Learn more about the 2013 Award leaders
Jocelyne Bernier—community researcher and advocate for health equity in Montréal.
For more than 30 years, Jocelyne has worked with creativity and imagination in community development, believing that, “when we act together, we go further”. At the heart of her work is the inclusion of all stakeholders, especially those who are most vulnerable in her Montreal neighbourhood of Pointe-Saint-Charles. She has led many community-based interventions to improve the living conditions of those who live in poverty, including the Opération populaire d’aménagement process, which engages community members in proposals to improve their living conditions and quality of life. Whether she is working with the community to protect a park, improve services or find an alternative to a mega-project, Jocelyne champions a vision of a healthy future that responds to local needs.
Her Career Path
Jocelyne began her career in the field of research. She studied sociology in the 1960s, then went on to lead a study on church-affiliated social movements, under the supervision of Fernand Dumont.
Her knowledge of social movements, coupled with a wish to be directly involved, led her to work on the launch of public day care – most notably, in the Pointe-Saint-Charles district in southwest Montreal. This area’s main distinguishing features are its residents’ low socio-economic status and its long tradition of social action.
Jocelyne then joined the Clinique communautaire de Pointe-Saint-Charles, which had been jointly founded by community members and medical students at McGill University. This clinic, the only one in Montreal run by a citizens’ board of directors and one of the models used to create CSLCs (local community service centres), is a mainstay for the local population. During this period, Jocelyne’s role as a stakeholder for social issues led her to facilitate the creation of several support groups, including one of teenage mothers and a company that helps with youth rehabilitation, now known as Paradoxe.
Jocelyne was ultimately appointed to the clinic’s administration, and remained in this position for 10 years. In 1997, she returned to school to study health administration. She then joined the Centre of excellence for Women’s Health, where her work focused on the impact of healthcare system reforms on women.
Today, Jocelyne holds the Chair in Community Approaches and Health Inequalities. In her capacity as coordonator, she brings together non-profit community organizations, local Intersectoral Tables, foundations such as the United Way, as well as the City of Montreal, the Public Health Branch and others, so they can work together at developing cooperative research on interventions intended to reduce social inequalities in health.
What value do you attach to mentoring and how do you succeed in bringing out other people’s talents?
I see mentoring as a product of dialogue and inclusion; it’s the idea of working with people rather than leading them.
I believe that people learn by experience rather than by reading or research. But the latter is also needed, to systematize the experience and disseminate it more widely.
What advice do you have for emerging leaders?
Don’t lose your enthusiasm or become jaded.
Be sure you’re always listening to people. What it takes is a will to act, to bring about change and then to become part of a collective movement.
D’Arcy Farlow—change agent and leader for healthy communities in Ontario
D’Arcy has been working to improve the health of communities for nearly three decades. She has an inclusive leadership style that ‘leads from behind’ to cultivate mutual respect and empower others to believe in themselves and achieve results. D’Arcy has a deep knowledge of how intersectoral action can impact the social determinants of health. She has mentored community leaders throughout the province and has brought her skills to many projects in the Waterloo region, particularly in the areas of safe neighbourhoods and food security. In her role as Chair of the City of Waterloo's Safe and Healthy Communities Advisory Committee, she worked with others to co-create an innovative decision-making lens so that all city decisions are reviewed for their broader impact on health.
What do you think is the most valuable attribute of leadership?
I believe I offer my best leadership when I am listening, really listening. That is when I am grounded, open and really in tune with what is going on within the group. Listening is one of the important attributes of leadership and occurs when there is a space for people to be open and transparent with each other.
What advice do you have for emerging leaders?
Realize that you do not need to be the expert or have all the answers. Trust that the wisdom is right there in the group. A leader’s role is to draw out that wisdom from within the group and to find the answers together. Don’t be afraid to let go of your own ego and trust the expertise that is all around you. Best practices are often out of date and are not based on emerging research and reality so we need to be completely open to what is emerging today. Remember that every group you work with has its own fresh perspectives on what needs to happe
Sid Frankel— strategic advocate working with Winnipeg’s vulnerable communities
For more than 30 years, Sid’s inspiring leadership has had a wide and deep impact on the lives of vulnerable groups in Winnipeg. As an Associate Professor of Social Work at the University of Manitoba and as a volunteer in the community, Sid offers skills as both a researcher and community advocate. He connects with the community, and walks beside people—not above or ahead of them. He is a tireless leader who never misses an opportunity to improve the wellbeing of children, families or communities. His leadership has led to key initiatives in the areas of social planning, youth homelessness and child poverty.
What inspires you to keep going despite various challenges you face in this work?
I’ve been lucky to bridge my academic/research work with my work in and among community services. Each informs the other. I can bring many perspectives to research and I can check things out with people who are living the research question! I am both patient and impatient … things really need to change more quickly than they have and, yet, I am also able to understand the nature of structural barriers. We look for the small rock that we can move if we can’t move the big rock right now. ‘Let’s figure out what small rock we can leverage out of the way. Who do we need to partner with?’
I’ve learned to use my impatience for motivation while refusing to let it turn into frustration. In the real world we need to look for spots where we can have the most impact, manage our own pessimism and figure out how to work with the absolute widest range of people possible.
What are your thoughts/perspective on leading community change?
The process begins with someone or a group saying that something new or different should be happening in our community. Then we need to step back from our own view to understand the ‘ecology’ of the community. Talk with key people and learn about other perspectives and organizational interests or goals. These conversations change the shape of things and begin a collaboration where strategic discussions can take place. ‘What can we do together about this?’
Victor Willis—helping people understand the wide-ranging effects of poverty in west Toronto.
Victor is an inspiring change agent who works to improve the lives of vulnerable people. As the Executive Director of Parkdale Activity-Recreation Centre (PARC) in Toronto’s west end, he has built bridges between neighbours, service providers, businesses, and all levels of government to serve the needs of marginalized community members facing poverty, homelessness, and mental health challenges. Victor has a deep respect for community needs and an unwavering belief that everyone deserves dignity, respect and community connections. He has a rare ability to help people who have lived relatively privileged lives understand the challenges faced by many of the members of the PARC community. With Victor’s leadership, PARC has been able to address the broader barriers that lead to poverty and social exclusion, and share the responsibility of building a healthier community for all.
What are your thoughts on leading community change?
The most important thing is to listen to the people who use the service, and be open and available so they can be comfortable to share their experiences. Our members represent certain stakeholder groups who also sit in areas of policy, so we continue to build on what they tell us.
We work with people who may have been told they are “broken”, and we encourage them to rebuild their lives, as constituents of our community. There is a great need for understanding and equity. You need to reframe the message to suit the audience, but continue to be clear about the values you are trying to represent.
What advice do you have for emerging leaders?
Three things: take risks, try things and learn from your mistakes. And, I believe that leadership has to be nurtured. Some of the best leaders are the unlikely ones— the people who don`t see themselves as leaders.