Neighbourhood Leadership Institute

I was recently honoured to attend a meeting where 20 neighbourhood leaders from across Hamilton gathered to participate in the inaugural session of the Neighbourhood Leadership Institute.

The NLI was established by Hamilton Community Foundation and has been shaped in partnership with the City of Hamilton’s office of Neighbourhood Development Strategy. HCF and the City view the NLI as critical “infrastructure” to our collective neighbourhood work. Local leaders engage residents – their neighbours – and provide focus to community activities in ways that funders and government cannot. Developing and refining leadership skills is a way to support and sustain longer-term transformation in neighbourhoods; it builds capacity and human capital which help drive neighbourhood change both in terms of technical expertise and ability to create and sustain a common vision.

At present, under David Derbyshire, the NLI provides high quality resident leadership training through a series of monthly sessions on a range of topics including: resident engagement, resolving conflicts, grant writing and more. In time, however, there is a range of opportunities the NLI will explore to enhance the impact of our community work. This might include training professionals who wish to engage in neighbourhoods and with residents; or providing a stepping stone to more formal community development education opportunities in Hamilton!

I had the privilege to welcome participants on behalf of HCF and, better, to sit with them and listen to stories reflecting their commitment and passion for their neighbourhoods and for our community. I look forward to learning more from these dedicated community leaders and to sharing with you the evolution of the NLI.

A Historic Night at City Hall

It’s coming to the end of another beautiful fall day in Hamilton and a perfect time to reflect upon the important milestone that last night’s City Council meeting represented for the Hamilton Community Foundation. As I listened to the inspiring presentations by the citizen-led planning teams, filled with vision, courage and hope, I was reminded that none of it was possible but for the initial and consistent leadership of HCF in partnership with the City.

Our work in assisting challenged neighbourhoods is hard, complex and will continue for a generation. Success is far from guaranteed. But without the early leadership of Carolyn Milne and Joe-Anne Priel and the support of earlier HCF boards, none of it could have happened. Without the skill and dedication of workers such as Sharon Charters and David Derbyshire over many years, we would never have gained the essential trust and commitment of our citizen partners.

And finally, because of the initial leadership of Sheree Meredith and the current leadership of Matt Goodman and his HCF team, together with Paul Johnson and Suzanne Brown and their City of Hamilton team (with unwavering support from an outstanding City Manager and Council), that early vision has culminated in actionable neighbourhood plans that will change the future of Hamilton for the better.

Last night was a historic moment of hope and possibility in Hamilton City Council chambers. Thanks to all of you and many others whose names I will have overlooked for caring enough to lead and for making a profound difference. Our great city owes to each of you a debt of gratitude.

The Ben and Jerry’s Problem

Nope, nothing to do with too much ice cream. In a lively discussion of social purpose business in the US and UK, Tom Kelly  (U. of North Carolina)just described  the challenge that can occur when a social enterprise underperforms financially because of its social/environmental focus and becomes vulnerable to shareholder lawsuits.Interesting stuff at the Philanthropy and the Law Conference here in Winnipeg.

A Reason to Celebrate

Last night we had the priviledge of receiving a cheque for $103,500 to the Lawyers Legacy for Children Fund held at Hamilton Community Foundation, donated as part of the proceeds of the 2011 Hamilton Lawyers’ Show, A Man For All Seasons.  On so many levels this was a remarkable accomplishment and worthy of celebration.  As one of a few “non lawyers” in the room,  I felt proud and inspired to see such a large and varied group from our local legal community come together to celebrate the success of their huge commitment of time and talent in putting on A Man For All Seasons last June, in addition to the long term benefit that this effort will provide to the young people of this community, through the fund at HCF as well as the broader community as a result of an additional gift made to Theatre Aquarius from the proceeds.  The level of commitment, passion and collaboration that all involved brought to this project is inspirational and, as one lawyer noted in conversation, quite reflective of the spirit within our legal community that is somewhat unique to Hamilton.  Hats off to all of you!

Another Great HCF Annual General Meeting

In addition to celebrating another year of solid accomplishment, today we said a sad goodbye to several board members who have completed their service to HCF. Board Members Robert Crockford, Eric Girt, Geoff Hogarth, Sarah Murphy, Graham Browne, and PJ Mercanti all leave a positive legacy of contribution. We also thanked our departing past Chair Dr. Lindsey George for her long and distinguished leadership. Finally, outgoing Board Chair Dr. Gary Warner proudly passed the torch to incoming Chair Paul Gibel. HCF tradition of strong governance continued today. Gary been a great leader at HCF and in the broader community. We move forward with confidence in our Board and Staff leadership and optimism about the impact we are making on the changing trajectory of Hamilton.

