Category: Leadership

Jul 23 2014


Maytree’s award winning DiverseCity onBoard program continues to make an impact on the global scene. Building on the momentum generated by the first DiverseCity onBoard Learning Exchange convened in Toronto in 2012 to address growing interest in adapting this Maytree idea to diversify leadership, a second such exchange co-hosted by Citizens for Europe, Bertelsmann Stiftung and Maytree was held in Berlin, Germany in June.

Sixty-five participants from 25 cities including Auckland, Copenhagen, Calgary, London, Luxembourg, Stockholm and New York were in attendance to share and learn from each other practical ideas of how to make their communities more inclusive by increasing cultural diversity in leadership.

In her keynote speech at the event, Ratna Omidvar, Maytree President, explained why diversity in leadership matters and how we must go beyond mere representation to true inclusion. “If you view diversity through this lens, you will reap the diversity dividend. If you think of diversity as a mere demographic presence and do nothing with it or about it, you will likely reap the diversity deficit.”

Participants also heard about the power of replicating good ideas, and the importance of building evidence and forming partnerships to effect change.

After the Berlin event, Ms. Omidvar and Cathy Winter, Project Leader for DiverseCity onBoard, held several meetings and a Roundtable on Diversity in Leadership in Stockholm. This resulted in plans for a pilot DiverseCity onBoard program in the Swedish capital soon.

Canadian Community of Practice

DiverseCity onBoard is also deepening its roots across Canada. Maytree convened a meeting of the six Canadian cities (Calgary, Hamilton, London, Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver) represented at the Berlin Learning Exchange to form a Canadian Community of Practice. An important outcome of the meeting was the development of an operating model and agreements between the cities and Maytree on how the program is replicated in Hamilton, London, Ottawa, Montréal and Vancouver. Discussions are also underway to establish the program in Calgary. Stay tuned for more information on the national expansion.


DiverseCity onBoard Newsletter – July 2014

Ratna Omidvar’s keynote, part 1

Ratna Omidvar’s keynote, part 2


Ranjit Bhaskar is a Toronto freelance journalist and former content manager at Maytree.

Jun 25 2014


The lack of diversity among superior court judges in Canada that made headlines recently has been flagged before by several studies. In reported comments, Peter MacKay, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, has been anecdotal on why there is a lack of women on federally appointed court benches while being silent on why the number of visible minority judges is so low.

Minister MacKay’s inability to offer insight into an opaque process that produces a demographically skewed judiciary may stem from lack of official data. While we know that female judges account for 382 out of 1,120 federal judges, the Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs does not track the numbers of visible minority appointees. The Canadian Bar Association, in an assessment of the procedures for the appointment of judges, has identified the lack of data about representation of visible minorities in the judiciary as a major barrier to progress.

According to a Globe and Mail and University of Ottawa analysis, in the past five and a half years Ottawa appointed just a handful of non-white judges out of the nearly 200 first-time justices it has named to the bench. Improving Representation in the Judiciary: A Diversity Strategy,  a study released by Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute in 2012, revealed that while some progress has been made with female representation, it remains stalled in the case of visible minorities. Just 2.3% of the federally appointed judges analyzed based on a sample of 221 were visible minorities.

There is a higher percentage of visible minority judges among Ontario’s appointees. In a sample of 138, 10.9% are visible minorities compared to 15% of practicing lawyers in the province. The better representation could be partly attributed to the differences in the appointment processes between the federal and provincial courts.

More open and transparent process

While not perfect, the Ontario Court of Justice requires a broadly constituted appointments committee that reflects the diverse population of the province, the Diversity Institute study said. The process is also made more open and transparent by announcing and advertising vacancies and reaching out to communities. In contrast, the study found the federal process appeared to be less transparent, with decision-making more concentrated in the hands of politicians.

