Playing to our strengths

My first op-ed, on the power of our network in Atlantic Canada, featured in the Chronicle Herald on February 1st, 2016.


I chose to stay and build my career in Atlantic Canada. Some of you reading this may have also made that decision – I had my own reasons, and I’m sure you had yours. Some of you may have left and come back, and others may have come here for the first time. No matter how you found your way here, I’m happy that you’re reading this today because it means you care about this place, and I think that is the best possible point from which we can start this chat.

I’ve just taken the role of executive director with an incredible organization: 21inc. 21inc was founded 10 years ago in response to youth leaving the region in unprecedented numbers. Our goal is to accelerate leadership – to have high-potential young people take positions of leadership and influence earlier in their careers so that they can stay, and help shape our future. A decade later, we’re still working on this. In chatting with one of the founders about what has changed in the last 10 years, he said that we’re way more connected today than we were then. I think that’s great news. I spend my days thinking about what that could mean for the next 10 years.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about what accelerating leadership looks like. In chatting with people about the organization, almost everyone I’ve spoken with has said: ‘the power of 21inc is the network’. They’ve said that a region-wide network of like-minded peers to both support and challenge them has positively impacted their lives. And that’s been true for me – I’ve had years when it felt like I everyone I knew left Atlantic Canada. Finding 21inc in 2012 meant that I now have a network of diverse and thoughtful people to call across Atlantic Canada.

I’ve been asked: is a network an outcome? Yes, I believe it is. I recently watched this great TEDx talk by Robert Waldinger. He has the distinct privilege of leading the 75-year long Harvard research study on happiness. Guess what they found as the key factor in longevity and happiness? The quality of our relationships. I was simultaneously surprised at the simplicity of it, and then wasn’t surprised at all.

So, why stay in Atlantic Canada? I think one of our competitive advantages for youth – and others – is our interconnectedness. In my career, I’ve realized that anyone I need to talk to is only one or two calls away (whether it be a CEO, a deputy minister, or a musician). I think we don’t talk about that enough – that people are willing to talk to you here, if you’re willing to do your homework and reach out for advice. There are countless opportunities for you to ‘make your own luck’. My goal over the next few years is to make 21inc the place where people in our region can turn to when they move (or stay) here, when they want to chat about ideas, be challenged or supported – basically, to increase our interconnectedness and the quality of our relationships.

I’m writing this from my little house in Fredericton, N.B. in a neighbourhood where people stop to say hi and help you shovel your driveway. I feel so lucky to live here. While my home is in Fredericton, I truly feel like a resident of the Atlantic Provinces. Our challenges look much the same. We’re all in this together. Let’s celebrate and leverage our interconnectedness and build better outcomes together. Over the next several months, I’ll be bringing together members of our network with senior leaders across the region to stimulate innovation and build stronger cross-generational relationships. If you think you or your organization could benefit from feedback from a network of 250+ well-connected emerging leaders from across sectors, I invite you to reach out to

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