Building the Business Case: Family Support Partnerships
Executive Vice President
Government & Community Affairs
RBC Financial Group
FRP Canada National Biennial Conference
Delta Meadowvale Resort and Conference Centre
Friday, October 18, 2002
I'm pleased to participate in this important FRP conference
this morning - to join Sue Khazaie and everyone in this room
in raising the volume and the bar when it comes to building
family support partnerships. Since our workshop has been billed
as a discussion around the business case for early childhood
development supports and winning strategies for engaging business
leaders/elected officials, I'm going to spend the next few
minutes addressing these very questions, adding to Sue's case
and then moving right into our favourite part of this hour
- hearing from you! So let's get started
Three of the most often asked questions from urban and rural
family support partners include:
1. How do we get our foot in the door with business leaders
and elected officials?
2. How can we become more effective in getting our voice
on the agenda of boardroom meetings and public policy hearings/committees
across the country?
3. What are some "Do's and Don'ts" to gain access
to key people - decision-makers?
The obvious place to begin is with Charlie Coffey. What's
the business case for my involvement - for private sector
- I'm involved in supporting early years development and family support programs because it's an economic investment that requires more federal, provincial and municipal government action. Given my role as a banker and lobbyist, RBC and I can help push the envelope on high priority issues. After all, the development of human capital at an early age is key to a successful economy.
- I'm involved because it's an economic investment that needs corporate/business action. Given my role as a business leader, I have a responsibility to push the envelope on high priority issues - and what's more important than children? Businesses "should strive to be family and child-friendly employers; to provide enriched child care that connects to elementary schools where appropriate; to have policies that are sensitive to the involvement of employees in the education of their children; and to be bold and creative regarding the importance of parental leave for new parents."
- And I'm also involved because it's an economic investment that requires more community action - kids are everybody's business and high priority. Integrated early years programming is one of the best investments communities can make. Given my role as a children's advocate (and parent), the only way to make a difference is to get involved and get others involved! There's the cost of doing nothing
and there's the cost of not doing enough.
from the Child Care Education Foundation, says that today,
it costs Canada $2.5 billion every year for remedial education
because of delayed interventions or negative early experiences.
Work-family conflicts cost businesses another $4.7 billion
a year. It says that we all bear a burden for failing to
provide the "right start" to our children. At
RBC Financial Group, the underlying goal of our corporate
citizenship programs is prosperity for Canada/Canadians.
As such, we must support education and learning - young
people - as prosperity in the workplace and in the community
depends on well-developed minds - intelligence, imagination,
ingenuity and innovation. We must also support and find
partnerships that work towards these ends. So must our private
of you may be aware, The Honourable Margaret McCain and
I were appointed co-chairs of the Early Learning and Child
Care Commission for the City of Toronto last year. We released
our Final Report in May. Our findings only reinforced the
business case. We know that successful cities are those
with a skilled, innovative workforce - workplaces investing
in human capital and skill development. We also know that
early learning and child care supports innovation, as it
improves school performance, reduces social assistance costs,
expands economic activity, supports diversity and improves
The time has never been more right for all of us to learn
and continue learning about creating and maintaining strong
partnerships among all three sectors: private, public and
not-for-profit. Strong partnerships can have immense power.
I don't pretend to have all the answers, but because RBC
Financial Group is involved in partnerships that include
representation from various sectors, I will say that we're
well on the way to having a solid working knowledge of what
makes a true partnership work. If you're serious about creating
partnerships with business, here are some winning strategies
and tips for you to consider:
Get to know your partners. A partnership is a relationship
where the players are stronger together than they are alone.
It's a two-way street and an evolving balance of power.
Successful partnerships like successful relationships take
time and care.
Ask partners for advice. If you want a corporation's
money, get the right people ("influencers") interested.
Asking for advice is an incredible compliment to people.
It's amazing how quickly money will follow once a person
and a corporation's passion is engaged in a cause or a project.
