We recently discussed Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) from the perspective of an entrepreneur, and highlighted how some businesses products are developed to address issues labelled as CSR problems. Often, the challenge for Socially Responsible Initiatives come from making the community aware and involved, and in explaining the benefits of the programs to potential supporters of the program.
The biggest benefit of being socially responsible to a corporation is not the tax deduction; it is the benefit to corporate culture that is derived from employee participation. Being involved in the community matters, and benefits everyone.
None of us think of ourselves as a senior, but with age we will all acquire some of the disabilities that others already face at youth. Many of the challenges others face will someday be yours, and some will begin to effect someone you love tomorrow.
Often, becoming involved in philanthropy reflects how many people only get involved to supporting solutions, when the problem directly affects them. The challenge for CSR oriented organizations is often the challenges being addressed are invisible to most of us.
As awareness is the challenge, we thought it would be interesting to talk to Tim Cormode of Power to Be, a not-for-profit organization that embodies CSR principles. In speaking with Tim, we learned how the organization started, and how it demonstrate how good CSR practices are not adopted just as “best practices,” rather they naturally become integral to an organization as a reflection of the leadership.
About Power to Be
Power to Be is a Victoria BC based organization whose mission delivers two programs targeting youth in need. 1) Adaptive Recreation which offers short nature-based recreational activities for people living with a barrier or disability, and 2) Wilderness School a longer three-year program experience designed for youth who benefit from extra social support in their lives. These programs utilize teachable moments in nature to help youth build confidence and develop skills while learning from each other.
Tim Cormode started Power to Be in 1998. The organization’s work has been recognized locally and nationally as an important community service filling the gaps between social services, education and healthcare for many undeserved youth and families living in British Columbia. I asked Tim a range of questions;
What inspired you to start Power to Be?
Tim – “I grew up in a family that was all about giving back and making a difference in the community. So my dad was a pediatrician, and my mom a physiotherapist. I spent time accompanying my father, seeing firsthand the contribution to the community and the work that he did unselfishly. He really loved helping people and going the extra mile.
“When I was 16, I got my first job. It was working in a summer program for people with disabilities, and all I can say is I loved it! It was the type of work opportunity where I made a difference in people’s lives, and I discovered I was good at helping others. It resonated with me, and as I went through university I sought out work with a community program for people with disabilities.
“A confluence of events as I was finishing my University degree allowed me to follow my passion for helping others, and led me to Canmore Alberta. There, I immersed myself in a 3-month outdoor leadership program without knowing where it would lead. I just knew I wanted to do it. I became engaged in a variety outdoor adventure activities and these opened my eyes. I realized that I’d lost a valuable part of myself through my university years. The realization came to me on one particular day when we had climbed a peak, and I was alone to contemplate my thoughts. The idea of Activity as a Therapy hit me right there at that moment. I felt inspired. I felt more confident in where I was going in life and I realized I wanted to help the kind of kids that I’d worked with in the past climb their own mountains and hopefully feel the same sense of peace and satisfaction that I was feeling that day.
“I came down off the mountain, and graduated from that program. At that point, I was unemployed, but I applied for a grant to start a business, (Power to Be), and the rest really is history.
“I had read a book called “Good to Great” and what resonated for me was that you do best when you surround yourself with really great people, ask for lots of advice, and if you just really know what you’re good at and focus on surrounding yourself with people who can do all the things that you’re not so good at, together you can do all the right things.”
Q. Today the focus of Power to Be is about disability as a whole. How did that evolve?
Tim: “We thought that if we could work with a hospital like Children’s Hospital as a starting point and we do a good job there, it would allow us to open doors for other opportunities. Serendipitously, we sent in a proposal and it just so happened that some children in the hospital had been asking to the doctors and the hospital to consider looking at adventure programs for kids like themselves that were in the hospital, or in treatment as outpatients.
“To learn more, I did some volunteer work in Colorado with an outdoor organization that did a lot of work focused on people with disabilities because I really wanted to see how they operated. I’m a big believer in the idea that if you are going to build something, you should go and look at other organizations that are doing something similar, and learn from their success.
“When I saw the potential of adaptive recreation and the inclusive type of environment that you can provide for people with disabilities it that was a key piece of the puzzle that helped us define our mandate to reach people with a much broader group of challenges.
“In adaptive recreation we also recognized that as individuals we tend to think about disabilities as people who have them. We think of the disabilities as visible. But what if we don’t recognize them? As far as invisible disabilities there are an astonishing number of families and kids that have invisible disabilities that we simply don’t recognize, in particular, disabilities around brain injuries and mental health issues. These issues have a significant impact on their overall growth, as well as their health and well being, Their challenges are compounded by the fact that they often don’t know how to communicate effectively.
“Many people are unaware of the spectrum of barriers, visible and non-visible, and sometimes that lack of awareness is their, and our biggest challenge.”
…to be continued in part 2… Making A Difference