If you type Jill Andres into Google, you’ll quickly learn that she wears many interesting hats. Jill has been described as a ‘changemaker in residence’, a director, an educator, a business founder, a certified executive coach, a yogi and outdoor enthusiast, a community volunteer, a consultant, a board member, and even a children’s storyteller!
As impressive as this list already is, Jill is adding one more role: she is now an Urban Matters CCC (UM) team member.
Jill will support the social innovation and systems change work we do at UM. Based in Winnipeg, but well-networked throughout the country, her wealth of social innovation expertise and genuine commitment to systems change fall beautifully into place with Urban Matters’ work and values.
Additionally, her expertise in cross-sectoral work and the two-decades of experience she’s acquired working with organizations across Canada will broaden UM’s network and capacity.
Jill has worked in universities, with non-profits, and in the private sector. She has founded and run various businesses and continues to coach start-ups and social enterprises nation-wide. Needless to say, we are delighted to have her on board.
We connected with Jill to learn more about her previous experience and her emerging role with us.
Kendra Besanger (KB): There are so many ways in which your social innovation work overlaps with that of Urban Matters. What excites you about doing this kind of work as part of the UM team?
Jill Andres (JA): I see a clear alignment between Urban Matters’ approach and its processes and the approaches I’ve worked with and learned from over the years. UM focuses on co-creation and convening and then supports people and organizations through to implementation. This emphasis on participatory processes is important to me.
I’m also drawn to the alignment of values between myself and UM. When you get to work with others who share a value set and are aligned in approach, the potential to create impact in communities grows substantially.
KB: Can you elaborate on what you like about UM’s approach?
JA: The approach of UM is always context specific. It’s not about applying a formula to a problem or challenge. Instead, it’s about coming in, understanding specifics, and recognizing people as experts in their local contexts. It’s not about being formulaic; instead, it’s about listening, responding, and sometimes disrupting the norm. When these factors create the foundation, we can then provide the tools that will help people, organizations, and communities develop their own capacity to carry out what they need. Particularly, once we’re not there anymore. This is how I’ve been working for many years, and it will be great to be part of a group who works similarly.
KB: How will being part of the UM team help you expand the work you’re doing?
JA: I love that there will be so many opportunities to work with others on projects and bounce ideas off one another. The kind of work we do – creative, collaborative, community-based – is always made better by bringing different perspectives together. I’m also looking forward to being part of a team that seems to really enjoy working with one another. UM also has an extensive network and a wide range of experience.
KB: Your work experience is very much rooted in social innovation and collective impact; how has your professional journey brought you to where you are now?
JA: Most recently, I worked as the Director of the Trico Changemakers Studio at Mount Royal University (MRU) in Calgary. I worked on the creation of a space and network that fostered social innovation, co-working and collaboration, and research and development (R&D) on the MRU campus.
Before working with the Studio, I was involved part-time with the University as a “Changemaker in Residence” at MRU. In this role, I led a multidisciplinary team of students, staff, faculty and administration through a process to reimagine the role of the university in creating meaningful change in partnership with communities. Through our efforts to achieve this significant operational and cultural shift, we achieved the Ashoka U Changemaker Campus designation. This designation linked MRU to a community of leaders and institutions, all of whom are working to bring social innovation and changemaking to the forefront of education and learning in higher ed.
In 2008, I started an MBA program at the University of Calgary. Through my MBA, I also wrote a thesis exploring questions about non-profits starting social enterprises. Around the same time, I founded Creating Value Inc., a company that helped communities and organizations and implement innovative solutions to challenges.
All of that work and more has led me to this point and I’m thrilled to be working with the Urban Matters team.
KB: Yes, it’s clearly a great match. You’ve worked in many sectors: you’ve run your own businesses, you’ve worked in non-profits, you’ve been a student, an educator, to name only a few of your roles. Through all of these, I imagine you’ve gained an ability to see things from various perspectives. How do you think this diversity of roles will contribute to your work at Urban Matters?
JA: Perhaps this shows up most in the ability to bridge different sectors and feel comfortable in a wide variety of settings with people from a range of backgrounds. I’m also curious about everything and interested in a number of different topics. I tend to draw from different subject areas in the work I do – whether it’s business or community development or academic – there’s a place for all of these and I think they allow me to be more creative in my approach.
KB: It’s clear that you’re a very busy person. What gets you out of bed in the morning and keeps you going?
JA: Well, my dog Brody literally gets me out of bed every morning and pulls me outside – regardless of the temperature!
More seriously, I keep doing this work because I have a daughter who is fourteen and two nieces under ten. When I think about where we are, in the context of climate change and all of the daunting challenges that come with that, and I think about what they’re facing, I know I have to do what I can to make things better. Sometimes, I feel despair about where we are, but I know we can choose between hope and despair. So, I do this work with the hope that, together, we are going to create systems that are more inclusive, more sustainable, and more resilient. I think of my work as being for future generations, so they can be hopeful too.
KB: Thank you for that. I get the sense you’re probably a podcast/music lover – what are you listening to these days?
Well, it’s almost Folk Festival season, so I always like to see what singer-songwriters will be playing at the various music festivals around the corner. I love to check out the line-ups to see where I want to go. It’s also a great way to discover new music.
And yes, I listen to podcasts non-stop. A few of my favourites are On Being, This is HCD, and the various podcasts from Ted Talks.
KB: To wrap things up, can you tell me about the immediate future? What do the next few months look like for you?
JA: With Urban Matters, I’m continuing to work on a number of projects that I’m bringing with me, into the company. This includes three social innovation and systems change projects in Alberta related to dementia, seniors housing, and rural resilience. I’ll also be diving into two new projects with the Urban Matters team in Vancouver and in Calgary. Our team will also be doing a housing lab project here in Winnipeg with the Winnipeg Boldness Project, End Homelessness Winnipeg and the Winnipeg Poverty Reduction Council.
KB: Thank you for sharing all of this, Jill. The team is really looking forward to working with you!