The Diversity Institute research, part of a large multi-year study, builds on an earlier examination commissioned by the Maytree-Civic Action DiverseCity Counts project. That report, released in 2011, showed just 6.8% of leaders in the Greater Toronto Area legal sector were visible minorities, relative to 49.5% of the population studied. Judges, justices of the peace, governing bodies, law school leaders, partners in the top 20 law firms and crown attorneys in the area were included in the study. It reinforced an earlier report that showed only 14.4% of practicing lawyers in the area were visible minorities.

Previous research also suggests that barriers to entry persist in law firms. The Canadian Association of Black Lawyers has said legal professionals from the community do not have equal access to articling and post-call positions in corporate and commercial law firms. Immigrant lawyers, particularly visible minorities, also find it difficult to get their credentials recognized. They face barriers to advancement and are frequently offered non-permanent contract positions with fewer leadership opportunities.

As judicial appointments are inherently political processes relying heavily on informal networks for nominations, visible minorities are less likely to have access to them. This very lack of diversity throughout the path makes the likelihood of finding visible minorities in positions that lead to judicial appointments more difficult.

What this implies is that not only does the problem increase as we move up the value chain, but lower down, the reservoir of talent that supplies the federal courts doesn’t reflect Canada’s changing demographics, either.

Diversity at the top of the legal profession is a social imperative as lawyers and judges are in the forefront of advocacy and social change. The federal government should take the lead to ensure fair representation in a sector that is critical to our democratic society. It could start by establishing clear diversity goals, tracking the number of diverse appointees, and establishing a more open and transparent process.


Ranjit Bhaskar is a Toronto freelance journalist and former content manager at Maytree.

Dec 16 2013

slide_tapestry-program-croppedRecognizing the need to develop a stronger connection between diverse communities and the environmental sector, Earth Day Canada (EDC) conducted a Diversity Research Project in 2012 which has resulted in the Tapestry program.

Maytree spoke to Earth Day Canada to find out more:

Why does diversity matter to the environmental sector?

At Earth Day Canada, we understand that diverse communities possess significant knowledge and skills. Only by bringing together a broad range of diverse stakeholders will we achieve sustained and widespread environmental change. By linking efforts, communities, agencies and environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs) can build new, collective ways to address complex environmental issues.

What have you planned to ensure your sector becomes more diverse?

With support from the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation and the Ontario Trillium Foundation, we are launching the Tapestry program. The program has two goals:

  1. It will build diverse community leadership and organizational capacity for environmental initiatives, and cultivate cross-sector relationships around common issues.
  2. Tapestry will advance diversity in the environmental sector by facilitating the placement of diverse leaders on ENGO boards.

Who are some of the organizations you are working with?

We are partnering with the Sustainability Network and Maytree’s DiverseCity onBoard program to develop and deliver the Tapestry program. In addition, Tapestry is supported by an advisory council of diverse community organizations and leaders who will also inform program strategy and implementation.

What’s next?

On March 19, 2014, we are co-hosting the Diversifying ENGO Boards Forum. Environmental sector leaders from across the GTA will come together to discuss the advancement of diversity in the sector. Two environmental organizations will share how they diversified their boards and the benefits that come with it.

Participants will also be introduced to Maytree’s DiverseCity onBoard program. ENGO leaders will be invited to tell us what skill sets are required on their boards so Maytree can develop a customized process to recruit and match qualified diverse community candidates with board opportunities in the sector.

Learn more about the Tapestry program.


Piali Roy is a writer living in Toronto.

Oct 02 2013

vitalsignscoverYes, we’re getting some of the big things right, but Toronto is also facing big challenges. This could be the short summary of the Toronto’s Vital Signs Report 2013 released by the Toronto Community Foundation on October 1.

For many of us who live in this city, it doesn’t come as a surprise that The Economist ranked Toronto as the fourth most liveable city out of 140 from around the world; or that we have the lowest rate of police-reported crime among Canada’s top 33 metro areas. It is a good place to live – with many parks, cultural activities, and clean beaches.

But we cannot ignore the warning signs.

In particular, the report highlights the following:

  • Youth face dismal job prospects. In 2012, the Toronto youth unemployment rate averaged 20.75%, and for recent immigrant youth in Canada less than 5 years, it was 29%.
  • More than one million Torontonians live in low-income neighbourhoods and the polarization of wealth and poverty is deepening. Parts of Toronto experienced an even more pronounced shift. In 1970, 96% of Scarborough neighbourhoods were middle-income. Today, they account for only 13.6%.
  • One in 8 households in the Toronto Region (12.5%) experienced food insecurity in 2011. The growing problem of food insecurity – running out of food, compromising quality or quantity or even going days without meals – has complex causes, but is primarily rooted in lack of money to buy food.
  • Food insecurity remains a challenge as food bank usage in Toronto is still close to a million visits this past year. There is a particular challenge in Toronto’s inner suburbs where usage increased 38% from 2008.
  • The Toronto Region still ranks as “severely” unaffordable in a survey of 337 housing markets. A standard two-storey house in the Toronto Region averaged $640,500 at the end of 2012, requiring a qualifying household income of over $130,000. 62% of a median household income would need to be spent on housing costs. 30% is considered affordable.
  • These changes are especially challenging for Toronto’s population of seniors (65 +). This population is projected to grow by one-third – from 376,570 in 2011 (14.4% of the total population) to almost half a million (17% of the total population) by 2031.

So, what should be done?

The Toronto Star in its editorial, “Toronto needs strong leadership to stop its decline,” writes:

Toronto and the province need a more aggressive approach to combating youth unemployment, to speeding up job-creating infrastructure projects including affordable housing and transit, and to encouraging cash-hoarding businesses to invest. Without dynamic and creative leadership no city can prosper.

At the report release, Rahul Bhardwaj, President & CEO of the Toronto Community Foundation, challenged the attendees to move Toronto forward in five areas:

  1. Ensure connectivity between neighbourhoods
    While we are a city of unique neighbourhoods, we have to look at them as a network of neighbourhoods. Over the long term we all rise or fall on the strength of the network. Thinking and acting like a network is key to Toronto’s future success. This also means to have public transit that works and connects.
  2. Have an affordable housing strategy
    We need to find new ways to encourage private participation in affordable housing development so that the supply of affordable housing is meeting the needs of households who currently face low vacancy rates, high rents and stagnating incomes.
  3. Create more public space
    While there are close 1,600 parks for residents to enjoy, more most be done to ensure equitable and affordable access to public space – so vital to building strong and healthy neighbourhoods.
  4. Put a dent in our youth unemployment
    We have to do better to connect Toronto’s young people to jobs. We need to look at other places, including Germany’s apprenticeship model, to figure out what could work here and get a commitment from all levels of government, employers, community colleges and others to find a solution.
  5. Build the Toronto Brand
    To remain an attractive place to live, work and visit, we have to clearly understand and communicate who we are as a city and what we stand for.

While none of the solutions will come easy, and will require collaboration by all sectors, we have no choice but to act.

The Toronto Star editorial concludes:

As [foundation chair John MacIntyre and CEO Rahul Bhardwaj] write, Toronto needs change, a reboot. The status quo isn’t an option. “The real peril lies in staying the course,” they point out. Granted, no city can solve every economic problem on its own, without buy-in from higher levels of government. But the creative thinking can begin here, where the people live and work.

The Vital Signs report should be a call to action for those who recognize that we need to keep building this city. In the run-up to next year’s municipal election, we have a lot to talk about.



Markus Stadelmann-Elder is Communications Director at Maytree.

Jul 22 2013

Earlier this month, The Rockefeller Foundation – in collaboration with The Monitor Institute and Monitor Deloitte – released Gather: The Art and Science of Effective Convening. In its opening pages, this report describes itself as a “guidebook for people who want to change the world [for] social change leaders who understand the power of convening the right group of people, and who believe that collective intelligence trumps individual smarts when it comes to solving shared problems.” It offers a rich resource for anyone taking on the role of a lead convening designer by providing an array of very practical how-to guides and tools for thinking through each of the seven building blocks of effective convening.

