Changing systems.
Centering equity.

Inspiring Communities Executive Director, Louise Adongo, spoke at our Public Sector Innovation Show- Atlantic about creating an integrated public service for all. The organization, Inspiring Communities is a reflection of just that. Founded in 2018 and based in Nova Scotia, this non-profit organization is an equity centered systems change leader in Atlantic Canada. We had the privilege of asking Louise a few questions about the work that they’re focusing on and how it’s been impacting the communities in Nova Scotia.

What is Inspiring Communities? 

Inspiring Communities, a not-for-profit organization based in Nova Scotia, is an equity-centered systems change leader in Atlantic Canada.

We recognize that our current systems and institutions don’t work for the people who need them most. We believe that collective action is essential, so we innovatively connect communities. We create collaborative systems partnerships and measure our impact. To ensure our effectiveness and sustainability, we maintain a strong core.

We engage in reflective evaluation practices to learn from our experiments, integrate that learning into our work, and share what we’ve learned through our regional and national networks.

We were established in 2018, with an initial mandate to develop collaborative community building initiatives in two rural areas using the Collective Impact framework. These are now known as Northside Rising and Turning the Tide.  The work undertaken by place-based initiatives began earlier with Between the Bridges in Dartmouth North prior to its joining Inspiring Communities in 2019, when a group of visionaries within government asked, “How can we show up differently in community?”

Our initial funders from the provincial government recognized the need to work across departments and specialty areas to tackle complex social issues and to find new ways of working within communities to build trust and find new solutions.

Two success stories that Inspiring Communities has accomplished since it’s been founded

  • I would say one of our success stories is that we continue to try and reach out across the region. we fostered an Atlantic-wide network of changemakers through WeavEast. The stories we shared, of what we learned from that experience, as told from key stakeholder perspectives, and what we would like to do differently based on that learning has resonated with many across our local and regional network.
  • A further success story is the creative approaches we have partnered and collaborated with different organizations and networks. Nova Scotia Network for Social Change and the African NS Road to Economic Prosperity who we supported through a resource who helped with the establishing of an Elder Council. We continue to embrace our learning from this and apply it to current and future planned partnerships and collaborations.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned since the beginning of your journey at Inspiring Communities?

A lesson I continue to learn is that there are a lot of amazing, committed and motivated individuals and groups in all the communities we work in. I have also learned that systems change and the work we do is ambiguous, uncertain and complex and notoriously hard to explain simply. But we have tried to do so through our new strategic directions.

What are some of Nova Scotia’s biggest challenges right now that Inspiring Communities is working towards improving? 

Aside from what is presented in our strategic directions as our priorities, Inspiring Communities has chosen to focus on challenges experienced across our place-based initiatives under the topics of: (1) Housing, (2) Health and Wellbeing (of communities), and (3) Youth (+student success).

The specific ways in which affordable housing, climate impacts and myriad crises and traumatic events affect residents and community members is something we want to deepen our work and shared reflection on. Safe spaces are becoming more resonant in our work and a Safe Spaces Model has been developed in Northside Rising, another one of our place-based initiatives. We also want to expand our focus on youth from Digby where we specifically have the Building Youth Futures   initiative to our other communities and to our theme-based work.

Where do you see Inspiring Communities heading in the next five years?

It is really difficult to think that far ahead when we are all wondering what the Fall holds for us in terms of possible restrictions. What I’d say is that I am hopeful that we will have built up in-context foundation for the work to be done by others through the relationships we have fostered. And that we hold only what we need to and transition work that is better by done by others within the communities we work in. In the next five years, we hope we will have made an impact by strengthening the base in community for sustained system change work on issues identified by residents.  

How does your organization engage with government to further the work that you do and how do events like the Public Sector Innovation Show Atlantic help facilitate those conversations / work?

Our organization has received funding from federal and provincial government. We engage with all our founders through newsletters, blogs and ongoing meetings.

Events like the Public Sector Innovation Show help facilitate conversations we would have with government by introducing us and our work to potential partners.