2020 is the word we use for for perfect vision, but as with the year and how it's gone so far, we have to start seeing things in a new way. Today's guest, Karen MacKenzie, helps us to explore and understand the role Indigenous culture and practices play in contributing to building those new economies. We talk about female Indigenous entrepreneurs, building genuine relationships in business and how she works as a mentor to help other women grow as entrepreneurs.
Karen MacKenzie is a proud Cree-Métis woman and the co-founder and President of MacKintosh Canada, an Indigenous owned, international consulting company.
Karen brings her traditional knowledge of indigenous ways into the contemporary workplace as this wisdom and way of being reflect “wise practices of high performance organizations”.
As an international professional speaker, Karen inspires audiences to find their inner passion and to move forward in the direction of their dreams. She challenges individuals to recognize their own gifts, talents and genius and to “let it all out”.
She is passionate about supporting the dreams and aspirations of the people, organizations and communities. Karen is a member of the Edmonton Police Commission and the Circle of Elders for Edmonton Catholic Schools, heralded as a wise practice across Canada enabling greater success rates for First Nations, Métis and Inuit learners.
Karen is a Senior Advisory for the Indigenous Women in Community Leadership (IWCL), Coady Institute, St.Francis Xavier University along with her advisory role to IdeaConnector an online community supporting Indigenous women entrepreneurs.
Shift by Alberta Innovates focuses on the people, businesses and organizations that are contributing to Alberta's strong tech ecosystem.
Today's guest summed it up nicely when she said 2020 is the word we use for perfect vision. But as with the year and how it's gone down so far, we have to start seeing things in a new way. We need to find better approaches to build economies in a way that reflects and respects everyone that lives here. So sit down and settle in as we explore the important role indigenous female entrepreneurs and more will play as we build for the future. Welcome to shift.Katie Dean :
Hello and welcome to shift I am your co host Katie Dean,Jon Hagen :
I'm Jon Hagen. Today as part of a feature profiling Alberta women in innovation and technology as a lead up to September 15. Events called inventors unbound, she innovates we're happy to welcome today's guest Karen Mackenzie. Karen is a proud, Cree Metis woman and the co founder and president of Macintosh Canada, and indigenous owned international consulting company. Welcome, Karen. Thank you. I'mKaren MacKenzie :
delighted and honored to be here. And you know, as part of the conversation we talked about indigenous innovation, indigenous women, indigenous women, entrepreneurs, indigenous ways of being and knowing and how that will all shape the landscape of for the future. And so I like to move away from what's called the new normal to just say, how do we get there together and what do we want it to look like? And one of the ways that we like to start as indigenous people and more and more people from all say the settlers mainstream however you want to put it, our allies is to do a land acknowledgement. And in Alberta, wherever you are, you are on treaty land, whether you treaty six, seven or eight. I happen to be on treaty six, which is central Alberta. And it stretches from Western bc all the way through to Saskatchewan. treaty seven, which encompasses Calgary but just south of Red Deer all the way to the border and treaty eight boat 100 kilometers north of Edmonton afrobasket area, right up to and including parts of the Northwest Territories North Eastern BC and also Northwestern Saskatchewan. And why we talk about land acknowledgement is because we'd like to recognize the place where we live, the place where we walk, when I talk to people in Edmonton, no matter their background, and I say why do you like living here? And they say, the river valley. When I talk to people in Calgary, they talk about the mountain stages love where they live, and that Is the land acknowledgement. And so that grounds us where we are. And it reminds us of where we live, who we live with, why we do the work that we do. And it also recognize the original first peoples who walked this land and invited people to come and live and, and thrive and be part of a community. And you know, in today's world, we're starting to see that shift. So the land recognition is simply to acknowledge the places where we live, and to acknowledge that we're all treaty people, we don't get to, to bow out of it. It's the same way that you know, we live in Alberta. That's a fact. Yeah, so so we live we live on treaty land, and also the matey nation of Alberta encompasses all the different the whole province and different regions, so Again, it's just that acknowledgement. So that's all a treaty, a land acknowledgement is and it's not meant to be wrote. And when it's wrote, it's, you know, words on a piece of paper and, and we want it to come from the heart. And I think and I believe that is the way of the future. That is, whatever we co create, we're going to be working from our emotions from our heart from our beliefs, and our, our basis on relationships, whether it's the land, our family, other people,Katie Dean :
