EXCLerator Project: women as leaders

28 09 2014

The Women & Diversity EXCLerator Project is the first of its kind to present a comprehensive overview of women’s representation in senior leadership positions in Hamilton and Halton’s most prominent organizations. In a project report recently released by YWCA Hamilton, in partnership with McMaster University and the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce Women’s Leadership Group, an analysis of women in leadership across nine sectors provides a benchmark for measuring future progress.

“Ensuring women are proportionately represented at the decision-making table makes sense from a social and business perspective. Fair representation of women in top positions impacts organizations’ policy choices, improves their ability to serve communities, increases innovation and creativity in problem solving, and advances perceptions of institutional legitimacy”.

Board_of_DirectorsThe report shows that women are underrepresented in senior leadership positions across all sectors in Hamilton and Halton. The EXCLerator Project will continue to collect and analyze data on women in leadership across these communities, with an emphasis on recognizing barriers and then setting goals, devising strategies, and measuring changes in inclusivity over time.

To view the full report, visit www.ywcahamilton.org


Hamilton Changemakers

13 07 2013


What if all children in Hamilton were thriving? What would that make possible? What conditions need to be in place for that to happen?


These were the central questions that brought together a room full of Hamiltonians this past week to think about creating the future we all want for our community. The afternoon gathering was hosted by the Community Child Abuse Council, Alternatives for Youth, and Hamilton Food Share. These three agencies have applied some of the thinking and approaches developed by Creating the Future, a “living laboratory” devoted to social progress co-founded by Hildy Gottlieb and Dimitri Petropolis. As local early adopters of this work, these agencies have been inspired to pursue vision-driven change in what many would see as very different areas of endeavour – child abuse, addiction, hunger. In fact, all share similar visions of a thriving community.

Seeing an opportunity to join together in this shared pursuit, these 3 organizations invited their key partners and supporters to gather for a conversation about what would be possible if we all aimed for the same goal: a thriving community. The resulting “Gathering of Changemakers” event brought together 40+ community leaders, thinkers, and visionaries from across a wide swath of the Hamilton community, including health, social services, policing, business, service clubs, funders, and others. Special guests, Hildy Gottlieb and Dimitri Petropolis of Creating the Future, engaged the gathering in a series of discussions focused on highest potential and the steps needed to realize our shared vision of a thriving Hamilton.



And what a conversation it was! We learned that while we may sometimes disagree on the “how”, we share the same aspirations and values – we want everyone in our community to thrive, knowing that our community overall will thrive as a result. And, despite some early doubts about whether this goal is actually achievable, we learned that we already know what is required to make our desired future happen. Just as we’re able to get to the airport on time when we leave on a trip, we are able to identify the steps we need to take in order to get to our shared goal. We work backwards to figure out what we need to do (e.g. what time to set our alarm so we don’t miss our flight). The starting point is our vision, and from there we simply need to identify the favourable conditions that will get us there. It’s something we do every day, in virtually every part of our lives, but we aren’t doing it in our efforts to achieve the future we want for our community.

It’s going to take practice. We’re going to have to ask different questions, and challenge some of the assumptions we’ve inherited about people, systems, and the impact each of us is having on the future of our world each and every day (whether we do so consciously or not). And we’re going to need more Hamiltonians to join us in this ongoing conversation. We’ll be working on these things, and talking to each other about next steps. And we know this isn’t going to result in overnight change. But imagining what would be possible if all children in our community were thriving has us excited enough to keep moving forward in this direction – finding our commonalities, working from our shared values, and aiming at the highest possible potential for the community we all care about so deeply.

Stay tuned!



Time to speak up

29 10 2011

Our local police force released statistics about crime rates last week, garnering attention both for the drop in overall crimes and for the disturbing increase in certain categories. An increase in the number of local murders, in particular, has resulted  in a 4.2% overall increase in violent crimes vs last year. But the increases in sexual assaults against women and children, and in child pornography, are especially alarming.

Media coverage about the numbers (and some local blogs) quoted area politicians’ reactions to the figures, focused on the costs of policing and the difficulties in comparing numbers across municipalities. Hamilton isn’t Muskoka, one Councillor pointed out. The figures are to be reviewed in more detail. Let’s hope that review considers the costs of these crimes to our community not only in a financial context but in the price paid by victims and their families. Crimes against children, in particular, tear at the very fabric of our neighbourhoods and diminish us all as members of this community.

Hamilton is above the Canadian average for violent crimes. And our rate of sexual assaults against children as well as child pornography has been rising. Policing aside, what are we as a community doing about that? Are we talking about it, outraged by it, seeking solutions to change it? There is much to think about given these latest crime statistics. The thinking cannot be limited, however, to the sphere of law enforcement and municipal government. Conversations need to happen in private homes and coffee shops as well – what do we think about the sentencing handed out to those who prey on children? What messages might we send to make sure the vast majority’s outrage over these despicable crimes is understood?

The burden of finding and apprehending the criminals represented in the statistics rests on our Hamilton Police Service. But they cannot and should not stand as our only response to child abuse, woman abuse, or child pornography. These are crimes with roots in societal issues. These are crimes that send powerful messages, of the very worst kind, to kids. Our continued silence won’t do anything to change that.

A few bad apples…

14 03 2011

March is Fraud Prevention Month, prompting a quiz sponsored by CanadaHelps and Capital One concerning charitable giving. To take the online quiz and see how much you know about charitable fraud, click here: http://www.canadahelps.org/.