The seven building blocks are defined as:

  • Choosing to Convene – The resources in this section aim to help you decide whether convening is the right tool for your situation at this point in time.
  • Defining Your Purpose – What is the point of your gathering and how co-creative or traditional do you want it to be? This section helps you to define your gathering’s “north star.”
  • Forming Your Team – This section maps out how the work of convening is typically divided and helps you establish a team structure to get it all done.
  • Assembling Participants –Determine who will be interested in the gathering you are hosting, who you should invite and how you can convince them to come.
  • Structuring the Work – This section helps you to ensure that once you’ve got the right people in the room, they will accomplish some specific work together. It answers the question: what are the activities that will support the group who are gathered to achieve their intended purpose?
  • Planning the Follow-Through – Assess the success of the gathering and move into actions on important next steps.
  • Tying It All Together – Translate your general principles about your gathering into a specific experience with a clear plan on how to create it.

In addition to offering practical tips and tools, Gather does an excellent job clarifying important distinctions between workshops, conferences, meetings and convening. Convening is distinct from other common ways of bringing people together “in one important way: for the duration, the attendees are participants in a collective effort that serves a specific shared purpose.”

Every convening has three defining characteristics:

  • Diverse Stakeholders – Convening involves a diverse mix of stakeholders – often from different organizations – who represent a range of perspectives on a topic.
  • A Clear Purpose – Convening is intended to drive towards alignment, decision-making and/or reaching intended outcomes.
  • Co-Generation of Insight and Action – Convening relies on all participants to generate insight and action so that – together – the thinking of the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

The impetus for Gather emerged from the Rockefeller Foundation’s recognition that, while convening had been a critical tool in its own work and evolution, the Foundation had not “formalized our skills and training in this core competency.” In 2011, this led to the launch of an internal Foundation project focused on documenting and strengthening convening skills within the Foundation, its immediate colleagues and its grantees. Gather built upon this work and was developed as a resource that could be shared widely with the Foundation’s colleagues, partners and grantees.

Gather provides three reasons for why its authors believe the skill of convening will become increasingly important in the future:

  1. People have simultaneously become more globally connected and also more fragmented into silos.
  2. Many of the challenges we now face are larger and more interconnected than ever before.
  3. Social solutions that will be needed in the future are larger than any single organization.

What convening offers is an opportunity to tap into collective intelligence and accelerate change. Noting that the power of convening has “grown dramatically over the past two decades,” the authors also observe that “this convening power is still not tapped to its fullest potential.”  And so, in addition to offering a practical toolkit, Gather issues a challenge to anyone wanting to work with others to change the world: “build your convening muscles and make the headway we all need against today’s increasingly complex challenges.”

Learn More:


Sylvia Cheuy is Director, Seeking Community at Tamarack – An Institute for Community Engagement.

Jun 06 2013

Repost from Tamarack Institute for Community EngagementJune2013_lead1

Does the diversity gap in leadership matter to people on the street? What do they see as the benefits of leadership that reflects the population? And what can we do about it?

On May 22, pollster Nik Nanos and DiverseCity released a report that set out to answer those questions. What we found should hearten and encourage us all. Yes! Residents in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) do care about diversity in leadership. What’s more, they think we should take action to make it happen.

The survey found that when GTA residents learned of the facts about diverse leadership in the GTA – that is, that only 14% of leadership reflects visible minorities and under-represented immigrant groups – they were concerned. Nearly two-thirds (61%) of respondents said that this is not enough.

Further, the respondents were concerned not only with the social risks that this under-representation entails, they also saw it as limiting the GTA’s potential to:

  1. Attract foreign investment;
  2. Attract skilled workers;
  3. Innovate in business; and
  4. Create prosperity for the region

Diverse leadership was seen as an essential step towards becoming a world-class city.

The majority of respondents (75%) did think that the GTA’s leadership will be more representative of the population in the future. However, on average, they think it will take another 18.9 years – almost two decades! – before this happens. That’s the bad news. The good news is that nearly two-thirds of respondents said that action should be taken to speed up this process.

