Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada
Change by Choice Design Collective

Be a Change Leader

This website chronicles the proactive collaboration efforts of 12 Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies in Southwestern Ontario. Throughout the process, we have created resources that guided us along the way. Take the pledge that as a leader in your agency, you will endeavor to explore any organizational change by choice (proactive), and not by crisis (reactive). In return, we’ll share these resources and any updates on our journey with you over the next year.

How we did it

Between September 2016 and May 2017, a feasibility study was undertaken to help the 12 Big Brothers and Big Sisters (BBBS) agencies in South Western Ontario Canada explore ways of working together as organizations to increase efficiencies, strengthen governance models, maximize impact for young people and maximize resources on mission work versus administration. Instead of using a traditional consultant study and recommendation approach, a Design Thinking approach was pursued. This approach had a consultant guided Design Team made up of BBBS agency decision makers.

This Design Team researched, explored and prototyped various models of working together as organizations. This included identifying options and models best suited for BBBS agencies in the Southwestern Region and exploring the feasibility of collaborative organizational structures. After the project was completed The Pillar Design Collective and BBBS Canada began work with the Public Sector Digest (PSD) to document and disseminate the unique design thinking approach that the BBBS Design Team utilized.


Build On & Off Ramps

Change can be scary, especially in a large group. This is why we were guided by the principle of Change by Choice, not Change by Crisis. We changed because we wanted to. We built judgement-free onramps and offramps for organizations that might want to wait and observe but come on board later, or who might want to work together for a while, then exit the process after a certain point. There was no expectation or obligation for members involved to go along with “the majority.”


Use Design Thinking

We used Design Thinking to prototype and test solutions as soon as possible. Iterating and responding to what was happening in our environment. When we would take a new step, we would then afterwards stop to look around and then decide where to head next. This action and solution based approach helped to resist the analysis paralysis that is common in these kind of undertakings.


Create a Design Team

Create a Design Team which guides the process. This Team is comprised of decision makers and relevant stakeholders who will take ownership of executing the solutions they prototype. Agencies are the subject experts to identify, co-create, explore, and select options. The consultants hired are engaged as guides and support in this process, the BBBS agency Design Team members are the experts and leaders of this process.


Build Trust First

Special effort was given to building trust at the beginning and throughout the process. This is done through regular check-ins with Design Team members, focus-groups where we went out to engage all agencies where they were geographically located, having facilitated conversations about elephants in the room as soon as possible, and finally by ensuring members who missed meetings were updated by their peers personally in a buddy system.

About Us

The BBBS Southwestern Ontario Design Team

In 2016, the group of 12 Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies in the Southwestern Ontario region joined forces to explore and evaluate opportunities for collaboration, with the intention of increasing efficiencies and maximizing resources. The group was made up of Executive Directors and Board Members of the 12 member agencies Big Brothers and Big Sisters of: Chatham-Kent; Ingersoll, Tillsonburg and Area; Kincardine and District; Listowel; London and Area; North Huron; Owen Sound; Sarnia Lambton; South Huron; St. Thomas-Elgin; Windsor-Essex; Woodstock and District.

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“The Pillar Design Collective pushed us to think outside the box. I was doubtful how well the day would go leading up to it. It included pushing past the usual analytical thinking processes we’re all used to. But, participants really seemed invested in the strategy and took it seriously.”

Kristen Ralph, Interim Executive Director, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Woodstock

“At first, I wasn’t quite sure how to grasp [the process], especially the role playing. But it helped us delve into the root reasons as to why we were doing this. It allowed us to open up and be vulnerable. Ultimately, it helped us look at how to serve more children, while also saving dollars for the agencies.”

Deb Landon, Executive Director, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Ingersoll, Tillsonburg, and Area

“When I first saw the plan, I was a little unsure. It looked a little whacky! We needed to trust the process and the facilitators to walk us through a journey that normally can be very muddy and confusing. We began to understand the route we needed to go, and why linear conversations about amalgamations and shared services did not work. So, trust was a big element from the beginning of the process. When I think about my counterparts from other Big Brothers Big Sisters organizations, I’m really proud of how vulnerable they were able to be and dive head first, knowing that whatever we created would serve the community better.”

Our Team

The Pillar Design Collective were the consultants hired to help guide the 12 Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies of the Design Team through this process of design thinking. From left to right: Chris Moss, Albert Brule, Jen Kirkham, Janet Frood and Matt Ross. The team possesses diverse cross disciplinary skill sets that helped bring the unique flavour to this project.