publication date: Aug 16, 2012
author/source: Janet Gadeski
"Faster, higher, stronger." Those ideals drove Canadian
field hockey player Ian Bird
his all at two Olympics in1988 and 2000. Now they drive his vision of what
Canadians can achieve for their communities by working together.
"There were 30 to 35 guys doing something together over a
decade," he recalls. Each top-notch player had been the star of his local team.
On the Olympic team, though, those 35 leaders had to work together. Their joint
effort transformed Canadian field hockey from a backwater sport into an
internationally competitive game.
That experience opened Bird's eyes to the impact of
collective power. Now, as president and CEO of Community Foundations of Canada
, he's applying his passion for
collaboration to lead CFC's Smart and
In his first year, he's already noted the huge shift in the
workings of philanthropy - a shift so great that he now says, "The philanthropy
paradigm no longer works ... Even the word ‘philanthropy' is changing its
meaning. It's no longer about what one has and another doesn't."
Rather, he continues, the new model rests on what everyone
brings to the table. Those who were traditionally described as "recipients" now
expect involvement in shaping programs and policies. Agencies, citizens, and donors
all recognize that while some may have money, others have knowledge, experience
and ideas that are just as essential to address seemingly intractable
Community foundations' dependence on the knowledge and
experience of their citizens led to Vital
, which the association describes as "an annual check-up that measures
the quality of life in Canadian communities, identifies trends, and shares
opportunities for action." It's as different as can be from traditional,
top-down, check-box, form-based information gathering.
"The process goes way beyond information," Bird explains. "How
you get there is just as important as the final report." Community
participation - consultation, reflection - informs what is asked and how. When
the reports are released, healthy partnerships to address key issues are
already in place, thanks to the collective information gathering. Bird calls it
a great combination of community participation and robust information.
Collective action vital
for great impact
It's not surprising that an Olympian sees a parallel between
community problem-solving and world-class team effort. "Most of those
performances revolve around doing something more by tapping the abilities of
people around you," he enthuses. "Look at what [coach] John Herdman accomplished
with our women's soccer team. We won't make the impact we want without
coordination and collective action."
Bird never misses a chance to lead collaboration by example.
Canada's community foundations have been honoured with an Impact Award from
the U.S.-based Community Indicators
for their leadership on Vital
. CFC says the award goes to projects "that best demonstrate the power
of indicators to drive positive community change." The Olympian collaborator
immediately shares the credit.
"Our network is honoured to receive this
recognition and we share this award with all the local organizations who work
with us on Vital Signs
and who use it
as a tool for action," he declares.Photo: Community Foundations of Canada
more information, Skana Gee, 902-466-7191; Anne-Marie McElrone,
902-466-8284. More news about the Impact Award here.