FacebookTwitterRSSContactStaff Directory
About Tamarack Learn Events Join a Community
  Learning Centre  

About the Learning Centre

The Learning Centre, established in 2003, is designed to create a fluid, creative system of documenting community building activity and delivering this learning to organizations. The centre has a threefold purpose: to broadly disseminate knowledge gathered through research and practical experience; to help communities increase their power through learning; and to generate knowledge about community engagement so as to advance the field. Learn more about the Learning Centre here.

Resource Library - Explore Tamarack's community engagement resources - including research, articles and related links.

Be sure to sign up to receive Engage!, Tamarack's free monthly e-magazine, that helps you to stay current on the latest developments in the field of community engagement.

Subscribe here or read one of our latest issues below.

The Latest Ideas about Community Change from the Tamarack Institute
May 2016
Share this Issue:

Hammers, Saws and the Work of Deepening Community

By: Sylvia Cheuy


Share this: Share this on Facebook Share this on Twitter Share this on LinkedIn

Remember the old adage that cautions, "Just because you have a shiny new hammer, doesn't mean that everything you see is a nail?"

Renowned community builder John McKnight uses the analogy of hammers and saws to highlight an important distinction between the "tool" of community and the "tool" of service delivery organizations in the building of strong communities. He emphasizes that, "both tools are important but they each have specific uses. You don't use a hammer to cut wood or a saw to hammer nails. The trick is discernment."

As someone curious about the unique leadership role communities play in advancing positive change, I find John's clarity between service delivery organizations and communities illuminating. Too often, in my experience, they are referred to synonymously when, in fact, they are actually quite different from each another. Whereas communities tend to be informal and horizontal in their structure, non-profit organizations tend to be quite formal and hierarchical. Whereas communities rely upon the experience and knowledge of residents that is freely shared, non-profits rely on the specialized knowledge of paid professionals and experts. When speaking of communities it is also important to recognize that a community is much more than a group of individuals who happen to live in close proximity to one another. Strong communities are those where the skills and talents of residents are known, recognized and connected.

The distinction between communities and organizations becomes particularly important as organizations, municipalities and communities discover the power of collaboration and its ability to generate promising new solutions to our most complex issues by working differently together. Not only are these multi-sector solutions often more effective, they also result in stronger communities and more resilient neighbourhoods. The ability to work differently together begins by appreciating the distinctiveness of each of the sectors, and co-creating a new way of working that honours and combines each sector's strengths and differences. When this is done right, innovative new solutions are co-created which generate powerful, and often long-lasting results.

One inspiring example of new possibility that emerge when communities and organizations "work well together" are makerspaces. Makerspaces are described as, "places where people come together to design and build projects." Makerspaces typically provide access to materials, tools and technologies freely to the public to encourage hands-on exploration, participatory learning and mentoring as seasoned experts work along-side curious learners eager to experiment in learning a new skill. Often makerspaces are housed within libraries or other public spaces.

One of the very first makerspaces in Canada opened in the Edmonton Public Library (EPL) in 2014. Its creation helped contribute to the library's recognition as the 2014 Library of the Year. Billed as a place "to learn, create collaborate and discover with free access to the latest technology and equipment," the EPL Makerspace offers free public access to 3D printers, high performance computers, design software and two soundbooths where budding musicians have free access to an array of musical instruments as well as state-of-the-art recording and mixing equipment.

The EPL Makerspace is also recognized as contributing to making the Edmonton Public Library the second most-visited place in the entire city – welcoming 14 million in-branch and online visits annually across its 20 branch locations.

Discovering and effectively harnessing the unique strengths of organizations, municipalities and citizens is a sure way to create dynamic neighbourhoods and strong communities. Cultivating the necessary awareness and skill to convene across sectors is an ability that needs to be recognized and fostered. Meet John McKnight and other inspiring thought leaders next month in Edmonton, Alberta for Resilient Neighbourhoods – When People Care where we will dive deeper into the ways communities can play a leadership role in advancing positive change. We hope you will join us.

Learn More:

Five Questions to Mobilize Poverty Reduction

By: Mark Holmgren

Questions in Mind

Share this: Share this on Facebook Share this on Twitter Share this on LinkedIn

More and more voices are speaking of a movement to end poverty. In Edmonton, where I sit on Mayor Iveson's Task Force to Eliminate Poverty in a Generation, the fostering of a movement is front and centre on the minds around the table. There are nearly 60 communities today that are members of Vibrant Communities Canada – an example of movement building. Last month, our Cities Reducing Poverty Summit was a testimony to this growing movement. It was not only a forum for our political and community leaders; over 20% of the 350 people who attended were either people living with poverty or leaders from grassroots organizations. These were attendees who could not have been there without the support of funders stepped up to ensure their seats at the summit were free.

