Carissa Halton

Community and Social Justice Advocate, Writer, Facilitator and Strategic Planner

Speaking to groups large and small, Carissa Halton uses humour and story to explore how we find and build community wherever we are: at work, at home, in our neighbourhoods. Sharing stories from her debut book Little Yellow House; Finding Community in a Changing Neighbourhood, her keynote and breakout sessions can be tailored to meet a diverse range of organizational needs. She also builds workshops for groups who want relevant strategic planning sessions for their professional development days or issue-oriented conferences.

Carissa Halton is an award-winning writer and author. Her essays have been anthologized and won an Alberta and National Magazine Award and have appeared in many publications including: Today’s Parent, Alberta Venture and Postmedia Newspapers.  Little Yellow House; Finding Community in a Changing Neighbourhood is her first book and was a finalist for the 2019 Edmonton Book Prize.

Her leadership and community advocacy have spanned multiple sectors. She has worked as an inner-city non-profit managing director, a political advisor to government ministers, and communications consultant. Each step of her career has inspired her belief in the power of passionate people to make a big difference in their community, which sparked the beginning of her own consultancy, Halton Strategic. When not speaking or writing, she now helps teams, boards and organizations to strategically plan for the future and to communicate in an increasingly complex world. Trained by the International Association of Public Participation, she believes good public policy and successful programs start with engaging people impacted the most.

No matter what work Carissa has done, telling stories has been at the centre of it. Her narrative style and voice reflects storytelling forms she developed as a long time tour guide in various Alberta historical sites. Further, the themes she returns to in her writing and speaking are shaped by strong social justice values developed in her time spent learning from individuals in Edmonton’s inner city. Sharing these stories, discovered with curiosity, empathy, and humour, guides her work as a professional speaker.

Carissa is active in her community school and is on the boards of the Friends of the Edmonton Downtown Farmers Market Society and the Right at Home Society. Carissa lives with her children and husband in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Topic Presentations

TOPIC: Community Development, Leadership, Social Action, Urban Development, Urban Planning Safety, Workplace Culture, Inspiration

Audiences will be inspired to take a more active role in building community, looking after their neighbours wherever they live or work. Audiences will be introduced to building blocks that build trust and leads to collaboration and engagement.
FORMAT: Keynote or workshop; 60- 90 minutes

DESCRIPTION: What do our most notorious neighbourhoods have to teach us? Fifteen years ago when Carissa Halton moved into an old neighbourhood, people predicted her children wouldn’t be safe. After she started a family they insisted she would move when the children went to school. Despite these predictions, instead of danger she discovered community. Her diverse array of neighbours taught her what it takes to make a neighbourhood- even one with a bad reputation- thrive.  She shares the funny, sad, make-you-mad stories of Alberta Ave’s diverse residents. You’ll leave inspired to build community whenever we are. She will customize a focus to your specific organization, association and team community-building or work culture goals. Specific focusses are available including: engagement, leadership, collaboration, trust, community.

TOPIC: Workplace Culture, Leadership, Safety, Community Development,  Inspiration
TAKEAWAY: Participants will explore what they personally need to engage more deeply in their own organization and will better understand how they contribute to the fabric of their workplace culture.
FORMAT:  Keynote or workshop; 60- 90 minutes
DESCRIPTION: Fifteen years ago, Carissa Halton moved to a notorious part of town. In this workshop, she shares stories from her book Little Yellow House: Finding Community in a Changing Neighbourhood. Her stories will focus on the building blocks of safe community that can be applied anywhere- whether we’re at work in the board room or answering the phones, or at home mowing the lawn or walking the dog. With a participatory format she will explore how trust is built and leads to more creative and loyal workforce. Participants will discuss how these neighbourhood lessons translate to their own unique work culture.

TOPIC: Organizational Culture, Strengths, Resilience,   Strategic Planning,
TAKWAWAY: Participants will identify their strengths, feel clearer about the organizations goals, and feel mobilized to use their strengths to move their goals forward in their organization. Leaders will better understand the assets within their organizations.
FORMAT: Workshop  90 minute, half-day or full day
DESCRIPTION: As a strategic planning consultant and IAP2-trained facilitator, Carissa Halton leads participants through a facilitated discussion based on a customized series of questions, developed in coordination with the organization’s current goals. Participants will brainstorm ideas on how they can best use their strengths to contribute to the goals of their organization. Action plans can be built depending on session length.

TOPIC: Strategic Planning, Workplace Culture, Leadership, Team Building
LEARNING OUTCOME:  Participants will identify what risks they or their organization fear, and learn techniques to mitigating those risks to achieve their team  or organizational goals.
FORMAT: 60-minute keynote or 90-minute workshop
DESCRIPTION Seeking ways to grow your organization or make the right decisions in the face of risk? Carissa Halton learned from her misunderstood neighbourhood about the power of accurately identifying the risk in what we FEAR, then clearly identifying strengths to help mitigate risk and maximize opportunities to achieve our goals.  In this keynote or workshop, Carissa Halton will thread stories from her experience living in a notorious neighbourhood, as well as anecdotes from her work as a strategic planning consultant and advisor to government ministers. She will explore the power of accurately assessing what we fear to unblock barriers, make decisions and move teams forward.

TOPIC: Communications, Government Relations, Citizen Action, Democracy, Activism, Leadership, Campaigns
LEARNING OUTCOME:  Participants will learn about how to write a letter to a decision maker, while being entertained with stories from the mailroom of a political leader.
FORMAT: 60-minute keynote or 90-minute workshop
DESCRIPTION: As a former correspondence director in the Premier of Alberta’s office, Carissa will share insights into effective strategies for writing decision-makers and local representatives. She will talk about the power of letter writing campaigns. She will share ways to best leverage this type of people power—as part of a broader government relations strategy, or campaign for policy and practise changes.

TOPIC: Communications, Leadership, Campaigns, Strategic Planning
LEARNING OUTCOME:  Participants will identify the stories their organization has to share, and clarify their audience internally and externally. Participants will leave with tips on how to write those stories in authentic and interesting ways for their appropriate audience.
FORMAT: 90-min workshop
DESCRIPTION You, your family and your organization all have really amazing stories that could be more broadly told. Have you thought about writing them down? Have you tried and realized, once you got it down, that it doesn’t read as interestingly? Join award-winning non-fiction author, Carissa Halton, for a conversation on the techniques and tools required to make your non-fiction and communications writing come alive.   She’ll lead discussions, using published examples, regarding the techniques that make non-fiction stories sparkle and she’ll share a few of the tools she uses to gather and organize her information and who she then shapes her writing to draw readers in.

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Edmonton, Alberta

Little Yellow House: Finding Community in a Changing Neighbourhood

Carissa Halton’s debut book, Little Yellow House: Finding Community in a Changing Neighbourhood (University of Alberta Press, 2018), tells of life in a notorious Edmonton neighbourhood. It is a book of wry, hopeful and poignant stories exploring issues of neighbourliness and community in the face of crime, fear and slow revitalization.

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