Category: diverse leadership

Oct 15 2012

MENARAI just returned from a conference organized by Spanish think tank MENARA, a project of Fundación Tres Culturas. This transnational conference was one in a series of meetings this year that examined themes like the relationship between entrepreneurship or citizenship and diversity.

At the conference, I learned about the inspiring work of others, and shared what we’re doing at Maytree, in Toronto, across the country, and beyond.

Here are five Toronto ideas that inspired MENARA participants in Spain.

1. The idea of immigration, and the diversity that comes with it, is enshrined in Canadian laws, but it’s also embraced in our culture. We consider diversity and immigration Canadian values, like politeness. As a defining feature, immigration doesn’t become part of a political campaign. Canada has no political party running on an anti-immigrant platform.

2. We frame immigration and diversity as assets, not as a problem. They are not a social ill that needs to be managed, and immigrants aren’t viewed as an additional strain on resources. We quantify the contribution of immigrants, as we do the loss that results when they are not able to contribute professionally to the best of their abilities.

3. Immigration and diversity are not exclusively the concern of governments or the social sector. Solutions are proposed by business champions, making the work of immigrant integration and inclusion multi-sectoral.

4. We recognize that integration requires participation and interaction. That means ensuring that diverse voices and representatives are present in public spaces, able to make connections within society, and be active in civic life.

5. We know that within each community or neighbourhood there are potential leaders who can provide both representation and role models. Enhancing their development is a key strategy in our work.

But, of course, there is always more to learn.

Unlike most other OECD countries, Canada has no national housing, transit, child nutrition or child care strategies. While these would not be aimed exclusively at immigrants, they would certainly contribute to their integration and success.

We also have much to learn from each other – city to city. That is a my key take away from the MENARA conference. Government officials, foundation partners, students, academics and immigrants want to be connected to each other and to good ideas in immigrant integration. They will continue to look at Cities of Migration, in particular, as a platform for exchange.

Expect more stories and more connections from Andalucia.



Alejandra Bravo is Manager, Leadership and Learning at Maytree.

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Sep 25 2012

HRcouncil-recruitment-immigrantsThe HR Council for the Nonprofit sector conducted research to explore issues that prevent nonprofit sector employers from accessing the skills and expertise of immigrants and visible minorities.

What is this research about?

The report, Recruitment and retention of New Immigrants  and Members of Visible Minorities in the  nonprofit sector’s workforce (PDF), describes the demographic challenges that affect the nonprofit labour force, reasons organizations need to take action, and provides five areas of focus for employers (note: the report refers to “ethnic diversity,” encompassing visible minority and under-represented immigrant communities).

Why is this research needed?

In Canada, the nonprofit sector employs 7.2% of the workforce, or 1.2 million paid employees.

While visible minorities and immigrants make up 16% and 20% of the population, respectively, previous studies show that only 6% of nonprofit employees are visible minorities, and 11% are immigrants. Moreover, 93% of executive directors identify themselves as white.

The business imperatives for hiring from non-traditional labour pools are clear: filling skill shortages, better service provision, and the increase in innovation and diversity of thought. It’s up to nonprofits to enhance their hiring and employment practices to put values of diversity and inclusion into practice.

What did the researchers do?

The researchers reviewed previous studies and literature. They surveyed 350 nonprofit employers, and conducted eight focus groups with a total of 89 nonprofit employers and 26 individual interviews with immigrants and visible minorities who work or have worked in the nonprofit sector.

What did the researchers find?

Compared to other sectors, the employee make-up of Canada’s nonprofit sector lags in its immigrant and ethnic diversity. However, the majority of employers surveyed believe that hiring immigrants and visible minorities is important, and expect to see an increase in the number of immigrant and visible minority employees.

Both employers and employees indicated that discriminatory practices and biased approaches remain a reality for immigrants and visible minorities. Indeed, participants reported that the business case for an ethnically diverse workforce is not well understood at higher levels of their organization.

As well, turnover rates for immigrants and visible minorities in the first year of employment are higher than for other groups. This suggests that nonprofit employers must also invest in integrating and retaining these staff. While the report focuses on immigrants and visible minorities, many of the issues reflect those facing all employee groups. In particular, the report suggests that nonprofits pay specific attention to orienting new employees to the values and norms of the organization, and how they shape workplace behaviour.


The report contains a number of practical and specific recommendations for attracting, hiring, retaining, and promoting immigrants and visible minorities.