Charity fraud is rare in Canada despite media coverage that might suggest otherwise. In more than 20 years working in the charitable sector, with dozens and dozens of organizations, I have never once come across actual fraud. We have a reasonably strict system of monitoring and enforcement here in Canada, making it tough to scam donors or operate fraudulent charities. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) pulls the plug on those who try, resulting in loss of charitable status or revoked registration.

Mark Blumberg’s Canadian Charity Law List for this month includes examples of this enforcement in action. “CRA has revoked the registration of The Organ Donation & Transplant Association of Canada for excessive fundraising and administrative fees and for involvement in an ‘international donation arrangement'”. Apparently this organization ran into trouble for gifts in kind whose real value didn’t match their reported value. Then there’s Pediatric AIDS Canada/USA, whose registration was also revoked by CRA for high fundraising costs and involvement in an “international donation arrangement that artificially inflated expenditures on charitable activities”.

Both these organizations were included in a recent Toronto Star article about charity fraud (“Plug pulled on charity after audit reveals money misspent”, March 7, 2011). The article essentially deals with six organizations where cases of charitable spending or reporting breaches led to CRA intervention. I point this out because six organizations out of thousands who conduct themselves legitimately is a very small number. Even if there are other, as yet undiscovered, fraudsters out there they remain a very small percentage of Canada’s overall charitable sector. The damage they inflict, however, can be devastating to all.

Donor diligence is the best defense against making contributions to fraudulent causes. But donors should not become alarmed and think that fraud is rampant in Canadian charities. It is not. A very few bad apples make it extremely challenging for legitimate charities to maintain goodwill and donor trust (and often add to the costs of operating a bona fide charity). Volunteers, too, can be skeptical about supporting the sector if they don’t feel their efforts are aligned with legitimate and legal purposes. So there’s much at stake (donors, volunteers, public opinion) for the good apples.

Updated charity laws, aggressive prosecution of lawbreakers, and accessible information for donors and volunteers are all helping to keep fraud to an absolute minimum in Canada. One bad apple is one too many, but it’s important that the entire sector not be branded criminals by a very few examples of cheating, fraudulent fundraising, or illegal scams.

For more information, check these resources:



New year, new Act for Ontario Not-For-Profits

18 01 2011

The Corporations Act, which has applied to Ontario non-profits since 1907, was replaced in October with the Not-For-Profit Corporations Act. If you missed it, here’s a brief wrap-up of the pertinent content changes and a link to the new Act.

Legislative Assembly of Ontario

The Act is a legal framework, setting out rules for many of the same issues and requirements as the previous Corporations Act. The updates, however, were long overdue and address current issues and realities. Here’s what stands out among the highlights of Bill 65:

  • harmonizes regulations with other Canadian jurisdictions (including Canada Not-For-Profit Corporations Act of 2009)
  • simplified incorporation process (potentially from previous several weeks to just a few days)
  • directors now have statutory duty of care (act honestly, in good faith/best interests of the corporation, exercise the care, diligence and skill of a reasonably prudent person, and comply with Act and all by-laws)
  • liability protection provisions for directors (with certain conditions)
  • allows commercial activities if revenues used for the organization’s non-profit purpose
  • increases financial transparency (from changes in annual reporting to rules for accessing  records)

To access the Act at the Legislative Assembly of Ontario web site, use this link:


Let It Snow, But Be Ready

9 12 2010

The appearance of snow each year signals a seasonal change that typically includes a checklist for coping with winter. At home, this means finding the shovel, making sure there is plenty of ice-melt on hand, checking for dangerous icicles overhead, and watching that the dog’s paws don’t get iced up when outside playing. For those working in the not-for-profit world, the list is a slightly longer one.

Winter weather brings hazards, which means it’s time to make sure policies are updated and ready to deal with inclement weather issues such as agency closures, snow clearing, communicating cancellations and responding to utility outages. It’s also flu season – time to check that appropriate policies are on the books to deal with infectious outbreaks, employee absenteeism, management coverage and on-call duties. It’s a good time to review these policies with employees and volunteers, and to institute any necessary updates. Risk management policies are vital tools in the effort to keep everyone safe, and your entire team should be up to speed on their responsibilities.

Public Health officials are a good source for information and assistance with policy development concerning pandemic or infectious outbreak as well as universal precautions for dealing with everything from bloodborne pathogens to sanitary practices.

A policy and procedure tune-up should be considered essential at this time of year. Haven’t done it yet? The time is now…it’s snowing.

Alternatives for Youth

20 10 2010

The annual general meeting of Alternatives for Youth (AY) was held this week, and the election of volunteer board members saw a group of dedicated individuals take up the governance and leadership of the agency for the coming year. This is a small organization, not particularly well known, but a vital provider of services for local young people. AY provides substance abuse and addiction counselling and related programs for youth aged 12-23 and their families in the Hamilton area. They operate from a downtown location and several satellites, including numerous school-based locations.

Karen has been working with AY over the past year, assisting in a Review & Renewal process encompassing all areas of the organization. This has been a substantial undertaking for the agency, and has required considerable work on the part of volunteer board members in particular. The agency should be commended for its efforts to strengthen both governance and service delivery, and for its commitment to making valuable and visionary contributions to the Hamilton community. The AY staff team continues to provide much-needed services to young people and their families in the complicated realm of addiction, substance use, mental health and development.

If you are interested in the work of AY, or about volunteering in a governance or other capacity, contact Sue Kennedy, Executive Director, at (905) 527-4469.