As announced by the Community Foundation of Ottawa on November 9, LiveWorkPlay has been awarded $125,000 in the New Leaf Community Challenge. The award was determined by a jury of local civic leaders, with CBC’s Giacomo Panico in the role of moderator.
The LiveWorkPlay proposal Pie in the Sky: how “unemployable” young adults with intellectual disabilities are meeting the needs of Ottawa employers touched both the jury and the audience with authentic stories of employment outcomes. The experiences of individuals and their employers helped explain the broader goal of 100 jobs for 100 people with intellectual disabilities in one year, and the compelling long-term goal of a community where inclusive hiring is part of the fabric of our employment practices.
“I am confident that LiveWorkPlay’s project will contribute to improving the employment situation for Ottawa’s young people in a systemic, sustainable way – which, in turn, is key to improving the city’s long-term economic outlook and overall well-being” said Marco Pagani, President & CEO of the Community Foundation of Ottawa.
Although the New Leaf Community Challenge was jokingly referenced by jury foreperson Jack McCarthy as a Dragon’s Den, the three finalists were truly supportive of each other’s efforts, and as Mr. Pagani said, no one loses as a result of participating in this process. The work of preparing for the competition results in highly marketable proposals for other Community Foundation of Ottawa grant streams (or for other funders) and this has been proven through the experiences of finalists in the previous two years of the challenge.
LiveWorkPlay co-leaders Keenan Wellar and Julie Kingstone represented the organization in the challenge, having created two written submissions on the path to reaching the final three, and working for several weeks on the twenty-minute presentation. They were aided in these efforts by access to a coach, Jonathan Wade from Social Delta. He was kept busy with a steady back and forth of presentation drafts.
“We’ve done many significant presentations over the past 20 years, but this was quite different,” says Keenan. “We are an impact-oriented organization, but the opportunity to explain our work in terms of our values propositions and our ability to deliver them in collaboration with others is not a common request for a presentation, so we definitely took in every piece of advice we could get.”
“There are always surprises with a live presentation format,” says Julie. “For example, we used a series of short videos, which is always risky from a technical perspective, but that wasn’t a problem. There was an issue however – the audience enjoyed some of the videos so much that they reacted with sustained applause, which is wonderful, but it actually contributed to running out of time. Keenan made a snap decision to skip one of our slides and we ended up right at 20 minutes. Exciting!”
The jury used up every second of their 15 minute question period, and perhaps went a little overtime.
“They were insightful questions, and an impressive group of individuals asking them,” says Keenan. “In the end I believe we hit on an effective balance of emotional connection supported by facts and evidence that Jonathan was recommending. We also benefited by looking out into the audience and seeing individuals that we’ve had the pleasure of helping find jobs, plus Employment Task Force members, family members, staff, and other supporters. We weren’t sure who would be able to make a three-hour commitment on a Wednesday morning, but there they were!”
The Employment Task Force concept is the key to the entire proposal and the focus of the $125,000 over the coming year. ETF members help LiveWorkPlay make connections with local employers – sometimes just to make an introduction, but other times with a specific individual in mind who is looking for entry into a specific field or with a specific employer. Our Manager of Employer Partnerships Jen Soucy will be leading a massive expansion of ETF membership, from about 20 to as many as 60 volunteers and up to 8 different task force groups (to focus on different employment sectors, such as retail, food services, office administration, government, etc.).
The New Leaf Community Challenge Funds will be used in combination with Ministry of Community and Social Services and United Way Ottawa funding. It takes a village!