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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Wednesday 6 February 2013

Greta Hoaken: Volunteerism, Talent and Maximizing Personal Contribution


Because I know I can contribute, I therefore believe I can volunteer my contribution.

                     -Preston Tulay, former Peace Corps and UN Volunteer

One of the great joys of working on political campaigns is the people you meet along the way.  Depending on your role, you might interact with media or stakeholders looking to flag an idea or a concern; perhaps you'll have the chance to debate with representatives of other camps over competing visions.  Ideally, everyone gets the chance to interact with the candidate they support and some of the voters they're there to court.  The most inspirational folk you'll encounter, however, are invariably the volunteers.
This certainly was the case for me over the recently-concluded leadership campaign.  Team GK attracted a wealth of talent and dedication; volunteers committed their free time (or all their time) to the vision and cause we supported.  Gerard and his senior team wove together individual skills and lineages into a tapestry that was more than the sum of its parts - it was something I was humbled to be part of. 
What was even more humbling, inspiring and daunting was the chance to work alongside the wickedly sharp minds that were attracted to Gerard's liberal vision, best exemplified by Greta Hoaken.  Greta is a 17 year-old high school student; she first came in to the campaign office with wide eyes and a bright smile, dressed in a school uniform.  It would have been easy to dismiss her as "student," but that's not how we operated - everyone got a chance to explore their potential and maximize their contribution to the campaign.  Even if a child knows her science project won’t win the science fair, she still gets that moment to perform.
Not that it would have mattered.  Greta's not a light that can be hidden under a basket; behind those wide eyes and bright smile burns an organizational and communications genius. 
One memory of many that sticks out clearly - Greta offering to help build delegate kits for the convention and within minutes, restructuring our system into one twice as efficient and better presented while confidently directing some seasoned pros to get the job done - and still working at it herself.  When people who make their living giving orders comfortably follow the lead of a 17 year-old, you know something special is happening. 

Beyond this, Greta offered solid communication ideas, helped manage traffic on the convention floor and did a televised debate on the Team's behalf, holding her own with some experienced communicators like Zach Paikin.  All very impressive from a fairly young woman - then you learn that she's also a journalist and CJPAC blogger who was already a news-making entrepreneur by the time she was 13.  I don't think I even had a paper route by that age. 

Best part - Greta, like so many of the volunteers on the GK Team, is unwaveringly dedicated to the vision we all took on: that government must be accountable, open and accessible to the people and that we must proactively provide people with the tools they need to succeed.  Despite her maximum potential being light years beyond what relative dotards like me can ever hope to reach, Greta remains humble - which is why she's only going to keep getting better as she grows into her place in society.  Just imagine what she will accomplish down the road.
So, yeah, I'm a big fan of Greta's and hope that she'll still remember me when she's running global campaigns in a couple of years.  The thing is, Team GK would have lost the value Greta brought if we had dismissed her based on first appearances - which would have been easier to do than we might comfortably like to think.  It was Gerard's commitment to inclusion and respect that helped hold us to a standard that ultimately benefited the Team's work.  With a little more time, who knows what we could have accomplished.  Of course, we all have the future ahead of us and the maximum potential of that liberal vision has yet to be realized.
There were other volunteers that offered value in unconventional packages; one fellow had a propensity to talk long and in circles, but when he hit his points, they were incredibly insightful.  Again, it would have been easy to dismiss him entirely, but we would have missed some important opportunities had we done so.  Two of the people on the team (one of them being me) deals with ADHD, which provided both a communications challenge to the rest of the team, but also an opportunity to kick the tires on any given plan before implementing it.

Guided by Gerard's vision we took the challenges, the frustrations the easy dismissals and looked at them all through the lens of opportunity.  Our constant question was "how do we bridge the gap efficiently and respectfully, gaining and sharing in equal measure through the process?"  How do we (to use the well-worn phrase) move forward together?
Kathleen Wynne is another leader like Gerard who doesn't waver from what she believes in, including respect, communication and collaboration.  The reason liberals who supported all leadership candidates are so comfortable with Wynne as our leader is that she represents the best of what we all believe in.
This, then, is the challenge that faces Premier Wynne and her team; to take the time to respect and foster the contributions of everyone who wants to be part of the vision, wherever they come from or whatever they bring to the table.  I'm confident that this will happen, because I believe in Kathleen Wynne as a leader.  When people see that their contributions will be welcomed, respected, solicited and honestly considered, you'll see more Gretas popping up in all kinds of unexpected places.
Everyone has value to offer - they just need the chance.  When they get it, everyone wins.



  2. So yeah - the goal isn't to pick fights, but develop solutions. We need everyone engaged and at their best for that.