In 2022, the City of Peterborough, in partnership with the Community Foundation embarked on a project they called Faces of Leadership, supported by a $10,000 grant from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Canadian Women in Local Leadership Fund.

This initiative aimed to support the development of an inclusive understanding of leadership and the many ways in which it is actioned, and to empower equity-deserving groups with the confidence and opportunity to see themselves as leaders.

The project’s first phase looked at the unique journeys individuals from marginalized communities navigate in order to assume leadership positions.

“We started by convening focus groups that included women who had held or run for elected office, executive directors of charities and non-profits, and other people who are recognized as leaders by their peers. We asked them a series of questions that centred on providing supports and building capacity for women and gender-diverse individuals to become leaders in our community,” explained Jennifer DeBues, Executive Director of the Community Foundation.

The second phase of the project unfolded from January to June 2023 with the delivery of a community-led Leadership Circle—a series of six interactive workshops that explored different facets of leadership and provided opportunities to strengthen leadership skills within a supportive group environment.

Reflecting on her/their experience as a workshop participant, Sioux Dickson explained that the workshops provided a “safe space for leadership to be explored, and allowed for ideas outside of the system to emerge.”

The project not only altered perspectives on leadership but also cultivated connections among participants, project leads, and facilitators, fostering a collective desire for change.

“While interest in municipal positions was not immediately expressed, participants developed a better understanding of local leadership opportunities and enhanced their commitment to transformative change, underlining the significance of diverse representation and supportive leadership frameworks,” concludes Reem Ali, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisor for the City of Peterborough.

Look for a project evaluation report to be circulated in 2024.