We have to be able to see something in our minds before we can bring it into being.
Julia Grady is world class at both parts of that equation. She can imagine a change and rally people to make it happen. (I just finished reading Patrick Lencioni’s newest book, The 6 Types of Working Genius. Julia is definitely a genius at Inventing and Galvanizing!) A few years ago, she saw the potential in a dilapidated furniture store and bravely mobilized community investment to turn it into a buzzing community coworking space called 10C.
More recently, she’s led 10C into taking over the Guelph’s Farmer’s Market from the City and transforming what was a good, weekly market space into a more lively, great one that is animated for more purposes more often. As someone grateful to live in her city, I can see the positive effects of Julia’s ideas and collaborative skills coming to fruition already. Her vision for community placemaking comes from being able to imagine possibilities that don’t yet exist.
Jennifer Hutton shows imagination in a different but equally powerful way. When we worked together on a strategic plan for Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region a few years ago, the organization she leads, one of the breakthrough moments came when the group realized that although they were known as a women’s shelter, they are far more than that. “More than Shelter” became the theme for this season of their work.
One specific way I’ve watched WCSWR lean into that vision is through their powerful communication campaigns, under the banner of She Is Your Neighbour. The campaign caught my attention at first through striking photographic portraits in bus shelters, of people who have been touched by domestic and intimate partner violence (taken by the fabulous Hilary Gauld, who also took the portraits featured in ELASTIC). It has expanded into a powerful podcast. The new season has recently been released, and it focuses on femicide. WCSWR is becoming a thought leader and system-level influencer. Definitely more than shelter. I’d encourage you to have a listen.
If you can see it, you can be it. Part of seeing involves being able to imagine a new way of being in the first place. It’s not easy work. I’m thankful to be surrounded by people who are learning together, how to hone that skill of collective imagination.
Find more real-life examples of leaders that demonstrate the ELASTIC characteristics here, and in my new book, ELASTIC: Stretch without snapping or snapping back.