In January of 2019, the Boys & Girls Clubs (BGCC) passed what we called our “Dream Big” strategy, a call to action and a sense of direction for the next three years following our 80-year history. It was important for us to reconsider everything, to really dig into the value we wanted to offer our community and the hopes and aspirations of this generation’s leadership team. In this high-level strategy, we identified aspirations that we could use as both a guiding light for direction and a filter for decision-making:
These are huge aspirations and to be candid, as we looked at the Alberta economy, the increase in demand for what we offer and the complexity of the context within which we were serving, it became clear that we could not achieve these on our own.
Choosing a partner to openly and candidly share your organizational aspirations, hopes and concerns with was not easy. Reaching out to Aspen Family and Community Network (Aspen) began with my relationship with Shirley Purves, Aspen’s long-term CEO.
Shirley and I have a relationship of trust, mutual admiration and respect. I knew that Shirley would be able to hold such an uncertain possibility with wisdom and grace. I also had a real hope that BGCC could find a partner agency that would expand service delivery outside of children and youth so that we could do more for Calgary families. With Aspen, I saw the potential to minimize the complexity for those we serve and to make a generational difference by serving across generational boundaries. I had a gut sense that our cultures, strategies and people could align. This is essential, particularly in a human service organization where people are the secret sauce of everything we offer. The more I thought about it, Aspen was the perfect partner for BGCC.
Today, as we work to integrate these two amazing organizations, we are full of hope and excitement about the possibilities within this new entity. Realistically, there will be challenges. The one that comes to mind the most for me is that of integrating cultures, or what people often refer to as ‘organizational DNA.’ Merging cultures is a lot like parenting. On a personal level, my wife and I both had the privilege of providing the DNA for our kids – making them a combination of us both, but wholly their own. Our hopes as parents are that they outgrow us, that they go further and farther, are kinder and greater and so much more. We hope they leave our home as adults, not as children.
My hope for our merger is that it reflects the best parts of our independent DNA’s, but what comes to life is something different altogether, whole and independent from the legacy agencies.
My hope is that this new entity is even kinder, more gracious, compassionate, equitable and just. In creating something new, we can shed what didn’t work in the past so that, like my kids, a new and better way of doing things is born. This is easy to write but will be a challenge to make real. This will be the hard work of leadership and the joint effort of everyone involved.
I never imagined that a dream this big would become a reality. A merger between BGCC and Aspen to form One Big Door through which people can access supports that enable generational change is remarkable.
But being big is not the point. The legacy of this merger will be when we come to realize that we are kinder, more compassionate and infinitely more capable to join Calgarians along their journey. That we are financially more sustainable so that we can be even more generous with those we serve. That we create an easy road for those we work with so that their efforts may be spent on important life changes rather than wasted on navigating complex systems and bureaucracy. Taking this journey with so many others offers us the chance to speak up with an articulate voice.
My hope is that when people look back on this in a generation, after all of us are gone and forgotten, the people who call this agency their doorway will have known it to be welcoming, wide and transformational for generations to come.
“My hope is that when people look back on this in a generation, after all of us are gone and forgotten, the people who call this agency their doorway will have known it to be welcoming, wide and transformational for generations to come.”