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Archive for the ‘Doings’ Category

I have a dream

In Doings, Feelings on January 12, 2014 at 9:05 AM

with title and CC and Fircom

I have a dream.

To launch the Canadian equivalent of StoryCorps, an independent nonprofit who provides people of all backgrounds and beliefs the opportunity to record, share and preserve the stories of their lives.

StoryCorps impacted me years ago. I was living alone in a bachelor suite at the top of a house in Mount Pleasant, Vancouver. Working several jobs out of university. Recently ended long-term relationship. Parents and sisters a day’s travel away. Grandparents a $600+ flight away.

It was a lonely time.

But when a Facebook friend recommended the animated short of Danny & Annie, a seed of possibility was planted. (Watch it yourself, and you’ll feel love, too.)

I should also mention The Hole. It was gaining prominence in my life. I didn’t feel it as a child. But as an adult — away from family, no roots in a community, no elder keeping me in check — I felt it deeply.

That animated short filled The Hole. Just a bit, but enough to inspire me. To connect with my family through story.

I began committing to visits in Alberta and Ontario, to my grandparents and pseudo grandparents. I brought along questions and a voice recorder. I asked to look at photographs and recipes. We sat together in silence sometimes. But it was a fulfilling silence. No fear of rejection or miles of country between us, just generations of experience and thoughts and love.

These stories cost me money and time. But filling The Hole was worth every cent and second.

Jump ahead a few years, and I’m using my passion project, Community Catalysts, as a vehicle to begin my dream. But I’m not the only one wanting a connection through auditory experience. My pals at Fircom have committed to hosting up to 50 people for a weekend, February 14-16, so we can all record, share and preserve the songs, sounds and stories of our lives.

Just like StoryCorps. Except, in lieu of a mobile ‘tin can’ recording studio, we’ll have 120 acres of coastal forest and a 90-year restored community hall. Plus healthy meals, modern shared accommodation, and three days of fun.

If you’ve got a Hole of your own, and you’re inspired to fill it with stories or sounds or songs, and you’d like to do it with equally curious and committed folk, please consider registering for the retreat. Find out more here:

And thanks for listening.

I do it for the stories

In Doings, Learnings on July 2, 2013 at 8:37 AM


For the last nine months, I have been organizing, wrangling, negotiating, pitching, designing, coding and sharing my passion project, Community Catalysts.

It’s a retreat series for everyday changemakers. And it’s the most rewarding work of my career so far.

Community Catalysts was created as an antidote to the negative effects of our reality. Modern realities like nature deficit, urban isolation and creative withdrawal.

These realities get me stuck. And I believe they get my community stuck, too.

My friends and colleagues, Jeff Willis and Janey Chang, felt the same way. Sure, we were inspired by the people and ideas of Vancouver’s typical networking events, professional development conferences and TED-like talks. But we were starving to learn actionable knowledge.

Plus, we wanted a time and place to share these tools, tricks and techniques while making immediate positive change in our everyday lives. We didn’t want to get together and moan anymore. We wanted to take all that inspiration and make something of it with our own hands.

And what better place to do all this, we thought, than amongst the most humbling of teachers — Mother Nature.

In August, 2012, we took stock of what tools and techniques we each had. Jeff runs a beautiful nature sanctuary in Howe Sound known as Camp FircomJaney had a thematic vision to guide our hands-on learning. And I love communicating and connecting all of the above.

jeff_bw_circle  Janey Chang_circle   jocelyn_bw_circle

In April 2013, we offered our first retreat, Sacred Earth.

There, amongst the Pacific ocean and Alder trees, 40 ‘changemakers’ shared their fun, creative and tangible knowledge through hands-on experiences. We learned about mentoring, art therapy, courage, adversity, ceremony, self-care, entrepreneurship, and probiotic fermentation. Facilitators got participants using their tools and resources immediately, and participants got facilitators thinking bigger and listening harder.

