Below we feature some of our collaborations, a sampling of our past work. These diverse projects have provided us, and our clients, considerable opportunity for adaptation and applied learning. Our approach to the work continues to evolve.
Katie was Program Manager of SWBC for four years. SWBC is a project of the BC Wine Grape Council, developed to promote sustainability of the BC wine industry, through sustainability certification, as well as providing educational resources and training to help vineyards and wineries establish sustainable practices. Katie led the development of an internationally recognized certification program, anchored in sustainability science, global best practices and BC winegrowing and winemaking realities. The SWBC also shares best practices and measures ongoing improvement. Under her direction the program launched late in 2020, with enthusiastic reception. During the inaugural certifying year of 2021 fourteen vineyards and wineries were certified.
Following on David’s role as Director of Campus Planning and Development for UBC’s Okanagan Campus from 2017 to 2019, he was invited by the UBC Campus and Community Planning to provide advisory services for the university. David interviewed more than 50 academic leaders and senior administrative staff at UBC to provide comprehensive recommendations for: (1) enhanced university planning and development of the Okanagan campus; (2) an integrating framework to help Campus and Community Planning connect long-term aspirations with current projects; (3) establish a Campus as a Living Lab at UBCO; and (4) create UBCO’s first report on strategic capital planning of campus infrastructure.
While Director of Campus Planning and Development, David envisioned a future UBCO campus that exceeded previous aspirations. He oversaw the team (UBCO staff and consultants) that prepared UBC Okanagan’s flyover video to illustrate the considerable potential for future campus development, facilitating a near doubling of the current student population and phasing in a major new ‘innovation precinct.’ Outlook 2040 has been presented widely by the university’s senior leadership to further engage the community in the university’s aspirations. Outlook 2040 is informed by local, provincial, and global contexts including estimates of future population, educational demand, technological and social change.
Synapse worked with the MIG Group to design and facilitate summit planning and community engagement and summit facilitation for a county-wide summit to address affordability and support people without homes. Synapse and MIG worked with Sonoma County Community Development Commission managers, convened and facilitated regional focus groups, planned and facilitated the summit (500 diverse participants representing the multiple county geographies and interests). The final synthesis report sets out priority areas and specific recommendations generated by summit participants in six categories: Changing Perspectives, Funding and Financing, Supportive Social Services, Land Use and Permitting, Collaborating Across Sectors and Buildings.
Synapse was invited by the Director of Citywide Planning to lead a ‘Strategic Sustainability Scan’ of major urban sustainability trends with strategic implications for the future city. Synapse participated in the Director’s Working Group and engaged about 30 department directors and other senior staff (representing more than $8b annual budget and more than 25,000 staff) to identify 12 major, interrelated trends with long range consequences for the city. This led to enhanced strategic foresight for the City, a first-ever one-day ‘director’s retreat’ with a focus on shared strategic issues and a number of strategic, interdepartmental collaborations.
Facilitator for multi-stakeholder Food System Alliances in counties across the state including Sonoma, San Diego, Fresno & San Mateo Counties to develop & implement strategies for seamless management and operations of Alliances under new self-management. Also responsible for the development of the Contra Costa Food System Alliance under a new one year launch process.
Ag Innovations Network
Synapse was invited by UBC to conceptualize a Regenerative Neighbourhoods Project as part of UBC’s Campus as a Living Lab. The RNP explored the potential and capability for improving both ecosystem functioning and human quality of life in the context of neighbourhoods. through research and engaging North American-leading thinkers on the definition, design and development of ‘regenerative neighbourhoods.’ Foundation funding came in two stages, leading to a three-pronged project: research, campus application and engagement and knowledge diffusion with a network of experts and practitioners. Lessons learned led to more concerted early intervention in major UBC campus capital projects with more ambitious manager goals and a series of publications sharing the new knowledge.
Synapse was invited by the CRD’s Senior Manager of Regional Planning to work with the Corporate Leadership Team and Board of Directors to create the Board’s highest level, 3-year ‘strategic plan,’ which set major priorities, corporate goals and sub-goals to be accomplished by the CRD organization. This included facilitating a half-day CRD Form of Councils, where about 70 elected representatives (e.g. representing 14 Municipal Councils) were engaged in a real-time evaluation and improvement of the draft priorities.
