Working to create vibrant communities is complex work

interchange quotePeople working across the province in government, business, nonprofit, and community all face Alberta’s 21st century reality. When looking forward to the future, we’re asking ourselves, what relationships need to exist to create the conditions to collectively make a positive impact in Alberta’s communities?

To begin to answer this question is no simple feat. It is sure to provide challenges and opportunities, and there are many landscapes to navigate. On the road to making positive impact, one potential starting point is interCHANGE, a multi-sector collaborative event we’re hosting at NAIT this fall in Edmonton.

Our work at Volunteer Alberta is complex and intersects with many players in the field of community action.  From volunteers on the frontlines of community building, to nonprofit organizations, to corporate social responsibility programs and initiatives, to the provincial government. All of these players are working, in some capacity, to enhance the quality of life for all Albertans and address the same cross-cutting issues in society – such as poverty, child welfare, seniors, the environment and recreation.

So, why not collaborate to address these complex issues together?

Collaboration is not a hard thing to do, it’s just hard to do well. For most of us, it begins with understanding who else out there has the same passion for the work that needs to be done.

Solving complex problems in community can require seemingly endless insight and energy; not unlike crossing the prairies and the mountains on foot. This complex landscape is better travelled together, and this complexity inspired us to gather other future-focused Albertans to help us all discover how, together, we can increase our impact.

TamarackLogoWe often look to our friends at Tamarack, An Institute for Community Engagement for words of wisdom and expertise about community-focused strategies and actions.  On their website, Tamarack provides some essential information about multi-sectoral collaboration. We’d like to share it with you:

6 key principles for Multi-sectoral collaboration

  1. Everyone is the solution and the problem.
  2. Together we can do more.
  3. We do not have answers – only a commitment to learn, change and grow.
  4. We take on issues that no one sector can take on alone.
  5. Together we create increased Credibility, Capacity and Capital for the work.
  6. The synergy is magic!

(see their website & video clips for more on these ideas)

Key Definitions

Community Engagement: People working collaboratively, through inspired action and learning, to create and realize bold visions for their common future.

Multi-sectoral Collaboration: A community project in which many diverse actors—“sectors”—share responsibilities, resources, and expertise. These actors may include any combination of national and local government, large and small business, non-governmental organizations and charities, and people who live in the community.

Collaborative Solutions: The purpose of Multi-sectoral Collaboration is to solve community problems; many of these problems exist because community actors aren’t sharing expertise or resources very well, which leads to overlaps in some places and gaps in others. Collaborative Solutions allow many sectors to work well together.

Partnership: Many people use partnership as a synonym for collaboration. We find that partnership more often refers to individual links between actors—many partnerships working together can produce Multi-sectoral Collaboration.

Volunteer Alberta’s vision is for a strong, engaged, and connected society serving the common good in Alberta. To celebrate our 25th year, this September we are asking others who share our vision to join us at interCHANGE and participate in rich conversations around how we can make a positive impact together.

interCHANGE is an event where we can begin to weave together the skills, resources, networks, and knowledge of the participants to achieve greater impact in communities across Alberta’s diverse landscape.

For more information or to register for interCHANGE visit

Katherine Topolniski and Jennifer Esler
Volunteer Alberta