals, organizations and enterprises invested in positive community impact.
Getting to action

Each year, we develop both board and staff action plans to ensure we carry out the goals of our strategic plans. The board action plan identifies each action with timing and who will be responsible to make sure we fulfill our priorities. This annual best practice clearly defines the role of the board and engages the board fully in the future of the organization. Each year the board reviews the strategic priorities and makes any adjustments and plans for the year ahead.

To create our staff action plan, mini-interviews are conducted with staff asking how they think Pillar might achieve the objectives set out by the board. This approach breaks down silos and ensures all voices are heard. Staff came together to identify tactics to achieve the objectives set out by the board and created a master staff action plan that is updated annually. 

Keeping tabs on progress

To monitor our progress on the strategic plan a quarterly review of our performance measures is brought forward to the board. This has been an area of growth for Pillar as it is the most challenging part of the strategic planning process to find meaningful performance measures that demonstrate progress and do not create additional work without return.

To check out Pillar’s past strategic priorities and see our evolution as an organization of meeting the needs of our network read more here.

How Pillar approaches diversified funding

As traditional funding models for nonprofits are changing, diversified funding has become critical for the sustainability of many organizations. These changes are being felt across the sector with a reduction in government funding, a decline in donations and a shift to goods and services making up 45.1 percent of the total income for the sector. Like many other nonprofits, Pillar was funded primarily by grants in our early days. We faced our first wake-up call when a significant grant with the federal government was almost signed off on and then an election was called that delayed the funding. This caused us to be unable to cover the costs of our core staff role of our Executive Director. As we recovered and learned from this failure and, our board turned their focus to our sustainability and diversified funding. 

As we now support other nonprofits and social enterprises through our consulting and learning and development programs, we can talk first-hand to the dangers of having a single funder or funding source. Over the past decade, we have diversified our funding to include earned revenue, corporate sponsorship and multi-year municipal grants. For example, our earned revenue has increased from $300,000 in 2014 to $1.176 million in 2018. Bringing on new revenue streams has required us to build detailed business plans and evaluate risk, which has created better stability and organizational capacity. Further, we are walking the talk and have seen how revenue diversification gives options when the ground shifts beneath us. Throughout this process, staying focused on our mission, being adaptive to changing trends and pressures on communities, and ensuring the capacity of our team has been essential to our growth. If you’re looking for ways to expand your revenue approach, read on for an overview of our funding evolution at Pillar and what we learned in the process.

Core municipal funding

We presented for the first time at a public participation meeting in 2006 to ask for funding from our municipal government. While we were not successful the first  time around, the experience did get us in front of city council and started the discussions about having the City of London provide operating funding. We then hired a past municipal staff member to put together a business case for support. In 2008, we were successful in securing $40,000 in one-time funding. From here, it took a few years to solidify our funding request and in 2011 we secured $50,000 of ongoing funding. Receiving this stable source of core funding was a game changer for us as we have been able to leverage these funds to focus on building the capacity of staff, volunteers, board members and social entrepreneurs. In 2017, the City of London introduced multi-year funding and this move provided the nonprofits the opportunity for longer term planning, as well as better evaluation and impact. 

Pillar Community Innovation Awards

In 2006, Pillar launched the Pillar Community Innovation Awards with a vision of the nonprofit, business and government sectors coming together to share, inspire and recognize those making our community brighter and better. While we knew that our goals for the event included building stronger relationships with business and media, we did not have the foresight to see how just how much it would grow. Today, the annual event sees over 1000 attendees, more than 45 corporate sponsors, 156 finalists and has resulted in solid relationships and storytelling from our local media. While special events do not typically yield revenue, we have been able to cover the staff and event costs year over year, and the relationships we have built and the increased profile we have garnered has lead to other revenue sources.

Learning and development program 

For several years, we ran our professional development program with contract employees who were part of the job creation partnership. While we were happy to provide this opportunity for these individuals to gain valuable skills while searching for employment, it was not a sustainable business model for us. In 2010, we embarked on an evaluation of our current program and developed a business plan to guide the future of the program. This approach has been highly successful allowing us to cover our development and implementation costs while maintaining a financially accessible program with bursaries for smaller nonprofit member organizations. While this was an earned revenue strategy that was aligned with our mission, it was only in more recent years that we adopted the language of calling our learning and development program a social enterprise. We are due to review our program and update our business plan and  are now in the planning stages.

Sustaining members 

In 2010, our board recommended that we start a new Sustaining Member program. For a $1,000 annually, individuals, organizations or enterprises can become Sustainers who support Pillar’s work in building a strong, connected and influential sector. The money from this fund gives us the financial flexibility to respond to emerging issues and opportunities and allows us to maintain accessible fee levels for all groups. We have had up to 23 Sustainers annually and we are looking to grow the program to 50 Sustainers in 2019.