While in Edmonton, all 350 of us gathered to share, learn together, inspire one another, and network together about the growing number of cities, towns, and regions that are working to reduce, if not eliminate, poverty. These local efforts have been going on now for some time in many communities and many others are coming on board.

If you were not there, you missed an amazing three days. I know. "Amazing" and "poverty" are not typically juxtaposed, but the amazing part of the Summit was how serious and committed Canadians are today about ridding our nation of its worst disease: poverty.

Whereas poverty was once viewed to be limited jurisdictionally to the provincial and federal governments, cities are now not only involved in poverty reduction, they are leading the efforts. Sure, jurisdictional challenges still exist and require address, but the growing and promising emergence of cross government collaboration and alignment is, I suggest, unprecedented.

For me, the real impact of the Summit is about what's next, what we need to do together across the nation in our local communities to increase our impact, decrease poverty, and build a sustainable future where poverty eventually becomes a story we tell about the past.

So, what now? What do we bring back to our communities to build upon? How do we expand efforts to end poverty and its myriad manifestations? I wish I had the answers. I imagine you do, too. However, perhaps the key to moving forward is about getting our questions right. I have no doubt you have your questions, too, but here are mine, offered to you for your consideration and, I hope, your enhancements and additions:

  1. How Do We End Racism?
    Racism is pervasive, divisive and is never constructive. It is what placed the Japanese in camps during the Great War; it is what gave birth to residential schools and the resulting intergenerational trauma experienced by so many; it feeds the ugly frenzy of hatred of Syrian refugees; it keeps people of colour, minority, religion and low income marginalized on the edges of community life and personal advancement. How do we not only help others to understand racism and its virulence but also help one another at the front lines ensure we are free of the biases and fears from which racism sprouts and grows?

  2. What Is The Relationship Between Human Rights and Poverty?
    This question sits at the core of what it means to be a human being in a civil society. It is a question that prompts us to see poverty as a betrayal of our rights as people and the clear obligations we have to one another to ensure we overcome our excuses to ignore our respective rights because of our loyalty to other considerations like the economy and affordability. How do we incorporate human rights into our collective work to end poverty and build caring, vibrant communities? How do we expand and deepen our understanding of what our human rights are, and the agreements Canada has made via the United Nations Charter about upholding them? How do we ensure that human rights of some cannot be sidestepped by others who have the power and the means to decide their rights and interests trump those without power and means?

  3. What Are the Keystone Outcomes of Poverty Reduction?
    This question invokes the work and thinking of Tamarack thought leader Jay Connor whose efforts to help community change in Erie, Pennsylvania revealed how some community outcomes, if achieved, have such impact that other outcomes are achieved in the process. His work showed that if children hit their grade three reading levels, they are far more likely to graduate from high school (another desired community outcome) than if they are reading below the standard levels. Housing First is another example of a keystone outcome. For so many, just having a safe, affordable, and stable place to live makes it possible to become more involved in community life socially, spiritually and economically.

    The risk in our planning is that we create strategies and outcomes that represent an overall poverty-reduction effort that is a mile wide and an inch deep. What are those outcomes or game changers that, if addressed, contribute to the realization of other outcomes and aspirations? Is it housing and income? Is it, as alluded before, ending racism and discrimination? Early Childhood education? Finding the right questions is a necessary precursor to identifying desired outcomes and their resultant strategies. How might we work on this collectively within our communities but also as a Vibrant Communities network?

  4. What Should Drive Our Criteria For Financial Decision-making?
    We have all heard, and perhaps have even said things like: we can't do that. We can't afford it. There are limited funds to do this or that. Too often such comments – or excuses – are little more than situational rationalizations. Why is it that communities can afford to build hockey arenas or remodel civic institutions but cannot afford ventures that improve the lives of the marginalized? Why do budgets to fix potholes trump budgets to fix human suffering?

    What should the drivers or principles that guide the financial decisions of our leaders be? What innovative, new ways can we create to finance human potential? Budgets do not make themselves. Those who set and control them make choices. They reference public opinion and political capital when doing so. What are the ethics that should be a part of our decision-making? Should we become loud voices for new criteria? Is there a role for activists in deepening the public's understanding of finances and funding as fundamental expressions of our humanity? How do we shake ourselves free from the facile notion that we can't afford human rights or better education and health systems, or can't afford to put an end to child poverty?

