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. While she often shares stories from her 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. While Carissa draws on many current experiences and case studies to entertain and enlighten, she often introduces memorable, unique historical stories and case studies. Where appropriate or requested, research is conducted by experienced historical researchers and active journalists to bring audiences unique archival photos and stories from their sector or profession. Beyond her keynote, Carissa builds half to full day workshops for groups who want strategic planning engagement 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, Positive Culture, Inspiration, Change making, Compassionate Culture, Resiliency, Holistic Health, Wellness, Compassionate Leadership, Creative Leadership, Compassionate Leadership, Community Engagement, Staff Engagement, Culture of Care, Empathy, Giving Back, People first strategy, Removing Stereotypes, Social Responsibility

TAKEAWAY: Audiences will be inspired to take a more active role in building community, looking out for 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/CATEGORY: Community Development, Leadership, Social Action, Urban Development, Urban Planning, Safety, Positive Culture, Inspiration, Change making, Resiliency, Holistic Health, Wellness, Compassionate Leadership, Creative Leadership, Compassionate Leadership, Compassionate Culture, Community Engagement, Staff Engagement, Culture of Care, Empathy, Giving Back, People first strategy, Removing Stereotypes, Social Responsibility

TAKEAWAYAudiences 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 healthy communities and teams leading to improved collaboration and leadership.

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 a notorious, old neighbourhood, people predicted she would move when her children went to school.  Despite these predictions, instead she met inspiring community builders, change makers and resiliency builders. These powerful individuals who were “just doing their jobs” or “doing what they loved to do” or “just being a good neighbour”, they taught her what it takes to make a neighbourhood--even one with a bad reputation--thrive.  Her stories are funny, sad, make-you-mad and audiences leave inspired to build community at work and at home.

TOPIC: Community Development, Leadership, Social Action, Urban Development, Urban Planning, Safety, Positive Culture, Inspiration, Change making, Resiliency, Holistic Health, Wellness, Compassionate Leadership, Creative Leadership, Compassionate Leadership, Community Engagement, Staff Engagement, Culture of Care, Empathy, Giving Back, People first strategy, Removing Stereotypes, Social Responsibility, Design Principles, Advocacy

TAKEAWAYAudiences will be inspired to consider how environmental design impacts their bodies, teams, company and community.

FORMAT: Keynote; 60- 90 minutes

DESCRIPTION:   When Carissa Halton bought a home in a neighbourhood known for its crime, people asked: “Why would you live there?” It was affordable, close to downtown. But it was only after moving in that she realized the value of Alberta Avenue’s trees and parks: legacies of planners working a century ago.  In this keynote, Carissa will share her lived experience of the impact public outdoor and green spaces had on her neighbours and her community’s resiliency. She will discuss why now, more than ever, advocates who speak “for the trees” (and public, outdoor spaces) need to be heard.

TOPIC: Organizational Culture, Strengths, Resilience, Strategic Planning, Community Engagement, Staff Engagement, People First Strategy, Creative Leadership

TAKEAWAYParticipants will identify their strengths, feel clearer about the root cause of their barriers, and feel mobilized to move their organization forward. 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: Communications, Government Relations, Citizen Action, Democracy, Activism, Leadership, Campaigns, Public Policy, Social Responsibility, Engagement, People First Strategy, Policy Change, Social Responsibility

LEARNING OUTCOME:   Participants will learn about the key elements in a proactive government relations strategy and leave excited to get to work influencing government policy with a people-first mindset.

FORMAT: 60-minute keynote or 90-minute workshop

DESCRIPTION: Drawing from her experiences as a director in a Canadian Premier’s office and as a strategic planner and advisor for many campaign-oriented organizations, Carissa will share stories of policy change for the public good. She will break down the basic steps of an effective government relations strategy. Carissa’s case studies are customized to the client’s policy interests and provide examples of how each step in the process leads organizations, non-profits, community change makers and associations to influence policy.

TOPIC: Communications, Government Relations, Citizen Action, Democracy, Activism, Leadership, Campaigns, People First Strategy, Policy Change, Social Responsibility

LEARNING OUTCOMEParticipants 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 tried writing them down and realized it doesn’t read as all that interesting? 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.  Using published examples, she’ll explain the techniques that make non-fiction stories sparkle.

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Language Spoken

English

Travels From

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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