Photo: Reflecting Canada's diversity

Harpreet Johal (to David Suzuki's right) is one of two public engagement specialists working with diverse communities for the Foundation. (Credit: Adam Bhinder, Vivid Dreams Photograph)

In 2010, the Foundation's Climate and Clean Energy team hired two new campaigners: Harpreet Johal and Winnie Hwo.

Harpreet was fresh from college, with a bachelor of science in environmental studies from UBC and a master's degree in public policy and governance from the University of Toronto. Winnie is the mother of a teenager and a veteran journalist with degrees in history from Simon Fraser and journalism from Ryerson. Harpreet was born in Canada while Winnie is an immigrant from Hong Kong. Harpreet is tall; Winnie is not!

Despite the differences, Harpreet and Winnie have at least one thing in common: their passion and commitment to encourage their communities to work toward solutions to environmental challenges, especially climate change. They have become known as the dynamic duo of the David Suzuki Foundation.

Now, Harpreet and Winnie have expanded their work at the Foundation from climate solutions to public engagement.

With the help of the Vancouver Foundation's Connect and Engage funding, they have been able to document the projects they have built and barriers they have broken — and most importantly, the relationships they have consolidated.

It's all in a 46-page report by research consultant Eugenia Wang, which showcases the Foundation's efforts to build a diverse climate team. According to Foundation science and policy manager Ian Bruce, new Canadians often come from places where climate impacts are frequent and obvious. Many came here for pure air, clean water, safe food and a healthy environment.

The report highlights the opportunities as well as the obstacles.

The most important elements of successful public engagement are respect and willingness to listen to people in diverse communities. The logic is simple: when you show respect, you will be respected. When you listen, you will be listened to.