Large Canadian Mining Company
Synapse was invited to design and co-facilitate a multi-year sustainability leadership process for a managers group with 17 representatives from all company divisions, reporting to the CEO. A process that combined training in sustainability science along with six, topic-specific focus groups successfully led to the company’s first Sustainability Leadership Strategy. With endorsement of the Executive and the direction provided by the strategy, the company went on to train broadly and implement more socially and environmentally responsible practices across its 5000+ global workforce.
Katie was invited by the Executive Director (ED) of the Aboriginal Front Door Society (AFD), in Vancouver, to collaborate on a multi-year engagement process, including strategic planning, work planning and further development of the AFD Board of Directors. Strategic planning included clarifying purpose, outlining goals and creating an action plan based on a robust logic model. Within a year, the AFD had achieved 4 of 5 of its goals, as part of a two-year plan! Working closely with the ED, Katie co-facilitated the Board development process, including a Board retreat and creation of a manual to clarify member scope of work and upcoming goals. The AFD ED, the organization and its funders were pleased with the successes experienced through working together! This project exemplified shared learning and the power of trust to overcome barriers and achieve collectively created outcomes.
Board of Directors Strategic Planning
Aboriginal Front Door Society
After serving as Director of Sustainability Programs at the David Suzuki Foundation, David Waldron was invited by the CEO to help create DSF’s Long-Term Direction Project. The LTDP would set the path forward for the ‘second generation’ of the Foundation’s existence. David oversaw the development of four ‘background reports’ based on interviews with national thought leaders on sustainability, the environment, advocacy and change. He subsequently authored the first draft (‘80%’) of the LTDP, which was ultimately signed by the CEO re-directing the foundation’s work towards less emphasis on traditional environmental activism towards more on a hopeful vision and new, national narratives. A draft, five-year strategic plan was also developed to guide program delivery.
Energy-Cities is a membership-based association that empowers hundreds of local authorities from across Europe to shape and transition to next generation, sustainable and resilient energy. In 2006, the Executive Director invited David Waldron, of Synapse to present the practice of ‘backcasting’ to inspire and guide a new initiative called IMAGINE. The IMAGINE initiative grew from a desire by member cities to promote a longer-term perspective and visioning of energy solutions. IMAGINE focuses on inspiring change in order to help enrich the reflections and strategies of social, institutional and economic players at all levels. David supported the creation of the new program through co-creative workshops and keynote presentations in various European cities.
In 2003, David was invited to lead the small team that designed and launched the original MSLS Programme in August, 2004. This master’s program was designed and delivered in collaboration with leading international experts in sustainability science, strategy, leadership for complex adaptive systems, organizational learning, human scale development and sustainable product development. Partly in recognition of the success of this program, BTH has been independently recognized as a top-ranked technical university for sustainability education in Europe. The two original themes of the program – i.e. Strategic Sustainable Development and Leadership in Complexity – continue to guide the program today: now with over 700 graduates from 80 different countries.
This community partnership engaged more than 1,000 professional and other staff within about 6 lead organizations in Whistler in a ‘train the trainers’ learning program (engaging ~10% of the population of Whistler) and public-facing sustainability speakers series, leading to multiple partnerships and tangible sustainability innovations across the community. Whistler. It’s Our Nature won a national award from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities for Best Community Sustainability Initiative. It was the forerunner Whistler 2020: Whistler’s first Integrated Community Sustainability Plan (ICSP) and a national (e.g. FCM) and international award-winning strategic plan. Whistler’s ICSP was an early best-practice plan and recognized as a model for subsequent municipal ICSP’s across Canada.
Whistler. It’s Our Nature
Resort Municipality of Whistler
and community partners
Resort Municipality of Whistler
David authored Whistler’s very first environmental strategy, a comprehensive plan for ‘Moving Towards Environmental Sustainability’, one of five major pillars of Whistler’s five year vision at the time, Whistler 2002. The WES applied a systems perspective to set direction and priority actions for management of local landscapes, municipal infrastructure and the organizational systems. The WES was acknowledged internationally as one of the most comprehensive and thorough plans to incorporate the Natural Step framework for strategic sustainable development.
Developed in 1997, Whistler 2002: Charting a Course for the Future was Whistler’s first five-year, overarching vision. It set five resort community priorities and accompanying directions and was adopted by Mayor and Council to guide subsequent statutory plans and policies such as the Official Community Plan, zoning bylaws and capital plans. David was invited by the City Manager to help engage the community, Council and staff, carry out research and draft a vision that charts a new course for the ‘resort community.’
Charting a Course
for the Future
Resort Municipality of Whistler
1997 – 1998