Engage October 2019 Newsletter

Dear friends of Engage,

So far, 2019 has been a monumental year in Engage’s journey! The following newsletter highlights our Quality of Life Initiative efforts and public engagement work over the past nine months, an update on Share Thanksgiving, global connections, staff changes, and a glimpse of what’s ahead. It also includes a tribute to our dear friend, the late Michael Chender. 

We’ll soon be releasing a new website where you’ll be able to better learn about us, where we’ve been, and where we’re going. We’ll also share ways you can get engaged, tools and resources for public engagement, our blog, and more! This is our first newsletter in quite some time, and we have a lot to share. Thank you to those who have newly signed up to receive updates and to our long-time friends alike for joining us on this journey. Here we go!

Nova Scotia Quality of Life Initiative 

We started the calendar year focused on connecting one-on-one with groups and individuals to make sure the Survey phase of the Initiative was well-designed and received. During this process, we learned about a Functional Economic Region map of Nova Scotia, developed by Statistics Canada, that indicates the general zones where people live, work and play. This learning encouraged us to take a more in-depth look at the sense of belonging and connection Nova Scotians feel to the areas in which they live. 

It soon became clear that the survey needed to collect data at the community level to have a meaningful impact for all Nova Scotians. To mobilise this vision, we were fortunate to establish a partnership with Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC), and with the leadership of their campus principals, we formed nine regional cross-sectoral Local Leadership Teams. Raising survey awareness, driving survey participation, and mobilising outreach wouldn’t have been possible without the work of these groups. As we enter into the next phase of the initiative, we’ll continue to work with Local Leadership Teams to mobilise the data and encourage community action.

The Nova Scotia Quality of Life Survey received almost 13,000 responses, surpassing our goal of a ten percent response rate (8,000 survey responses).  According to our colleague, Bryan Smale, at the Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW), this is the most substantial data set ever collected through their approach. Pictured below is the number of survey responses by region.

Nearly 13,000 Nova Scotians have signalled that this is important work. We owe it to them to follow through on our promise to do something meaningful with their collective efforts. The CIW is collating and analysing the responses. Together we’ll dig into applications of the data, and strategies to ensure they are understandable, compelling and accessible. A first report will be created in the late fall of this year. In early 2020, we’ll work with stakeholders and regions to build capacity to mobilise the data at the local level. 

This initiative is a long game, and with your support, we’ll make it an exciting one! Feel free to email us with ongoing input, or go to the Take Action page to provide further feedback and to stay involved in the Initiative.

Public Engagement

Highlights of our public engagement efforts include a municipal engagement clinic in Truro and the One Cape Breton-Unama’ki Summit.

We continued to support the growth of relationships between community organisations, business leaders and other public leaders by hosting a hands-on public engagement clinic for mayors, councillors and staff in Truro for municipalities in the Northern Mainland in January.

The purpose of the clinic was to build capacity for public engagement by reinforcing basic principles, provide opportunities to share knowledge and tools, and to begin forming a learning network of engagement champions. Municipalities identified key issues they were facing, and we work-shopped collaborative and creative ideas to overcome those challenges.

In collaboration with Membertou First Nation and Cape Breton Partnership, we coordinated the second One Cape Breton-Unama’ki Summit in April. Attendees included mayors, wardens, chiefs and councillors from local communities around the Island, as well as leaders from business and academic institutions and youth. Participants discussed the future of the Island and strategised new ways for municipalities and Mi’kmaq communities to work together more closely. A spirited conversation from a panel of successful young Cape Bretoners was a highlight of the gathering.

Share Thanksgiving

After five years of coordinating a program that connected thousands of newcomers, international students and Nova Scotian families, the initiative has come to an end. Our organisation is still collaborating with people across Nova Scotia to make it a more vibrant, inclusive and welcoming place, but through different efforts.

Our focus now is predominantly on driving the Nova Scotia Quality of Life Initiative.  Amongst other things, this work gives us the potential to understand more deeply the daily lived experiences of our newcomers and many other Nova Scotians. 

We want to take a moment to thank partners of the initiative, newcomers, international students, and Nova Scotians who opened their homes who, like us, believed gathering and sharing a meal to be a vital part of building community. Share Thanksgiving wouldn’t have been such a success if it weren’t for all of those who supported and participated.

Global Connections

We’re encouraged that the Nova Scotia Quality of Life Initiative is receiving interest outside our province as a best practice for advancing wellbeing. Nancy Watson was invited to present on our work at a recent Community Indicators Consortium in Denver, Colorado.

Danny Graham was also invited to present at the Putting Well-being Metrix Into Policy Action workshop hosted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris, France. The OECD is the leading global organisation advancing a wellbeing agenda, and they are known for their Better Life Index. Other jurisdictions featured at the workshop included New Zealand, Finland, Iceland, Wales and Scotland. 

The Scottish Government, in particular, is comprehensively tackling these priorities. See their National Performance Framework and listen to an inspiring Ted Talk from their First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, here


We’ve said goodbye to team members without whom this year’s work wouldn’t have been possible. We want to acknowledge the significant contributions of Michael Flood and Nancy Watson. Michael is pursuing a Master’s in Social Policy and Social Innovation, and Nancy is back with the Nova Scotia Government as the Quality of Life Lead. Nancy was our first employee, and her vision and strategic insights contributed enormously to the foundation and direction of Engage.

With goodbyes came a few hellos and a welcome back. Claire Parsons and Tami Clarke joined our team this year, and we welcomed back Hailey Vidler after completing her Master’s in Strategic Leadership towards Sustainability. 

You can view our staff page here.

Remembering Michael Chender

Engage Nova Scotia lost one of its closest friends and inspirations this summer. Michael Chender was a visionary, a pioneer, and an intellectual force of nature.

His relentless dedication to understanding complex systems and reimagining a world that’s more loving and connected was astonishing. He was instrumental in establishing Engage Nova Scotia and was our first (generous) donor. He was also the driving force behind the founding of Authentic Leadership In Action (ALIA), Envision Halifax and the Wayside Initiative.

To learn more about Wayside and their upcoming programs on Collaboration and Conflict and Mindfulness and Wellbeing, visit waysideinitiative.ca.

Looking Ahead

Our work with the Nova Scotia Quality of Life Initiative continues to be our top priority. Soon we’ll share a treasure trove of data about the day-to-day lives of Nova Scotians from one tip of the province to the other. What we do with that information represents a huge opportunity. If you’d like to be part of a team working to find creative ways to use the data, please contact us directly.

To view our current websites, please visit engagenovascotia.ca and nsqualityoflife.ca. To stay connected, you can also us follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

With gratitude,

The Engage Team