Stories of Change and Words of Wisdom

Stories of Change and Words of Wisdom

By IMPACT! Youth Program – September 17, 2011
IMPACT! Youth Program

“Saturday’s Stories of Change session featured two 2009 IMPACT! alumni sharing cases of organizational and personal change. The stories were the jumping-off point for group discussion on reimagining spaces and overcoming personal barriers to action.

To stimulate our imaginations, Émanuèle Lapierre-Fortin walked us through the beautiful village of Sainte-Camille in Québec’s Eastern Townships where community innovation, co-operative development, and adaptive re-use brought the community back from the brink of extinction. Here, the former general store is a vibrant arts centre. The rectory is a co-operative seniors’ residence with a gift shop and other rental housing. The church has been redesigned to maintain the sanctuary and now houses the local library, a community room and the Mayor’s office.

Then participants imagined or recounted examples of transformed spaces like

  • Old castles and churches transformed in to climbing gyms, with shops and other uses
  • University tunnel systems converted into bike storage or cold cellars
  • Transport containers into mobile grocery stores in urban areas that don’t have a grocery store
  • A park shed transformed into a bike repair, rebuild and shop… and great hang-out
  • A former warehouse now home to a half-pipe, a rendering space for film production, and soon a pop-up restaurant
  • Wilfred Laurier U Brantford’s re-use of 21 downtown buildings that have stimulated new arts and political movements and decreased crime rates

The focus tightened to a more personal level when Keleigh Annau, shared the personal barriers she encountered when founding Lights Out Canada. “The biggest barrier was my own fear of looking stupid,” she said. But with the encouragement of people like Dev Aujlaand the assistance of experts in the field to lend credibility to the then 16year old’s lesson plans, Lights Out Canada took off. Click here to hear more about Keleigh’s story!

Keleigh’s talk also highlighted a recurring theme at IMPACT! : the importance of staying connected. In Lights Out Canada’s six year history, personal contacts made at conferences and events continued to provide assistance or insights that create value for her organization. For example, she stayed connected with Dev for encouragement and advice. A discussion with her academic mentor at IMPACT!2009 led her to reflect on the sustainability of her organization and eventual launch of a provincial ambassador’s program. And, funding from The Co-operators IMPACT! Fund enabled her to translate and professionally design her lesson plans to extend her reach and impact (click here to view Keleigh’s video).

Pointing out that a personal story of change is not an individual venture, Keleigh invited everyone to share some of the barriers that have prevented them from taking action and to discuss strategies to identify and overcome them. These included the commonly encountered apathy, finding balance, overcoming concern about credibility and youth, motivating reluctant leaders, finding focus and feeling like you have not done enough.

Of course, we can all heed their wise advice:

  • “We are each other’s army” Use your networks for encouragement and assistance
  • Avoid burnout by ensuring that you exercise and preserve personal space every day
  • Even if you talk to 5 people, it’s five more than before – don’t underestimate the ripple effects
  • Find your focus”
See Keleigh’s talk at IMPACT! online at: