Michelle Colussi likes to quote Margaret Mead; “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world;” After thirty years working with community change efforts Colussi knows the power of an organized group. Her work as a facilitator, coach and a trainer has taken her around the country and beyond, working with every sector imaginable.
If you Google Michelle Colussi ten pages of links to articles, news stories and research papers will appear – all related to her commitment to help to steer organizations and communities towards positive futures. But, ask her what she does and she describes three simple practices: “Convening a space, providing information for people and asking good questions.”
"The focus on relationships and trust is really key."
It’s her approachable nature that positions her well to steady dynamics when facilitating an audience with many different organisations. “What happens when you take a systemic approach is that you find all kinds of synergies that help us be more effective and focus investment where it’s most needed,” says Colussi.
Colussi has been on the forefront in Canada for transformational processes. She led the Transition Town movement in British Columbia as the first trainer in Canada. “I was dragged kicking and screaming to a Transition Town workshop in 2008 – but, became so smitten by the model and by the people involved, I then went to San Francisco to become a trainer.” She went on to help seed a dozen or more Transition Towns in Canada, created a train-the-trainer workshop and helped to organize a training event.
"There are so many ways that [communities] have control and influence and so many ways if they work together and collaborate – they can have louder voices and more power."
Now she is bringing the same pioneering approach to Collective Impact coaching. “Collective Impact is a planning tool with a focus on collaboration between partners,” Colussi explains, ”the final product is a strategy for tackling the complex problem that has brought them all to the table. The strategy lays out how they will work together and each organization commits to that. The focus on relationships and trust is really key.”
Michelle comes from a social justice background. “I have always been a strong believer in ‘do what you love’. In my early experience as a teacher, I moved to Port Alberni the year they closed five elementary schools. I retrained in mediation and conflict resolution.” Pursuing her interests led her to work with at-risk youth and in psycho-social rehabilitation. She set up a peer-counseling program, worked with international youth and became an activist on poverty issues.
Despite seeing community despair Colussi is a strong advocate for communities taking charge of their own destinies. “There are so many ways that [communities] have control and influence and so many ways if they work together and collaborate – they can have louder voices and more power.”
Colussi partners regularly with BC Healthy Communities through her work with the Innoweave Collective Impact program, Transition Victoria and Building Resilient Neighbourhoods. She is also a facilitator with Canadian Centre for Community Renewal. Connect with Colussi here.