Many survey respondents did not know about the diversity gap in leadership, but when they found out, they appreciated that it was a problem – so we need to continue to raise awareness of the issue. The survey results also indicate that GTA residents understand the economic arguments for closing this gap – which confirms to us that it is time for political, business and community leaders to take action.

At Maytree, this survey has encouraged us to re-double our efforts to support emerging diverse leaders. We are now replicating our award-winning DiverseCity onBoard program, which facilitates the placement of diverse leaders on public and non-profit boards in the GTA, in seven cities across Canada. We are also supporting cities around the world – including Berlin, London and Boston – so they can create their version of the program. On June 19, our Diversity in Governance Awards will recognize public, non-profit and private sector organizations that are showing commitment and innovation to create inclusive governance boards. In anticipation of a number of elections in 2014, we are also once again offering our popular School4Civics boot camps for aspiring political leaders. And, finally, in partnership with the Toronto LHIN (Local Health Integration Network) and Mount Sinai Hospital we will be turning our attention to diverse leadership in the health care sector for our next piece of research. GTA residents have spoken. This survey is a rallying call. Our work must continue.

Learn more:


Ratna Omidvar is the Executive Director of the Global Diversity Exchange and former President of Maytree.

Dec 13 2012

Paul Born

Thanksgiving, Diwali, Christmas, Hanukkah, Ashura, Bodhi … these are just some of the seasonal celebrations that bring people together to remember, celebrate and enjoy each other. For people like me, who has a community and people to be happy with, it is a season of blessings. However, for others, such times can be a source of loneliness and pain.

I have often wondered what it would be like to be homeless and invited to a charity Christmas dinner. Songs are sung, lots of traditional food is served and many well-meaning people are making themselves happy by serving you. Would the experience evoke happy memories of Christmas past? Or would it evoke pain by heightening your awareness of your present situation?

The feeling of emptiness or being alone is another common feeling for many during the holidays. It is a paradox when the holiday season is often so full and busy. Alone is not just for isolated people. It can permeate one’s being even during the most festive occasions.

Can community find us this holiday season? Can we find community? I am struck by a simple understanding: our sense of community is easily shaped by our expectations. When I go to a sporting event or seasonal concert, my expectations about finding a sense of community are low. I do not go to these events expecting to find much more than a common love of the sport or the music. Yet, when I gather with my family, my expectation of a sense of community is much higher. I want to feel cared for and I want to show caring. If these opportunities or feelings of caring are not present, I feel disappointed, or, worse, I feel alone and my longing for belonging and community becomes far greater.

Faced with these possibilities, I have two choices for how to approach the holiday season. First, I can manage my expectations. If I keep them low, then I will not be disappointed. Many of us enter family events this way. A second option is for me to be deliberate about building or deepening my feeling of community.

Here are some examples of what that might look like this season:

  • Build some fun new traditions – Invite people to go for a pre-meal walk; place “crackers” on everyone’s plates and crack them open one at a time; play a group game like charades; or open gifts one at a time in a circle. Research confirms that people who spend time together and enjoy the company of each other build bonds of trust that lead to a greater ease of reciprocity.
  • Build opportunities for everyone to contribute – Potlucks are famous for encouraging and celebrating this. They not only make a party easier and more fun to host, but they provide an opportunity for everyone to simultaneously care and be cared for.
  • Evoke collective caring or altruism – Suggest that everyone bring a hand-made, local or fair trade gift. Assemble care packages or school kits. Have people share their favorite seasonal stories of resilience or take a moment to reflect on others whose situations may not be as fortunate as our own.

Have fun together. Take care of each other. Work for a better world. These are three simple ways to be more intentional about deepening our experience of community.

Take stock of your expectations when you gather together this holiday season. It is amazing what a little creativity can do to bring people together.

Related links:


Paul Born is President of Tamarack – An Institute for Community Engagement.