Impact Consulting 

In 2010, we were exploring our sustainability and recognized we were supporting others to consider social enterprise and we should walk the talk. We started the process of exploring social enterprise with a readiness assessment, discussion about values and impact, evaluation criteria, and completed idea generation sessions. We also conducted market research, evaluated and presented social enterprise ideas, held board information sessions, secured funding, hired a Manager of Consulting Services and completed a business plan. 

This comprehensive process engaged both our board and staff and ensured we were all on the same page about the value and impact of social enterprise. Our primary goal for the consulting program was to be dynamic and flexible so that we could respond to the needs of the nonprofit sector. Through the program, we wanted to both dig deeper to respond to the needs of nonprofit organizations and generate unrestricted funds to become more sustainable. We now offer service in areas including social innovation, social enterprise, social finance, board governance and diversity training. 

As traditional funding models for nonprofits are changing, diversified funding has become critical for the sustainability of many organizations. These changes are being felt across the sector with a reduction in government funding, a decline in donations and a shift to goods and services making up 45.1 percent of the total income for the sector.

We have had many variations in our model for consulting services including a single consultant, an associate model, and a principal associate model. Today we have a staff team approach with associates. Through testing various models, we have found that leveraging the skills and expertise of our staff team in areas that are not overlapping with the existing consultants in our network best serves nonprofits, social enterprises and collaboratives. In 2015, Ivey Connects had a group of students work with our team on a next phase business and marketing plan. We also rebranded to Impact Consulting to better represent our goal to provide cutting edge consulting to amplify impact. Over the years, we have had significant growth in our consulting including broadening our work nationally. Recently, we have had a shift in our staffing and we are in a reset period of re-establishing our partnerships with associates and planning for our next stage of growth for Impact Consulting.

Innovation Works co-working space

Pillar was involved with the creation of Innovation Works  from the very beginning when it was just a dream born in a living room gathering. During the development phase, all the partners had a focus on ensuring that this new social innovation shared space for London was backed by a sustainable business plan.  Pillar stepped up to become the backbone organization, and after we had gathered a commitment of $1.2 million in social finance investments, we took on the role of purchasing a building. Pillar’s board boldly took on the role of financial steward while other the partners continued to hold the full vision, engage the community, and initiate the start-up phase collaboratively. 

Today, Innovation Works is a social enterprise that has generated $1 million in revenue from co-tenants and event bookings and, after three years, is on a solid path to sustainability. As a nonprofit and charity, the assets from purchasing a building and the revenues are invested back into the mission of Pillar.

VERGE Capital social finance program 

The launch of VERGE Capital, a local investment for local impact intermediary, along with our own social finance journey with Innovation Works, has opened up new capital for Pillar. VERGE Capital catalyzes an ecosystem of impact investing that redirects wealth to help tackle our region’s most challenging social and environmental issues. The model for VERGE is a social enterprise where interest from the loans and investment management fees are reinvested back into the work. With the leadership of the VERGE team, we have secured $1.2 million in social finance investments and $1 million in a community bond for Pillar and Innovation Works.

Finance and audit committee

With the growth at Pillar with Innovation Works and VERGE Capital, we created a Finance and Audit Committee to better monitor and support our more complex financials with a mortgage, social finance loans, community bond and social finance impact investment portfolio. Additionally, the responsibility for generating revenue is dispersed across each of our team clusters with targets for each group. Our audited financials have become more in-depth with these diverse funding streams and can be seen here.

Key lessons and failures

Pillar’s growth in earned revenue and undesignated funding has provided us with the flexibility to fund new programs and adapt to the needs of our network. Many of the funding strategies outlined above, including consulting and Sustainers, have required us to experiment and redesign the models as we learned from our failures. Throughout this process, we have been fortunate to have a board and staff team who are bold in their ideas and open to innovation. 

While we have seen growth in our revenue there have been times where some revenue strategies have had more attention than others because we have more staff resources to dedicate to them. For example, we still have challenges in securing ongoing funding for our volunteerism and board diversity programs. We have had 11 grants to support our board diversity program over the years which illustrates the challenge for nonprofits to secure ongoing core operational funding and decide what new projects to fund. Now, we are at a time when we can reflect on our capacity to maintain the social enterprise and revenue strategies we have today and ensure we continue to nurture each of these to build a sustainable future to deliver on our mission.