thank you for that, Karen. I love it. I love hearing that and it really gave me goosebumps and really hit home for me as well. So you mentioned at the beginning, the new normal and, and this change that we're going through 2020 has been just an incredible year in terms of change. And I and I know part of your work with Macintosh consulting is Change Management. So I just wanted to start off with what has been your perspective so far? of 2020?Karen MacKenzie :
Well, you know, oddly enough 2020 is, you know, the word we use for vision, if you have perfect vision, it's 2020. Yeah. But, you know, we have to start seeing things in a new way. And to go back to the old way, is not, I'm gonna say it's not good. It's not. What's the word I want? It's not economically viable. It may be it may be in the short term for a small select group. But how do we build economies that reflect and respect everyone that lives here, and when we say everyone, we also include the land, the water, the air, all the animals and so on. So that's our community. And so when we Talk about change management. You know, we have many of our, I'll say our use, and we talked about blacklivesmatter. We talked about black indigenous people of color. We talked about people who have been on their own personal journey, wanting to get to a better place, and they can hardly wait to get there. And they're not sure where there is, but they know they don't, they can't stay where they're at. And that's part of the change. You also have a huge piece part of the population who don't who are frightened. They're scared, they're scared. So when when disruption happens, we're thrown into chaos. And, you know, we have that segment of the population that is ready to kind of figure out a way to get there. And we also have a segment of the population that says, right, you know what, if I lose everything, What if What if the world is so different that I can't be who I am or whatever and so they're holding on to the past. And we and we know that the past you know isn't going to does isn't going to come back we see it change. I mean, I just read today about the last Arctic sheet in Canada. I sheep fell into the ocean today. I mean, you can't refreeze the ocean. It would be nice if we could, but we can't. So how do we move forward together so that people aren't left behind?Katie Dean :
Yeah, you know, say,Karen MacKenzie :
Sorry, I was gonna say reduce their anxiety, their fear their pain. And so that's what change management is about, and we can't expect the change to come from governments or corporate But they will be part of it. Change, change will come from each of us as individuals, right, accepting that we have to do this work for ourselves. So how do you I'm curious,Jon Hagen :
especially in the context of entrepreneurial ism and business, existing businesses, when you have that change anxiety, how do you consult with somebody like that? If they see their business model, you know, vanishing before their eyes, perhaps? How do they, how do you help them perhaps become more resilient to adapting to change? Or more thanKaren MacKenzie :
glad to change? Yeah, I'm glad you asked, you know, use that word resilience, because resiliency is a key component of, you know, moving through change. Now entrepreneurs have a greater tolerance for risk than the average individual, and so they're willing to try new things. And you can see that, you know, especially I'm going to say, closer to home in the restaurant business where you see people doing deliveries, they're now selling opening butcher shops are doing all kinds of innovative things that without this disruption, it would never have happened. So it's helping them to give up their ego. That's the thing that gets in the way of, you know, that I'll say the biggest barrier to change is ego. And, you know, because people always go back to the what's in it for me, you know, what, if I lose my job, what if it changes? What if I don't make as much money? What if, what if, what if, right, as opposed to say, you know, I can create something here. And this is where entrepreneurs and our innovators, you know, can really step forward they can see gaps in the in the, in the community in the marketplace that say, you know, this is something we can do.Katie Dean :
So, Karen, what? What do our indigenous peers say about ego? What are what are the teachings that you guys have that can help us deal with this ego in our lives?Karen MacKenzie :
Well, for us, you have to park your ego at the door. Yeah, it's a weak community. It's, you know, so when we talk about social enterprise is an evolving concept. It's really indigenous enterprise indigenous enterprise puts the family first the community first, why do you get into business I want to make life better for my family. I want to, you know, provide opportunities for them in a new way. And the same with communities. We want our communities to thrive by providing You know, job opportunities or educational opportunities. So one of our elder teachings, and it's, I'm going to say, almost universal, they say The Longest Journey anyone will make is from their head to their heart. You know, you stay in your head, everything is an intellectual exercise. And it's what if talks about risk, and it talks about, you know, how much data can we collect? Until we are sure to be sure, but we're not sure we maybe need some more. And to say, you know, those are all the house, how much will this cost? How long will it take, you know, how will we know? and so on, but if you move it to your emotional perspective, your heart, you're saying, why am I doing this? Why? How will the world be better when we Do this. And this is what really excites me as an individual to jump out of bed in the morning, because I get to be part of something bigger, that is going to create a better future.Jon Hagen :
