Conference worked on innovating for change in rural Ontario

Delegates at the recent Leading Edge summit were asked if they want to make positive changes in themselves, in their organizations, and in their communities.

Sixty-two rural leaders, association members, staff, and rural citizens shared and engaged with the speakers and each other.

The participated in workshops and sessions at Orangeville’s Hockley Valley Resort on Oct. 19 and 20. The conference provided tools and techniques to help change thinking.

Speakers demonstrated how to engage and collaborate with others, and told participants how to overcome roadblocks, and how to embrace creativity.

Rob Black, chief executive officer of the Rural Ontario Institute, said it was heartwarming to see so many focusing on leadership innovations because effective leaders need to be innovative. “Change is the only constant; get used to it,” said Lyndon Stewart, of 4-H Ontario, as he reinforced why innovation is absolutely necessary.

In her opening remarks, the Foundation for Rural Living’s executive director, Anita Hayes, asked, “What is the environment that is necessary to cultivate the atmosphere of innovation? What does this mean for our communities and our organizations?”

From the high energy opening keynote session on innovation styles and driving change by Alain Rostain, chief executive officer of Creative Advantage, New York, to the more reflective and philosophical Circles workshop presented by Jennifer Ball and Wayne Caldwell of the University of Guelph, the group could find inspiration and ideas relevant to their lives, businesses, projects, and communities.

Throughout the conference, there was an opportunity for participants to share their own stories, their experiences and show how they will use the new ideas and tools from the conference in the future.

The event was supported by title sponsor, Pioneer Hi-Bred Ltd.

“We sponsored the Leading Edge Summit because we know it isn’t just a conference – it’s an opportunity to share knowledge, build networks and inspire leaders to make meaningful, lasting change in their communities,” said Lisa Jenkins, marketing manager with Pioneer. “Pioneer has been partnering with rural leadership programs for decades – including the Advanced Agricultural Leadership Program and 4-H – because we believe investing in leadership has a big, and measurable return.”

Additional support was received from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and Elinor Humphries.

“Dialogue was created, insights were gained, skills were learned, and ideas were shared here, said Alicia Evans, project manager – leadership programs with the Rural Ontario Institute said Alicia Evans, project manager – leadership programs with the Rural Ontario Institute..

The Leading Edge summit is a program of steps to leadership. It is a collaborative initiative of the Rural Ontario Institute, 4-H Ontario and Foundation for Rural Living. Funding for the project is provided in part by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada through the Agricultural Adaptation Council. Visit for more information.