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One-to-one with Cathryn Wilson


Meet Cathryn Wilson, who leads the BC Achievement Foundation (BC Achievement). As Executive Director, she spearheads an independent foundation dedicated to honouring excellence across British Columbia to drive meaningful change. Through five award programs, BC Achievement showcases the very best of the province, highlighting the remarkable efforts of individuals who contribute to building stronger and more engaged communities. With a mission to elevate excellence and inspire achievement in program areas which include civic leadership, artistic endeavors, entrepreneurship, and reconciliation, BC Achievement tells powerful stories of extraordinary people doing extraordinary work

Why does BC Achievement run award programs for extraordinary British Columbians and what defines someone as extraordinary?

Our programs showcase extraordinary individuals and serve as catalysts for positive change. Recognition creates a platform for awareness and celebration. We are privileged to meet extraordinary individuals who excel in their respective fields and demonstrate a commitment to serving others. Whether it's their dedication to a cause, their innovative approach to problem-solving, or their ability to empower those around them, these individuals embody the spirit of excellence in everything they do.

Since you started as Executive Director over eight years ago, what accomplishments have you led?

We are defined by the quality of our recipients and currently our alumni is 1100 strong. Underpinning our work is a process that allows the foundation to drive change. In 2015, we made a significant shift to a mission driven model. A dynamic framework within each program allows for future additions to our current areas of practice. Program delivery is streamlined annually to ensure engagement with all British Columbians. We have strong partnerships with like-minded organizations across all programs and are fortunate to work with Indigenous leaders, academic, corporate and community organizations, and a dedicated volunteer board of directors aligning with the needs and aspirations of those we aim to serve.

Can you share the impact of the Indigenous Business Award (IBA) program?

The IBA program celebrates Indigenous entrepreneurship while contributing to greater awareness and understanding of the growing Indigenous economy in BC and beyond and has done so since 2009. The program is Indigenous-led, and guided by an Indigenous Advisory panel which has supported the program since its inaugural year. Close to 250 entrepreneurs have been recognized and we've built meaningful relationships with Indigenous leaders ensuring the program reflects its communities. A committed sponsorship family and program partners support the IBA. BC Achievement uses recognition as a tool, through its powerful awardee films recipients model success for future entrepreneurs. The IBA unites Indigenous and non-Indigenous businesses within BC's economy and the IBA Gala, this year booked for October 7th– is the place to be to celebrate Indigenous Business in B.C.!

What challenges does BC Achievement face in today's economy?

Like many organizations working in the social-profit sector, a significant challenge is expanding our reach in such a competitive and crowded marketplace. As a small (but mighty!) social profit this challenge is felt in our fundraising and sponsorship campaigns that seek additional resources to develop programming. Recipients begin their journey with us when they receive their award and join a growing alumni family. Engaging with alumni and maintaining their involvement in our programs is an ongoing, rewarding challenge. These challenges move us forward as we are continuously exploring innovative ways to overcome obstacles and achieve our goals.

What pending initiatives are you excited about?

Several! One that stands out is our transition to a year-round nomination process, it creates more inclusive platforms which aim to remove barriers and make it easier for individuals to nominate anytime. We are also keen to connect and mobilize our 1100 plus alumni family. Alumni engage with BC Achievement as jury members, program donors, mentors, nominators and advisors. Alumni participation enhances every aspect of our program delivery. We are also eager to celebrate our awardees! Events mark a program's culmination and the opportunity for us to gather communities together to celebrate and model success is meaningful – the 2024 event schedule including the IBA gala in October and art exhibitions and program celebrations in November at The Roundhouse are not to be missed!

How can businesses and individuals support BC Achievement?

Nominate individuals for our programs and spread the word about our work within your networks and communities! Share the remarkable awardee short films we produce. These films live on our YouTube channel. Donate on line, attend events, and engage on social media. Sign up for our monthly newsletter ELEVATE and keep in touch!

How does BC Achievement collaborate with other organizations?

Collaboration is key to our success and we actively seek partnerships with other organizations who share our vision and values. Partnerships with the Office of the Lieutenant Governor of BC in delivering the BC Reconciliation Award program, and collaborations with Polygon Homes and the Yosef Wosk Family Foundation have expanded our impact. These partnerships enrich our programs. The foundation has been celebrating excellence for twenty one years and during that time invested over $13 million back into the provincial economy through our program delivery.

What inspires you to work in the non-profit sector?

We are a social profit, whose bottom line is for the public good. The opportunity to tell the story of our province, through British Columbians who are making a difference is where our work is centred. The ripple effect of our efforts goes beyond recognition, inspiring others and creating positive change in communities. Knowing that our work is building a more inclusive, equitable, and vibrant society motivates our team to continue striving for excellence in everything we do for the public good.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I enjoy gathering with friends and family over delicious food, experiencing/supporting the performing arts, cycling and hiking with our dog, Genie!

This One-to-One is part of our initiative, the Community Spotlight Series. As part of our mandate to champion and celebrate businesses in the Greater Vancouver region, we, as a non-profit ourselves, want to use our platform to shine a spotlight on our non-profit members. Each quarter, we'll recognize a Vancouver-based non-profit that offers programs and services that improve the social and economic well-being of citizens in our community. This quarter, we're featuring the BC Achievement Foundation. Learn more about the Community Spotlight Series here.

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