Reflective practice and research fellowship

Written by Michelle Baldwin, Executive Director, Pillar Nonprofit Network

What is a reflective practice and research fellowship? As the Executive Director of Pillar for more than 10 years, there was an intensity to my role during the growth phases of Pillar, Innovation Works and VERGE Capital that had me all in and firing on all cylinders. I had reached a point in my career that I was looking for a renewed sense of meaning, energy and purpose both personally and professionally. I had heard of other leaders who had done something similar to a fellowship and how it was a transformational experience. I chose to design a reflective practice and research fellowship to explore leadership growth, succession planning, and reflective practices in a meaningful and sustained way. Having others step into leadership and documenting our network approach were intentional to create succession planning for the organization. My fellowship included five main elements including those below. Whether you’re able embark on your own fellowship or just adopt a few of these practices for yourself, I hope what I have learned will provide inspiration to you on your leadership journey. 

  1. Reflective practices and coaching – I developed reflective practices that integrated pause, nature, arts and inner exploration supported by a life and leadership coach and a trusted circle of like-minded people.
  2. Network research – I met with impact and social innovations networks across the world to learn more about the network building principles that we had been exploring at Pillar including collaboration, leadership and governance, equity and inclusion and storytelling and impact.
  3. Strategic projects – The three main project deliverables from my fellowship were to develop a policy strategy, conduct a networking mapping exercise to illustrate our impact and reach and create a micro-site to share our network approach at Pillar.
  4. Learning opportunities – I participated in programs that fit with the themes of purpose, policy and networks and I also did a deep dive into resources related to these themes.
  5. Transition and change management – We prepared our staff team, board of directors, and network for the fellowship, did a mid point check-in through a survey with the staff and board, and we did transition planning for the re-integration.
Reflective practices and coaching
Nature practices

Through my coaching over the years I have recognized that being in nature is a place of renewal and healing. At the outset of the fellowship, my coach suggested a ‘sit spot’ practice where you go somewhere in nature and take a question and notice what your surroundings are telling you; the longer you sit the more you will notice. This practice connected me to the land, to my inner self and was an intentional way of slowing down each day. At first I was doing a sit spot daily and now it is two to three times per week, which seems more sustainable going forward. During each sit spot, I would capture a photo and share it along with the question on social media and then write a short reflection about it.

Leadership and peer coaching 

As part of the fellowship, I continued the coaching relationship I have with Janet Frood from Horizon Leadership. The dedicated time to think through the transition, learning, and challenges along the way was invaluable. We also did coaching sessions with the interim executive director and board chair to set intentions about how we would structure our relationships during the time and to reflect on the journey. Horizon Leadership did a survey to our staff and board at the mid-point, provided a summary and facilitated a staff team discussion about the results. 

I also leaned on my learning sister and wise council throughout the fellowship. I reached out to these people in my trusted circle who inspire me and had knowledge around networks, purpose driven work and personal growth to be a sounding board and hold me accountable along the way. Sharing ideas, resources and what has surfaced for me with these peers has added to the richness of my fellowship experience.   

Self care practices

After attending the Foundations of Purpose program, I wanted to test other reflective practices and I decided to start a gratitude journal. Each day I now journal three reflections of what I was grateful for from the day before. To keep on top of this and other daily practices I want to maintain, I use an app one of my team members mentioned that they use to track their reflective practices. The Momentum – My Habits App sends me a notification daily to remind me to do my gratitude journal, sit spot and drink water daily. I’ve also incorporated both reiki and massage as practices for stress reduction and relaxation that have helped me to create time for healing.

Expression through arts 

Like so many of us, I thought because I could not draw when I was younger, I was not an artist. During my fellowship, I wanted to explore my inner artist through various art forms. Why? Because innovative ideas are required to solve the big problems facing people and planet, and it is important to nurture creativity to spark new ways of thinking. I attended a ‘Sparks & Splatter’ workshop with Revel in the Mess to be playful while pausing to create the space in my life to unlock potential. After attending Foundations of Purpose, I was also inspired to delve into the world of watercolour painting. I asked my nieces and nephew to come over and bring their watercolours so I could try it. It was intentional to do this with younger people as I knew they were less inhibited when it comes to art and would be great coaches. I enjoyed it so much I bought my own watercolour painting supplies and now find it to be peaceful and playful.