Karen may ask a question and this I don't mean to put you on the spot. But it got me thinking, as we're moving from the head to the heart, if you if we put that in the context of science, now, science is going to stay is going to say let's stay away from emotion as much as possible. Let's focus on that data. And let's get all of that, you know, that information and ideally avoid, you know, paralysis by analysis. But how do you reconcile what you're saying with a, you know, firm foundation in science perhaps?Karen MacKenzie :
Well, I mean, indigenous science has been there since we've been here. And it's always about relationships. How does this relate to something else? How does this relate? How does the water changing? How do beavers change the course of water flowing? Or a lake? And what are the effects? So again, it's always related. A science, you know, modern science will describe it one way, indigenous knowledge, traditional knowledge, we'll explain the same thing using different words, but we're saying the same thing. So this so both are required. I mean, I'm not saying get away from from, from the data collection and analysis because we need to know these things. And not every indigenous person has the benefit of traditional knowledge. Right? So we're looking at collecting information from from a variety of sources. And so to keep the two can work together then they, they have to work together. I mean, and that's why we're saying you know, Not a nice to have add on, you know, let's hire an indigenous person, which was all say, the trend five years ago 10 years ago. And then unfortunately, but one indigenous person was supposed to know everything about everything. And that puts a whole lot of stress, it would be like asking you to know everything about Canadian government laws policy, the history of Canada from, you know, from everything, and you're saying, Ah, I have a degree in geology and this is right, you know, so again, so it's it's those expectations. So again, back to, to what you're saying. Scientists have also shown us that brain cells are in our hearts as well, you know, organically scientifically, so it's learning to think with your heart As well as your head. And so you think about what gets you excited about the work you do. And talking to people like you obviously. And you know, part of it, you might say, I just know I can't explain it in, in data, but you could, if you had to go back and say, these are the conversations that were important to me, it made a difference. And this was whyKatie Dean :
so Karen, I know that you, part of your, your job is to or your work is to bring this indigenous these indigenous teachings and cultures to organizations and entrepreneurs. So, um, could you give us like a high level look of what that that's like,Karen MacKenzie :
okay, I could, and I laugh because when you say look, I'm going to I'm going to explain it over the, the just the audio. I'm gonna ask you to put your fingers to Gather up, right? And you have a triangle between your thumbs and the tip of your thing. Okay? Okay, so this is the contemporary hierarchical structure in the Western world. And, you know, you can overlay it with words like the patriarchal system, the, you know, the colonial system, whatever you say. It's a hierarchical structure that has a few people at the top, and the rest of us somewhere down around the bottom. Right. And so, again, if you think about collective genius, if you think that there's 200 people in your organization, simple math will tell you that the collective genius of 200 hundred people is greater than the collective genius of 20 people. And that that's simple enough. And those 20 happened to be at the top of the triangle making all the decisions, and, and so on. So now I'm going to ask you to take your hands and move it moves the tip of the triangle away from you, and make it more of a circle. And that is an indigenous perspective, an indigenous perspective says, There's 200 people in this organization, and leadership needs to harness the genius that's there, because there are people there that, you know, may be doing a particular job, but they're an actual genius innovator creator, if we create the space for that to come out. And so, to flatten structures, again, if we use contemporary terms that will assist in harnessing it, what everyone else does, is we also talked about Diversity and Inclusion. And this circle is organic and can expand or contract to bring new people in as as required. And what's important is that everyone in the circle has a voice, not just the 20 at the top of the of the pyramid, but in this circle, everyone has the opportunity to have a voice. They may choose not to use it, but they have an opportunity. So when you talk about creating space, this is a model that we're looking at, and we're looking at having a voice but more importantly, being heard. So leadership, and if you're leading change, and if you're a transformational