We had no expectations of this retreat. We were just bringing a dream to fruition and hoped others shared it.

Turns out, others did share our dream. And they’ve continued to share it since returning to the city.

Since April, we’ve seen our 40 retreat attendees turn first encounters into monthly potlucks, strangers into friendships, friendships into business partnerships, work into passion, ideas into projects, and (my favourite impact) curious participation into workshop facilitation at our next retreat this July.

This residual, positive impact is what gets me unstuck. And they’re the stories of everyday change I will share on this blog throughout the rest of 2013 and into 2014.

Want to hear these stories firsthand? Want to experience this everyday change for yourself? Then you must join us for our next retreat, Living Wellness, July 12-14. Email me for personal Q&A: infoATcommunitycatalystsDOTca

weekend agenda 2

There is meaning in a catalyst’s wandering

In Doings on June 14, 2013 at 6:51 AM


A catalyst always has a reason for making change. They don’t do it willy-nilly. They don’t wander through this world without aim.

I have done my fair share of wandering. Two universities and an indefinable degree, countless jobs and an indefinable career, years of trans-Atlantic relationship and an indefinable home. I assumed for a long time that I lacked focus. That I was indecisive. That I had no aim.

But what I’ve realized (and I’ll tell you how later) is that there is always a motivation behind my actions. And when I realized that motivation, I realized my wandering has value.

What might make a catalyst believe their wandering is meaningless? For me, it is an abundance of noise, lack of space, and absence of other catalysts.

But, again, that doesn’t decrease the value of a catalyst’s wandering. Look at all the stories, the connections, the experience, the knowledge gained from “wandering”. That delicious stuff doesn’t fade away. No way, Jose – it enriches us! Like Wikipedia tells me about catalysis, a catalyst is never consumed:

A catalyst may participate in multiple…transformations. The effect of a catalyst may vary due to the presence of other substances known as inhibitors or poisons (which reduce the catalytic activity) or promoters (which increase the activity).

My motivation is to help catalysts find each other, to direct the wandering to a comfortable natural space, and to cut out the noise – from the busy city, from the negative state of the world, and from the helpless thoughts trying to consume our motivation.

That’s why Community Catalysts exists. It’s a series of retreats with some catalyst friends on Gambier Island. And we’re looking for more catalysts. You should wander over for the next retreat. You won’t be disappointed.


Workshop: BC Camping Conference

In Doings, Learnings on February 21, 2013 at 1:06 PM

Screen shot 2013-02-21 at 12.32.07 PM

This week, I had the pleasure of attending the BC Camping Conference at RockRidge Canyon outside Princeton, BC. The BCCC has been a client of mine for the last six months (I developed and maintained the conference website). It was exciting to see our hard work come together!

I also had the great educational experience of facilitating a workshop, “Effective Communication for Camps.”

Click here to download the accompanying resource, “Effective Communication for Camps” (PDF, 885 kb)

Tuesday morning, I talked with over 30 passionate camping professionals about how camps, including staff and external stakeholders, can be effective communicators.  

You see, different departments within camp deal with different audiences. These audiences have unique needs, motivations and interests. For example, Food Services and Human Resources may both deal with volunteers, but volunteer adults helping in the kitchen will have different needs, motivations and interests than volunteer teenagers helping run a day of programming for child campers. 

The workshop touched on the five elements of effective communication but focused on one element in particular: The Receiver. In other words, the Audience.

We split into small groups and considered the unique needs, motivations and interests of unique audiences that a camp would commonly communicate with:

  • Teenage camper
  • Soon-to-be bride
  • ‘Helicopter’ parent
  • Site maintenance volunteer
  • Executive director
  • Existing donor with decreasing funds.

By the end of the hour workshop, we had discussed how effective communication isn’t just about sending and receiving information. Rather, effective communication is about asking for action, listening for feedback, assessing your abilities, learning more about your audience, and asking again.

