Greetings From Employment and Social Development Canada

Alexis Conrad HeadshotCommunities Building Youth Futures is a very exciting and important new initiative that will aim to reach approximately 5,000 young people from coast to coast to coast with the supports they need to reach their full potential. This initiative will enable communities and empower youth to develop locally-driven, innovative strategies to help young people successfully navigate transitions from youth to adulthood, including the completion of high school and a successful transition to post-secondary education or apprenticeship or employment.

I recognize that there is a lot work ahead, but also a unique opportunity, to mobilize partners and share resources and expertise within each community. This is why we are proud to have partnered with the Tamarack Institute to lead this initiative over the next four and a half years. With more than 15 years experience in leading community change, the Tamarack Institute is a critical partner to help ensure that the needs of youth are at the forefront as each community moves towards more collaborative, inclusive, and sustainable supports and services.

The Communities Building Youth Futures initiative is the flagship project under the new funding stream announced under the modernized Youth Employment and Skills Strategy aimed at helping youth complete high school and transition to post-secondary education. This funding stream – Goal Getters – recognizes that education plays a critical role in improving labour market outcomes for Canadians.

On behalf of the Department of Employment and Social Development, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Tamarack Institute, the partners in each of the 13 communities, as well as the national partners supporting this initiative. I know that together, you will be creating a lasting impact on lives of youth across the country.


Bâtir l’avenir des jeunes est une nouvelle initiative très intéressante et importante qui visera à offrir à environ 5 000 jeunes d’un océan à l’autre le soutien dont ils ont besoin pour réaliser leur plein potentiel. Cette initiative permettra aux collectivités et aux jeunes d’élaborer des stratégies locales innovantes pour aider les jeunes à réussir leur transition de l’adolescence à l’âge adulte, y compris l’obtention de leur diplôme d’études secondaires et une transition réussie vers l’enseignement postsecondaire, des stages ou l’emploi.

Je reconnais qu’il y a beaucoup de travail à faire, mais il s’agit aussi d’une occasion unique de mobiliser des partenaires et partager les ressources et l’expertise au sein de chaque communauté. C’est pourquoi nous sommes fiers de nous être associés à l’Institut Tamarack pour diriger cette initiative au cours des quatre années et demie à venir. Cumulant plus de 15 ans d’expérience à piloter le changement communautaire, l’Institut Tamarack est un partenaire essentiel pour veiller à ce que les besoins des jeunes soient au premier plan alors que chaque collectivité évolue vers des soutiens et des services plus collaboratifs, inclusifs et durables.

L’initiative Bâtir l’avenir des jeunes est le projet phare de la nouvelle filière de financement annoncée dans le cadre du programme modernisé de la Stratégie emploi et compétences jeunesse, qui vise à aider les jeunes à terminer leurs études secondaires et à faire la transition vers l’enseignement postsecondaire. Ce volet de financement — Droit au but — reconnaît que l’éducation joue un rôle essentiel dans l’amélioration des résultats des Canadiens sur le marché du travail. travail

Au nom du ministère de l’Emploi et du Développement social, je voudrais exprimer ma sincère gratitude à l’Institut Tamarack, aux partenaires de chacune des 13 collectivités, ainsi qu’aux partenaires nationaux qui soutiennent cette initiative. Je sais qu’ensemble, vous allez avoir un effet durable sur la vie des jeunes à travers le pays.

Alexis Conrad
Assistant Deputy Minister / Sous-ministre adjoint
Employment and Social Development Canada / Emploi et Développement social Canada

Learn More:

Share this article:

Icon_Tamarack_LinkedIn.png Twitter Icon_Tamarack_Facebook.png

Starting a Movement: Communities Building Youth Futures

Communities Building Youth Futures is a five-year strategy to support 13 communities across Canada to develop system-wide solutions for a minimum of 5000 youth as they build and act upon plans for their future and transition into adulthood. The strategy, funded by Employment and Social Development Canada and delivered by the Tamarack Institute, is made up of the following key components: 

This project will maximize the scope and reach of engaging 5000 youth in 13 communities in receiving direct services which improve their life course outcomes. The overall project outcomes include: 

  • 25% increase in number of youth who complete high school 
  • 15% increase in number of youth who transition to post-secondary, training, or employment 
  • 195 Local leaders will be engaged and work collaboratively with youth to provide a coordinated youth serving system  

As Tamarack embarks on this journey, using youth engagement and youth leadership as our compass, we aim to build a learning community to foster collaboration, pan-Canadian links between communities and peer learning to address the complex issues that impact youth as they transition into adulthood.  

