Susan Brooke, VP of Community Impact & Partnerships, United Way Calgary
Meet Susan Brooke, Vice President of Community Impact and Partnerships, United Way Calgary. Architect of the organization’s community engagement strategy, Susan has a legendary history of forging partnerships to create a maximal social impact and leverage scarce resources. Read more about how she does it below:
1. You have a tremendous history in the Community Impact field – before it became dejure. Tell us about your journey, how it got started and the accomplishments that make you feel proud.
I’m a Social worker by training. I think I recognized the importance of meeting immediate needs in the community, while at the same time working towards systemic change so everyone has the best opportunity to live their best life. I’ve tried to initiate and lay the foundation for change in individuals, organizations, corporations, systems and communities that makes people’s lives better. That is what United Way is all about. It is an honor to work every day with so many dedicated and passionate individuals in the community who are helping to make this happen.
2. As a professional well versed in being a Changemaker, please share your insights on how we need to address complex problems like poverty, lack of housing etc. What are the key systemic changes that we need to make in addition to allocating adequate resources?
Systems are very complex and made up of a vast number of interconnected parts. Changing some of those parts results in visible change on a small scale. Changing other parts has far reaching effects across different issues. Identifying and addressing those levers is key. We know many issues people face are interconnected. Changing one of those areas can have impacts on other areas. For example, addressing someone’s mental health can shift one’s vulnerability to poverty. Likewise, impacting someone’s poverty will have a positive impact on mental health.
3. How is your organization adapting its structures and processes to ensure diversity, equity and inclusion are top of mind? Please share your experience in leading a culture and perspective change by your Senior Management team.
Integrating DEI into organizational culture, governance and community work are key, including prioritizing implementation of our Indigenous strategy, Akak’stiman. Emphasizing making relatives and building relationships and partnerships is key to ensuring DEI is top of mind and understanding that it is a learning journey for all – and that people are at different stages of that journey. Making sure wherever people are on that journey, there is opportunity for them to move forward.
4. Your thoughts on increasing the proportion of women in leadership positions in the sector would be appreciated. What needs to change and how can we build momentum to ensure changes are made?
The societal structures that make it challenging for women to take on leadership roles need to keep shifting. The role of childcare, elderly parent care and household upkeep still fall primarily on women. Accessing childcare and other barriers make it harder for women to access leadership opportunities. In addition, societal norms and attitudes regarding women in leadership roles need to change in a way so that the contributions of individuals regardless of gender are nurtured and valued.