Click here to download “Effective Communication for Camps” (PDF, 885 kb) for an overview of the workshop content and more in-depth questions you can ask yourself to ensure your next piece of communication results in action!

Effective communication is a never-ending circle of action. Any person or organization on any budget can achieve effective communication. The key is to regularly and clearly identify who you are communicating with, what you want of them, and how you can make the most of existing means and resources.

Questions? Please contact me at or read more about my work here.

RockRidge Canyon, Summer

RockRidge Canyon (near Princeton, BC). Just add some snow, ice hockey enthusiasts, and a campfire to stay warm in -5*C weather, and you get more of the February camp feel.

Are you our new housemate?

In Doings on December 8, 2012 at 1:40 AM

polaroids_housemate hunt

My house is on the hunt for a sixth housemate for January 1! Are you the secret ingredient we’ve always wanted?

Join us in our incredible home in West Point Grey. We’re just a five-minute bus ride to UBC, and a five-minute walk to the B-line and all amenities in West 10th Shopping Village.

Your room is furnished or unfurnished in our 7-bedroom, 100 year-old, fantastically restored heritage house. Access to shared office space, shared fenced backyard, and shared chihuahua ambassador (@thelittledoggy). Parking is ample, people are top notch.

Monthly rent is $650 plus utilities (which average $50 per month).

If interested, send us an email with an interesting photo to

In the meantime, read about all your new housemates below:

Natalie Burgwin (@nburgwin) is the Public Relations Manager for the loveable and locally-founded 1-800-GOT-JUNK? When she’s not volunteering her time as a Big Sister, she keeps us laughing with her quick wit and enthusiasm. Natalie grew up in Calgary and on Vancouver Island and was later drawn to the urban lifestyle of Vancouver. She holds a BA in English Literature from the University of Victoria and, after an intense stint at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Nat has landed a specialist role in public relations.

Jocelyn Wagner (@jocelynwagner) is a freelance communications consultant. With a BA in Communications from Simon Fraser University and a certificate in Sustainable Community Development, she’s got a passion for experiential education and for building communities. Jocelyn loves her annual bike trips with her father and she encourages her Modern Vancouver Family to stay active. Together we completed the St Patrick’s Day 5km run this year in Stanley Park!

Phillip Huen is our North Van boyscout. He loves the trails and his bikes. And he can fix anything! As a trained carpenter knowledgeable in framing, finishing and foundations, Phil currently builds custom homes in West Vancouver. He’s got a goofy sense of humour and innate empathy for others. As the man himself says, “If there’s a Phil, there’s a way.”

Matthew McLellan is one of the most talented, up-and-coming film actors in the Vancouver industry. Known for a focus on his craft and dedication to his career, Matt works at the beautiful Cardero’s in Coal Harbour to fund his passion. Definitely the quirkiest and most diplomatic of the group, Matt is the peacekeeper and creates a calm environment for all of us.

David Mongar (@davidmongar). Where do we begin? Once a musical theatre superstar, having travelled around the Pacific on cruise ships and performed in Toronto for several years, David traded in the stage for the hospital when he decided medicine was his dream. He is our Patch Adams. Our Ross Gellar, if we may. He is funny, outgoing, deeply empathetic, and easily the most interesting man you’ll ever meet. Not only that, but David use to be vegan and now cooks us incredibly healthy meals (we recommend the roast chicken and homefries).

Riley is an advocate for chihuahuas everywhere. Under the wing of our dedicated David, this 3-year old pup can perform an impressive series of tricks including “Scratch my back”, the “Mission Impossible” crawl, and “Out of the kitchen”. This dog even knows his nautical directions and can do a handstand! Don’t believe us? Well, you’ll have to meet us to see for yourself. But we guarantee a good show.

Now that you know a bit more about us, please e-mail us at or share this posting with your friends!

