About the Author

CAREER OVERVIEW

A passionate community builder, Brenda Herchmer has a diverse background gained in a variety of government, education, business, and community sector settings. A writer, educator, consultant, coach and project manager, she has focused on enhancing the ability of seasoned and aspiring leaders to work collectively to address complex community issues with transformative change. She has specialized in community leadership, adaptive planning, community development, and organizational capacity building. She is the owner of Grassroots Enterprises and the Campus for Communities of the Future (a social enterprise/micro college) where… More Posted on 06-13-19

Paddling on One Side of the Canoe?

     

We all have our tried and true, especially when we’re stressed. There’s a tendency to fall back on what we know has worked in the past. It’s not unlike cooking. When I’m busy or rushed, it’s the tried and true recipes I fall back on.

Yet, if we want to go in a different direction, relying on our old recipes is the equivalent of only paddling on one side of the canoe. Not only will we have difficulty getting to a new place, it sometimes results in us travelling in circles.

More Posted on 09-30-22

Can Simplicity Make the Complex Possible?

   

Not sure exactly why but I recently signed up for a podcasting course.  Although I’ve previously taken a one day workshop and had the basics, I’ve never actually but them into play. This time I’m hoping it sticks.

So far, I’ve been pleasantly surprised because the course has been interesting, engaging, and ultimately, quite promising. In large part it’s because the course has been broken down into simple bite-sized assignments.  The first assignment was to give our podcast a name, the second list to 10 people we would interview, the third was… More Posted on 09-25-22

Why Jobs Make Me Twitchy

I don’t want a job.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to work. It could be my strong Ukrainian work ethic or it might just be that I am somewhat defined by my work and want to make a difference. Regardless, I work hard and put in far more hours than most people would consider typical or healthy.

Despite all that, I’ve recently concluded I’m going to have to stick to being self-employed because I’m not especially attracted to most of the jobs I’m seeing. Of course, it is tempting to think about a consistent… More Posted on 09-13-22

A Paucity of Curiosity?

   

This week I had a wonderful connection with a colleague who is doing amazing work focused on equipping organizations to thrive and fully realize their social purpose.  In the course of a conversation that bounced effortlessly from topic to topic, she suggested one of our greatest challenges today was ‘a paucity of curiosity’ and a ‘reluctance to tackle new learning’.

It was an elegant and insightful way of presenting a critical issue. It was also rather disconcerting because curiosity and creativity are what we need more of if we are to tackle… More Posted on 09-09-22

What the Heck Do I know About Prison Reform?

I spent an exciting hour on a zoom call this week with a network of eclectic and extraordinarily wise individuals from diverse professions and countries around the world.

The dynamic presenter shared a concept that is gaining traction. While ultimately her vision is to develop strategies for regenerating society and broken systems, her idea is to begin with an innovative pilot that will focus instead on reforming a prison or correctional institution - ideal because prisons are typically a self-contained community entity where applying a holistic, systems, or community perspective is more feasible.  More Posted on 09-02-22

Where’s the Community Innovation When We Need It Now More Than Ever?

As the result of years of experiencing collaborative learning alongside brilliant colleagues and community stakeholders, working ridiculous hours, and dipping into hard-earned savings for startup costs, I have now been the Principal Collaborator of a social enterprise called Campus for Communities of the Future for ten years.

I should be proud to have kept it afloat. And yet, my reality is that I stumble whenever I talk or try to explain the initiative.

It seems my mixed emotions are the result of the push and pull experience of wanting to make a difference, and needing… More Posted on 08-23-22

Futurism: 9 Practical Strategies for Thinking Beyond Today

There’s something strange in the air this summer. The impact of two years of Covid-19 seems to have made everyone determined to lean into summer in a big way.

The challenge is that some of us may have leaned in a tad too far and have fallen into a napping mode that might be restricting our desire to look too far ahead. Just saying.

Of course, we deserve some fun, it’s been a rough couple of years, but we also need to find some time to think about the future – not just our personal… More Posted on 08-18-22

Why I Don’t Want to Write Like An Academic

The best part about summer for me is that I actually have time to think and to write.

While I understand that may not be everyone’s idea of a good time, it definitely makes me happy even though it’s often hard work.

The challenge for me is that it sometimes means writing as an academic. By way of example, this summer my writing included co-writing a chapter for a textbook as well as writing an article for a prestigious yet somewhat traditional magazine. While both were an honour, they were also personally challenging as… More Posted on 08-18-22

Our Systems Are Broken

Last week I met with an extraordinary group of consulting colleagues in a relaxed, informal networking setting. During the gathering we covered a lot of ground as we discussed both personal and work-related subjects.  More than once there was discussion about our ‘broken’ systems and how they too often limit individual, social, economic, and environmental well-being.

Health care, education, the economy, and housing were top of mind but some of us observed that many of those who were working within the systems had pretty much surrendered and were simply doing the best they… More Posted on 07-28-22

The Elephant in a Dark Room

I was recently reminded of the story of the elephant in the dark room found in Buddhist and Hindu culture. What hadn’t occurred to me until now is how the parable also applies to communities.

In the Hindu version of the parable, an elephant is exhibited in a dark room. A number of men touch and feel the elephant in the dark and then learn and imagine what the elephant is like. Each man feels a different part of the elephant’s body - but it is only one part - such as the trunk,… More Posted on 06-04-22

Want Transformative Change? Positive Deviants Can Help

Truth be told, I have been known to irritate those in charge, albeit not intentionally.

It took me many years working within various bureaucratic settings to realize it was largely the result of my assuming others understood the nuances as well as the values brought by those described as social innovators or social entrepreneurs.

Along the way it was sometimes discouraging to find how challenging it was for many of those in charge to embrace new ideas or concepts when they didn’t have a box to place them within their existing organizational structure.

Yet, when… More Posted on 05-19-22

A Key Component of Planning in Changing Times

Remember when we used to do five and even ten year master and/or strategic plans? Hard to believe but at one point in their history, the Niagara Parks Commission even had a 100 year masterplan. Personally, I struggle to plan meals more than one day out so even five years sounds daunting.

Regardless, it does seem some of the best recent planning results are those that reflect a clear sense of values. In large part, it appears those values can keep us from spinning as we try to determine priorities, as well as become important filters for ensuring impactful decision… More Posted on 05-03-22

If a Three Year Old Can Understand Collaboration…

Our youngest son wasn’t quite three years old at the time when his older brother unexpectedly gave him one of his coveted GI Joes so they could play together.

As the result of being the recipient of such unexpected generosity, he turned to me, grinned, and said, “Mommy, that’s collaboration.”

While I was sure a child with that kind of a vocabulary was a genius, upon questioning, I soon realized that he had simply absorbed collaboration as the word of the day from Sesame Street. 

However, it seems he may have been… More Posted on 09-04-21

Weaving a Better Future Together

Like many others, I’ve learned about both personal and work-related partnerships by being part of some that were good and some I’d rather not think about.

As with a good marriage, a good partnership has the potential to enrich who you are, what you do, and how you do it.

I’ve often thought partnerships could be compared to fabric. Even though one’s existing fabric might be fine, it can be enriched and strengthened by the right partner who weaves in, mixes and mingles their own unique strands of thread and fiber. The resulting… More Posted on 08-19-21

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