Why Wayside?  Why Now?

The Wayside Initiative is for people in Nova Scotia working for the greater good in communities, organizations, or society, at any level.

Nova Scotia has one of the highest proportions of both non-profits and volunteers to population in the country, and many inspiring, innovative efforts.  This is rewarding and often very hard work; it is easy to feel frustrated, overwhelmed by the challenge, and alone in one’s efforts.

Yet, no matter what we are working on, we all face similar challenges of courage, resilience, and knowing how to be strategic and effective—with the situation and with ourselves. All of us can benefit from further learning. In addition, there may be people we are unaware of working on issues very similar to ours, who can be sources of feedback, ideas, and support.

To enable these kinds of learning and connections for all Nova Scotians, Wayside provides access to classes and training, useful on-line discussions, networking, and extensive resources. In doing this, we promote the sharing of valuable ideas and resources within and across physical communities, work sectors and government, civil society and business.

In this way, we hope to help strengthen the qualities of wisdom and compassion throughout Nova Scotia, and to realize our potential as an island of sanity that the world increasingly needs.

Why the Name?

Soon after we begin to work on a challenging community project; a change in the way our group or organization works; a vision for even small social change; or a new way of approaching old problems, we commonly find ourselves on a long, uncertain, and sometimes quite difficult journey.

This can be alternately exhilarating and exhausting. So this site functions as a “wayside inn,” for weary travellers to step off at any point in the road to come in and refresh themselves; meet and trade stories and tips with fellow travellers; perhaps get some companions for the next stretch, and upgrade gear for the rough patches ahead. And we certainly encourage and hope in-person local meetings will happen out of Wayside connections.

What makes Wayside unique in Nova Scotia?

Michael Chender, who started Wayside, was also the founder of ALIA (Authentic Leadership in Action), an Institute started in 2001 and held yearly for six days at the Mount in Halifax, which attracted 2-300 people from around the world each year to work with world-leading teachers on complexity, dialogue and new ways of collaborating and dealing with conflict. ALIA trained many consultants now active throughout the province, and spawned first Envision Halifax (a joint venture with United Way) and then Engage Nova Scotia.

Wayside is working with the learning from these ventures to help create a more fertile ground for the thousands of inspired efforts underway in Nova Scotia to make life better for others. It is not in competition with any of these projects (we are partners with many of them) but seeks to support them all by cultivating the big common field of Nova Scotian possibility on which we all have pitched our tents.

How is Wayside Operated and Funded?

We support ourselves through the income from classes and memberships, and from donations. Most of the work on this site is done on a volunteer basis.

Who Are We?

Our volunteers are a diverse group with no common political allegiance, and we have no specific agenda beyond creating practical support for people working for the greater good in the province. We have a ten-person board and a large and very diverse circle of advisors from around the province. We also have a number of global thought leaders following our project with interest.

Most of our board members have the experience of founding or overseeing other significant Nova Scotian community or education initiatives including ALIA, Engage Nova Scotia, Springtide Collective, and Make.Do Camp. Two of us have held key government positions, in Public Health, and Economic Development.

Our common thread is our love for Nova Scotia—what it is and what it can be.

Our common thread is our love for Nova Scotia—what it is and what it can be.

Our Board


Isabel Chender

Isabel works as a graphic facilitator, program and curriculum designer, and project leader. She received a master’s degree in Strategic Leadership towards Sustainability (M.Sc) in 2014, following a Bachelor’s in International Development Studies from McGill, and has put this to work in projects related to leadership, sustainability, and radical education in Brazil, Ecuador, Chile, Guyana, and Europe, as well as throughout Nova Scotia.

She is currently the program director of the International Youth Initiative Program (YIP) in Sweden, co-facilitator of the Amazon Summer School, a member of the Brave Space creative and strategic consultancy, and an alumni and aspiring educator with the UnSchool of Disruptive Design. She also collaborates regularly with the Art of Hosting international network.


Michael Chender

Michael Chender has had a dual career as a business and social entrepreneur, and also has been a long-time student and teacher of meditation in the Buddhist tradition. He was the founder in 1999 and initial chair of ALIA (Authentic Leadership in Action), an innovative series of programs in Nova Scotia and Europe bringing together training in organizational and social change methodologies, mindfulness and arts-based awareness. He also founded, in 1980, and ran for 32 years the leading provider of information to the worldwide mineral exploration industry.  He is on the board of Engage Nova Scotia, Springtide, and the Foundation for a Mindful Society, and continues to learn about working with complex challenges by walking with his feet in seemingly different worlds.


Mark Coffin

Mark Coffin is a marine biologist by training, an entrepreneur by necessity, and an educator by calling. He is a Cape Bretoner at heart, a Haligonian for the last ten years, and is currently plotting an escape to rural Nova Scotia. He is most interested in exploring how large groups and communities can be making better decisions together. For the past four years, he has been the Executive Director of the Springtide Collective, an organization he and others launched to improve the quality of political engagement in Nova Scotia through education and research.


