Here’s one way Calgary leaders are tackling social issues

connections2When Calgarians start new conversations, they can find ways to make Calgary even better.

That’s the premise of We Should Know Each Other, a popular meeting of strangers hosted by local theatre artist Mark Hopkins. The purpose of the meetings is to expand Calgarians social circles beyond their normal comfort zones, which ultimately leads to new friendships and relationships that would never have come about if we stayed within our own little groups.

That same idea underlies the United Way-led Leading Boldly Network, a network for social change comprised of leaders in the human services sector. The nine executive directors in the group are tasked with combating very complex social problems such as poverty, domestic violence and mental illness.

“The more we are connected to one another, the more we can see where opportunities align,” says Brenna Atnikov, a facilitator leader with Leading Boldly. “It’s an opportunity to collectively become wiser and smarter about the decisions we make, the resources we spend.”

So instead of going at it alone, they’re exploring something called collaborative social innovation, exploring new ways to resolve social problems for the benefit of society. “Our nine executive directors don’t have a lot of time in their lives to reflect on things, as you can imagine,” says Monica Pohlmann, another facilitator with the network.

The Leading Boldly Network brings these leaders together to give them that space and time – freedom to explore and make mistakes. It’s a model that has been used elsewhere, including Boston (see video below), to great success.

What if our great leaders became a great network? from Barr Foundation on Vimeo.

The collaborative element to the network allows for fresh ways of thinking and different ways of addressing problems. “We can be really honest about the fact that my perspective only allows me to see so much,” says Pohlmann.  “We need other people to be part of these really generative, interesting, formative conversations that help us all do our work better.”

So what can this do for Calgary? Right now, the network is working with the provincial government on new ways to address issues surrounding early childhood development to help all children thrive by the age of 5.

The network aims to connect people who already have the capacity to create change. Whether they are in the non-profit sector, a business owner or a member of a government institution, the goal is an environment where community members can be a part of the solution.

“The fact that United Way has made this investment shows that it’s leading boldly,” says Pohlmann.