A collaborative design summit for an evolving organization

People-centered innovation with the Anglican Church of Canada
On the lands now known as British Columbia, the Anglican Church of Canada has been operating for more than 100 years. And over these years, the organization has come face-to-face with the need for change, on more than one occasion. Often, these crossroads moments have found them boldly answering the calls for co-creation, reconciliation, and systems change. In the current reality, the ACC continues to find itself with new questions to ask.

In partnership with Co.school, the Ecclesiastical Province of BC and Yukon gathered a diverse collection of its clerical leaders and lay membership together, for a multi-day retreat setting out to explore what might be next in its purposeful evolution. 

In the time leading up to the summit, the group’s leadership was thoughtfully engaged — seeing this not just as a moment in time, but a continued movement. Their commitment to co-design, with each other and with their communities, was clear as they did their pre-work, invited their participants, and named their priorities.

As the group gathered, surrounded by the reflective garden spaces of the retreat centre adjacent to their St. John's Shaughnessy location in Vancouver, it was clearly a space ready for story, relationship and innovation. 

We helped guide the group through a meaningful arc of activities: to help them explore their overall purpose, to look at their current organizational structure, and ask “how well is our current structure helping us achieve our purpose?” 

With the help of futures thinking, they co-created scenarios to help them imagine how their purpose might relate to what’s approaching, to then ask: what structure would we need, in order to enable thriving in the future? 

With a clarified purpose, a sense of the future, and a renewed idea for their organizational structure, they were then able to list out key experiments that would help them explore what’s next. 

In the beauty and creativity of this setting, we were able to hold a brave space where participants were able to engage in tough conversations without getting stuck. Peppered with home-cooked food and space for their own spiritual practices, the group was able to cohere with real relational connections. Coming out of this retreat setting, leadership was prepared to model and lead change at a provincial level, while bringing imaginative, productive conversations back to their own cities, towns and churches, with key ideas to test: how might the church help steward a people-centered, love-driven network that truly connects people? And, what would it take for an old institution with old structures to get there?

The story is still unfolding, as the church and its leaders share, test and explore their ideas with congregations, but experiments are already underway — small pilots involving pooling funds, using technology, sharing resources, taking education mobile — and it’ll be a fascinating journey to see how this organization evolves next.

“As an organisation in transition, the Ecclesiastical Province of BC & Yukon approached Co.school to co-create and facilitate a summit that would deepen trusting relationships amongst key leaders and envision a new collaborative future. In this, they were brilliant.

Co.School crafted an environment where participants that helped us to honour our past, risk an honest look at our present, and cast a bold vision for the future. Thanks to Charlotte and Kevan, we walked away from the summit energized with possibility, and with a sense of the next faithful steps towards our emerging future."
Portrait photo of Brea Lake
Andrew Stephens-Rennie, Director of Missional Renewal in the Anglican Diocese of Kootenay
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