Five Questions with Shelagh Turner

In January 2019, Shelagh Turner took the position of co-chair for Community Action Initiative’s Leadership Council (LC).

Shelagh has over 25 years of leadership experience in the non-profit sector and is currently the Executive Director of CMHA Kelowna. Joining CAI in 2010, she has been a pivotal member of CAI’s Leadership Council providing strategic guidance and valuable specialized knowledge about the Mental Health and Substance Use Sector.

1. Why did you become involved with Community Action Initiative?

I am one of the original members who created CAI. At the time, I was a part of the BC Alliance of Mental Health and Substance Use services. Back in 2010, several members of the Alliance had the opportunity to meet with then Minister of Health, George Abbott. He sought our advice regarding what would strengthen the Mental Health and Substance Use sector, and we suggested an innovation fund that seeded good ideas in communities across the province. He actually listened and provided our group with an initial one-time investment of $10 million.

2. What does “success” mean to you in terms of your work as a Leadership Council member?

As a member of the LC, success to me is that we embrace diversity and inclusion in every way. One of the things I am most proud and personally impacted by is the integration of the Indigenous voice and community in everything we do at CAI. From the beginning, having LC representation from BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres, Métis Nation British Columbia and First Nations Health Authority has been a game changer to the way we work and the kinds of things we have supported over the years. Paul LeCerte, former CEO of BCAAFC made a big impact on me as a leader and I would not have had the opportunity to learn from him if it had not have been for CAI’s LC.

Success means that the funding that comes from CAI has been able to make impact in communities, and that through collaboration, we’ve been able to support doing things and thinking about things differently.

We’ve seen many successes including providing convening grants to seed conversations in communities that haven’t traditionally happened. It has resulted in good ideas coming to life.

3. If a donor came to you with unlimited funds to invest in the community sector, what would your first priority be? 

Well, after I woke up from my fainting spell after hearing unlimited funds… there certainly needs to be a full court press on enhancing the capacity of the sector to be strong and sustainable enough to handle the challenges of the work. But this is a complex ecosystem so it takes more than doing one thing. With unlimited funds, we still need to focus on the prevention and early intervention side of the equation. I guess I would start with addressing mental health and addictions literacy and enhancing resources to increase self management across the province.

There is no easy button to press when it comes to mental illness and addiction.  Like everything, it takes being intentional and tremendous effort to focus on enhancing protective factors in homes and communities across the province rather than on addressing crisis.

4. What are you working on right now that you are most excited about?

I am proud of the many things we are doing at CMHA Kelowna including the launching of Foundry Kelowna in 2017. We were one of the first sites to be operational and it has been incredibly hard work and incredibly rewarding to focus on transforming the way young people and families access care in our community.  We’ve seen over 2000 youth, 400 families, partnered with 20 agencies and are soon going to be launching the very first Mobile Foundry in the province. For us, it all started several years ago with a convening grant from CAI focused on youth transitioning into adulthood.

5. What is the best compliment someone can give you?

That they love working for CMHA Kelowna and that they made a difference.

That I helped them to achieve/accomplish something they never thought possible.