October 25, 2004
Partners in Action
Attendance: 9 members, 2 friends and 19 guests
Desmond Berghofer welcomed people on behalf of the Institute and asked
them to introduce themselves. This is the fourth of five mini-conferences
being held in 2004. Brief reference was made to the previous events and
to several ongoing projects being supported by the Institute. Further
information can be found at www.ethicalleadership.com.
The program was introduced by Gerri Schwartz who made the following points:
- We have chosen the vehicle of storytelling to open up the various
silos in which we live. The institutions in our society tend to operate
as silos. Within universities, different disciplines tend to act in
isolation. This is beginning to break down with efforts to create interdisciplinary
degrees, but isolation is still a major problem.
- Gerri had a different kind of experience in 1979 when she led a project
at the University of British Columbia in the International Year of the
Child. This event was co-sponsored by 2 universities, 5 organizations
and 50 Vancouver institutions. They hosted 23 speakers from around the
world. They met across the boundaries of discipline, country and language.
- We have invited our speakers tonight to talk about nurturing through
partnership and collaboration. Gerri referred to a new book of inspirational
stories and photographs of women making a difference through partnership
and collaboration from all around the world. It is entitled “Womanhood”
with text by Donna Nebenzahl and photographs by Nance Ackerman. One
particular story is about two grandmothers in Argentina who have worked
over 30 years to find and reunite children with their original families
after their mothers were murdered by the military government of the
- Scientific research shows that participating in nurturing relationships
is good for us. It releases a chemical called oxytocin into the blood
stream which enhances the immune system. This is the same substance
produced by nursing mothers to nurture their babies.
Diane Jennings, Chair of the Relationships and Personal Development Sector,
took over the meeting and introduced the guest speakers.
Brenda Broughton. Brenda
is the Chief Operating Officer of Rehabilitative Ergonomics Inc., a national
rehabilitative service organization. She is also the former mayor of Lions
Bay and is committed to a team-based approach. In her presentation Brenda
told a number of stories to illustrate important principles.
- Being in partnership means letting go of your own ideas to empower
others. This puts you into touch with your own “powerfulness”
without exercising power over anyone else. Brenda learned this from
early childhood experiences of growing up in a family consisting of
a “team of girls” and from attending a key workshop when
she was Director of Employee Assistance for Family Services.
- Brenda told a story of a partnership of people that emerged out of
several linear communities along Howe Sound. People came together to
partner on a project. In the process they found that Howe Sound had
no plan for itself. People got to know each other. They decided to go
on a boat trip to visit each community along Howe Sound—93 people
on an all-day trip from Bowen Island to Gibsons, to Howe Sound Pulp
and Paper, to Lions Bay, to Squamish, where they celebrated in the Recreation
Centre. From this experience people found that their thoughts began
to knit together. Differences floated away. This led to the signing
of an agreement about sustainability. They were able to disagree with
passion on some details but agree on the big picture.
- Partnering comes from our place of humanity. Brenda acknowledged
Gerri Schwartz as a professional who partners with families. She compared
this to a story told by Gerri of a boy who nurtured the seeds of flowers
in his garden and made them grow stronger than the wild ones in the
field. Each family blooms more beautifully through the partnered relationship.
Judy Stevens. Judy has
an international and business background. She is a keynote speaker and
is very active in the Liberal party. Judy chose one story to illustrate
the power of partnering.
- In 1989 she was part of a group who shared a vision of creating an
annual Shakespeare Festival in Vancouver. Other attempts had failed,
but a strange mixture of skills eventually proved to be successful.
- Judy was one of three “suits”—a fundraiser, an
accountant (Judy) and a lawyer. They saw that they would have to change
the structure from an Actors Cooperative to a Non Profit Organization.
Judy found herself in the role of “cultural interpreter”
between the actors and the lawyer.
- They formed a lot of partnerships—with the Canada Council,
the Vancouver Parks Board, the actors and technicians (who agreed to
work without a specified salary up front), Actors Equity (who bent their
rules), and a host of volunteers.
- They got their huge tent in Vanier Park, but had no security budget,
so all shared nights sleeping on the stage with the valuables.
- It was wet and cold. Costumes got wet. The wardrobe mistress took
on the added role of drying the costumes at home overnight.
- Everyone had to pitch in to do whatever needed to be done. Now in
2004 things are different. In their first year they began with 35 performances
to an audience of 6000 people. This year they held 195 performances
to an audience of 66,900.
- The story of Bard on the Beach is symbolic of stories going on all
over the city. It is still a non profit society flourishing on partnerships.
