Important Questions Stop You in Your Tracks


My brother asked me over the weekend what the goal of my business was.It was Sunday afternoon and I didn’t have the jam for a tough conversation so I begged off.But since I didn’t want to answer it, I knew it was a question worth spending some time with.Alas – what is the goal of my business?

POPULUS exists an infrastructure for me to do the work I want to do.As a legal entity for accounting purposes, as an entity to engage in contracts with clients and partners, and as a name and image that reflects what I believe about people and communities.In a strict sense, that is all it is.It doesn’t have a goal of its own separate from me, because I am the sole owner.POPULUS is a means for me to do my work.

So the next question is: what is the goal of my work? I aim to support people who see a whole new possibility about how humans can work together to meet and adapt to the challenges communities face.I create the conditions for people to see new possibilities and take bold, innovative and sustained action to make those possibilities possible. I do this work in collaboration with others, always modeling collaborative conversation.The nature of this work shifts from conversation to conversation, from situation to situation, intentionally responsive to the conditions at hand.While there are common ingredients everywhere I go, there is no hard and fast recipe.(Another big question for another blog – what are the ingredients?)

My perfect clients and collaborators see possibilities and recognize that we need to engage each other in different ways to get there. Sometimes the path is clear, sometimes confusing and muddy, but the quality of what we do on and with the path is key; they know that they wish to create opportunities for learning, and that quality conversation will support them in seeing and taking action toward new possibilities.

My intention is to co-create, with clients and collaborators, the conditions for people to get the best from themselves.There is not a clear, linear path to do this, so this work is messy and confusing at times.The truth is, it is challenging for me to articulate this work, yet my clients, collaborators and I find that we speak the same language in non-traditional ways.There is no list of credentials, or competencies.It is visceral,experiencial and even intuitive.Rather than a checklist of skills, it is a way of being with self and others. It is unconventional work to remind us of what we already know – how to listen to each other.

The quality of everything we do turns on the quality of our conversations.Everywhere I go, I aim to host myself and others well.And learning to ask – and receive – questions that stop us in our tracks.

Cities: A Needed Part of Alberta’s New Story

As the United Nations Climate Change Conference draws to a close this week, there is parallel summit that is of significance for Alberta political decision makers: the Copenhagen Climate Summit for Mayors.

In Canadian and world politics, the buzz around the Copenhagen UN gathering is Alberta’s oil sands – for which we are tarred and feathered.  But there is a parallel, and perhaps more dramatic issue at hand that we ought to pay attention to: 75% of global CO2 emissions come from the worlds largest cities.

In Canada and Alberta, it is time to recognize and support the role local government has in creating a future where Albertans will thrive – economically, socially and culturally.  To do that, consideration of our development practices, and the impacts direct and indirect on the environment we rely on, is paramount.  A new political will in Alberta is needed that creates partnership between the Government of Alberta and its “children” municipalities.  A new Alberta that will meet the needs of generations to come starts with a new political climate that allows mayors, reeves and councils (and all other forms of local government, like school boards) to thrive. This is whole new conversation for Alberta, and one that I am committed to supporting.

The opportunity before Alberta – create a new story.  If interested, check out Reboot Alberta, an endeavour to cultivate a new political compass –

(For a snapshot of mayors of Copenhagne, you may be interested in the Mayors in Copenhagen Panel –

ACE Volunteer Experts in Thorsby/Warburg

In my work with ACE Communities ( I had the pleasure last night of facilitating a workshop with volunteer experts – the people who showed up to learn about how to recruit and retain volunteers.
With ACE leaders at Leduc County, we designed an experience that brought out the experts in Thorsby and Warburg. Here is their work and what they concluded at the end of the gathering:

The value of the conversation and commitment:

Sharing it all, networking
We know more than we thought

We renew positive
Remembering why
With inspiration
To appreciate

Encouraging community
Still cares
We don’t let the nay-sayers get me down
We keep trudging along
Walking with more support
With people like me
Not alone

What wonderful work we do
As volunteers
We do all those things!
It’s nice to hear once and a while!

We will appreciate volunteers more
I will appreciate myself more

Good to hear what others are doing
Hearing from other volunteers
I have taken in a lot
I can’t say just one thing

We are out of the box
With 39/20 networking
When we need it
We are out there

We are impressed
So many with similar ideas
We know what works
We’re on to something

We will find more people
That don’t know the word no
Always the same faces
But there are lots of kinds
Of volunteers
Worker bees and people like us
Start saying no to no!

We have lots to take home
Actions to remind myself
Once and a while
Fanning connections
What everyone said is what I was thinking

Try harder
The Terry Fox run will be running
Playing off one another
Making the connections between us