I experimented with poetry during the fellowship and found through this practice that it revealed parts of me I had not connected to and the darkness and light that were in the crevices of my mind and heart. The following is a poem I wrote: 

It’s About All

A once in a lifetime opportunity created from nothing but a seed,
A moment about self, to reclaim purpose and direction, 
It was there and then taken away,
Slowly reflection and pause emerge between the crevices,
Not fully realized, sometimes forced,
More resilience peeks out,
Alone and lonely shifts to calm,
Time to think & listen to the thoughts,
Yearn for what was, pine for anonymity,
Lean into natural hopefulness despite its distance,
Find the rhythm in nature, in corners undiscovered,
Let go of what is expected & emerge into what is,
It is not about me, about other, about them,
It is about we, about us, about all.

I also took many pictures along the way and when scrolling through them, the theme that emerged was pathways – along the beach, canals, sidewalks, roadways and hiking trails – representing the journey I was on without any set destination or decisions. At the Foundation of Purpose program when we were to share a performance that was a culmination of our experience, I shared these photos as way to represent that I was still on the journey.

Through my travels I visited many art galleries and museums including Art Gallery of Ontario; Vancouver Art Gallery; Palazzo Pitti and Fort Belvedere in Florence Italy; Leopold Museum, Museum of Modern Art and Albertini in Vienna, Austria; Anne Frank House, MOMO, Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, Netherlands; National Museum of African American History, Library of Congress, National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC; and Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg. I found meandering through art galleries and museums to be calming and almost meditative while sparking my curiosity and making me feel whole.

Network research

Throughout my travels, I met with 17 impact and social innovation networks across the world to discuss key research questions related to themes we were exploring at Pillar including collaboration, leadership and governance, equity and inclusion, and storytelling and impact. The discussions were a shared exchange of mutual learning and connection rather than formal research. As I embarked on the research and conversations, I quickly realized that our work in the impact sector is complex; I was coming at this looking for answers and what I found was more questions. Here is a list of the key questions I asked members of each of the networks I visited.

  1. Collaboration: How has cross-sector collaboration contributed to network building in your community? How do you engage with those who are outliers but are needed to move forward your vision?
  2. Leadership and governance: What is the governance structure of your network, what works well and what would you reimagine if you could?
  3. Equity and inclusion: How does your network support and live out empathy, equity and inclusion?
  4. Storytelling and impact: How has storytelling shaped your network? What story is your network currently telling? Where are the diverse voices in our stories? How has failure and learning played a role of innovation and systems change?

You can read more about what I learned from these networks in More Questions Than Answers: The Learning from Networks. 

Strategic projects

Policy strategy 

As part of the six-month program with Maytree Policy School, I developed a policy strategy for Pillar that is rooted in our strategic theme of equity and inclusion. It outlines our focus for government relations with the municipal, provincial and federal governments.

Network mapping 

We are mapping our network through data visualizations in partnership with The CutlurePlex Lab at Western University to establish a baseline so we can monitor our network evolution to compare pre- and post- our membership redesign and inform our network strategy. We are testing this model with our new program CityStudio London to track the strength of the relationships and the increase in the relationships for students, faculty and partners from the outset of the program and to evaluate the change and impact in relationships.

See an example of network visualization analysis in this overview of annual Pillar events, 2011-2018

I chose to design a reflective practice and research fellowship to explore leadership growth, succession planning, and reflective practices in a meaningful and sustained way. Having others step into leadership and documenting our network approach were intentional to create succession planning for the organization.

Network approach micro-site 

A key goal for the fellowship was to share our network approach at Pillar and share a cohesive story of Pillar, Innovation Works and VERGE Capital. We decided on a micro-site “The Network Approach by Pillar Nonprofit Network” that would provide educational content about our promising practices using the network building principles of collaboration, leadership and governance, equity and inclusion and storytelling and impact. Developing this site has been a succession planning exercise to have myself and our team document our learning and promising practices since the inception of Pillar. It is our hope that is will also serve as a thought leadership hub for those starting a similar network to Pillar or for those who want to borrow some of our promising practices for their own organizational development. 

Learning opportunities

When I was researching different learning opportunities I wanted to find a balance between personal and professional development. I applied to the Maytree Policy School with both my roles as ED at Pillar and incoming Chair for Ontario Nonprofit Network in mind. Up to this point, I had really learned about public policy and government relations by trial and error and I knew that having some theory and knowledge behind me would be an advantage as a leader for both organizations. I had heard about the programs at Banff Centre for Arts & Creativity and in particular the Foundations of Purpose program. There are scholarships available and with a successful application I was ready to explore my next stage of purpose. 

Learn more about my Top 10 takeaways and actions from Maytree Policy School and Journey of finding my foundation of purpose.