Five core recommendations aim at supporting ethnic diversity in organizations and in the sector:

  1. Promote your organizations and the nonprofit sector as viable and vibrant career destinations.
  2. Learn about barriers and best practices for hiring and integrating immigrants and visible minorities.
  3. Articulate the benefits and strategies for ethnic diversity, specific to your organization’s context, sphere of activity, and objectives.
  4. Increase diversity on your board, specifically with board directors from visible minority and under-represented immigrant communities.
  5. Create an ethnically diverse pool of volunteers as a potential source of new employees.

How can you use this research?

Each section of the report contains specific recommendations or practices that might be useful to your organization.

In addition, the report explains the business case for ethnic diversity, which might be useful to share with the leadership in your organization.


More from the HR Council for the Nonprofit Sector:

More information and resources:


Bonnie Mah is Policy and Communications Officer at Maytree.

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Jul 29 2011

Hema Vyas

What does the transformed political map mean for urban issues? What does the changing face of Parliament mean in our increasingly diverse city region? Warren Kinsella, one of Canada’s most prominent political strategists and commentators led a multi-partisan discussion with members of Maytree’s School4Civics alumni. Many thanks to the School4Civics alumni for organizing this excellent and inspiring event!

On a steaming hot Wednesday in July, 60 people gathered to discuss one of the more shocking events of this past spring.

Warren Kinsella, Toronto-based lawyer, head of Daisy Consulting and Liberal spin doctor, led a discussion exploring how the federal election resulted in a Tory majority, New Democratic Official Opposition and a historically low number of seats for the Liberals. Depending on your party stripes, you were cheering, jeering or devastated in May, but I know of few people who were not stunned.

Kinsella’s insights regarding the power of (negative) campaigning, the extent to which election timing really is everything, and our party leaders’ styles led to a lively discussion.

One of the central themes that emerged was the alienation of Canadians from the democratic process. With voter turnout at 61% and youth voting estimated to be even lower, Kinsella mentioned that the lack of young voters determined federal election results.

Warren Kinsella at S4CBut why were voter numbers so low?

Even with the high turnover of Members of Parliament this year, Ottawa is far from representing today’s Canada. In demographics, experience and style, there is often a gap between what we find compelling and who we see speaking to our needs in Parliament.

An unusually high number of us in the room had been candidates and campaign organizers but still talked about how tough it is to have influence without the usual establishment credentials. The heart of the issue is about getting your foot in the door and then stubbornly remaining in the arena long enough to make a change, any change in politics.

This past election has broadened the appetite for change: It will take both the political establishment’s willingness to adapt and our own determination to get involved for federal transformation.

Will politicians sacrifice outdated traditions to restore their own relevance in Canadian homes?

To a great extent, that’s up to us.

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Hema Vyas is a School4Civics alumnus.

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Jun 24 2011

Kay BlairCongratulations to Microskills Executive Director and DiverseCity onBoard roster member, Kay Blair, who was named Chair, Board of Directors, William Osler Health System. This influential appointment is the most recent in a long and impressive list of leadership positions for Kay which recognizes her wealth of experience and many achievements.

Kay’s profound impact on the community, her dynamic leadership, entrepreneurial and innovative acumen have and continue to make a lasting and indelible imprint on our city region. Here are just a few examples:

  • growing Microskills, which helps at-risk youth, women and new Canadians establish themselves by teaching them the business and life skills they need to be successful, from four employees and two desks when she first started in 1988, to over 136 employees and a client base of close to 30,000 annually (see video below);
  • launching the first Women’s Enterprise & Resource Centre and the first Women’s Technology Institute in Ontario, both of which focus on immigrant and racialized women;
  • Chair, United Way Toronto Campaign Cabinet for Member Agencies; and
  • lead for a partnership of community agencies to address the concerns of immigrant racialized youth which led to the creation of Dixon Neighbourhood Youth Centre, now Dixon Youth centre.

In recognition of her contribution to the community, Kay has received many awards including the 2007 Premier’s Award in the Community and Social services category, the Women of Colour Community Award, the Ontario Race Relations Award, the Innovations Canada Entrepreneur of the Year Award, the Canada’s Most Powerful Women: Top 100 Award – Trailblazer, and the YWCA Toronto 2006 Women of Distinction Award: Community Leadership.

Kay has also served on a number of boards including two terms as President of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI); the National Visible Minority Council on Labour Force Development, the Laidlaw Foundation; and President of Peel Police Race Relations Committee. Currently, she is an executive member of the Board of Governors at Centennial College.

A tireless advocate for under-served communities and for challenging systemic barriers, Kay notes that she is “looking forward to meeting with front-line Osler employees, the community and with healthcare partners and stakeholders as we continue to strengthen Osler’s presence in the community.”




Marco Campana is a communications expert living in Toronto and Maytree's former content manager.