  5. How Do We Change Ourselves?
    All of us working to end poverty know, or at least intuit, the need to transform systems and policies, craft or discover significant or even radical approaches to bring about big changes to how we live together in community. Big ideas are not that difficult to come by. After all, how long has a guaranteed annual income been discussed by our governments? That old saying, the proof is in the pudding, rings true for me here. Big ideas – whether a new or transformed system, policy or program – require personal and professional change to become realities. How can we learn together to rid ourselves of our conscious and unconscious adherence to status quo behaviours that are not effective, or worse, perpetuate the problems we wish to overcome? How do we become more skilled at disruptive thinking and innovation? How do we give up power and authority in order to share it with those who have none? How do we change the environment that holds us, contains us, and too often stops us from creating a better one?

None of the questions above are about models or tools. The questions I have posed are not about the pros or cons of collective impact or community development approaches, or even funding reform. These questions and others like them require our attention. The answers that emerge can then inform the methods we use to deliver on them. I hope we can work together to add value to critical conversations and undertake the learning to achieve our common goal to turn poverty on its heels. I look forward to working with our Vibrant Communities members on these and other challenges and questions we face. We are better together than we are alone, hard as that may be at times. If you live in a community that is just starting its work on poverty reduction or want to be a catalyst to bring that work to life, I encourage you to contact me at mark@tamarackcommunity.ca to talk about how Tamarack can help.

Learn More:

A Grand Way to Work Together

By: Sandra Cooke

Grand River

Share this: Share this on Facebook Share this on Twitter Share this on LinkedIn

Water knows no boundaries. In this same spirit, boundaries fade when water managers collaborate. With shared goals to improve water quality, ensure sustainable water supplies, reduce flood damages and build resilience to deal with a changing climate, water managers across the Grand River watershed used Collective Impact as the framework to guide the updating of the Water Management Plan for the watershed. The Grand River Conservation Authority provided the support and facilitation to bring partners together.

The project charter outlined their common agenda and, over a period of five years, partners met regularly to discuss challenges and opportunities and then to align their work plans. Partners agreed to work toward voluntary targets. Decision support tools helped to set milestones for measuring progress. Water Managers continue to meet quarterly to report on progress and Plan implementation. Details of the collective progress of the watershed partnership can be found in their annual report.

Learn More

Our #nbrhdhero Nominees!

By: Sienna Jae Taylor

Nominate your #Nbrhdhero!

Share this: Share this on Facebook Share this on Twitter Share this on LinkedIn

Every neighbourhood has their hero. Your hero might be the community developer who runs the neighbourhood Breakfast Club or the neighbour who never misses a city meeting and always fights for your community's needs. A Neighbourhood Hero's contributions could be grand-scale, creating big, bold changes – or their contributions might be seemingly small, everyday things that make for a beautiful life and a beautiful community.

One thing we know to be true, Neighbourhood Heroes deserve to be celebrated. That is why last month our team decided to put a call out for nominees for a Neighbourhood Hero. The winner will receive a full scholarship to this year's Deepening Community national gathering – Deepening Community: Resilient Neighbourhoods · When People Care – with John McKnight, Vickie Cammack, Al Etmanski, Paul Born and community builders from around the world.

Drum roll please! Our nominees are:

Kris Iverson of the South East Penbrooke Area, City of Calgary

"Kris Iverson always goes above and beyond for the community, school and neighborhood. He is head of the Parent council for St. Peters Elementary, on the board at the Penbrooke Community hall, as well as the Calgary – East Little League. Kris was also president of the Eastview Basketball Organization up until this past season. He is a very active part of the community and he is always volunteering to do whatever he can.

Kris takes pride in getting to know the kids at the school and in his sport organizations. He knows them all by name, he is the first to say hello and ask how their day is, and he treats them with respect and is a fantastic role model. He participates in as many school events as he can, attends all the Virtue Awards and assemblies, volunteers his time for the fun lunches and St. Peter's Day festivities and takes his role as Parent Council President seriously. He is also a big part of the community center and spends a lot of time at community events helping out. He takes great pride in his community and is always promoting events and trying to get more people involved.

Kris wants to make sure everyone has a chance to participate and will go out of his way to make that happens. He spends many hours of his day, week and month volunteering his time to all these things and I think he deserves a big thank you and to be shown that what he does matters and makes a big difference!" – Nominator

Dawn Marshall of the Spatinow Neighbourhood, City of Wetaskiwin

"Dawn is a local drama teacher who started and currently manages the Wetaskiwin Composite High School Breakfast Program (with resources often paid for out of her own pocket). She also helped organize the High School's participation in the weekend Food Basket Program. Dawn facilitates the High School's Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), and is a strong supporter of the community's GSA. She is also heavily involved in Talented Offerings for Programs in the Sciences (TOPS), for which she served as past president. 

