Five Good Ideas

Five Good Ideas about making lived experience part of your non-profit’s DNA

Published on 21/02/2019

If you are part of a non-profit that that serves people and/or communities, chances are you have been asked about how well you know the needs of the people you support. This session shared how a local neighbourhood organization grew its greatest assets: the people it supports and serves. It did it by championing the lived experience of the people who use its services as well as creating space at all levels of the organization.

Five Good Ideas

  1. Create opportunities for clients/participants in community engagement and outreach
  2. Create opportunities for clients/participants at the governance level
  3. Create opportunities for clients/participants to sit on committees and advisory groups
  4. Create opportunities for clients/participants in volunteering, customer feedback
  5. Create pathways for clients/participants from volunteering to employment


Terence Williams

Community Outreach Worker, PARC

Terence Williams  has had a long history and emerging career at PARC. Until recently, he was a full-time employee with the Community Access Program – and has now reduced his work by one day. He started to attend the drop-in in the late nineties. He began to volunteer and then became a board member in the early 2000’s. He later joined the PARC ambassador program. Terence became the Ambassador Coordinator. He went on to work part-time and then full-time for PARC. He is the treasurer of the OPSEU local that represents the organized workers at PARC. Terence has also served on the Parkdale Community health centre board.

Ann Lapenna

Board Member, PARC

Ann Lapenna has been a PARC member for almost 19 years. She was a director on the PARC board for one three-year term. Ann is an Ambassador and a Peer Support Trainer for type 2 diabetes at the Parkdale Queen West Community Health Center (PQWCHC). Ann holds certificates in Early Child Education (E.C.E.), Health Aide, and Food Handler, and recently graduated from the Local Champions Leadership Program. She has been a member of the Co-op Cred program for more than four years. She loves volunteering, knitting, and dogs.

Victor Willis

Executive Director, PARC

Victor Willis is the Executive Director of the Parkdale Activity – Recreation Centre (PARC). His involvement in community initiatives spans thirty years, from the 519 Church Street Community Centre to Trinity Square Cafe Enterprises, followed by ten years at the Gerstein Crisis Centre before accepting his current position in 1999. In 2006 Victor led a community-based response to a proposed redevelopment of a derelict and notorious rooming house adjacent to PARC, resulting in the unprecedented decision by the City to expropriate the property and redirect it into an RFP for affordable housing. After PARC’s successful bid, the PARC Ambassador project was established to engage businesses and neighbours in dialogue about the proposed development, addressing opposition to the project in a variety of forums. These initiatives led to the development of 29 units of “People with Lived Experience” imagined supportive housing. Edmond Place opened its doors January 4, 2011. Victor is a trustee at CAMH, Chair of the Clinical Quality and a member of the Property Committee, a Daily Bread Food Bank board member and chair of the Program Support Committee, and a founding member of the Parkdale Neighbourhood Land Trust. Victor’s knowledge of mental health and addiction issues are rooted in both his professional as well as personal and family experience.