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Oct 17 2012

It’s hard to believe that only a few weeks ago, Tamarack’s 7th Communities Collaborating Institute (CCI) drew to a close. While the experience is still percolating for many, we are pleased to share highlights from some of the CCI 2012 alumni blogs that offer initial reflections and a glimpse of this unique learning experience.

Wicked Problems: Collaborative Solutions – Jill Wyatt

The conversations here have given me much food for thought. One of the speakers, Tim Brodhead, talked about three forces impacting the social sector that certainly describe our work at United Way: the drive for efficiency, the imperative of effectiveness and the complexity that makes all our work so hard!

This new paradigm demands more sharing: shared knowledge, shared risk, shared trust, shared time, shared space. Collaborative work like this takes enormous time and effort, development of tremendous trust among partners and only demonstrates outcomes over time. Brodhead went on to name some of the challenges of collaboration, including the underestimation of time and effort required to create successful collaborations, the potential for creativity to be supplanted by group-think, and the stewardship of long-term trust.

Fellow-Travellers – Liz Weaver

Once a year, at the Communities Collaborating Institute, we get to stretch. We have a week to think, to reflect, meet others who may, at times, feel alone in the work that is collaborative. There is a tribe of like-minded folks who will share their wisdom, their frustrations, and give you a peek, if only for a moment, into their aspirations and hopes for their communities. That for me is the gift of the Communities Collaborating Institute. It’s not so much the insights of the speakers, or the challenge of absorbing so many ideas in such a short time, but it is the people, who journey with you through the week.

I think it is the total package which keeps me coming back – that and the fact that each year has a unique character – largely due to those who come to the gathering and share their gifts. Thank you to all of my colleagues attending the 2012 version. The paths we walk twist and turn but it is good to know we will meet each other on the journey.

Inside/Out – Scott MacAfee

We came as many independently sharing a single thought
We moved through each other,
Shared our full selves,
Had brain explosions,
We challenged,
Thought deeply,
Believed in barking dogs,
Owned our suck as well as our awesome,
And never turned back;
As we created this Perfect Space of limitless possibility
We gave all of ourselves and now are seemingly more full now than when we started
We leave as one, collectively sharing the same heart… Thank You!

We Need More Leaders – Mark Holmgren

In less than two days, I have had my mind challenged by the thinking and experience of Tim Brodhead (former CEO of the McConnell Foundation), Paul Schmitz (advisor to President Obama), and Meg Wheatley (author and teacher). I have also been fortunate as a “pod leader” to spend time and share reflections with nine colleagues from around the country.

Here are a few reflections about the types of range of changes our communities and organizations require to move forward toward a future where poverty, dis-ease, and polarization are problems of the past.

We need more leaders. We need more leaders everywhere in our community, from all walks of life, of all ages. The challenges we face will not be met by old notions of leadership as a position held by a few. Leadership is action and, as Paul Schmitz reminded us, everyone leads. One of the calls to action voiced by Paul was that a priority of all leaders is to help others be leaders, whether in our organizations, our communities, or our families.

Tim Brodhead urged funders and community organizations to work together as authentic partners. What I especially appreciated about Tim’s analysis was his observation that such partnerships need to accept the iterative nature of the work and the relationship around the work. This means that funders and organizations must be prepared to learn together and make changes along the way that further our chances of achieving successful results.

What a great two days… great food. The music of Michael Jones lifts my spirits, leads me to a peaceful place, and sparks my thinking. The energy in the rooms we work in is palpable and the sincerity of all who are attending is inspiring. I am glad I am here. I am glad all of us are here.



Sylvia Cheuy is Director, Seeking Community at Tamarack – An Institute for Community Engagement.

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Sep 12 2012

The discipline of design has traditionally focused on the form and function of products (think iPod). However, design firms like IDEO are using the principles of design to create an innovative approach for addressing more complex problems. This approach is called design thinking. As traditional programs and policies within our social systems are proving less effective, a growing number of non-profit organizations are embracing design thinking to generate new solutions.

