Child Poverty Stats a Call to National Action

It was, as Dr. Phil would put it, a defining moment.  It occurred for Ian Hill, a good friend of mine, as he drove by and saw kids splashing about in a puddle in the parking lot of a rundown motel. 

Despite cool weather, the kids were shoeless and dressed in ill-fitting, grungy clothes that had seen better days. For some unknown reason, he felt compelled to stop and talk. 

He learned that although the kids lived with their mother in one of the dismal motel rooms, they were alone because she was at work. They were without… More Posted on 12-07-07

Can Clutter Equate to Leadership?

If you were to judge the man by his office alone, chances are you might not be all that impressed.

Aside from the 70s decor, which in itself would make Martha Stewart shudder, it’s clear that paper rules in his office. There isn’t one inch of surface in his office that isn’t covered with stacks of paper. And, describing them as stacks, isn’t an exaggeration. When he ducks his head a bit, you can’t even tell if he’s in his office. Meetings in his office are pretty much impossible as the couch, chairs and coffee table are buried. A recent… More Posted on 11-28-07

The Challenge of Community Engagement

It is just so ironic.

I’m sitting in a conference session called “Conversations, Consultations, and Community Engagement”. The session description talked about the importance of ensuring citizen support, input and participation.  Always keen to learn especially on a subject near and dear to my heart, I was eagerly anticipating the session. Unfortunately, I am so bored that instead of listening to the speakers, I’m writing this column.

The room set-up should have been my first clue. A panel of four speakers sat at the head table, the first already standing at the podium firing up a powerpoint presentation.

Participants… More Posted on 11-18-07

Minds for the Future?

That balanced lifestyle I’ve been trying so hard to achieve? Definitely on the backburner this week!

Instead, I’ve been working flat out as part of a team developing a multi-million dollar proposal focused on province-wide strategies for ensuring active and more creative communities.

While it’s been fun, its complexity has been taxing.  I really miss the days when proposals were straightforward enough that if you kept your office door closed, it was actually possible to write one the day before it was due. 

Today that simply isn’t possible. As such, proposal writing just seems to symbolize how… More Posted on 11-11-07

Do Smaller Communities Have an Advantage?

The reality is that while there is much about growing older that leaves a lot to be desired, there are definitely some perks.

One of those perks is that as we mature, most of us do get to know ourselves better and what it is we’re passionate about.  At long last, some of those disjointed, dancing dots do get connected.

For me that translates into knowing I find joy in learning more about community leadership and how we can better nurture the development of our communities as strong, healthy, and vibrant places to live, work and play.

Recently my work… More Posted on 11-09-07

A Different Kind of Intelligence

I’ve just come back from an exceptional conference that provided some wonderful learning opportunities.

An hour and a half into one of the sessions, a participant entered somewhat noisily, stated that she was late, even though it was rather obvious, and proceeded to announce that she didn’t really even have a reason.

When we broke for lunch, this same woman went up to the presenter and asked her for the five minute version of what she missed as the result of having been late.

The presenter, a talented and seasoned former university professor and now consultant, took the… More Posted on 10-29-07

Nature Deficit Disorder

Recently doing some consulting work in Alberta, I stepped out of a meeting and strolled into an adjoining parking lot for a quick stretch. I looked up, gasped, and stopped dead in my tracks.

Directly ahead and looking almost surreal in the glistening afternoon sunlight, lay a stunning, majestic view of the Rocky Mountains that rivaled anything I’ve seen on a postcard.

Having been immersed in an intense morning of thinking and strategizing, I felt compelled to soak in the moment and gradually felt myself being overtaken by a feeling of calm.  In addition to the sense of… More Posted on 10-28-07

Community Leaders Have a Different Kind of Power

It’s good to be reminded that sometimes people really do get it.

I recently met one of them, a young woman who lives in a small northern community.  Working in the health sector in a community development capacity, she is aware and concerned about growing health concerns in her hometown. 

Despite much that is good in town, including a strong economy and even a surplus of jobs, a recent survey of residents showed higher than average levels of obesity, addictions and mental health issues. Even life expectancies are significantly less than the provincial average. And yet, instead of… More Posted on 10-21-07

Successful Cities Built on Own Unique Characteristics

Who would have thought a poet would be the one talking about fractals? And okay I admit it, when I first heard the word fractal I had a flashback math attack because it was such a left-brain kind of concept.

The occasion was the national Creative Cities conference and the speaker was Alice Major, Edmonton’s first poet laureate. An established poet appointed by City Council, her role during her recent term was to use her poetry to reflect the life of a city during official and informal activities.

My left brain angst eased somewhat as Major went on to… More Posted on 10-16-07

Reflections on Gratitude and Leadership

One of the best things about the long Thanksgiving weekend is that it actually gives you the time to slow down, think, reflect, and be grateful.

I’ve been blessed to have grown up with a mother who has made it a practice to give thanks. Beautiful in spirit, she is a walking heartbeat who has made it her life’s mission to care and nurture others. A youthful and vibrant seventy eight years of age, she still religiously counts her blessings each night as she falls asleep. I’m convinced that this “attitude of gratitude” is a key factor in keeping her… More Posted on 10-08-07

Marketing Triggers

Recently enroute to a business meeting, a rather peppy song played on the car radio prompting a colleague and I to sing along. 

As the song faded my colleague told me that while her young daughter used to love that song, she now cringes when she hears it and begs her to change the station.

Apparently her daughter recently spent time with an aunt and had accompanied her to a fitness class. While the class of women did their aerobic dancing to that same song, she sat at the back of the room and watched.

Turns out, it… More Posted on 10-02-07

What does it take to be a Creative Community?

My job responsibilities have recently changed. As I happen to be one of those people who thrive on variety, this is a good thing.

Turns out that while I may embrace and get excited about change, for many, it’s just not quite as easy.

According to the late economist, Mancur Olson, individuals aren’t the only ones who respond differently to change. Cities too can reflect different responses. As he puts it, when places grow up and prosper in one era, they find it challenging and sometimes even impossible to adopt new organizational and cultural patterns, even though the… More Posted on 10-01-07

So What Exactly is Branding?

I recently hung out with a good friend and her young daughter Katrina. Although only eight years old, Katrina is remarkably bright, sensitive, and unexpectedly fashion savvy. One of her favourite television shows is TLC’s What Not to Wear.

Once of the surprisingly mature conversations we had resulted when I told her I refuse to own or wear anything with a logo. 

While Katrina was initially quite horrified by my position, she eventually understood that I simply refuse to pay for the privilege of being a walking billboard.  If I’m going to wear someone else’s logo, I certainly… More Posted on 10-01-07


Brenda Herchmer, the owner of Grassroots Enterprises and Principal Collaborator of the Campus for Communities, has a diverse background gained in a variety of business, government, education, and voluntary settings. A former newspaper columnist with the Welland Tribune she was previously an Instructor in the Community Studies Division at Niagara College in Welland, Ontario. While there she worked with others to found the Centre for Community Leadership (a one stop resource centre for organizational and community capacity building). Brenda is passionate about community development and the community leadership and brings a rich base of experience in collective impact,… More Posted on 09-30-07

Life Advice

Although it has sometimes been a painful journey, our youngest son is growing up. The experts sure weren’t kidding when they say boys generally mature later in life than girls.

To be fair, it may also be that as a typical member of Generation Y he has been searching for work that he can be passionate about but will also allow him to combine work and play.  Additionally, as with many others his age, it seems he has been overwhelmed by the wealth of choices juxtapositioned as they are against the reality of a not-so-rosy labour marketplace.

Regardless,… More Posted on 09-11-07

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