The Best of 2016

That time of the year to look back on the highlights from the year before. There are many for us at OrgCode. So, I am focusing on those 10 things where we felt we had the greatest impact or the community really look a leap forward in ending homelessness, or events I just can’t keep smiling about when thinking about it.



Hawaii is a beautiful place to work, but it is also struggling with homelessness in some very unique ways based upon geography, politics, and the change process overall. So what has stood out for me so much in positive ways? The first is a group called HousingASAP. With the involvement and investment of the Hawaii Community Foundation, leaders in family homelessness are working with a dedicated consultant who is awesome – Liza Culick – to transform how they lead and change. We (OrgCode) have been so fortunate to be involved in providing some technical input to the group, and deliver some bootcamps on various subjects related to family homelessness. The second, which happens through HousingASAP, is our involvement in designing, implementing and supporting coordinated entry for families across all of the islands. Third, I have loved staying involved with Hope Services, which is a dynamic, brave organization on the Big Island. They have allowed us to work with them in transforming their service delivery top to bottom to focus on ending homelessness, and have radically altered some of their practices in the process. Finally, it has been awesome to have Bridging the Gap (the CoC shared across Kauai, Maui and the Big Island) invite me to do some training and systems work across their communities, as well as lead coordinated entry for singles on those islands. While Oahu still has its challenges, and there remains much to be hopeful about in Hawaii.


The Master Class

The group that went through the Leadership Academy in 2015 were invited to the Master Class in 2016 in Arizona. It was amazing to see so many people return and grow deeper in their knowledge of leadership as it applies to ending homelessness. I was challenged and humbled by the honour of preparing and delivering the materials. The more I lead others in understanding and using leadership skills, I grow deeper in my self awareness and opportunities for growth.


Leadership Academy II

If you build it, will they come again? Turns out, they do indeed. We had another sold out Leadership Academy in West Virginia this year. I feel I got all the kinks worked out from the previous year and sharpened the content and delivery. It was an honour that so many people from Australia, Canada and the United States wanted to show up and develop their leadership skills further to help their pursuit of ending homelessness.


The OrgCode Team

We expanded the OrgCode team this year, and I am so excited that talented people want to help us engage and transform other communities in ending homelessness. Erin Wixsten and David Tweedie joined us full time. Zach Brown, Amanda Sisson, Mike Shore, and Kris Freed became “bench players” who still have their day job but help out on specific projects that we are working on. Never did I think such an awesome group would want to come together under the OrgCode umbrella. We can offer way more talent to communities, and I grow deeper in my skill set too. Jeff Standell continues to offer a steady hand to most training. The OrgCode team really functions because Tracy Flaherty-Willmott is my right hand and keeps me challenged, organized, growing, and happy.


Michigan State Conference

This was, in my opinion, the best keynote I ever delivered. It was honest. It was raw. And I know it was transformative to many in attendance because to this day I get random emails telling me how they continue to go about transforming programs and policies based upon the things I said and shared.


Launch Housing 

Being in Australia is always a lovely thing, even when Melbourne is damn cold. Working with Launch was one of the highlights of my year because I see the amazing opportunity and transformation happening within a rather incredible organization. And I met some amazing people and deepened my knowledge of others. People like Heather Holst, who is the Deputy CEO, are an incredible inspiration.


Crossroads Rhode Island

I have blogged and bragged about this organization before, but 2016 they stepped up to the plate again in a new way. As they took over a large shelter from another organization, I was moved deeply as I saw how an organization like Crossroads living its values can almost instantaneously transform the culture of another program. I also loved how they can lean into complexity to take on the next challenge without having all of the answers first, and in living that bravery, be so focused on solving problems rather than making excuses for them. I’d have to say that Crossroads does housing-focused shelter about the best I have ever seen.


Shreveport and Lafayette, LA

There are reasons that these two cities are lumped together, and they are personal. At least once a year I take my eldest (10) on a road trip with me to understand what Dad does for a living. This was our second time in Louisiana. In Lafayette, the great people at Catholics Services of Acadiana created meaningful, appropriate engagement for my son in ways that helped him know me better. In Shreveport, he deepened his understanding of HOPE Connections, plus saw one of his buddies from a previous trip. Let’s also be clear that Louisiana is an awesome place to be if you are 10 and into alligators and other critters (READ – SWAMP TOUR WAS AMAZING!)



Hamilton, Ontario is close to where I call home. Going there means I can wake up in my own bed, and I like that. But what I like more is how they are using professional development to drive through their approach to changing services. I am grateful I get to spend so much time delivering training in the community and helping service providers grow in their knowledge and applicability of very practical ways to improve housing outcomes. I am a better person for knowing leaders like Amanda who lead and manage change in such a brave manner.


Region of Waterloo

The Region of Waterloo exemplifies system thinking in ending homelessness and is perhaps the best example I can think this year of when it comes to municipal public service leadership in driving a policy and service agenda that is transforming homeless services to have a housing focus. Marie and Angela inspire me with their dedication to change over the long-term, and their approach to incubating new programming in different parts of the Region to get lasting service results.

About Iain De Jong

Leader. Edutainer. Coach. Consultant. Professor. Researcher. Blogger. Do-gooder. Potty mouth. Positive disruptor. Relentless advocate for social justice. Comedian. Dad. Minimalist. Recovering musician. Canadian citizen. International jetsetter. Living life in jeans and a t-shirt. Trying really hard to end homelessness in developed countries around the world, expand harm reduction practices, make housing happen, and reform the justice system. Driven by change, fuelled by passion. Winner of a shit ton of prestigious awards, none of which matter unless change happens in how we think about vulnerability, marginality, and inclusion.

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