Speaking to International Revitalizing Downtowns Summit in Hamilton

I am excited to be presenting this afternoon to the Revitalizing Downtowns Summit My panel includes senior leaders from Community Foundations in both Cleveland and Indianapolis with some amazing experience in partnering to develop great public spaces. The conference also includes some remarkable people like Pam Blais and Ken Greenberg who have done so much to shape thinking about urbanism in Canada and around the world. We are really fortunate that the conference has come to Hamilton for the first time, signaling both hope about the future of our downtown and challenging us to action the lessons of so many other cities that remain far ahead of us in renewal.

The long-term view: difficult but necessary

As the parent of two students in Hamilton’s public secondary system, I was especially interested in the two guests for the Foundation’s final Vital Signs show for the season:  HWDSB director John Malloy, and board chair Tim Simmons.  While I confess that my children’s school is not one of those directly affected by the accommodation review , I know many families who are and I have a sense of the depth of emotion that goes beyond the pages of the newspaper.

I hope you will take the time to watch the program.  It presents clearly the board’s rationale for the tough decisions it is making.  Both Mr. Malloy and Mr. Simmons are clear that declining enrolment and deteriorating facilities are concerns, but the focus is on putting resources into what kids need to be successful – now, five years from now and beyond.

More important than the decisions already made are those that lie ahead, with respect to programs, boundaries and transportation; decisions that are intended to create the type of diverse learning environment in which research shows students learn better.  As Mr. Malloy states, by offering more access to the range programs that kids need to be successful, “we open doors that, right now, they don’t know exist”.  He recognizes the complexities and the concerns but asserts that diverse programming that attracts a diverse student body is one of those things that works.  Creating that kind of learning community and engaging the community around that guiding principle, he says is “important, significant and challenging work…but our work wouldn’t be finished until we went there and that’s our plan.”

Regardless of where you stand on the issue, one thing that is indisputable for me is that the school board and its trustees are making brave decisions, with the community’s best interests at heart.  They are fully aware of the associated emotion and the difficulties, but also steadfast in their belief that we must take a long-term view for the success of the Hamilton’s students.

More Recognition for Spec’s Code Red Series from Canada’s Scientific Leadership More well deserved recognition for the work of Journalist Steve Buist, researchers Neil Johnston and Pat DeLuca and the leadership and commitment of the Hamilton Spectator in producing the Code Red Series. This hi-lights yet again many of the reasons that Hamilton Community Foundation remains focused on the devastating impacts of concentrated poverty in Hamilton. 

Community Foundations of Canada Board comes to Hamilton

HCF is thrilled to be hosting the Board of Community Foundations of Canada on Thursday, Friday and Saturday this week. In addition to conducting CFC board meetings there will be a busy schedule of things happening in Hamilton. This afternoon we will be in the Beasley neighbourhood with officials from Benjamin Moore for a media conference announcing community grants for paint and expert help for community organizations doing neighbourhood improvement work.

Tomorrow the CFC Annual General Meeting will feature a keynote address by Trivaris CEO and volunteer extrordinaire Mark Chamberlain, talking about the importance of community foundation leadership to community change across Canada. The CFC Board will also be saying goodbye to our friend Vincie Travale, who will be leaving the Board after many years of distinguished service to the community foundation movement both nationally and here in Hamilton. Thanks Vincie, for all that you have done!

Using the ‘f’ word at work

In this case, the ‘f’ word is fundraising – which community foundations don’t do in the traditional sense. Despite that today I attended a presentation of our local Association of Fundraising Professionals chapter to hear what new President & CEO, Andrew Watt, had to say about the profession and the association.  He gave an interesting and compelling talk and the core messages I left with were that charities should focus on impact in their work and they should keep an eye to the big picture to maintain a focus on the long term balanced with addressing the current needs.

We often hear from the organizations in our community that in this volatile economic time the community’s needs continue to grow while fundraising for those needs remains an ongoing challenge. Andrew suggests this economic state of ups and downs is our new normal. This emphasizes the need for the organizations in our community to continue to be innovative and to change with the times.

Andrew shared a great example of increasing impact and leveraging support on a grand scale that shows the importance of being innovative and open to creative new solutions…

Bob Geldof founded Live Aid concerts in the mid 1980’s, at the time to support famine relief in Africa. This effort raised just over $245 million, no small feat. In 2005, Live8 concerts were held and instead of asking for donations people were asked for their name as a ‘global call to action against poverty’ – 30 million people obliged. As a result, one of the promises made by the G8 leaders five days following the concert was $50 billion more aid per year by 2010. More information on the promises can be found on the Live8website.

As Andrew put it so nicely, ‘it’s about change, not charity’.