Image credit: Fraulein Schille

Image credit: Fraulein Schille

As Cameron Norman observed in his recent blog Evaluation and Design for Changing Conditions, “The days of creating programs, products and services and setting them loose on the world are coming to a close.” As an alternative he suggests that Design Thinking – a human-centered approach to innovation that brings together what is desirable from a human point of view with what is technologically feasible and economically viable – offers a “relevant and appropriate” alternative approach for those seeking to influence our world.

In Design Thinking for Social Innovation, an article published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, authors Tim Brown and Jocelyn Wyatt of IDEO describe Design Thinking as an approach that “taps into capacities we all have but that are overlooked by more conventional problem-solving practices. Not only does it focus on creating products and services that are human-centered, but the process itself is also deeply human. Design thinking relies on our ability to be intuitive, to recognize patterns, to construct ideas that have emotional meaning as well as being functional.”

The design thinking process is described as “a system of three overlapping spaces rather than a sequence of orderly steps: inspiration, ideation, and implementation.” Each of these spaces is described below:

  • Inspiration: Identifying the Problem or Opportunity – Design thinkers believe that people often have difficulty explaining their needs. To gain insight into the range of unmet needs, design thinkers forgo surveys or focus groups in favour of listening to and observing behaviours of end-users to better understand the problem and its context.
  • Ideation: Generating, Developing and Testing Ideas – In this space, the insight gained during the inspiration space is distilled into a plan for change. The emphasis in this space is on coming up with as many ideas as possible and testing them against each other. The focus of this space recognizes, to quote Linus Pauling, “To have a good idea you must first have lots of ideas.”
  • Implementation: Putting Solutions into the World – In the third space, ideas are turned into products, policies and services. Prototyping and pilot testing in real environments are then used to refine these solutions.

Jerry Sternin’s Positive Deviance Initiative provides a powerful case study of design thinking in action. The initiative’s goal was to decrease malnutrition in Vietnamese children. However, rather than studying the problem, Sternin sought out and studied families in the community who were not malnourished. He then worked with these families to offer cooking classes to the families of malnourished children. By the end of the program’s first year, 80 percent of the 1,000 children enrolled in the initiative were adequately nourished and the program had been replicated to fourteen villages. This is the power of design thinking: looking beyond the problem to discover the seeds of the solution which already exist and working closely with the clients and consumers to allow high-impact solutions to bubble up from below rather than being imposed from the top.

Related Links:

(Image credit: Fraulein Schille)


Sylvia Cheuy is Director, Seeking Community at Tamarack – An Institute for Community Engagement.

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Apr 26 2012

TRIEC IS AwardsThe Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC) and RBC recognized top employers who are leading the way in integrating skilled immigrant talent in the Toronto Region labour market at the 6th Annual Immigrant Success (IS) Awards on April 26, 2012.

The winners are:

Maxxam Analytics – Toronto Star Award for Excellence in Workplace Integration

Maxxam’s co-op program for skilled immigrants has evolved to become an essential recruitment strategy for their fluctuating client-driven work volumes and to address skill shortages in their field.

Huawei Technologies Canada – RBC Immigrant Advantage Award

When Huawei Canada established itself in Canada in 2008, they faced many challenges finding highly skilled talent they needed. Skilled immigrants were the solution.

Career Edge Organization’s Career Bridge Program – CBC Toronto Vision Award for Immigrant Inclusion

Career Edge Organization’s Career Bridge program has been connecting skilled immigrants with leading Canadian employers through paid internships since 2003. It’s a win-win for employers and immigrants.

Zuleika Sgro, Manager, Talent Management Services, Questrade – Canadian HR Reporter Individual Achievement Award

Zuleika Sgro is a champion for including skilled immigrant talent as an optimum strategy to match specialized skills with demonstrated skills shortages. And she has embedded this practice within her company, Questrade.

Watch video about one winner:

To learn more and watch these inspiring stories, visit


Markus Stadelmann-Elder is Communications Director at Maytree.

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