150 Profiles: Marla MacLeod

As we mark the 150th anniversary of confederation, The Philanthropist is profiling Canadians from across the non-profit sector and putting a face to 150 individuals who work or volunteer in Canada’s social sector.

Name: Marla MacLeod

Current role in the sector: Managing Director, Ecology Action Centre

Years working and/or volunteering in the non-profit sector: Twenty years.

What was your first job in the sector or a defining moment?
My first job in the sector was my high school summer job–I worked at the Discovery Centre, the science centre here in Halifax. People loved being there. It was an environment where people could learn something new in a fun and engaging way. I remember the bubble room being really great. I recently had the opportunity to take my two year-old daughter to the Discovery Centre–as it turns out, the bubble room is still fun! Twenty years later, I still see the importance of being in an organization where your work is meaningful, engaging, and enjoyable.

Describe your desk/workspace.
I have a messy desk in a beautiful office. I consider myself an organized person, but my desk is always a disaster. Currently on my desk: markers, flip chart paper, a postcard that says “Stay Woke”, notes for the upcoming board orientation session and far too many to-do lists. Our office is a recently renovated 100+ year old building in the north end of Halifax. The renovation added a third floor, and increased our energy efficiency–making it one of the most energy efficient office buildings in Canada. Our building features salvaged materials, solar heating, sustainably harvested wood, and lots of natural light. It’s environmentally friendly, but beautiful too. We believe in walking the talk, and the building is a reflection of our values.

What are you reading or following that has expanded your understanding of the non-profit sector?
I love Getting to Maybe by Frances Westley, Brenda Zimmerman and Michael Patton. It opened up my thinking around developmental evaluation and how to stay nimble and show impact in an ever shifting landscape. While a webinar series rather than a book, I have been watching “Engagement Organizing 101” from the Freshwater Alliance and Ecology Ottawa. It’s been helpful in rethinking how we build leadership and engage our volunteers. I also regularly read the Stanford Social Innovation Review for stories and inspiration from social innovators around the world.

What do you think our sector needs to be thinking about?
Diversity and environmental justice are top of mind for us. We would like to support more diverse voices in our work, and work to ensure that traditionally marginalized communities have a place at the table. Specifically, we’ve been considering how we can we be good allies for local Indigenous communities. Another topic we’re focusing on is the role storytelling plays in how we communicate with our community.  We’ve been considering how to talk about successes in a way that everyone can understand and really show the impact of our work in the community.

Do you know someone we should profile as part of this series? Email us at philanthropistprofiles@gmail.com


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