Don't just ask for money. Treat partners the way you
want to be treated. Look beyond a partner's chequebook and
think community investment. Engage people's minds and their
4. Share what you know with us. One of the most precious
assets we all have is our intellectual capital-the value
of what we carry between our ears. You also have expertise
that could help your corporate partners. Why not share it
Keep in touch. Think long-term. Let partners know how
you're doing - this is another way to say thank you. Show
partners that you're making a difference in your community
and that they've made the right choice by investing time
and resources in your organization/family support programs.
As for elected officials
they have a wide range of
agendas and priorities. Most politicians want to get re-elected.
Some have pet causes that simply don't align with yours.
Some are looking for pet causes. Others may support you
privately, but for party-reasons won't support you publicly.
Some may think the timing is wrong. Some want to be Prime
Minister or Premier or Mayor. Here are more strategies and
tips for you to think about:
Know your audience. Someone on your team should have
a base of knowledge about your key elected officials. What
do they care about? What are their hot buttons? What committees
are they on? What do their constituents care about? This
means ongoing research, a robust database or someone to
manage the information. It's critical to know what motivates
an elected official, otherwise you can't engage in relevant
communication with them. You also need to recognize that
elected officials are a unique audience. When you're crafting
messages or positions on government issues, remember to
use the language of government. Talk to their policies,
Keep current. Are you familiar with the September 30th
Speech from the Throne commitments to the children's agenda
the federal government "will work with its partners
to increase access to early learning opportunities and to
quality child care, particularly for poor and lone-parent
"the government will take additional measures to address
the gap in life chances between aboriginal and non-aboriginal
children. It will put in place early childhood development
programs for First Nations, expanding Aboriginal Head Start,
improving parental supports and providing aboriginal communities
with the tools to address fetal alcohol syndrome and its
Do you know the names of the National Children's Agenda
(NCA) Caucus Committee, especially those from your province?
Do you know that the committee has focused its work on three
themes: readiness to learn, provision of services for all
children pre-natal to six and community mobilization? The
chair is John Godfrey MP, Don Valley West (John's web site
is an incredible source of information about the children's
agenda). Do you know your provincial minister responsible
for children and families, as well as your municipal contacts?
Should you know? I suggest you should.
Know the Issues: What's on the radar screen of the public,
the media or constituencies? Stay on top of trends so you're
ready to communicate your position at a moment's notice.
Keep your eyes open and your ears tuned in. The children's
agenda, broadly speaking, is gaining more momentum and media
attention. Make the links. You might be able to provide
advice/counsel to an elected official
Know how the issues and your audience are connected.
You must be able to assess the impact a single action might
have on your group/different groups. Government relations
is political: everything is connected. Consider the consequences
of your communications. There's a fine line between persistence
and irritation. Since one cornerstone of a relationship
is good communication, this means strategic, integrated,
ongoing communications from your organization to all levels
Now what's the best way to get in the door? Well, if you have
a connection, this usually helps. A cold call rarely works.
Develop a strategy and get your toolkit in action. What
are your objectives in making contact with a prospective
private or public sector contact? What are the principles
and priorities for funding? What is your project description,
goals/activities? What is your strategic and communications
plan - your work plan? What are your expected results and
outcomes? What about national partnerships/collaboration?
And budget? Do you have a project evaluation plan or letters
of support? If you represent a small urban or rural project,
have you considered joining forces with similar interest
groups? In a nutshell, be prepared, know your "sound
bites", network, write articles and get your name on
key event invitation lists. Sue also provided you with solid
material to add to your toolkit. If I can be of further
support, please let me know
Staying focused in the spirit of collaboration, all comes
down to leadership and communication. Creating innovative
partnerships that help us work toward realistic goals -
to maximize "collective impact" results - is a
major step in the right direction. We can't achieve great
things alone, which is another reason why it was a great
idea for Sue and me to co-present this workshop.
Fraser Mustard says, if you want an idea of what your economy
will look like in say 15 or 20 years
if you want an
economy that's vibrant, citizens who are productive and
a workplace that's innovative - think about the investment
you're making in very young people today. At the start,
I shared with you the business case for my involvement in
supporting early years initiatives and family support partnerships.
However, there's more to the story
since in large part,
I'm here today because of Fraser Mustard, what does this
tell you about building and selling the business case?
Let's get talking about ideas and good practices
want to hear from you!