Communities Building Youth Futures’ Annual Gathering – Launch of the Learning Community 

From March 10th to 12th, 2020, Tamarack hosted over 60 community changemakers and youth leaders from across Canada as part of the Communities Building Youth Futures’ first Annual National Gathering. 

2020-06-02 - Communities Building Youth Futures - Graphic Record (2)

Image Caption: This image was created during a virtual site visit with the Chilliwack CBYF Community. Artist: Melissa Kendzierski

Thdesign of the Gathering aimed to create connections, develop further understanding of the CBYF strategy and build capacity in Collective Impact throughworkshops, sharing learnings, interactive activities, and art 

With an engaging facilitation by Moises Frank, a Toronto-based artist, attendees explored sense-making, community development and collaboration through painting. Watch highlights of this experience here.

Other highlights and key learnings from the Annual Gathering, which will be used to inform all components of the CBYF strategy, included: 

  • Recognizing the importance of lived experience, youth leadership and youth voice being at the front of this work “Take cues from young people – knowledge is power, give them time and listen”. 

  • Involving an Indigenous perspective to this work - “Keep in mind the 4 Rs of Indigenous Methodologies as core values that will help guide your work – Respect, Responsibility, Reciprocity & Relevance. 

  • Creating opportunities for young people to learn through mentorship and peer-to-peer supports. 

  • Addressing system barriers and gaps and including the intersectional youth perspective 
    • Monique MilesDirector of the Opportunity Youth Forum and the Deputy Director of the Forum for Community Solutions at the Aspen Institute, shared her learning about addressing system barriers through Collective Impact. Watch highlights from Monique's keynote here.
  • Addressing youth mental health issues to support young people in building resiliency? Meeting basic needs, encouraging self-care, aiming to thrive and not just survive, developing a sense of belonging, social and emotional learning, and wraparound supports. “Resiliency is not born, it is built”. 

Take your learning further and let’s keep the conversation going! 

Share this article:

LinkedIn Icon Icon_Tamarack_Twitter.png Icon_Tamarack_Facebook.png

Seeing Youth Voices

Like Oceans, We Rise - Mika SEarlier this year, Tamarack ran a photo contest aimed at engaging Canadian youth under the age of 30. Our board is creating a 10-year plan, and we just launched Communities Building Youth Futures, a 5-year initiative. We wanted to get a sense of what youth are thinking and seeing in their communities.

We asked for photo submissions that answered the question what will your community look like in 10 years? We wanted to see their fears and hopes for their communities in 2030. We felt photos would be the best way to showcase this. Photographs are essentially moments in time. They show things as they are in a specific moment. Capturing your hopes and fears for your community in one shot takes some creativity, but Canadian youth were up for the challenge!

We received over 100 wonderful submissions from youths across Canada. Covering topics like mental health, inclusion, climate change, reconciliation and much more. Through a selection committee made up of under-30s at Tamarack, 10 photos were selected to be displayed in a photo show at various events throughout the year. Unfortunately, our in-person photo shows have been cancelled due to the current pandemic, however, the selected gallery is available for viewing online.

We believe there is going to be a big transition in the coming decade, more so now with the current pandemic. The citizen’s role in emergency preparedness, the impacts of climate change, inequity and the perceived lack of opportunity, social disconnection, and disengaged youth.

These challenges have been top of mind for us, and most recently, working with youths to build better futures through Tamarack’s new practice area, Communities Building Youth Futures. This 5-year Collective Impact strategy was developed to enable youths to be more engaged in their communities and successfully navigate transitions from youth to adulthood. 

Learn more:

Share this article:

Icon_Tamarack_LinkedIn.png Icon_Tamarack_Twitter.png Icon_Tamarack_Facebook.png

What Might a Youth-Led Initiative Look like?

Youth-LedAs Tamarack Institute guides Communities Building Youth Futures— a five-year Collective Impact strategy in 13 communities across Canada to engage youth who are facing barriers — we are encouraging communities to think differently about their leadership structures.

In addition to working collaboratively across sectors, we want communities to embrace ways of working together that put youth at the center and invites significant youth leadership.

A recent keynote from Nation Cheong, VP of United Way Greater Toronto, challenged us all to take the way we are engaging youth to the next level, and to be radically relational and equip youth to be actors on the stage. Watch highlight's from Nation's keynote here.

So what then might a youth-led initiative look like?

  • Employing youth to manage the initiative
  • Ensuring 25% of a leadership team is made up of youth
  • Building capacity in youth so that they are set up to lead and manage well
  • Building capacity of system leaders and organizational staff to understand how to encourage and embrace youth leadership
  • Changing your mindset and behaviours – If you are ‘partnering’ with youth rather than ‘consulting’ with youth, how might your process and activities change?
  • Always inviting youth to speak for themselves – How do they interpret the data about graduation rates? How do they want to be engaged? What are their hopes for the future?
  • Raising the voice of those who have historically been excluded. Focus on connecting with marginalized youth and those who face systemic barriers, e.g. low-income, youth-in-care, homeless, LGBTQ+, Indigenous, racialized, etc.
  • Being the power broker to enable youth to feel comfortable and encouraged to speak to power
  • Working with youth to learn about their ideas first, and build upon these ideas together
  • Recognizing the time and talent of youth and providing compensation
  • Having youth advisors assess the validity of solutions and decide which ones should be pursued
  • Having youth lead sensemaking processes – The reasons why something worked or didn’t work from their perspective will likely be different from your own
  • Focusing on building relationships with youth. Be invested in their success. Be genuinely interested in learning from them. Allow yourself to be surprised. Say yes.

If this feels risky, ask yourself—what could go wrong with this initiative if it isn’t youth-led? If your answers feel even riskier, then you’re on the right track.

Learn More:

Share this article:

Icon_Tamarack_LinkedIn.png Icon_Tamarack_Twitter.png Icon_Tamarack_Facebook.png

Empowering Youth During a Pandemic

A group of people standing in a room

Description automatically generatedA lot has changed in the last few weeks. I flew home from the National Gathering for Communities Building Youth Futures (CBYF) on March 13th and came home to what felt like a different reality. In Kitchener-Waterloo, I had the privilege of spending the week with amazing people from all over the country, talking about Collective Impact and systemic change. Through this, I was unaware of how much change was still yet to happen just on the other side of a flight back to my home province of Nova Scotia. Being in conversation that week with people from many organizations, working on interventions from the micro to the macro scale, I was reminded that our work with communities around complex social challenges is more important, now than ever. As COVID-19 impacts the way we live, work, and engage in community, I find myself wondering, how do we do our work without perpetuating or sustaining the challenges which have come before, and could continue beyond the pandemic? 

The work of Inspiring Communities is about fostering the conditions which support positive systemic change and a key part of this is focusing on relationships. Due to COVID-19, we are seeing many changes and adaptations happening in real time, which is impacting our ability to foster positive relationships. The individuals who support our work across Atlantic Canada have faced significant changes and we have adapted, turning to online formats to foster relationships and collaboration. To do this well in the time of COVID-19, we must create space for conversations that explore the impacts of the pandemic and allow us to deepen our relationships. In our work with CBYF in Digby, we have shifted and adapted our plans so that we can continue to work and support youth through an online medium. In rush to do everything online, are we at risk of recreating many of the challenges that we are committed to working through? Does shifting to online work sustain or create power asymmetry?

Online meetings have been a great way for people to stay in touch and continue valuable community-based work. However, without the in-person component, are we limited in our ability to organically cultivate and sustain the relationships needed for impactful work to occur? For the youth we work with, it is important to create space to talk about the things they are missing, the fears they might have, and the ways they have been resilient and adaptive.

This is becoming patterned into our new way of working and it is being considered when planning how we want to work with youth in Communities Building Youth Futures. As we consider how this new way of working is impacting us, we also want to ask, how can we use this as an opportunity to build deeper and more resilient relationships with youth in our communities? 

Learn More

Share this article:

Icon_Tamarack_LinkedIn.png Icon_Tamarack_Twitter.png Icon_Tamarack_Facebook.png

The Latest from Tamarack

Upcoming Events

Turf, Trust, and Virtual Collaboration

Virtual Workshop | This event is now sold out, but we invite you to join the waitlist for first access to future dates. 

Communities use collaboration to tackle some of their most complex issues, but we often dive into collaboration without truly understanding or embracing the human side of this work. This is even more challenging in a virtual environment.

Join Liz Weaver for an online workshop designed to equip you with
simple, practical tools and approaches to building trust in a virtual environment, and effectively engaging diverse community partners.

Learn more and join the waitlist

_2020 TTC Virtual Square


Upcoming Webinars

Creating a Culture of Equity and Reconciliation

Date: June 9, 2020

Speakers: Suzanne Methot and Pamela Teitelbaum


At Home with Uncertainty: Practical Outcome Mapping Concepts and Tools

Date: June 18, 2020

Speakers: Heidi Schaeffer and Pamela Teitelbaum


How Cities are Responding to the Pandemic

Date: June 23, 2020

Speakers: Kirsten Hargreaves, Aleisha Apang, Augustina Nagberi-Asseez and Cathy Wright

Moderator: Mary Rowe


Being Accountable to Our Communities: What Are We Promising, and How Are We Working Together

Date: June 30, 2020

Speakers: Rich Harwood & Lisa Attygalle