Because It’s the Right Thing to Do…

Change is hard. It really is. Most people see it as something they don’t want because it means leaving what they know and stepping into something more likely to be messy and unclear. It may even be that change is hard because we overestimate the value of staying the same, and underestimate the value of what could be gained.

However, In my work, which generally involves supporting change in organizations and communities, we’ve also learned there is a small minority of people for whom change isn’t as hard. Instead they view change as moving forward, learning, growing, and ideally, innovative and transformational thinking. The understanding of this minority, has led us to one of our most important learnings – if you want change, begin with the early adopters. If you wait until everyone is ready for change, it may never happen.

Ultimately, it is this learning that also explains why I’m now working with the city of London, Ontario and gaining the synergy that is the result of sharing our respective learnings.


The London journey for change began several years ago when city staff made the courageous decision to gather information and statistics that would provide a true picture of how they were doing in terms of serving children, youth, and families. The catalyst in part was a report written by Dr. Fraser Mustard for the Ontario government called, “The Early Years: Reversing the Real Brain Drain”, that documented the relationship between early brain development and learning, behaviour, and health, throughout the rest or our lives.

They learned that while most of London’s children and youth have the opportunity to grow up healthy and happy, almost 20 – 25% of them were being left behind.

Over 28% of their children were overweight or obese (but only 8% of their parents thought they were!), 25% were not ready for Grade1, 15 - 20% would not graduate from high school, 1 in 5 lived in poverty, youth unemployment was more than double the adult unemployment rate, a significant number of parents had mental health or addiction problems, and one out of twelve were witnessing domestic violence.

Although these were statistics similar to those in any other city across the country, London decided they were simply unacceptable, and more importantly, they needed to do something about it.

Since then they have made a public commitment that has grown to involve over 140 community agencies committed to an ambitious, long term plan designed to make London the best place for children, youth and families to live.

Their motto? Happy, healthy children today; caring, creative, and responsible adults tomorrow. Their vision is that every London neighbourhood resident will open a single door to multiple opportunities that support children and families in achieving their full potential. These opportunities will be identified by the neighbourhood and implemented according to evidence-informed best practices using an integrative, inclusive, and holistic approach.

Their initial focus was being placed on a number of key priorities – 1) Ending Poverty 2) Making Literacy a Way of Life, and 3) Leading the nation in healthy eating and healthy physical activity. But it is perhaps the fourth strategy that reflects the accuracy of their listening as well as the strength of their leadership.

Families told London that their system simply wasn’t working for them. Finding and accessing the support and services they needed was far too complicated as it was not family centred. As with virtually every other community in North America, it was a system built to serve people as if they came in segregated departments - one for education, one for recreation, one for health, one for social services and so on.

As a result, and despite the enormity of the task, London’s fourth priority is re-engineering their entire delivery system to become one that is integrated and centred on hubs or Neighbourhood Child and Family Centres throughout the city.

Lynne Livingstone, Managing Director, Neighbourhood, Children and Fire Services, is clear in her understanding that transforming the children, youth, and family delivery system will be challenging, as well as challenged, along the way. However, when people ask her why it needs to be done, she looks you straight in the eye, and calmly and eloquently replies, “Because it is the right thing to do”.

Now that’s leadership.

Posted on 11-29-15


Can’t wait to see what the city of London and ACE Communities can do together!  Great work out east, Brenda…

•Posted by Janet Naclia  on  11/23/10  at  10:48 AM


Sounds like a fascinating project. London is a beautiful city. I did my first two years of high school in London.

•Posted by Wayne Page  on  12/02/10  at  10:10 PM


Thank you for writing that Brenda and thank you for supporting London on this journey! You are such an amazing cheerleader, supporter and influencer!

•Posted by Karen Oldham  on  12/02/15  at  12:46 PM

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