Responsible goes regenerative
The start of the new millennium prompted a new approach. I joined a team at Manulife Financial, in their group pensions business unit, whose objective was to enable better long-term financial health. We developed on-line tools and calculators for pension plan participants, and my role was one of several business analysts working across the marketing, compliance and IT functions to make sure nothing got lost in translation. Those years from 2000 - 2004 were… interesting.
The thing was, as marketers we projected people in their 60s sailing or playing golf, or perhaps playing with grandchildren, i.e. happy in retirement. I made the mistake one day of asking if might make sense to also show what a plan participant’s money was doing for, say, 25 years before buying happiness in retirement. I realized I was in the wrong spot at that time (although now Manulife promotes its responsible investment activity as does pretty much every financial institution.)
So I did what any self-respecting young professional urbanite with less than 3 months’ rent to her name would do next: I quit my job, packed up my portable spindle and some nice fleece, and rode the bus across Canada. I visited with farmers, spinners and weavers, shopkeepers and mothers, people living off-grid and those working to make the energy grid more stable. I spun and knit what I saw and did in that two-month road trip, creating a blanket of 99 homespun images.
I couldn’t keep traipsing cross-country for too long though, because I was enrolled in the six-year Spinning Certificate Program at the Haliburton School of the Arts, and I had to get back on time for that summer’s week of instruction. This fantastic program served not only to deepen my skills as an artisan, but also to widen my understanding of where everything from silk to wool to polyester come from, and why that matters. My interest in textiles inspired several published articles in Knitters’ News, Fibre Focus, and SpinOff Magazine between 1996 - 2008. It also sparked the launch of Spinners’ Quarterly, a printed, subscription-based newsletter I published independently from 2004 - 2009, in which I featured original designs and articles as well as editing contributions from the wider community.
I also had to get myself home from that bus trip so I could get back to work and pay the rent. And that’s how I found myself standing at a spinning demonstration one fine summer day in 2004 when my phone rang and it was a friend from my WWF Canada days pointing me to put my hat in the ring for a role on the growing team of the Toronto office of Canadian Business for Social Responsibility.
That entry point kicked off what is now still my day job. I worked in house with the amazing team at CBSR until 2008, at which point I struck out on my own, and soon afterwards I joined CBSR’s board after moving to New York City. Conceptually, this is when I began the shift towards reading, explore and working in a way that is more explicitly related to a regenerative economy.
Which leads us to the current decade …