oth the theory and practice of community have been foreign concepts to me for much of my life. Only during the past decade when surrounded by community during the most difficult of times have I begun to understand how an individual’s life can be shaped by those around them and how their actions can strengthen a broader collective in return. As I become increasingly more embedded in communities often through positions of leadership I find myself placing the best interests of a community ahead of my own, first in decision making and then actions taken. I believe that as a community strengthens so do the individuals which make up its whole.
The following offers an overview of the contributions I have made to the communities I am most connected to. Considering both volunteer and professional roles primarily within the not-for-profit sector, I highlight the time and attention invested in developing leadership skills in support of strengthening individual and organizational capacity. Broadly looking at my role as a community leader, I provide thoughts on themes of leadership found throughout my work and how I may leverage them as I continue to support communities in the future.
Sought out by individuals and organizations to design meaningful community building experiences, I have developed a recognized expertise in areas such as community engagement, entrepreneurship and strategic innovation (see Appendix C for testimonials). To generate consensus amongst individuals and organizations working together to achieve common goals I analyze divergent areas of professional practice and translate them to help stakeholder groups understand often foreign concepts. Beginning with an open mind believing that anything is possible regardless of what may have come before, my approach to leading is intentionally seeking to understand the why behind all we do and to not limit the possibility of what could be.
Providing a perspective that is informed by urban theory, social entrepreneurship and the development of ideas which have been deemed “innovative” and “forward thinking” (see Appendix C for testimonials), I lead organizations as both a researcher and nurturer (see Appendix B for personal inventories). Approaching work through a process of inquiry, to understand the theories and reasons that provide the grounding for actions taken, I strive to serve individuals and organizations by placing their needs at the forefront of any problem we aim to collectively address.
Manager, Community Development
— London Fuse New Media Collective (City of London), 2012–2014
Working with diverse stakeholder groups I oversaw the planning, design, marketing and implementation of community focused programs and services. My work provided the strategy and tactics which enabled local businesses and organizations to effectively communicate with broader audiences while strengthening their respective communities.
Manager, Community Engagement
— Emerging Leaders London Community Network, 2011–2012
Advancing strategic direction and community engagement activities, I established processes related to program creation, mentoring and career support. Managing daily operations, my work supported young leaders through training, networking and professional development opportunities as they established themselves in their respective fields of professional practice.
— Urban League of London, 2013–2015
Providing a young urbanist’s perspective at the leadership level, I contributed to the development of stronger and better connected neighbourhoods towards building a vital, successful and sustainable city. Engaging with citizen groups to help them become better informed, my work enabled neighbourhood associations to shape their communities while advocating for their best interests.
In support of my efforts to become a stronger and more effective leader I participate in learning opportunities that broaden my awareness of foundational community development principles while deepening my understanding of personal leadership traits. Often asked to consult on learning programs during their infancy to aid in their development (see Appendix B for professional development), I have been a fortunate participant in the final, refined programming offered to the broader public.
In support of these non-formal educational opportunities I regularly create the necessary time and space to reflect upon and grow the characteristics of my leadership style and core values. To build a more holistic understanding of who I am and how I can best lead communities, I participate in individual leadership, personality, character assessments and self-directed courses (see Appendix B see personal inventories). In addition to building a toolkit of professional skills and resources to aid me in strengthening my broader practice, I participate in these learning opportunities to guide me in more thoughtfully interacting with others to create meaningful engagement experiences.
Community Development for Practitioners, and Foundational Community Building
— Campus for Communities of the Future, 2013–2014
Enhancing my knowledge and skills as a community builder I developed an understanding of how to work with stakeholders to address issues, assess trends and create models for community transformation. Provided with the frameworks for furthering community development activities I established baseline skills to better serve as a catalyst for positive change.
Engage!, and Leadership London
— London Community Foundation and Emerging Leaders
Providing experiential learning, mentoring and networking opportunities, these programs helped me to develop a better understanding of what value I provide to my communities and how to best leverage my talents to serve.
Active Creative Engaged Community Building
— Grassroots Enterprises, 2012
This course provided the knowledge and resources needed to be a more adept community development practitioner while working in partnership with the City of London on initiatives to strengthen neighbourhoods and grassroots community efforts.
Acting as a catalyst in the building of stronger, more connected communities, my contributions while in leadership roles have shaped the understanding of what the term community means more locally. With an approach that is grounded in thoroughly understanding problems and placing those I work with at the core of the purpose for work, my practice reflects many of the principles of servant-leadership in support of the development of others. My work aids individuals and organizations in understanding what possibilities can materialize when they come together to achieve a common goal, and in the process the realization of their full potential. Driven by the belief that cities should be built from the ground up by their residents, the leadership I exhibit in the development of communities has been recognized by my peers, community collaborators, employers and alma mater.
Growing Prosperity Award
— Libro Credit Union, 2016
Highlighting my leadership, passion and community-minded focus, I was an inaugural recipient of this award and recognized for the exceptional and significant contributions I make to growing prosperity in southwestern Ontario.
Young Alumni Award
— King’s University College, 2013Awarded to a King’s University College graduate under the age of 35, I was recognized for the outstanding contributions and accomplishments I have made in the communities I am a part of.
Who’s London? Roundtable
— The London Free Press, 2011
As part of a series focused on “young, energetic thinkers anxious to shed London’s tired image,” my perspective on local city building initiatives, municipal identity and the future of local politics were highlighted by the London Free Press.
The role of community leader is not one I intentionally developed or ever envisioned for myself. Beginning from a personal will to improve the interactions I was having with my city—an approach rooted in selfish needs and wants—over time I have developed the belief that every citizen has the power, ability and responsibility to shape the places they live to improve both their personal life and community.
Not able to formally name my leadership style until more recently, but identifying a strong distinction between leadership and management (Hanold, 2015), only through personal reflection have I become comfortable with naming my leadership approach as Servant Leadership (Greenleaf, 1991). Having always believed that the purpose of a leader, including educators, is to help others “grow as persons” (Greenleaf, 1991, “Who is the Servant-Leader,” para. 2), I have found comfort in naming my approach while identifying with others who have similar perspectives. In addition to new theories and resources to aid me in the continued growth of my practice I have developed an approach to leading communities grounded in both researching and nurturing perspectives (see Appendix B for personal inventories). These perspectives are complimented by an identified INTJ (introversion, intuition, thinking, judgment) personality type (see Appendix B for personal inventories) and the asset-based community development approach I choose to employ as I complete work in the community.
Continuing to build a more recognized expertise, my aim is to focus attention on the work that matters most as defined by myself and those I work most closely with. Bringing greater intentionality to the roles I assume and the actions I take, documenting my work more attentively to share both process and results would be of benefit to myself and those who look to me to lead. Commenting more broadly on the problems, solutions and questions surrounding my communities of interest, there is an opportunity to translate my leadership, expertise and desire to incite positive change into thoughts and resources to support others as they strive to achieve the same.