Set a goal, choose a tactic

In Doings on October 5, 2012 at 9:30 AM

Good communication can happen when a goal is clearly set. So how do you set a goal?

  1. Identify the problem of your situation.
  2. Realize how you want your situation to be different.
  3. Then, establish the appropriate tactics to achieve the new situation.

The tactics you choose to achieve your goal can be as complex as those used in a national marketing campaign. Or, they can be as simple as a poster on your door. Like this:

Here’s the example:

Since my Modern Vancouver Family moved into our new house, we’ve been swimming in flyers. As much as my carpenter boyfriend, Phil, uses trees, he hates to see them wasted on unread marketing and advertising.

So there’s the problem: We have wasted paper filling our mail slot.

How do we want the situation to be different, I asked Phil.

I don’t want the guy to deliver that stuff to our house, he declared.

So, what do we need to do? Phil rolled his eyes. To communicate this to our neighbourhood mail carrier. Duh.

Ok, smarty pants, I said. Let’s put your talent to work. And I sat him down with my jar of pencil crayons and the back of a cereal box to let him create the message.

Half an hour later, Phil emerged from his creative bubble and presented me with his half of the tactic. Now it was my turn to do the offer half: Placing the message in a location where we’d be sure our audience, the mail carrier, would see it.

Close proximity to the point of mail delivery seemed ideal. The poster would await our mail carrier’s next visit.

And the result?

No more flyers! Successful communication achieved. (Thanks, Phil.)

A speech for friendship

In Doings on October 2, 2012 at 7:06 AM

This weekend I had the absolute joy of celebrating the wedding of my two friends, Caroline and Rob.

With Phil and sixty other friends and family, I  sailed to Galiano Island for two days of beautiful autumn weather. We set up Wedding Headquarters at the 5-acre home of the bride’s mother and everyone pitched in with the cooking, decorating, shuttling and set up.

Overlooking Active Pass, we observed Caroline and Rob exchange their vows and commit their lives to each other.  Beside her stood her four siblings. Beside him stood his best man and cousin. An old friend from high school, having travelled back from Alberta, played the fiddle as they walked together to the ocean-view alter.

Later, after carpooling back to Wedding HQ (via a stop at the pub and a pause for a power nap), the reception guests found their seats, left their fingerprints, and gathered around the potluck appetizers. An old friend of the family donated eight sockeye salmon, barbequed in coconut curry, and the rest of the dinner spread was filled with roasted vegetables, salads, curry chicken, cheeses, breads and Tuscan beans.

After some wine and conversations over wishing stones, it was time for some speeches. A few weeks prior, I had been on a bike trip with my father and got to thinking about how I wanted to say something publicly to my two dear friends. I returned home and found a message from Caroline asking me if I would do such a thing.

Indeed, I would.

But it took me until the day before the wedding to get my thoughts articulated. Not that I was avoiding the task. It’s just that I couldn’t start writing without tears pouring all over my keyboard. So I decided to let the happy tears flow. Every time I heard a song that reminded me of them. Even when I went running on the trails to let my mind relax.

In the end, I don’t regret this time spent letting my emotions flow. I believe this made space for my feelings to transform into words. And the feelings did eventually transform into the following speech which, upon delivery, received incredibly positive feedback. Most importantly from C & R.

Hello everyone,

It’s a privilege to share a few thoughts with you today, as a friend of both the bride and the groom.

You know, I’ve heard about other people disliking their best friend’s fiancé. Avoiding them at cost. Subtly (or not so subtly) persuading their best friend to explore greener pastures.

But not Caroline’s Rob.

No, when someone like Rob makes it his mission to be your friend, you just can’t say no.

This is because Rob’s perspective on life is so damn compelling. This man looks for the light (and even the shadows) in everything and everyone. Whether it’s through the lens of his camera or through general acts of service, Rob makes it clear what he feels about you.

Pair this with his determination and you have a friend who won’t take no for an answer. Who will help you find your own strengths. Who makes you feel valued.

