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Possible Canadas

Reos Partners
June, 2015

Possible Canadas was initiated by the J. W. McConnell Family Foundation and Reos Partners and supported by a broad coalition of philanthropic and community foundations.


As Canada approaches 2017, the 150th anniversary of its founding, its future is unclear and unsettled. Through a series of in-depth interviews, Possible Canadas set out to discover: What Canadas are possible? How will the ways Canadians think and act affect their country’s future? What is needed?

Reos Partners spent six months interviewing 56 insightful Canadians with diverse experiences and perspectives from across civil society, business, and government.

Their thoughts offered a clearer understanding of the opportunities and risks Canada faces. By distributing the interviews via the country’s newspaper of record, a dedicated website, and a book, Possible Canadas has laid the foundation for a systemic, creative public conversation about the choices Canadians faces at a critical juncture in their history.


Canada’s strengths and potential are being tested by complex economic, social, political, cultural, and environmental challenges. The central question posed by the project is: What will it take for Canadians to succeed in creating a good future?

The objective for the interviews was to see Canada from the perspective of each interviewee. The open-ended questions were intended to elicit what each person thought was most significant about the Canadian situation. The challenge then was to engage with the transcripts respectfully and diligently—suspending the interviewers’ own opinions and judgments.


Dissemination of the interviews

The 52 interviews of 56 persons were published over six weeks on the bilingual project website, and in the Globe and Mail, Canada’s newspaper of record, which produced a lot of conversation on these sites and on social media.

A book was then published, containing both extended excerpts from the 52 interviews and also a synthesis of these perspectives through eight “lenses”.

Follow-on initiatives

The general conclusion of the project partners was that they needed to enlarge and broaden the use of the approach that the interviews had both exemplified and pointed to—a pluralistic, collaborative, creative approach—to addressing three inter-twined systemic challenges that Canadians face at this juncture in our history: democratic reform, economic innovation, and social inclusion.

To this end, many of the project partners and friends are moving forward with two types of initiatives. First, they are both repackaging the existing interview material and encouraging more people to interview unfamiliar others. Second, they are organising pluralistic, collaborative, creative initiatives to address specific challenges, both nationally and locally, including with foci on cities, higher education, religious communities, and Aboriginal-non-Aboriginal relations.


“The past divides us, but the future is a place where we can think and dream together. Possible Canadas has created a vehicle for those conversations, and Community Foundations of Canada is proud to be a part of it.”

Ian Bird, president, Community Foundations of Canada

“As we approach Canada’s 150th birthday, Possible Canadas offers a thoughtful way to reflect on our past 100 years and the kind of Canada we might seek for the next 100 years. As a foundation for Canada, we believe there is extraordinary potential to catalyze and support collective leadership and action around areas of promise for our future.”

Vinod Rajasekaran, managing director, Rideau Hall Foundation

“We believe that everyone in Canada should have the opportunity to participate in determining our nation’s current and future priorities. Possible Canadas demonstrates the rich insights that can come from engaging diverse perspectives, which we hope will spark further conversations and creative collaborations.”

Alison Lawton, founder and board chair, Mindset Social Innovation Foundation

“One of the joys of the journey to 2017—and a source of great hope—is the Possible Canadas partnership. At imagiNation 150 we are encouraging thoughtful and inclusive conversations about Canada’s future to stimulate new relationships and actions to ensure a prosperous nation. The essays in this book will inspire Canadians to engage with each other from coast to coast to coast.”

Colin Jackson, chair, imagiNation 150

“The Globe got involved in this project to provide leading thinkers a broad platform on which to articulate some of the challenges facing Canada in the decades ahead, and to give our audience an opportunity to advance the conversations inspired by Possible Canadas.”

Gabe Gonda, head of Features and Weekend, the Globe and Mail

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