Dawn is a hero because she cares and gives so fully of herself, despite also being busy with her own family (she and her husband, Jason have 2 young daughters). Dawn is always looking for opportunities to support and connect the community, and encourages others to share their own ideas and get involved. Dawn is a Neighbourhood Hero because she has been a positive community connector wherever she has lived and she makes the world a better place."

So now you know who our Nominees are. What's next?

Both of our wonderful Neighbourhood Hero nominees will be featured on our website and it is up to YOU, our learners, subscribers and supporters to get online, share the contest and encourage people to vote for this year's #nbrhdhero! Voting takes place from May 2nd – May 8th and the nominee with the most votes will win a full scholarship to join us in Edmonton from June 7-9 for Deepening Community 2016: Resilient Neighbourhoods · When People Care.

A Neighbourhood Hero is someone who has mastered the act of caring, and who understands the art of neighbourliness. Thank you for helping us celebrate those who make a difference in our communities and thank you to both Kris and Dawn for making your corners of the world more vibrant, happy and caring places to be.

Happy voting and Good luck!

Learn more:

Love of Place: The Fogo Island Artist Studios

By: Sienna Jae Taylor

The Fogo Island Artist Studios

Share this: Share this on Facebook Share this on Twitter Share this on LinkedIn

In Newfoundland and Labrador, the collapse of the 400-year-old cod fishery threatened the economic and cultural viability of most rural communities. Fogo Island and Change Islands, among the oldest settlements in Canada, are no exception.The Shorefast Foundation, a Canadian registered charity, is dedicated to creating cultural and economic resiliency for Fogo Island and Change Islands. Through its daughter organization, the Fogo Island Inn, Shorefast is building on the culture and ecology of the Islands to create a leading geo-tourism destination.

Fogo Island is a small, remote yet accessible island located off the Northeast coast of Newfoundland. It is bounded by the shores of the North Atlantic Ocean, home to just over 2300 hundred people living in ten distinct communities. "Fogo Island is big and small – big enough to be interesting, yet small enough to know". And boy, is it interesting. In response to the collapse of the 400-year-old cod fishery and the economic and cultural threat that followed, the community turned to art as a way to heal and rebuild resiliency.

"Art is a way of knowing, of belonging, participating, of questioning, of innovating. It is a way of participating in a global conversation and a way of making sense of the world. Art is a form of social exchange and, significantly, has the potential to enact social change." (Shorefast Foundation).

Fogo Island Arts brings international attention to the Islands by "organizing projects involving leading artists and scholars working at the intersections of art, heritage and social enterprise. Fogo Island Arts is a driving force in the creation of opportunities to learn and innovate while developing new ways of approaching business in rural communities."

Upon arrival to this beautiful corner of the earth, visitors' reactions are often ones of astonishment. The island is home to the Fogo Island Artist Studios – four incredible studios where artists staying in the nearest community can come to do their work. These studios aren't your average studios – each space is uniquely built into the land – on stilts in the traditional way and in keeping with the local architecture, but infused with very contemporary vibes. Each studio has been built to guarantee low impact on, but strong connection to, the surrounding environment.

In the video, Design on the Edge, artist Silke Otto-Knapp, an artist utilizing the studios on Fogo Island, talks about her experience working in the spaces. Silke highlights the ever-changing experience of working in these studios and how the space actually lures her to nature and has sparked her desire to be outside, experiencing the natural world. The Artist Studios have not only provided an inspiring location for artists to work on their craft, but they connects artists and visitors alike to nature, and to one another. As the studios draw people in from all over the world, a greater sense of community and connection is realized.

The Fogo Island Artist Studios are more than just spaces to be creative, they are an opportunity to rediscover the love of place. Zita Cobb, Founder and CEO of Shorefast Foundation, talks about the importance of the love of place and its connection to community and social change. Zita believes that true human joy comes from nature and culture and that knowledge, the knowledge we need to create real change in our communities, comes not from the information we gather online, but from experience – experience that can only be found in the natural world, or entangled up in our connections with one another. Knowledge comes from re-discovering space and place. Once we rediscover and experience this love of place, love for community will inevitably follow, and with a love for community comes the desire for positive, lasting change.

Although the Shorefast Foundation and Fogo Island Arts was established to support economic and cultural viability in Fogo Island, Zita suggests that there are more important things than financial capital in a community. Change comes from a love of place. It is developed from art, from nature, from relationships, from love, from learning, from experience.

