Delyse Sylvester – Becoming Visible 2011 – Making Change Through Tri-Sector Partnerships

Delyse Sylvester is Director of Community with Ashoka's Changemakers.  Changemakers is a remarkable vehicle for convening people using an on line platform and mobilizing their creativity to solve tough problems.  In this context she was called to lead a Changemakers 'competition' involving the G-20 leaders and creating a fund to finance small and medium enterprises in the developing world.  That's the front end of the story. 

The back end (and most interesting) is Delyse's life long commitment to social justice. Sure, she is more than competent at leading a Changemaker strategy at the G-20, at short notice and to great success.  More valuable, as the essay below reflects, she is a seasoned campaigner spotting the deep patterns that make change possible; questioning her 'sacred cows'; and inserting herself into unfamiliar territory on the chance it will benefit countless others.  This is the wisdom Jacques Dufresne referenced in his essay ,which is also part of this series.  This is the wisdom of a seasoned trail blazer.  

Here is her response to the question: What would you like to become more visible in 2011?  You can also Download Becoming Visible  -  the complete collection of 58 essays including Delyse's.

Making Change Through Tri-Sector Partnerships

“No matter what party you support, you need to put in the hours to get the leadership you want.”

Even at an early age my mother couldn’t fool me. Her non-partisan advice was a thin disguise for her Big L liberal loyalties. I’m sure she envisioned the five of us around the table in little red sweaters stitched w/ Trudeau’s profile, Liberal pamphlets pressed to our chests. As she spoke she eyed my father suspiciously- never quite sure of his pragmatic left or right of centre leanings.  

The core message was to be a Changemaker. Like their chosen community organizations, my parents believed that government required our time, voice and finances to express and deliver on our collective values. The more we commit, the more opportunities we create for ourselves and the generations to come.   

Increasingly this childhood memory is more disturbing then uplifting. While my siblings and I grew up trading local and national policy stats and political leaders like hockey cards, I now find myself much less of a believer.

My numbing political sensibilities are about perceiving government now as a closed system with an increasing obsession for strategies to disengage. The thought of an election doesn’t conjure up my mom’s rally cry but makes me want to stay home and watch Saturday Night Live’s Julian Assange skits.

I know there is no golden era of tri-partnership of civil society, business and government working in an open system of participation and impact.  But we benefit from the legacies born from such collaborations – public education; healthcare; social service programs; the United Nations.  All of which are suffering from an absence of our creative, collaborative roots.

Without each other at the table we are increasingly insular and risk adverse –talking amongst ourselves more fervently, but frankly with less conviction and dramatically waning creativity.  

But I see hope.

As Al wrote in November 2010, I participated at the G20 Seoul Summit with an inspiring group of young leaders (and old) from Ashoka’s Changemakers, Rockefeller Foundation with global business and government leaders. The speed and transparency of our work together surprised us.

Our challenge: to unlock social finance for the developing world’s small and medium sized enterprises chronically denied credit, loans and investment largely because of gender, race and class.  

Within four months world leaders shared the G20 stage with 14 inspiring, scalable innovations.  In short order governments had their models to invest over 550 million and incremental steps toward stabilizing the global economy – civil society had agreement at the highest level of power to a social change agenda – and business had their opportunity to grow “the missing middle”.

What we experienced was a collaboration that didn’t require us to be convinced of each other’s isms. The innovations brought us to common cause not our words or past misdeeds. 

We are still eyeing each other suspiciously across the table – as we should. Can government deliver the funding and do so in a transparent and accountable manner? Can the organizations deliver on their promises, continually innovating and avoiding corruption as they scale? Can the business and banking sector demonstrate through their investment that multiple bottom line is good for business? 

My hope for 2011 is that we make change in partnership – more quickly and more profoundly then in the past sluggish years.  Open sourcing hundreds known and little known solutions to address other pernicious challenges in healthcare, prison reform, climate change and aboriginal education.  You name it. What we need is a few months and a commitment to show up at the table.


You can access the previous post I wrote on Delyse here.

You can download the complete collection of Becoming Visible responses here: Download Becoming Visible.  Or by clicking the Becoming Visible Category on the right hand side of your screen.

Please share and distribute to your friends and through your various networks, websites etc.  I think you will agree – these are too good to keep to ourselves.



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