Crys Vanier is a professional project manager, with a corporate background and a master’s degree in business innovation focusing on citizen entrepreneurship. Still, she isn’t sure there’s a word that sums up all that she does. “At the Innovation Leadership Forum they gave me the term ‘catalyst,’” she says. “I tend to get involved in things early on. They can be city level or in a neighbourhood; it’s all interconnected. I tend to not see things defined by boundaries and boxes.”
One of the barriers Crys wants to overcome is the narrow way public engagement is often defined. “I don’t believe that people have to go to some City thing to participate or be considered engaged,” she says. “Often people are already making a difference and we can find ways to learn from, support, or enhance their contribution.” That might mean throwing a flash block party, organizing a Frisbee club, or creating a project to help clean the river. These, Crys says, are “thoughts that become deliberate acts. They start from an awareness of things that need to be done.”
And by that definition, Crys herself is engaged with her community, too. In addition to project and strategy work, she speaks in workplaces on wellness, writes grants for community-building projects, facilitates innovation and research exercises, presents on work-life balance with her husband, and leads fitness classes.
Much of Crys’s work these days revolves around wellness. Here too, she wants to expand even the holistic view to ensure the focus is not just on individuals, but also the health and connections of communities. “Some significant life events reminded me that if we aren’t building wellness beyond just ourselves,” she says, “then we don’t have the right quality of life or resilience—as a family unit, or a city, or a society.”