Building Community Support:
Investing in the "walk up Humewood Drive"
Executive Vice President
Government & Community Affairs
RBC Financial Group
Humewood House Annual General
Timothy Eaton Memorial Church - Room 107
Monday, June 23, 2003
Sue, thanks very much for the warm welcome
I'm delighted to join you this afternoon
to share some
thoughts about building community support - investing
in the walk up Humewood Drive. First and foremost, I
want to thank your executive director for inviting me to
this AGM. Sue, you'll be surprised to know that I still
have a copy of the May 1, 2001 news release, with the headline
"Humewood House to offer full pre/post-natal services."
Your words, which I'm about to read, made a lasting impression
on me: "We want to help young women get a safe early
start with their babies and to provide them with the training
they need to improve their parenting, coping and nutrition
skills. We also want to support these women as they move
back into the community and help them build a stable life
for both themselves and their child."
What GTA community-minded corporate leader
or foundation head wouldn't want to learn more about investing
in Humewood House - a young parent resource centre that's
committed to "enabling young women and their families
improve their life circumstances and achieve independence
through the provision of education, counselling and residential
services." This organization's 90+ year history is
a compelling story unto itself. Talk about a worthwhile
investment in the future.
Let me begin by elaborating on Sue's introduction
if you hear some background about me (and rest assured,
I'm not referring to my banking career), it may help you
and your colleagues attract more corporate leaders/investors
down the road. Several years ago, I experienced a "light
bulb moment" after meeting the extraordinary Dr. Fraser
Mustard (as many people do). While working with him, The
Honourable Margaret McCain and other champions on early
years development study groups/projects, my learning curve
on the subject escalated quickly, as did my network of children's
advocates in Ontario and across the country. I'm involved
with early childhood education and care because as a business
person and parent, I realize this is an economic issue that
requires a call to action from all levels of government,
corporations and communities - kids are everybody's business.
In my mind, Humewood House is an outstanding model for the
call to action.
I'm also a supporter of the Metropolitan
Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children
(METRAC). And I learned a great deal more about the women
and children connection when my daughter Catherine worked
at the Red Door Abused Women's Shelter last summer. Community
involvement is essential for business and important for
families/communities. I'm here because this is an opportunity
for me to reach out to community leaders/friends and to
share ideas about opening business doors for Humewood. Your
voices, energy and skills have enormous power - it's simply
a matter of channeling that power!
Last October, I co-presented a workshop
at the Family Resource Programs (FRP) Canada National Biennial
Conference in Mississauga. We were there to help delegates
develop a better business case for family support programs
- to help raise the volume and the bar when it comes to
building family support partnerships, particularly with
business leaders and elected officials. Knowing what buttons
to push - how to make and sell the case (and it's somewhat
different every time) is a key element to success. There's
no magical formula
however, it's very much about linking
advocacy, public awareness, capacity building and accountability.
Building a business case for increased community support
means focusing on and marketing Humewood's strengths, record
and success stories - your ability to make things happen
and make a difference - your ability to collaborate with
other social service providers and health/educational facilities
- your ability to assemble an excellent team of directors,
advisors, volunteers and staff to help meet the needs of
your residents/constituents. It may seem like a daunting
However, when I look around this room and see the likes
of Debby Benton and Lynda McInnes (the Ministry of Community
Family and Children's Services), Pat Bradshaw (Schulich
School of Business) and Nancy Scott (Massey Centre) to name
a few, it's clear that Humewood's philosophy of service
and values are attracting considerable attention and interest.
Now's the time to work more strategically with the private
sector - to generate more support.
Education, partnerships, individual/family
counselling services, advocacy with external resources,
parenting/life-skills learning and a high school program,
are all Humewood House priorities and initiatives that corporations/businesses
can support. So are your computer, technology and employment
programs that prepare young women to compete in today's
job market. Your fully licensed daycare centre staffed by
qualified early childhood educators and sponsored by the
City of Toronto's Children's Services is a major piece of
your business case. This program goes beyond the norm by
providing nutritious lunches for the babies and field placement
opportunities for students.
When the Prime Minister reported on the status of Throne
Speech commitments last Tuesday, he took particular pride
in highlighting advancements with children and families:
significant increases to the National Child Benefit, investments
to increase access to quality child care and increased support
for aboriginal parents. I thought of your work at Humewood
House. He also referred to advancements with cities and
communities: increased investments in affordable housing
and extended assistance for the Supporting Communities Partnership
Initiative. Once again, I thought of your work at Humewood
House. Do we still need to nudge the federal government
(and all levels of government) on these issues and others?
Absolutely. We also need to nudge more corporations
Here's an example of what I mean. Research
shows "for every $1 spent on child care there's a $2
economic benefit" (from The Benefits and Costs of Good
Child Care, Gordon Cleveland & Michael Krashinsky, 1998).