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Feb 17 2011

Imagine the flow of creative solutions if we could tap into the wealth of ideas and experience that our diversity offers? How many new jobs might we generate if we mined all the international networks at our disposal? What if we became the top choice for the best and brightest from around the globe? What would happen if our public institutions truly reflected all of us? And what a shining future we would have if every young person had a role model to point them forward and prepare them to lead. Innovation, world markets, global talent, social cohesion – all of these are within our grasp.

In 2008, Maytree and CivicAction launched DiverseCity: The Greater Toronto Leadership Project. We knew then that accelerating the diversity of our region’s leadership will create a city region where we all prosper and thrive. Today, we know it’s an essential piece of our region’s prosperity.

As you can see from our just released Year 2 Review (PDF), we have already accomplished many of our original goals ahead of schedule.

Highlights include:

  • DiverseCity onBoard, a program to match diverse individuals to governance positions on public and nonprofit agencies, boards and commissions, has surpassed its goal of 500 appointments (with 524 to date!);
  • DiverseCity Fellows has just announced its 2011 cohort of twenty-five rising leaders poised to take action on issues critical to the health and prosperity of the Toronto region;
  • DiverseCity Voices spokespersons have shared more than 400 media stories from new sources and perspectives with mainstream readers and audiences; and
  • School4Civics has trained 100 individuals who have volunteered in an election, by-election or nomination process. Twelve participants ran in the recent municipal elections and several are considering nominations in the upcoming provincial election.

But we’re not resting on our accomplishments. After the recent CivicAction Greater Toronto Summit, we are invigorated to work even harder and with even more partners and networks.

We have worked over the last two years to realize the promise of a stronger and more prosperous Greater Toronto region through a more diverse leadership. It makes good business sense. It builds community. It feeds innovation. It puts us at the forefront of global efforts to acquire, integrate and value the diverse leadership that will ensure our  region’s future.

We could not have done all this without the valued help of our Steering Committee and our 166 partners, all of whom are working towards our mutual similar goal of a strong, healthy and prosperous city region:

  • building stronger public and private institutions through diversified leadership and governance;
  • expanding our networks to attract and retain the best global talent;
  • advancing our knowledge of the benefits of diverse leadership; and, finally,
  • tracking and measuring our region’s progress towards these goals.

The Greater Toronto Summit showed us that many, many more of you share these goals. Find out where you fit and join us!

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Markus Stadelmann-Elder is Communications Director at Maytree.

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Feb 08 2011

Tomorrow, February 9, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi will be speaking in Toronto. Are you excited? We’re excited.

Many of us won’t be able to join Mayor Nenshi as he shares his remarks at the Canadian Club (don’t worry, a video of his presentation will be out soon). We thought we’d put together some background information about Mayor Nenshi, so you can feel like you’ve had a chance to see him, in his own words.

On Saturday, the Globe and Mail wrote a story that’s a great read for you to get an overview of Naheed Nenshi’s challenge: Making Calgary a livable city. This section is key:

“Seldom has a Canadian mayor come to office with such a deep understanding of urban issues. Now, after years on the outside as a business professor, activist and newspaper columnist, he suddenly has a chance to put those ideas into action….

‘When did Jane Jacobs write the Death and Life of Great American Cities? We’re getting there, just 40 years later,’ says Mr. Nenshi. When a project called Imagine Calgary asked residents what they wanted from their city in the future, it found most wanted to live in a place where they could walk to the store, walk their kids to school, get by with only one car and be surrounded by different kinds of people. ‘If everyone wants that, why aren’t we building that?’ says the mayor. It’s a good question, and not just for Calgary. Cities across Canada are trying to reinvent themselves on denser, more modern lines. If Naheed Nenshi has his way, Calgary will show them how. “

Tomorrow, perhaps Mayor Nenshi will share some of this vision with Toronto.

Mayor Nenshi, his words and insights

TEDxCalgary – Naheed Nenshi – Calgary 3.0
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Using insights drawn from his work in business, entrepreneurship and social change, as well as modern GIS data, Naheed Nenshi explores the challenges of how a modern city like Calgary grows, and what some of the implications are for creating inclusive communities.

Key to current discussions in Toronto is this campaign video – Better Idea #9 – Traffic, Transportation, and Transit and related video about making transit affordable for newcomers.

Interesting information

Mayor Nenshi was the lead author of Building Up: Making Canada’s Cities Magnets for Talent and Engines of Development. “Building Up” contributes to the national debate on cities by (1) encouraging dialogue; (2) suggesting policy directions to help Canadian cities become magnets for talent; and (3) identifying specific initiatives to translate talk into action.