Andrea Reimer. Andrea is
Vancouver School Board Trustee and the only elected member of the Green
Party in Canada. She is also the Executive Director of the Western Canada
Wilderness Committee and is active on several other boards and agencies.
She spoke about how things changed in the Vancouver School district when
- Andrea admitted that she probably suffers from too many relationships.
Many of the organizations she works with are examples of partnerships
- She noted that the core value of the Vancouver School Board is that
“Relationships are the Medium for Learning.” She told the
story of how that statement got to be there.
- Andrea's original motive for running for school board office
was to lobby for more money, but when she got there she found that all
guns were turned inward. Nobody could agree on how to share the pie.
- She described the District Planning Process on priorities. Each sector
was geared up to argue for the largest share of the pie it could get.
Andrea called this the “Pieathon.” However, the Superintendent
circumvented this behaviour by asking people (there were 60 in the room)
to talk about their values. The discussion went on for a long time and
people came to realize that they all had the same values. The outcome
was that there is no longer a District Plan but rather three key emphases:
Equity, Advocacy and Relationships. Everything they do is now measured
against these three qualities.
- The Board received $3 million additional dollars and no one fought
over how to use it. They met with the Minister and agreed on many things.
- The bottom line is that when relationships work well in the School
Board 60,000 children are the beneficiaries.
Members of the audience were asked to find a partner they did not know
and share an inspiring story. They would be asked to volunteer to tell
their partner's story when the plenary reconvened.
Three members of the audience shared their partner's stories:
- About a visual artist and sculptor who got into the depths of his
own emotions in a performance.
- About a partnership of Jewish and Muslim people who are building
bridges across their differences.
- About a teacher of Dru Yoga who resonated to the teaching of a spiritual
leader and now is involved in work with the Peace Flame.
Gerri Schwartz led a discussion about Connections
III. This is a major conference the Institute is planning to hold
in 2005. Gerri referred briefly to the two previous conferences, Connections
I (1999) and Connections II (2001).
The “Connections” theme is an example of the relationships
agenda of tonight's meeting in the form of building bridges between
people and organizations. We have heard tonight about how big things come
from small beginnings and how large organizations can be renewed by looking
at themselves in a different way.
The question for discussion is: What kind of bridges should we cross
in Connections III? Several ideas were advanced:
- Cultural connections, taking the larger view of culture (not just
ethnicity). The conference could be an exercise in cultural interpretation
- Values connections
- Alternative forms of communication from people who are not normally
- View of people not with disabilities, but with abilities. Talk about
strengths. “Difabilities” (as in differences) is a better
- Disability but not impairment.
- Create an event that honours connections between people.
- View through a lens of appreciation.
- Focus on what we share.
- The core piece is having respect for each other.
- At the centre is our humanity.
- Make connections with people who are living in poverty.
- Religious connections stressing similarities (rather than differences).
- The conference should be different from the spectator model of listening
passively to a speaker. The audience should be engaged (as it was tonight)
Gerri asked for a show of hands of who would be interested in coming
to such an event. Most people in the room indicated their interest. Gerri
suggested that everyone in the room was the centre of a network of some
kind. What if we were able to bring these organizations into the room
to have a meaningful experience and plan the follow-up steps at the same
Gerri said that she and Diane see the Relationships theme to be at the
core of what the Institute is about. Everything begins with an ethical
relationship. She invited people to become a Friend or Member of the Institute
and work with us on planning Connections III.
Gerri invited people to have another sharing relationship with a stranger
for about 10 minutes.
Maggie Gold, Chair of the Health and Wellness Sector, distributed a flyer
describing the next meeting on November 22. The topic is “Putting
Prevention into Health Care.”
As part of the recent Health Accord between Canadian First Ministers,
for the first time in the history of the Canadian Health Care System,
the concepts of “prevention” and maintaining good health have
been recognized and identified as items to be funded. The question now
facing Health Authorities is what policies and programs will they implement
in the field of “Prevention.?”
The Institute has decided to take a proactive stance and offer its help
in answering these questions. We have invited representatives from the
Fraser Basin and Coastal Health Authorities to come to the meeting on
November 22 and briefly speak to their need for public input. Then the
rest of the meeting will be devoted to gathering ideas from the participants
and crafting this into a report to be submitted to Government and other
This promises to be an exciting, interactive event
November 22, 2004: 5:30 – 8:30 p.m.,
Vancouver Public Library
Theme: Health and Wellness
Topic: Putting Prevention into Health Care
Everyone is invited to come and bring others.
Please confirm attendance by November 18 to Desmond Berghofer
at 604-734-2544 or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.