Sector: Social Purpose
Magic Moment: After completing my undergraduate degree in Montreal at McGill University, I moved back to Vancouver (where I grew up) to figure out my next steps. As a recent graduate, the future was notionally filled with endless opportunity, but was also so daunting, in that I knew that the one thing I wanted to do was to interrupt established approaches to urban development by centering community voice and power in the process. It was daunting because there were no obvious entry points to do that work. Upon returning to Vancouver, I had gotten myself a job at the local mountain, printing out lift tickets, scheduling kids into lessons, and doing some administrative work for their ski school. In the quiet moments when it was less busy, I would daydream ways to bring this ambition I had to life: to build an organization that helped shift power from some to many, that would specifically focus on those who identify as multi-barriered, or equity-deserving. After a few months of daydreaming, I came home from one of my shifts, and went online to learn about the process of incorporating a company, and the next morning before heading to work, I went and filed the paperwork to incorporate my first company – at 22 years old – a social enterprise that would over its decade in business, would proceed to become the first of its kind in Canada to do deep participatory infrastructure and design with equity-deserving communities across Canada. I had few resources, and a lot of unknowns ahead, but my intuition was clear that – with all of the unknowns – I was on exactly the right path.
Robin Wall Kimmerer (major influence): Her work has had a profound impact on how I practice decolonizing my own approach to city building, and opening the aperture of my focus beyond only engagement with humans, and recognizing the more-than-human, vital natural world that deserves an opportunity to be heard.
Next Big Challenge As An Industry: We need to stop seeing social equity as an act of charity, or corporate social responsibility, but rather as a core part of the work of building resilient and thriving communities, cities, and regions. We’ve seen during the pandemic that “our collective liberation is bound” (Lilla Watson), and that social equity can’t come in and out of focused, but needs to be a central strategic imperative for the development industry.
On Championing Others…: Our organization has a mandate to “advance a fair and just world, raising others up as we rise.” As my access increases, I ensure that it’s distributed, and find ways to share it. This shows up in mentorship, sponsoring opportunities for others, investing in initiatives led (in particular) by young, racialized women, passing opportunities to folks in community to expand their platform, and sharing any learning I develop (on everything from business models to navigating the industry, on financial matters to mental health) with those I mentor and collaborate with.
Secret Talent: I’m a multi-disciplinary artist, currently focused on textiles and rug-making!
One word that captures you: Polymath – because my practice and interests are incredibly lateral!