Davis Campbell: Hi Adil, thanks for speaking with me today. To start things off, perhaps you can tell me a bit about your background?
Adil Dhalla: I’m a serial social entrepreneur and social experimenter. This has resulted in a pretty eclectic range of experiences that include everything from hacking public spaces to summer camps for adults to helping pioneer the age of mobile video. Given my background, I found the perfect platform at the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI), which is a hub for social entrepreneurship and innovation to over 800 organizations. As CSI’s, Director of Culture, I have the unique opportunity to figure out what it means to steward culture and share what I’ve learned as I’ve recently done with the Ontario Government, World Bank and soon, your conference attendees!
DC: Awesome. What is your educational background?
AD: I earned an honours bachelor’s degree from Queens University in History, and I earned my MBA from Wilfrid Laurier University. The MBA program had a co-op element to it, which was awesome as it gave me some incredible opportunities, like working on the Obama campaign in New York.
DC: Wow that must have been an amazing educational experience. You’ve mentioned some of your social experiments, could you tell us about them?
AD: Absolutely and key to mention, my underlying purpose for all of them is to experiment with innovative ways for human beings to connect with one another. One of my most successful projects was called Project Ukulele Gangsterism (PUG) and involved hundreds of people hacking Toronto subway stations and public spaces while playing ukuleles in unison. PUG was replicated in a handful of other countries as far as South Korea. Another experiment with considerable acclaim is called Camp Reset, which is a summer camp for adults and is rooted in the idea that play can be a social lubricant and can foster social connections. Finally and most recently, I co-created a voter turnout initiative where we held celebrations at Elections Canada polling stations, which was quite successful and covered by the CBC’s The National. In the end, all of this work comes back to my position at the CSI and the work I’m doing around creating healthy cultures (Centre for Social Innovation).
DC: Could you tell me a more about your work at the Centre for Social Innovation?
AD: As the Director of Culture at CSI, I’m basically constantly obsessing on how to create a healthy culture where people are connected, happy and likely to innovate. As one of the first coworking spaces in the world, CSI has always been ahead of the curve with what the future of work looks like and my role is a great example of this. I’m trying to do a job that’s rarely been done before; bringing intentionality and stewardship to organizational culture. We want to write the book on organizational culture, both figuratively and literally.
DC: In regards to your presentation, what ideas from your experience at CSI are you going to share with the audience at Alliance 2016?
AD: I want to share what I’ve learned about creating a workplace that promotes creativity, collaboration, and one where people are motivated to create and collaborate. As you know, people work lots, but not everyone enjoys it. They aren’t necessarily at their best; so the question is how do we get their best? A strong culture. The presentation will cover how to create a culture that promotes people reaching their potential. There is a quote I like to use, “culture eats strategy for breakfast,” and I’m looking to understand how to eat more breakfast.
DC: That’s a fantastic quote and a great premise for your presentation. Do you have any ideas on formatting?
AD: I’ll kick things off by providing some context on myself, CSI, my job, how I ended up working at the CSI, and then I’ll share the pillars that foster culture creation, which are: vision, values, principles, space, narrative, and people. All of my thinking fits into these pillars, as they create an overarching strategy for culture.
DC: This sounds like a great way to setup the presentation. Thanks so much for speaking with me Adil, and we look forward to having you at Altus Alliance 2016.
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