Dr. Joe Kelly and several of the changemakers he interviewed on his cross-Canada trip this summer.


“Driving across the country—it was as simple as that,” says Dr. Joe Kelly, sitting in a downtown cafe.

But it wasn’t just a simple, cross-country road trip. The Capilano University tourism instructor wanted to give his journey a sense of purpose.

He set out on a mission to combine this bucket list item with a personal project that would be more creative and impactful than just crossing Canada, coast to coast.

Before leaving, Joe set up interviews with 11 changemakers in communities all across Canada.

Through social media and word of mouth, he set out on a five-week trip to find interesting people who are running projects or organizations with the goal of impacting change in their communities.

Musicians, environmental activists, and youth workers were just some of the types of folks who Joe had the chance to meet on his journey—which he dubbed “The Better World Tour.”

“They gave me a reason to be there, a reason to interact with someone on a deeper level,” says Joe.

“The most challenging part… was doing the solid driving.”

While he’s still writing up a few of the character profiles, many of them can be found on his personal blog, featured on the Vancouver Sun.

Inspiration in Winnipeg

One of those individuals, Michael Redhead Champagne from Winnipeg, is one of the people Joe says he was most inspired by.

Michael started an anti-gang youth organization in Winnipeg’s north end called Aboriginal Youth Opportunities, or “AYO!” for short.

According to Joe, a lot of Michael’s peers were joining gangs, and so Michael wanted to provide an alternative. The Winnipeg man now does public speaking and has his own radio show.

“He was 23 years old when he started,” says Joe. “He himself has emerged into a real leader. He’s been featured at TED X in Winnipeg.”

Experiential learning

But Joe’s mission didn’t just end after he got back home.

A faculty member in Global and Community Studies at Capilano since 2009, he is sharing the stories of every person he met in a new curriculum for a course he teaches at the university.

He wants to introduce his students to the people he met during his cross-country trip, by using each story as a case study. Joe will be working within Project Change, a course already taught at the university that is focused on sustainability.

He hopes his own experiences on the road will serve a function in revamping the course to give a more practical, experiential learning experience for students.

“When you talk about sustainability, often you’re focused on what’s wrong with the world,” says Joe.

“I want to shift the focus from what’s wrong, to what’s right.”

The capstone assignment in the class will require students to create a program or project that impacts a community of at least 20 people.

He says he wants to show his students how to think like changemakers.

“The idea of 20 is that it gets them beyond their small circle of friends,” he says. “They also have to be able to measure and track their impacts.”

Dr. Kelly plans to teach the course during the summer semester in 2016. He says he wants students who take the class to pursue something in their project that they’re passionate about.

“Like these changemakers [I met], you kind of just dream something up and go for it,” he said.

“What’s the worst that could happen?”

Submitted by Marketing & Communications

*   *   *

Joe Kelly teaches in the Faculty of Global and Community Studies at Capilano University. You can follow him on his blog, or on Twitter @drjoekelly.

Related Links: