Vanessa Simonin


Tell us about your work in your community

I assisted the start-up of a small company in Heavy Equipment Repair and Parts Supply and am currently administrating the business expansion. We are hoping to be online and selling to an expanded market by the end of next year. I also work very part-time at the non-profit Multicultural Heritage Centre in Stony Plain, which is a historical site and community based cultural arts centre. I sit on the Executive of the Board of Directors for Community Futures Capitol Region, and advocacy sub-committee. I'm a member of the Sundowners Toastmasters club as well as part of an International Women's Leadership collective called the Vibrant Grove.

Tell us a story about a time you brought people together to improve your community.

As Community Programmer at MHC, I worked on 2 grants that brought community together. The first grant, focused on inviting local business and community members to offer interactive multigenerational learning workshops and skill building opportunities to the community while building relationships and customers of their own. This also brought people to the centre, which was also great for the centre. We held workshops on organic gardening and composting, food preservation, soap making, fibre arts, wood carving, historical and cultural tours, etc.

Having moved to Parkland in 2006, I was surprised to see how segregated diverse communities were from what I was used to. I sought to find out the historical and contemporary relationships here while I worked in Historical Resources, and found there had been a particular incident that created this sort of segregation.

The Untold Stories grant engaged community through a First Nations perspective and offered the community an opportunity to celebrate and learn about First Nations history through a celebration we named Tipi Village, held on Canada Day 2013 in Stony Plain. This celebration, in it’s planning stages and on the day of observed protocol, and served to build bridges between communities; it made visible the beauty of First Nations culture; offered historical and cultural based learning workshops and activities; 3 drummer groups, 32 dancers including 4 adult fancy dancers; Aboriginal artists and entertainment. We had huge support from the Paul First Nation, Alexis Nation, and various organizations in the city.

What problems are you trying to solve?

Building new layers of community around sustainable local economic growth, preventing capital flight, building a more resilient local economy less subject to the flux of the global economy. Assist the evolving energy transition and social-innovation economy, help people dream big and drive innovation, finding solutions to our problems. I see the concept of “problems” as connected from the local to the macro, so that when we solve one problem, it has a ripple effect and can help us to solve other problems on all levels of society. 

What do you need to learn how to do in order to solve that?

I need to learn how to implement my big ideas and map out the best steps to implementing them in a sustainable way. How to get the support and resources that I need to manifest these big ideas, and I would like to learn from the examples of others in their own social innovation endeavors about what worked and what didn’t work.

What are the most powerful questions you need to ask right now?

I think the most pressing questions are economic in nature. How do we build more inclusive and sustainable local economies for the benefit of everyone? How do we drive technological and social innovation, and expand that to global markets? How do we engage in the global economy while addressing our local and regional social and economic challenges? 

If we all worked together, what do you imagine that we could achieve in the next five to ten years?

In the next 5-10 years, I see us transforming our economy into one that serves to support an abundant and sustainable lifestyle inclusively. I see the obsolescence and elimination of an environmentally and socially unsustainable economic paradigm. Ultimately, I see the possibility of the redirection of resources from a culture of war toward a sustainable and abundant future through innovation- both technological and social.

Connect with Vanessa on LinkedIn.