2019 DiverseCity Fellow Mike Brooks provides expert advice to decision makers on supporting positive development for children and youth across Ontario as a Senior Policy Analyst with the Ontario Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services. Mike helped catalyze efforts to move the needle on education and employment outcomes for youth through the Collective Impact for Disconnected Youth Initiative, piloted in communities across the province. Mike’s commitment to involving community in co-creating solutions has twice earned him the Ontario Public Service Amethyst Award for the Youth Action Plan and Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy, as well as the inaugural MCYS Deputy’s Den Award. You can find Mike running or cycling around his home neighbourhood of Roncesvalles and reviewing new and old music under the hashtag #RunReviews. Connect with Mike.
This piece was written to share Mike’s experiences in the program with other Ontario Public Servants.
Thinking outside the walls of government
By Mike G. Brooks
In January, I began a year-long journey of leadership development and learning as a member of the 2019 CivicAction DiverseCity Fellowship. Through this fellowship, I’m thrilled to learn, work and grow alongside Fellows working across the private, non-profit, philanthropic and public sectors.
Together, we’ll hone our leadership skills while tackling some complex challenges, looking through a lens of sustainable city-building.
That’s the stuff that I expected to happen.
However, since meeting the other fellows, my experience with the DiverseCity Fellowship has overflowed with budding friendships, professional connections and helpful suggestions and criticisms that have propelled my work forward here at MCCSS.
Upon acceptance into the fellowship, I did not expect to quickly develop the level of trust I now enjoy with my fellow fellows. Much of this trust was developed during a two-day retreat where we coloured in the picture that our professional biographies and profiles had sketched for each other. The power of this experience cannot be understated.
Learning about the rich experiences of my peers reinforced the importance of thinking outside the walls of my own office and community.
In introducing myself to the cohort of fellows, I found myself defaulting to language and logic that is common in my line of work but doesn’t resonate at all with others – many of which work in adjacent fields like the non-profit and philanthropic sectors.
While still in its infancy, I’m thankful for this gut-check from my peers to think about my work in more accessible terms as a first step toward collaborative action.
To get the most out of this experience, I have committed to meeting one-on-one with the 29 fellows in the cohort over the course of the year. Through these discussions, I hope to get a more detailed look at their work and how it might dove-tail with that the of the MCCSS.
I’m honoured to be the ministry’s representative on this fellowship and will continue to soak up every ounce of learning from the cohort and the programming from CivicAction.
Perforating the lines between sectors does not have to wait for you to be a CivicAction DiverseCity Fellow.
It can be kicked off with a simple invitation for coffee. It can be done regularly or episodically. It can be for information gathering or advice seeking. It can start now.
As my journey through the 2019 CivicAction DiverseCity Fellowship continues, I know I’ll be continually reminded of the importance of multiple perspectives on a particular problem as well as the proposed solution(s).
I’m looking forward to sharing more about this experience in the coming months.
Mike Brooks is a senior policy analyst with the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services and a participant in the CivicAction DiverseCity Fellowship Program. He will be sharing his experiences in his program through periodic blogs.