He’s done this for me, and he’s done this especially for Caroline.

How do I know this? Well, I like to think of Caroline and I as ethnographers. We explore the world, especially ourselves, and document our observations in letters to each other.

And over the last five years, since Rob has been in Caroline’s life, I have witnessed an increase in happier sentiments, richer experiences, and unforgettable moments documented in Caroline’s letters.

We started writing these letters when we parted ways after our first year of university (almost ten years ago). Caroline is the one friend I’ve kept in touch with from that university, and I still put it down to some higher power that we were placed on the same floor in our residence building.

Caroline is my inwardly processing, outwardly expressing friend. She inspires me with her inherent creativity and resourcefulness. Caroline can whip up an artifact of emotion with just a piece of paper and a single shade of colour. (And I have the snail mail envelopes, plus the tears and sore abs, to prove the effect!)

The other quality about you, Caroline, that inspires me, which I’d like to share with everyone, is your philosophy on baking. May sound a bit odd, but I believe this philosophy has actually translated to your whole life.

You see, Caroline kind of does recipes, but kind of doesn’t.

Basically, she keeps her kitchen stocked with ingredients that make her happy. Ingredients that she has learned work well together: All-purpose flour, sugar, maybe some rice flour, chocolate chips, pecans, baking soda, eggs, cocoa powder.

Then, when she gets an idea to make something, say a batch of cookies, the specific quantities don’t appear all that important to her. (I mean, they do, but there’s a lot of rounding involved.)

What seems to be important for Caroline is the process of pulling out the ingredients and deciding, that day, what’s going to work for her.

Over the years, I’ve noticed (as I’m sure she has) that Caroline’s intuition has taught her what her cookies require to be delicious, and ultimately, what her life requires to be fulfilling. Ingredients have changed over the years, just like the people in your life.

But today, you’ve added one of the greatest staples to your cupboard. Rob. Your husband. What better ingredient to have, with all the rest of us in your kitchen, to make the best cookies from now on!

So here’s to you both. To your love and to your commitment to each other. But also to your courage! The courage you have to move across the country, build new communities for yourselves, and then carry that love together to the other coast.

The courage you have to make your feelings public, not only through your photography and your paintings, but through your vows today.

This courage inspires me, and I believe it inspires all of us here. In a world where facts are questioned and a sense of security can be dicey, you two give us courage to also trust, support and grow together.

To be better friends.

So thank you for your friendship. It is an honour to celebrate this day with you, Rob and Caroline. Congratulations! 

This is communication #2

In Doings on September 20, 2012 at 6:23 AM

Example #2: Greeting cards

Making your own greeting card brings the intended sentiment up a notch. It makes the medium and the message more relevant to the recipient’s life. Which is why I rarely purchase the standard stationery to send off to family and friends for their once-a-year day of personal celebration.

I also think that a card is a great chance to communicate the feelings exactly as you feel them, with integrity. For me, that means placing my stylized ink drawings on a bright piece of card stock with some interactive element. I want the recipient to know I spent some significant time on them.

On his latest birthday, I hoped so many things for my dad. The guy loves a cup of hot coffee with a slice of cake. (Carrot, black forest, butter cream — you name it, he’ll take it). He would undoubtedly be hearing from all three of his out-of-town daughters (through some means of telecommunication). His recent passion is for model trains. (You should see the world he’s created in their former guest bedroom. It’s worth me having to now sleep on the couch.) And he’d want to begin and end his day with a relaxed walk with my mom and their pooch, Bryn.

I suspected he’d get all these things anyway, so why not capture them all and inspire him to do them every day?

When communication is effective, it does more than make people feel good. It directly links to results (says David Grossman over at leadercommunicators). Now, I’m not going to claim that my dad went out and got all these things because of my card. That wasn’t my goal. The goal was to offer a beautiful summary of the ideal day’s events for my dad to reflect upon. It was also a way for my dad to be reminded that someone far away was thinking of him.