leader. What you're saying is, my job is to find the genius Can everyone and create this new and co create this new organization. My job Isn't to be the great royal King, etc expected to know all the answers and so on. But to basically create a culture where people thrive. And, you know, our organization will thrive and grow, because people are excited to come to work. They're excited because their work has meaning they're excited because they trust and respect the work that people that they work with. So that's an indigenous practice, per se. But certainly, you know, if you look at academia, and so on, they look at these models to say, oh, there's a different way of doing this, that that is more innovative. So the leadership courses that have been delivered for years and years are a thing of the past. And again, how do we let go of that?Katie Dean :
It's interesting you say that Karen, because I definitely see That changing, especially within our organization and the leadership, you know, teachings that we've had. But so I'm wondering, so for our listeners who have the typical, you know, triangle approach to leadership, I understand like it's going to take maybe some work and some time to get to the circle approach. But what are some easy and like quick tips to get thatKaren MacKenzie :
ball rolling? Well, I think many organizations are doing this, they're evolving to a value based organization. What does that mean? So what are the values that your organization you know, would like to post on the wall but not only just post on the wall, his words, but actually manifest each day? So things like trust and respect. You know, I have another company that's in the artificial intelligence realm called people best and you know, It is a different way of looking at people's behavior. And talking to an oil and gas company. We were asked the question, can you mention humility, and I thought, wow, knock me you could knock me over that, you know, we're gonna move away from the oil and gas, you know, the old three flow, get a hole in the ground and you know, get the resources out and so on, to humility, to I'll say that servant leader model, and I said, if you can tell us what humility looks like, in your organization, or what you would like it to look like, then we can metrics around it and measure it and if there's a gap and ego, you might find there is less of a gap than you had thought, because people were not allowed to Or weren't rewarded or to behave in that matter, you're going to find a lot more. I'll say efficacious changed. So moving towards what are the values that we hold, dear? So when you think of a family unit, what are the values in your family? Right? And how do you do you live those values? Or do you say, we value this, but we actually act like this. And, again, that's another piece of the change model. So back to your question, Katie, how do people start to to start moving in that direction? It's to look at you know, the language in the organization, do the Strategic Initiatives do the goals of the organization? What What is the language around that? Is that Lang is that language values base Or is it all say ego based?Jon Hagen :
You know, you You said something earlier. But I want to just bounce off for a second. You said that former paradigm that hierarchical thing that ego based approach, the essential question is what's in itKaren MacKenzie :
for me? So what is when you start looking at a value based organization and making that transition more to an indigenous circular model? What should that question become for the individual? Well, I think and we'll see it more with our younger generations is, is this where I want to work? Is this where I want to be? You know, is this workplace supportive of me and my goals? Does this organization reflect who I am as an individual? So those are some of the questions that they asked and I mean, we certainly see it and you know, people are not working one job for life. Because they happen to get a good pension. And they got, they got to have their kids orthodontic work paid for through, you know, a dental plan and so on and that's why they stayed. People are choosing different motivations for themselves. They're driven in a different way, though, you know, I think we see that in, you know, the the contribution that the the, you know, the arts and cultural sector are making and why does that draw so many of our youthKatie Dean :
you know, it's interesting you say this, because we've had some discussions in the past on our episodes and john, I'm specifically I'm thinking about the Connie Stacey episode where she talked about, you know, for getting, you know, the selling her product and receiving money just isn't enough. She wants to bring value to her community and to her environment. I think and I think that I don't want to call it a trend, because I don't think it's a trend. But I think that that shift in that movement. I think you're right, Karen, I think we're seeing more and more of our use kind of embraced that model, especially in their entrepreneurship. And I think that I think you're spot on, you know, when you see that, you know, that's really where we're going. And and I think, if anything, 2020 has been ripping off the band aid to kind of kickstart thatKaren MacKenzie :
Exactly.Katie Dean :
