Louise Adongo

Founder, Director (CUA), Proud Public Servant

 What's your vision for Atlantic Canada in 10 years? What’s our biggest opportunity now?

My vision-”scape” is bigger than Atlantic Canada, but then also as small as Halifax :-) I can say that my vision includes empowering youth to consider a broad spectrum of careers and joining the network of people putting a greater spotlight on the potential for Social Enterprise and careers in Clean Tech for our economy.

One thing I have been thinking about, in terms of opportunity, is the polarity in public discourse. This applies more broadly - beyond Atlantic Canada - as well. Increasingly, there appear to be only two sides allowed in a public discussion or debate. This makes it difficult for any perspectives to exist along the continuum.

A friend and I were talking about this over lunch this past week, in the context of private market and social enterprise. My friend was frustrated that there appeared to be no appetite, in the network she was part of, to consider inviting (and including) socially-minded representatives from for-profit industry to the table. It led us to consider bridge-building as a big opportunity for us.  I think it is an opportunity we can do something about starting now – I do think we’re doing some of this with cross-sectoral collaboration and innovation sand-boxes, but we could do more.

Imagine an “all-of-us or none-of-us” perspective? Or if we were inclusive of those in the middle and on the margins? How might we encourage the practice of difficult conversations at the interpersonal and community level? For instance: what would it look like to have a dialogue about fracking that did not exclude the perspectives from the middle? I am not necessarily ascribing a wrongness about the polarities; I have been reflecting lately on the hollowed-out continuum between the extremes.

What was your greatest stage of growth?  What made it a shift for you? 

I don't think I have had it yet - my greatest stage of growth. I have had a lot of growth from experiences I did not anticipate and I have learned a lot of lessons from conversations with people about their stories.

But thinking on it a little more, something I’ve learned - and benefitted greatly from - is how to balance what must be said with the delivery of the message. Moving from ‘blunt truth’ to considering the message-receiver has been a game-changer interpersonally and professionally for me.

What's your favourite or most read book or podcast?

I don’t have a favourite book really, but I like the messages books share. Perhaps it is because of the oral style of the storytelling, or the new information I am learning, I am not sure. Perhaps it is because of the power of story to reach parts of me that facts and figures don’t do in the same way.  I am currently reading Braiding Sweetgrass and enjoying it immensely.

What's your deepest learning from this past year? How did/will you apply it?

I learned [again] that I can't do it all and that is ok. People have told me that for much of my life - and some years I saw the sense while in other years I completely disagree with it. This past year, burn-out showed me that maybe it was alright to pay attention to the wise words of people who care about me [including “other” me].

Who's inspired you, directly or indirectly? How have they inspired you?

Do we have all day? Smile.

Indirectly, the list and reasons are too many to name here. I am inspired by resilient people who continue to re-invent themselves and thrive according to their own definitions of health, wealth and wellness, despite any setbacks (personal or professional) or any detours in their "perfect" plans.

My biggest direct inspirations are my siblings, parents and grandparents. My life path, like most, is informed and influenced by my first role models - family. My maternal grandmother is a community leader who, after retiring from a career in social work in the city, moved to her home in a rural community where she founded a Women’s Development group.  The goal of this group is to improve living standards of women in the village sustainably, using locally available resources. She is a powerful model of re-invention to me. A young widow with 10 children who just never stopped moving forward and considering opportunities for big impact through progressive change for the women in her community. Maybe I follow in her footsteps in my courage to try something new or do old things differently?

My parents inspire(d) me to dream and to see possibilities beyond immediate time and space. I am inspired by my parents (and grandmothers) vision; seeing beyond what is in the present. Social injustice and many of the complex problems we face require a different kind, level and perspective of thinking than the status quo. And my parents were both very strong models of anti-status quo thinking (and being) for me. My father was unconventional for his generation and interacted with us in what could now be termed gender-neutral norms, but was really for me just “Dad being dad”.  And my mother is my wisest, most compassionate, servant-leader role model. As I once told some colleagues at a work retreat: “watching my mom navigate an ever-evolving personal and professional world, while raising her family and supporting her community with deep wisdom, endless curiosity, openness to change and quiet strength has been a deep influence in who I am.”

From my inspirations, I have learned: hope, evolution, tenacity, perseverance and patience (ok, I may still be working on that one - smile).

What are you most proud of professionally?

I spoke about some of this in a recent interview: "How to Reach Your Potential".

What would you have done differently?

Like many of your other inspirational women featured in this series, I would have started sooner. I would have acknowledged and embraced my potential as a change agent and started sooner. While this is not necessarily a regret - it is something I would have done - started [asking, doing, risking and being] sooner. But then again, there is wisdom that I got along the way that made the time I started, the right time.

What motivated you to make the choices you've made? What are the principles you live by?

I have been motivated to make the choices I've made by different factors over the years. I have an academic background in biochemistry, health service research and public policy. These choices were based on my love of science, my fascination with systems and later, by my desire to work with people and make impact in [more] lives through public policy.

I value collaboration, innovation and inclusion. Fortunately, or otherwise, the variety of my lived and professional experiences limits my abilities in siloed-thinking. I interact with many circles professionally and in community. In conversations with a friend in the recent past I recall saying “if everybody is on the same page, then perhaps we might not have included everybody”.

I am often curious about what we could achieve if we asked ourselves different questions than we currently do, and if we listen to people who we don’t ordinarily or traditionally seek out for comment.

How have you recovered from fractured professional relationships?  What uncomfortable truths have you learned about yourself in those experiences)?

As we change and grow and become more of who we want to be, our professional relationships can change.

The Kenny Rogers song, ‘The Gambler’, pretty much sums up what recovery looks like. Not all relationships are meant to last and that is ok.

An uncomfortable truth I have learned about myself is that sometimes I hold on to what should be released and sometimes I let go too quickly of what still held great value in lessons and experience for me. 

Curious observer of human interactions, Dog- Nature- and Community-lover, Reader, Dreamer, Wannabe Poet, “Actionist”, Travel enthusiast

Louise Adongo