The actual result? By the time I spoke with him that morning, he had received my card and already heard from both Sam and Meg (by text and by Facebook message). He reported that he was leaving work at noon to go for a bike ride and that there was a beautiful piece of cake from the local bakery selected by Mom and waiting for him to consume (with coffee) after the ride. I imagined Bryn would stick to her routine of squealing upon his arrival home and he’d relent happily to her pleas for a walk.

The card sat on the fire mantle a good month after his birthday. I’d say that’s success.

A good day, a good card, a good reminder of love.

This is communication

In Doings on September 17, 2012 at 5:48 PM

This past weekend, I decided that I would start visually explaining the value of what I do for a living. I would start sharing examples to answer the question often posed: “So, Jocelyn, you say you work in communications. But what exactly is communications?”

I understand it can be easy to jumble it in with marketing. I myself have described it as one of those “invisible” occupations: everything that goes on behind the scenes. But I’m no longer content with that loose definition.

Wikipedia defines it like so:


  1. The imparting or exchanging of information or news.
  2. A letter or message containing such information or news.

So in an effort to explain, for myself and for my clients, what exactly is communications, I’ve tasked myself with a project. Over the next period of indefinite time, I’ll share examples from my paid and personal life to demonstrate how I practice communication. I hope to reveal areas where I can improve on my practice, and to showcase examples of where good communication has proven to be invaluable.

Let’s begin with Example #1: Fridge Notes

This is my family’s fridge. We’re not your average family but we still have our fair share of communication needs. We share household responsibilities and one of my roles is to be the Bills Person. It’s not the most glamorous job but because I enjoy being organized and not incurring interest on payments owing, I volunteered for the gig.

What I’ve discovered is that the differing communication preferences and needs amongst the housemates require different communication tactics. Some housemates like texts, others don’t mind Facebook messages, some need face-to-face reminders, and for myself, I like having all the info in one central location — like the fridge. Indeed, when not everyone is as in love with Google Docs as you, the next best place to share information is where the food is kept.

Cycling again with Dad

In Doings on September 13, 2012 at 11:21 AM

Strait of Juan da Fuca / Salish Sea, September 2011

This time last year, I approached my dad about doing a multi-day bike trip together. The extent of my cycling experience until then was limited to daytime pedals across the city, or touring farms in the Fraser Valley. I wanted to test myself and see if I could handle (and enjoy) a few hundred kilometers with just a sleeping bag, a few clothes and unlimited hills.

I had previously considered joining a group cycling trip, like Ride to Break the Cycle, but I wasn’t keen to spend that much time (and money) on a journey with strangers.

I was also motivated to meet my dad as an adult. That is, I wanted to hear more of the underlying thoughts and values from the guy who raised me to calculate my own tax return and turn off the lights when I wasn’t in a room.

I also knew we had similarities: We both like to eat hot breakfasts, and we both like using bicycles to get places (me to work across town, and he to the Atlantic Ocean across Canada).

Dad became an obvious choice as a trip companion.

And after the first trip last September, we quickly agreed that cycling was a great conduit for each of us to get away from our daily lives while reflecting on the world around us. The silence we afford each other, and the conversation inspired by our journey, I believe keeps us grounded in what we value both individually and as family.

So I’m incredibly happy to be setting sail today on a ferry to meet my dad for another cycling escapade. We’ll be taking on the hills of Salt Spring Island followed by the Malahat from Victoria out to the beautiful logging community of Lake Cowichan. Dad has already tuned up my bike and fashioned a new rack to replace what was stolen this summer. We’ll stock up on groceries and batteries for the camera, I’ve packed my fleece for the chilly mornings, and there are only clear, sunny skies in the forecast.

Someone, at some point, likely said: Life is what you make of it. And I say, that’s pretty darn great.