That's my professional assessment there. But I wanted to just segue into your, your work with Indigenous women and specifically Indigenous women entrepreneurs. And I know, you know, this time has been significantly harder for women, but I can't imagine how much more difficult You know, this environment has been for Indigenous women, you know, in the startup an entrepreneurial community. So what is your work with indigenous entrepreneurs? And how can we better support them?Karen MacKenzie :
Well, it's interesting, you know, I used to be in academia, but I'm okay now. And so, so in that, you know, in that world I had a particular hat on, and, you know, different relationships. But when I left, and, you know, became or came out, I'll say, as to be who I am, because, you know, as indigenous women working in mainstream, and for many indigenous men, you know, we were told, don't tell anyone, it's safer if they don'tKatie Dean :
know. That is terrible.Karen MacKenzie :
So I now have my own business, and I go for financing. And all of a sudden, I'm not I don't qualify for any finance, and then thinking but I didn't know When I was, you know, an academic paycheck, and, and so, like many Indigenous women and like many women, we sell finance, you know, from our savings from everything. And in many ways, that's, that's a bit of a gift. Because, you know, it creates that independence and that resiliency and so on, and that that leads to success. So, for Indigenous women, yes, it's tough, but the barriers have always been significant or the challenges have always been significant. So, and they they go beyond all say the financial economic, they go into areas of justice and security and health care and housing. So it's, it's many things so for Indigenous women Their goal is security for their family. And that is a driving force. And you know, for so many women in our, in our society and most single parent households, unfortunately are headed by women. They have other challenges that they need to do. But the focus is always on their children, their family, creating that bent. So it provides a different level of well you say resiliency, but also courage to do something that someone else could never see themselves doing. You know, they see themselves there is no there is no alternative. They're going to do it. And they and so for. So the work that I would do is really to support them. I'm going to say as a mother, as a multifaceted human being, but also but also to, to tie it to our cultural teachings, you know that, you know, bringing money in is only one measure. We also look at, and this is this will be the social enterprise model, what's the social return on investment? Yeah. And then the third one is really is what is our environmental return on investment? So what did what, what was the effect of our business on the environment. And so, as we start to think about that, from a cultural perspective, it's easily understood. And so, you know, the prayer, the land acknowledgement, and so on our way of being, and it supports individuals in a way sometimes that might, they might not feel supported. If they were, you know, living in a, in a bachelor apartment with the internet and trying to create a business and they didn't have that support. So one of the one of the big words we have not mentioned and I need to mention it, you know, in this context is the importance of relationships. So whether you're an employee in a large organization, you know, who your buddies who are you? What are your relationships within that organization? Do they go outside of your department? Do they go you know, beyond a different levels and so on. If If organizations want to work with indigenous people, what are your relationships like you just don't go and say, Well, I want to work with you because you're indigenous. And I might say, and why did you just suddenly show up to buy me coffee because there's you see something in it for you. Like, yeah, I don't get right. So, so building rebuilding relationships on a game that are based on values, there's nothing, nothing in it for anyone other than a good relationship. And then things will start popping, you're planting. They're making the ground fertile for things to grow and happen. take root. So Karen, I think I think you really answered the question I was just gonna ask, and that was, what can males do to help?Jon Hagen :
If female indigenous entrepreneurs and female entrepreneurs and I think it's build those genuine relationship values based relationships? Exactly.Karen MacKenzie :
Exactly. And, you know, there's lots of all say, triggers out there, you know, particularly in the justice system, with intergenerational trauma, missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and young man as well and so on. Taking time to build honest, respectful relationships. You know, that's how, you know, Canada was built, people had relationships with the first peoples. That's how they were taught how to live in what might seem to be an inhospitable climate, but to thrive and grow.Katie Dean :
Yeah, I love what you're saying about, like really mentoring and establishing relationships and your social and environmental return on investments. I think that speaks really loudly for for women entrepreneurs and, and definitely like ties together your indigenous values and teachings.Jon Hagen :
we've strengthened in the community for sure.Katie Dean :