I also had the opportunity to attend the National Council for Nonprofits Learning Confab with Ontario Nonprofit Network and Imagine Canada. The National Council for Nonprofits gathers annually to bring together the leaders of the network of state associations. Given the current political climate in the United States, there was much to learn from the innovative and adaptive practices of our counterparts. The concept that change should be cross partisan rather than nonpartisan was one takeaway that I will integrate into my language for our approach to government relations. The principle of moving from diversity to equity and being more explicit about racism and oppression also resonated and aligned our organizational approach. A session on building better movements with Leslie Crutchfield based on her book How Change Happens reminded me that we need to change hearts and minds to change policy. 

During the fellowship I read and listened to more than 100 books, blogs, and podcasts about networks, inclusive economies, equity and power, and leadership and tracked them along with their key themes. These have shaped my learning and thinking and really sparked my contemplation about how philanthropy and social impact work needs to be deconstructed and reimagined since the very systems we have assumed are helping people and society are holding power and privilege. To decolonize and reshape it requires giving up power. With our propensity in society at this time in history for an individualistic rather than a collective perspective, we have some critical thinking and action ahead of us. To check out the resources click here

Transition and change management

My fellowship journey all started with a proposal to the board along with conversations and a transition plan. This document was created to help our team navigate leadership and functional changes to the team during my fellowship. To read more about how we managed the transition with the staff team at Pillar read this article

About half way through the fellowship we sent out a fellowship survey to the staff and board to check in on how they were feeling. We then held a team meeting to discuss and unpack their responses and provide further support and direction. With about six weeks left in the fellowship, we created a reintegration and change management plan as I re-enter my role as ED. 

By the numbers
Aha moments
  1. I resonate with being an ecosystem tender and how do I prioritize tending to myself?
  2. How can we embed in the organization the mantra – Everyone follows, Everyone leads?
  3. How do I and we “paint it done”? What is the future state and impact we collectively want and how do we clearly communicate this with new staff and new programs?
  4. Is Pillar is an “impact network” not a network based on legal structure anymore (nonprofit, social enterprise, co-ops)?
  5. Daring leadership is about serving others not ourselves, how do we choose courage over comfort?
  6. How as a network are we mindful of power we hold and that systems hold power, how do we use our power as a bridge?
  7. Does our network feel they have a voice for change? 
  8. How can we measure the ways our network and shared space creates a sense of belonging, connections and reduces loneliness? 
  9. In a time of such uncertainty, how can we hold true that optimism is not uncool, it is rebellious, daring and vital?
  10. How do I become a human being not simply a human doing?
  11. How do we check our own blind spots daily?
  12. How do we make sure that individuals are authors of system innovation and give more resonance to community voices?
  13. How can we support that place-based networks are a driver for change in addition to being social and economic drivers?
  14. How does our consulting program go beyond a transactional in and out and support those by providing them with the skills and training to not need us in the future?
  15. What would it take to do an audit of our programs and practices and how they could be perpetuating the power structures and colonization that we are trying to address through our work as organizations?
  16. The fellowship is not a book end but a series of inflection points that requires care and attention. How do I carry forward the reflective practices as I go back to the intensity of an ED role at Pillar?
  17. How do you prepare for the inevitable change that will happen during a fellowship and provide clarity about what decisions the leader would be engaged in during this time?
The next stage

As I re-enter my role at Pillar, there are a number of projects and practices that I plan to continue going forward. Here is a look at some of the outcomes of my fellowship that I will complete going forward. 

  • Re-evaluate my reflective practices to make sure they still serve me and continue those that do
  • Have regular check ins with coach and learning sister to hold me accountable
  • Being present for the Pillar team at outset and pacing meetings
  • Share learnings with board, staff and community
  • Continue with the expression of art
  • Spend as much time on the implementation for the policy strategy network mapping and micro-site about our network approach as the development stage
  • Be authentic and open about what worked and did not work during fellowship
  • Be gentle with myself as I step back into leadership and accept I will make mistakes and need to own them and recalibrate
  • Have a conversation about our advocacy role as a team and board
  • Have a conversation about who are our key audiences and our role with business as a team and at board
  • Have a conversation about our role connecting to land, climate change, planet-first with team and at board
  • Host a workshop with Janet Frood, Executive Coach called Leadership Time Out – Power & Purpose of Structured Reflection
  • Partnering on a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council research partnership engagement grant with Dr. Neil Bradford at Huron to research opportunities for learning and intellectual capacity for leaders and collaborative network structures as a continuation of the fellowship themes
  • All About Boards session on Boards & Government Relations on Dec 5th with Sara Middleton from United Way who also took the Maytree Policy School last year
  • Booked one Friday off a month for reflection and strategy for rest of year and will have team help me be accountable to keep them open
  • Speaking at Global Co-Working UnConference in Toronto October 30th about my reflective practice and research fellowship