Here are a couple of articles about what we can learn from his campaign:

  • Lessons from Naheed
    “The real success of Nenshi’s social media campaign was that it broke free of the political echo chamber. To have a tangible impact, you need to reach the non-political crowd…the kind of people who will actually change their mind based on a news story or video they see online. So the Nenshi campaign reached out to the non-political, spreading their message to places like hockey forums and online discussion boards.”
  • Congratulations to Naheed & other fabulous people
    “What really matters about Naheed is that he is smart, he is about ideas and he’s progressive. That he’s managed to capture the imagination of a place like Calgary speaks volumes both about how hard he campaigned and how cosmopolitan Canada’s urban centres are becoming.”

Background and bio

Bio – Naheed Nenshi is a passionate Calgarian, an accomplished business professional, and a community leader with a solid track record of getting things done.  He’s run a large nonprofit, he’s been a trusted advisor to corporate leaders in Canada and the US, and he literally wrote the book on Canadian cities.

As we know, Mayor Nenshi ran a great campaign, and a very web/social media savvy campaign. See for yourself:

Biography Overview

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How do you say Naheed?
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Marco Campana is a communications expert living in Toronto and Maytree's former content manager.

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Nov 30 2010

DiverseCity logoIn this video, Cathy Winter, Manager of DiverseCity on Board at Maytree, speaks about three candidates of the program.

They are great examples of the program’s diversity of candidates and what DiverseCity onBoard can offer to non-profit and public boards in the GTA.

What do the candidates have in common?

  • passion
  • a “change agent” profile
  • seeking personal leadership development
  • awareness of systemic issues and desire to address them

Watch Cathy’s interview to find out more (runs 4:03):

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Marco Campana is a communications expert living in Toronto and Maytree's former content manager.

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Nov 25 2010

DiverseCity logoLeaders play a pivotal role, and their impact is felt in everything from strategic decision making to organizational and community effectiveness and, ultimately, financial performance. Diverse leaders bring added benefits and unique capacities that, when realized, add significant value in both the public and private realm.

Five of the most important benefits of diverse leadership are:

  • Improved financial and organizational performance;
  • Increased capacity to link to new global and domestic markets;
  • Expanded access to global and domestic talent pools;
  • Enhanced innovation and creativity; and
  • Strengthened cohesion and social capital.

(more, from the DiverseCity Knowledge Centre)

In this second video segment, Ratna Omidvar outlines why organizations need to think strategically about enhancing the diversity of their leadership:

“It’s important to look at diversity from a variety of perspectives… Why it is important is because of the demographic share, quite frankly, that this population [immigrants & visible minorities] has in our city region. In Toronto 43% of the population are visible minorities. In the city region, the GTA, it’s slightly lower. More than half of Torontonians were born outside of the country. It’s not just an argument for representation… we have to look outside what we know, what we think, our normal solutions to look for new ideas. I’m reminded of a quote of Einstein: “When we all look alike, then we all think think alike.”

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(runs 3:27)

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Marco Campana is a communications expert living in Toronto and Maytree's former content manager.

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Nov 24 2010

DiverseCity logo

DiverseCity onBoard connects qualified candidates from racially and ethnically diverse communities with governance positions in agencies, boards, commissions and nonprofit organizations across the GTA.

In this video Maytree President, Ratna Omidvar, explains the origins, goals and importance of the project.

“DiverseCity onBoard is our effort to revitalize the governance profile of the city region, bring it closer to the demographics of people who live in the city. This is not just an effort on representation, or tokenism of any kind. It is more of an effort to bring people with real qualifications, with real capacity to provide value, but a different point of view and a different perspective.”

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Marco Campana is a communications expert living in Toronto and Maytree's former content manager.

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Nov 18 2010

As we move closer to our 500th board appointment, we’re going to take some time over the next few weeks to inform, educate and celebrate the impact of the DiverseCity onBoard program.

We’ll give you some background information about the program, including why it’s important, introduce you to some amazing board candidates on our roster, and tell you a bit about where the program is going.

DiverseCity onBoard is part of a larger, eight-initiative project, a partnership of Maytree and the Toronto City Summit Alliance. The program works to ensure that the governance bodies of public agencies, boards and commissions as well as voluntary organizations reflect the diversity of people who live and work in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

The program has been operating in the Greater Toronto Area since 2006. It connects qualified candidates from Aboriginal, visible minority and under-represented immigrant communities to the governance bodies of public agencies, boards and commissions and nonprofits.

DiverseCity onBoard staff personally interview applicants and offer support and governance training to ensure that organizations get excellent, qualified candidates to join their board.

While working hard to change the face of governance in the GTA, Diversity onBoard has also created a toolkit to help other communities replicate this successful model.

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Marco Campana is a communications expert living in Toronto and Maytree's former content manager.

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