The benefit comes back through increased tax revenues and
decreased social, education and health costs. This is the
kind of language that business understands. It says that
we all bear a burden for failing to provide the right
start to our children - there's a cost to society if
"infants aren't provided the care, bonding and stimulation
they need." We bear this cost as parents, taxpayers
and business people. Quite frankly, I don't hear enough
of my corporate colleagues talking about their support of
early childhood education and care. There's still much nudging
but just consider what you have at your disposal
to do some effective nudging - a tool kit of success
- Computer Beginnings Program. While reading Humewood's
Spring 2003 newsletter, I noted the amazing results. "Out
of 40 participants enrolled, 37 young women graduated last
year. Two of these graduates are currently completing their
high school diploma, three have found full time administrative
jobs, one is attending Ryerson University, four students
are staying home and the rest are either attending adult
learning school or have part-time survival jobs." This
computer course for young women is both workplace-friendly
and a great skills developer, plus Humewood provides child
care as part of the program. Very impressive!
- Early Years Satellite Centre. As a result of
provincial government funding over the next three years,
your new programs for young mothers and infants - a drop-in
centre and special life skills groups for clients - will
flourish. From a toy lending library, special cooking/sewing
classes and infant development screening and assessments,
to a special family photos group and a family supper club
for the young women, children and their partners, Humewood
is leading the way.
- Literature for Life. I was pleased to hear that
this weekly program (which you call the book club) has also
boosted young women's attendance at the school program.
It's good to see Erin Phelan (from Literature for Life)
here today and to meet/listen to young women, like Sade
Oragbon and Ayanna Beckford, who truly shine by expressing
their thoughts in poetry/writing.
- Mentoring Program. As an avid supporter of mentoring,
it was gratifying to hear that Humewood has established
this program. Matching trained/experienced mentors with
clients in order to help women manage the pressures of teenaged
pregnancy and motherhood is nothing less than added value.
I understand that two of your mentors are former Humewood
clients. This speaks volumes
- Humewood House Web Site. I checked out www.humewoodhouse.com
and discovered a great resource for programs/services, referrals,
donations, volunteers, events and the newsletter of course.
The headline, "Helping pregnant and parenting young
women, ages 13-21, build safe and stable lives for themselves
and their children" is an eye-grabber!
Since the underlying goal of RBC Financial
Group's corporate citizenship programs is prosperity for
Canada/Canadians, we must support education and learning
- we must support young people and children - our future,
as prosperity depends on well-developed minds - intelligence,
imagination, ingenuity and innovation. We're not alone in
and Humewood House fits the bill.
We support partnerships that work towards
reaching our goal - building relationships with business,
government, communities and our own employees (via work/life
initiatives). When it comes to making a difference for children
and youth, we have a shared responsibility. Partnerships
encourage business to be catalysts for change
their heart. What a great way to build a civic/civil society
and promote social development.
For example, the RBC Foundation provided
$2 million to 54 after-school programs in 32 communities
for 2003-2003 (there are 21 programs in Ontario alone).
This community investment is part of our ongoing commitment
to children and education. RBC is there to help kids continue
learning after the school-bell rings. These after-school
programs offer varied activities that go beyond the three
Rs, such as cooking and art classes, organized sports and
computer tutoring - activities that address a wide-range
of children's developmental needs.
RBC's Employee Volunteer Grants Program
is another way we encourage vital community connections.
Employees that devote a minimum of 40 hours a year to a
registered charity are eligible for a $500 RBC grant donated
to the organization in their honour.
There's always a place for business in
community initiatives - an opportunity for business to invest
in women, children and families. We also know that the private
sector can use its influence with governments/institutions
and collaborate with partners for the development/support
of young women and children. Corporations are part of the
community. And the best solutions are community-based.
I see two significant trends changing
the relationship between the corporate sector and organizations
such as Humewood House. The first trend is that corporations
are increasingly conscious of the benefit and indeed, the
necessity of being, and being seen as, good corporate citizens.
This trend is growing at a steady pace
trend is newer and growing much more rapidly
are more strategically and actively engaged - contributing
resources and knowledge as well as dollars in order to help
build a healthier society - they're more focused on building
Whether we talk about trends or the future, I'm convinced
you'll see more and more strategic private sector support,
where corporate partners will come to expect a new kind
of relationship with their counterparts. Partners will get
to know what makes each other tick; partners will ask for
advice/share knowledge; corporate partners will look beyond
their chequebook to community investment; and all partners
will think more long-term. The bottom line is that best
practices are almost always about partnerships. And the
time is now to increase corporate, community and personal
involvement with associations like Humewood House.
In all the years I've worked in corporate
Canada, I've never heard so much talk about building relationships/partnerships-and
I've never seen so many in action. I believe that strong
partnerships have immense power across the country, especially
in current economic times. Working together, getting connected
and staying focused all comes down to leadership and communication.
Why not create innovative investments that will help us
work toward goals that we can share and achieve - to maximize
the win/win and collective impact results that we want and
I'll continue to urge my colleagues in
business to find ways to partner with organizations like
this one and to speak out on investing in the well-being
of young Canadians, including infants and young women/mothers.
I also urge all of you to remind associates/colleagues about
the strategic value of the Humewood investment - not once,
but over and over again.
In closing, Humewood House is well represented by champions
today. Congratulations to all of you for supporting this
marvelous organization. Much has been accomplished over
the years and under Gordon Reed's stewardship
I'm sure you would agree there's much more to do as Liz
Marshall leads Humewood in the months ahead. A special thank
you to Sue, Noriko Matsuura and the entire team for coordinating
this event. As you market your business case and build ongoing
community support, more investors will be walking up
Now, let's hear from you