Fogo Island provides a beautiful example of community resiliency and how it can be re-built after crisis. . It is also a beautiful example of how community resiliency: enables a place to "bounce back" after crisis; is often linked to the desire to connect with nature and one another; and, emerges from a deep sense of place.

Learn More:

The Latest from the Field

Halifax Harbour

Building Backbones in Halifax
By: Liz Weaver

Read the post >



Collective Impact

Collective Impact Principles of Practice
By: Devon Kerslake

Read the post >

Michael Jones playing piano at npp

Leadership and the Art of Minimum Force
By: Michael Jones

Read the post >


People at table talking

Come Together with a One-Day Tamarack Workshop
By: Graham Jackson

Read the post >


Sillouette near reflecting water

Cities Reducing Poverty: When Mayors Lead - A Reflection
By: Danielle Klooster

Read the post >


Citizen-Led Innovation for a New Economy - Cover

Citizen-Led Innovation for a New Economy
By: Tamarack

Read the post >

Upcoming Events


Deepening Community 2016: Resilient Neighbourhoods - When People Care

June 7-9, 2016
Edmonton, Alberta

Municipalities and neighbourhoods are being confronted with a range of complex issues that are beyond the capacity of any one group or sector to effectively address. At the same time, individuals of all ages are experiencing the physical and psychological impact of increased isolation. Deepening Community offers the opportunity to establish relationships, cultivate the ability that comes from giving and receiving care, and offers the possibility to create powerful networks that have the capacity to actively co-create positive futures together. Together, let's create the resilience needed to 'bounce back' from crises and hardship and foster a sense of belonging.

Deepening Community 2016: Resilient Neighbourhoods - When People Care

Community Change Institute

September 26-30, 2016
Toronto, Ontario

We are excited to announce that the first ever Community Change Institute is being held in vibrant Toronto, Canada this Fall from September 26 - 30, 2016. Our cities, the places we live, provide amazing opportunities for resilience in these disruptive times. The Tamarack Institute Team has worked over the last year to re-think and re-build our annual five day learning event to respond to this challenge. Join us, along with world-renowned though leaders Severn Cullis-Suzuki, Roger Martin, Frances Westley, and Stephen Patrick.

Community Change Institute 2016

Deepening Community for Collective Impact

June 14, 2016 in Toronto, ON
June 23, 2016 in London, ON

Join Paul Born, cofounder and President of Tamarack Institute, in this one day workshop to learn how to engage and deepen your community in order to build a common agenda for large scale change. Learn not only the fundamental principles of Collective Impact, but explore key insights on how Deepening Community can sustain us as leaders and produce the outcomes we so desire.

Paul Born

Resilient Communities: Cultivating Citizen Leadership for Collective Impact

June 20, 2016
Orillia, Ontario

Join internationally recognized facilitator and community builder Sylvia Cheuy for a workshop exploring citizen leadership - how it is nurtured and why it is a strategy a growing number of organizations and municipalities are embracing.

Sylvia Cheuy

Resilience Talks

Speakers: A 4-Part Learning Series with Milton Friesen
April 19th - June 24th, 2016| 1:00 - 2:00 p.m. EST

In this powerful Learning Series, our host, Milton Friesen, will explore four urban dynamics that contribute to resilience with thought-leaders from across Canada who specialize in the areas of place-making, social networking, measurement of social resilience, and economics that will generate insight for planners, policy makers and community leaders who are seeking to increase the adaptive capacity of cities. Join Milton for this insightful Learning Series that invites you to explore the different urban dynamics that contribute to resilient communities and cities.

Milton Friesen

Gearing Up for Social Impact

Speakers: Brenton Caffin, NESTA & Tim Draimin, Social Innovation Generation (SiG)
May 18, 2016 | 12:00 - 1:00 p.m. EST

Join Brenton Caffin and Tim Draimin in a conversation about the DIY Toolkit, the lessons Nesta is learning about scaling social impact and how you can benefit from these tools and resources when facing complex issues in your own work.

Brenton Caffin



Share this Issue:

About Engage!

Engage! e-magazine is published to bring you inspiration, ideas, and resources to envision and create vibrant communities. We would love your ideas to help us improve our format. Please email us with your comments.

Engage! e-magazine is brought to you by:

Tamarack Institute
140 Westmount Rd N 
Waterloo, ON
N2L 3G6, Canada
Tel: 519-885-5155 
Email: tamarack@tamarackcommunity.ca
Web: http://tamarackcommunity.ca