One by one, we’re featuring Q&As with all of our partners so you can get to know them—and their work—a bit better.
This October, find out the challenges, rewards, and motivators for Susan Brooke, the VP of Community Impact and Partnerships at United Way of Calgary and Area.
Answers have been edited for clarity and length.
Question: Describe your organization’s mandate.
Answer: United Way of Calgary and Area has a mission and a vision, as well as four Intentional Values. Our mission is to mobilize communities for lasting social change and our vision is to have a resilient and caring community where everyone thrives.
Our intentional values are:
Stand United: We celebrate community, togetherness and belonging, and our rich diversity, united as one team committed to creating a better future.
Learn Forward: We value momentum over perfection and hierarchy. We work from a place of trust and shared purpose, owning our work, and learning from each experience.
Speak Up: We are fearless in our purpose. We value each voice, and encourage everyone to speak out, ask tough questions, provide feedback, and challenge the status quo.
Put People First: We focus on creating better human experiences and leading with empathy. We consider the people we are serving first and create experiences that build inclusion, empower the team, and encourage innovation.
We value demonstrating trust, integrity, respect, transparency, inclusivity, and diversity. Lead in an unbiased, evidence-based, and principled way to advance community good for all.
Q: What led to where you are now professionally?
A: I am trained as a social worker and have had many front-line positions, which were always very fulfilling. But at United Way of Calgary and Area, I am able to initiate and lay the foundation for change in individuals, organizations, corporations, systems, and communities that make people’s lives better.
That is what United Way and I are all about. I want to help be a part of making Calgary better for as many as I can, and that is what led me to where I am today professionally.
Q: What does a usual workday look like for you?
A: A day at United Way of Calgary and Area is never the same.
I provide oversight and direction to a large number of different projects and initiatives. With each project and initiative, I need to ensure there is fiduciary accountability.
I also meet with community stakeholders and sit at collaborative tables trying to make a difference in the community we live in.
Q: What’s the most rewarding part of your work?
A: The most rewarding part of my work is also what led me to my career at United Way. I come to work knowing I am making a difference in people’s lives every day.
It is truly an honour to work with so many incredibly dedicated and passionate individuals who are also working tirelessly to make changes happen in the community to make people’s lives better.
Being able to lay the foundation for change is wonderfully rewarding.
Q: What’s the most challenging part?
A: The most challenging part about my position is making decisions that are both strategic and effective from my perspective, but cannot meet all the needs in the community.
It’s tough wanting to be able to help absolutely everyone, but not always being able to support innovative approaches as much as I would like to.
Making the decisions on what projects and initiatives United Way can support can be very challenging.
Q: What motivates you?
I wake up excited to work with people who have the same values, goals, and a passion for helping people.
We work together to try and make sure that positive change is happening in our communities and giving everyone to best opportunity for a great life.
That is what gets me up every day, enjoying what I get to be a part of.
Q: What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned so far?
I have learned so much and am very thankful that I get to continually learn from the wonderful people I work with.
The most valuable thing I’ve learned is that any change, no matter how small, makes a difference, and through working together, we can make an even bigger difference.
I have been blessed to meet and know so many caring and giving people in our communities, who are quietly making a difference in somebody’s life every day.
I’ve learned that absolutely everyone has something to contribute to their community, no matter how small.
Q: What are your hopes for your organization’s sector?
A: My hope for United Way of Calgary and Area is that through working together, we can truly make a real difference in the community and make people’s lives better.
I want us to continue our mission to mobilize communities for lasting social change and to fulfill our vision of having a resilient and caring community where everyone thrives.
For us to do this, we will keep working through our intentional values to achieve the best community and the best lives for everyone.