Yeah, totally. And, and, Karen, I know that you are you have a role with idea connector. And I did a little bit of digging on their website because I was really curious and so they are an online community that supports Indigenous women on printers and, and you have an advisory role. So what is that like? And what kind of things do people expect or get out of idea connector?Karen MacKenzie :
Well, I think, you know, there, there are so many resources, but how to connect and build a meaningful relationship. So, you know, if someone knows you, but he's also working with, we'll say, an budding entrepreneur, they might say, you know what, I can introduce you to Karen, and then we'll start a conversation. So it's kind of a meeting place, a virtual meeting place, you know, the way this conference will be as well and these podcasts it's just a new way to say, Wow, I'd like to, you know, talk more with that person. And so that's, that's the format that idea connector has there's also I'm also involved with the indigenous women and Community Leadership Program at the Cody Institute at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia. And we just finished the 10th year. And there's between 15 and 20 women each year come up from across Canada and they spend time at the university, they'd look at some ways of looking at community development through an indigenous lands, they work on projects in their community. And you know, again develop this this larger network and circle and, and Dr. Marie Dillard, who is one of the original, I think 50 she innovators was also part of the founder of that. And so she continues to mentor young Indigenous women in whichever way and you know, some and sometimes given you know, maturity and so on sometimes You need to take on that anti role, right? And say, you know, yeah, you given me enough excuses. What are you gonna? What are you gonna do? Right? But you're gonna do it? Well, youJon Hagen :
know, and the reality is everybody can use a mentor, except someone that's Yeah, someone that's been through those trials and tribulations that can help you navigate obstacles. I love all of this about values based relationships, you know, and asking those deeper questions and creating those those bonds with people within the community. Now, you mentioned she innovates. So I was hoping we could just kind of, you know, finish up on On that note, and you could tell us a little bit about your role as a she innovator in she innovates and what that means to you and to the community. Well, I think,Karen MacKenzie :
you know, and I say I think and I really want to say I feel it's about the voice The perspective of women taking its natural role. So for instance, you know, from the UN perspective creating this she innovates platform, it's to increase the partnership to excuse me the participation of women in the economy in the different aspects of life to 50%. And, and, you know, certainly, Jennifer Cory said, You know, I think we could replicate this in Alberta, because that's the kind of people we are here. And that's why she innovates Alberta happened. And what it does is it brings more role models, closer to all say the grassroots. But there there are people that people can relate to young women, older women, you know, I certainly established a new network from the she innovators just having different conversations about different things. But but but the profile of women having authentic voices that are heard, I think is the is the space that she innovators has, you know, so I, you know, I think there's a, you know, an architect and Vivian mask from Edmonton. And you can say, you know, he's you go through the city, this is part of the city that she's helped create with these buildings. So thanks. So things like that. And, you know, again, you know, Deanna Burkhart is is an indigenous woman engineer, and to try and start to have those engineering conversations through an indigenous lens, but also through a female lens as well.Katie Dean :
So just for our listeners, we are Alberta innovates we put on adventures and we have an adventures unbound premier events with G innovates. Happening September 15 on the unbound livestream portal, this will feature women across Alberta and she innovators across Alberta, talking about women in the workplace and and technic technology and innovation and how they are adapting and changing their industries. The keynote speaker of that day is Ariel Gro Samuels, and she is the head of global business strategy and engagement at none other than Facebook. So I hope you all join us there. And Karen, you will be joining us as well that night or that day, right? That's correct. Awesome. So we'll see you there. Thank you so much for being on our podcast today. This was a really wonderful conversation. And I don't know about you, john, but I feel like I learned so so much.Jon Hagen :
Absolutely. Yeah, Karen, this was a real pleasure. Thank you so much.Karen MacKenzie :
Well, you know, the pleasure and honor as mine as well because I now have a whole new basket of ideas and thoughts to to reflect on. So everything has meaning and I really appreciate the conversation we've been having. So yeah, again as doing anything.Jon Hagen :
shift is brought to you by Alberta innovates. We can be found online at shift dot Alberta innovates.ca or you can reach us by email anytime at shift at Alberta innovates.ca. On behalf of the whole team, i'm john Hagen until next time, Transcribed by https://otter.ai