Tony Lamport

Anthony (Tony) Lamport has worked and studied in Nova Scotia for almost 50 years in the areas of social action, environmental planning, community development and applied economics. In a 25 year career with the Nova Scotia civil service he began with probably the most popular program in provincial government history, the Nova Scotia Mainstreet Program where he had a chance to be involved with the local efforts of over 60 communities across the province to thrive and prosper. He finished as senior advisor to the government on sustainable growth working with circular economy and sustainable prosperity. In between was experience in economic policy making and development in almost every area of the economy. He is the author of a book about Nova Scotia’s history of unique citizen engagement entitled Common Ground and sits on the boards of Imagine Bloomfield and the Halifax Tool Library. His commitment to learning from Nova Scotia’s future is unwavering.


Robert Orr

Robert is currently the CEO and Managing Partner of a Cuna del Mar LP; a USA based impact investment fund focused on global food security, healthy oceans, and transformational technologies related to the working in ocean environment. He is also the Chair of the Board of the Community Foundation of Nova Scotia, which looks to build strong, vibrant and diverse communities by enabling and inspiring effective local philanthropy.

Robert has extensive experience over 35 years in the creation and management of fast-growing companies, including the co-founding and leadership of Ocean Nutrition Canada, the success of which helped make him the Halifax Chamber of Commerce’s business person of the year in 2011. He is also a co-founder of the Atlantic Region Ocean Technology Supercluster. In addition to his service on other boards and several university advisory committees, Robert is deeply involved in mentoring and training further as an executive coach.


Debra Ross

Debra Ross is currently the Manager of Outreach and Partnerships at Dahousie University’s College of Sustainability. She received a MA in Communications Management from the Annenberg School at the University of Southern California and a BA in Social Communications from the University of Ottawa.

For more decades than she cares to count, Debra worked in the Buddhist publishing industry, the not-for-profit sector, and the worlds of marketing and market research. She is on the board of the Halifax Refugee Clinic and active with several volunteer activities. She tries to contribute to decolonizing Turtle Island, deconstructing the patriarchy and empowering youth in Nova Scotia.


Laura Simpson

Laura Simpson is the founder/CEO of The Syrup Factory and Side Door. After spending seven years as a journalist, she moved into the music industry and has worked artists since 2007. In 2016, she launched Make.Do.Camp, an annual camp for grown-ups from every walk of life to disconnect from technology and reconnect with nature, people and themselves in a deeply moving way. Although she's lived elsewhere, she's chosen to live and work in her home province of Nova Scotia because she believes in its magic.


Alan Sloan

Alan Sloan is an executive coach, educator and facilitator in Halifax. He provides services in leadership development to government, institutions, not-for-profit organizations, businesses and individuals. He is a trainer and facilitator in community development and collaborative methodologies. For 40 years, Alan has been a senior teacher of mindfulness practice. He has given workshops in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia and Sweden. Alan has also presented numerous on-line courses on behalf of ALIA Institute and through his own consulting company. He has published two DVDs on mindfulness practice.


Sera Thompson

Sera Thompson is a social innovator and master facilitator whose work is focused on building capacity for participatory leadership and creating movement around complex issues. Her work creatively engages a diversity of players and stakeholders in finding shared clarity and timely actions. She began her career in the complex field of Environmental Consulting, juggling the needs of diverse stakeholders balancing economic, ecological and social sustainability. She has a deep commitment to the future of Nova Scotia, since 2006 she has supported dozens of organizations in government, academia and the non-profit sector to create positive change.


Gaynor Watson-Creed

Dr. Gaynor Watson-Creed, was recently appointed  Deputy Chief Medical Officer of Health for Nova Scotia, having previously served as the Medical Officer of Health for the Capital District Health Authority and the IWK Health Centre. A native of Prince Edward Island, Dr. Watson-Creed completed an MSc in Biochemistry before completing her medical school at Dalhousie University in 1999. She provides consultative advice and strategic oversight to district health authorities by working with district health authority public health staff on matters of population health and is also responsible for administering the Health Protection Act of Nova Scotia. She is on the Board of Engage Nova Scotia and served on the One NS commission. She is a dedicated leader and a passionate advocate for the role public health can play in advancing health equity.


How Can I Help?

We monitor all the conversations on Wayside, not just to see that they meet our guidelines for respectful conversation, but also to ensure that they are tagged to appear in every area where they are relevant.  If you have a librarian’s precision and an artist’s creativity, please join us!

We also welcome people with subject knowledge, passion, and an open mind to help further the conversations in specific forums.

If none of the above describes you, but you would like to help, perhaps you have a specific suggestion. Please let us know!

And of course, financial contributions are always welcome.  We estimate that in our first two years, over 60% of our expenses will need to be met through donations.

How Can I Make Suggestions?

This is a critical form of help for us. Wayside only exists if it serves Nova Scotians.  So please send us your thoughts, corrections, inspirations, complaints…anything that you feel like offering.  Thank you!