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Leadership TeamBoard of Mentors

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Carolyn Townsend

Co-founder

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Carolyn townsend orig

Carolyn Townsend

Co-founder, Future of Hockey Lab

Carolyn is a facilitator, coach and change-maker, principal owner of Alongside Strategy & Innovation, and co-founder of the Future of Hockey Lab.

Carolyn spent most of her career as an agency consultant providing strategic counsel and thought leadership to senior executives across diverse organizations including: IWK Health Centre, QE11 Health Sciences Centre, ExxonMobil Canada, Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia Community College, Home Depot Canada, Stanfield's, Coca Cola, Michelin North America, Business Development Bank of Canada, the United Way of Canada, and all levels of government.

Prior to starting her own company, Carolyn served on the leadership team of Nova Scotia’s sport federation serving 55 provincial sport organizations, where she oversaw brand and strategic relations. She developed a series of award-winning campaigns designed to educate and shift behaviour, creating unprecedented engagement and collaboration with community and paving the way for her leadership of a movement designed to explore more equitable systems for sport & rec delivery.

Carolyn has lived and worked in London, England and Auckland, New Zealand. She holds a Bachelor of Public Relations, is a community coach and active volunteer, and a member of the Federation of Foster Families of Nova Scotia.

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Amy Walsh

Co-founder

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Amy Walsh

CEO, Future of Hockey Lab

In 2020 Amy co-founded the Future of Hockey Lab (“FHL”). The FHL partners with diverse groups and leading organizations to create, test and scale innovative ideas that transform the sport’s culture. Initially hosted by Hockey Nova Scotia and powered by Bauer, Scotiabank, Hockey Canada and Jumpstart, it is understood to be the first of its kind in the world.

The lab was inspired by three core bodies of work that Amy spearheaded when she was executive director of Hockey Nova Scotia from 2018 - 2022, including the Hockey Nova Scotia Diversity & Inclusion Task Force. This was a key part of a comprehensive response to past and present incidents of racism, discrimination and inequities in hockey and resulted in hundreds of recommendations, mostly from first voice experiences on how to make the game safer and more welcoming for all.

A strong believer in sport for social change, Amy also assembled a pan-provincial team to create the Players Journey, a human-centered design process that mapped the full experience of a hockey player, including identifying the reasons players leave the game, barriers to access, as well as opportunities to increase participation and improve the overall player experience.

Amy also chaired the Women’s Worlds Legacy Development Committee, initially in preparation for Nova Scotia to host the 2021 IIHF Women's World Championships and ultimately a comprehensive plan to grow the female game.

She is the past chair of the Hockey Canada Diversity & Inclusion Task Team and served on the Canadian Junior Hockey League Diversity & Inclusion Committee. Currently she is a member of the NHL & NHLPA Female Hockey Advisory Committee.

Amy was previously the director of sport development with Sport Nova Scotia where she led a team of 16 staff charged with the growth and sustainability of quality sport experiences for all Nova Scotians. This required strong collaboration with over 55 provincial sport organizations, thousands of community sport groups, and a host of aligned industry partners.

Amy is the mother of three boys, a former minor hockey coach and a longtime volunteer. As a decorated amateur multi-sport athlete, she was a member of provincial teams for speed skating, field hockey and ice hockey, and excelled as a university hockey player.

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Gem Roberts

Senior Project Manager - Social Innovation

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Gem Roberts

Senior Project Manager - Social Innovation

Gem is an early professional on the project management stream with experience in various environments, budgets, and sizes. Having worked on one of the largest client projects in North America at IBM, finding the equilibrium between client, team, and project needs on a daily basis had proven to be a pivotal definer/developer for both her professional and personal skill sets.

Being originally from the Bahamas, she originally moved to Nova Scotia as an international student at Sobey School of Business at Saint Mary's University. Now that she has made Canada home, through experiences in work environments and National Pan-Hellenic Council organizations, she has realized her love and appreciation of institutions that actively seek to enhance diversity and be pillars of action in equality with cultural disparity awareness.

Within the realm of project management (and each day), Gem sees the challenges to adapt and remember to not be "too attached to [her] own myopia", because just because she's "found a way to do things, doesn't mean it's the [only] way to do things" (S. K. Brown).

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Denise Withers

Storyteller in Residence

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Denise Withers

Storyteller in Residence

Denise Withers has been using stories to make change for 35 years, as a storyteller, strategist and coach.

After launching her career as a whitewater filmmaker, she worked as a stringer for TSN, before joining the TV crew at the Calgary Olympics to produce 39 hockey games in 13 days. Recognizing the power of the mass media to influence behaviour and culture, she spent the next 20 years writing and directing over 200 documentaries for Discovery, CBC and other networks. Her award-winning work inspired millions to take action on issues from human rights to acid rain.

When reality TV wiped out the documentary market, Denise shifted her focus to social innovation, combining storytelling with systems change tools to help leaders discover new ways to research, test and scale ideas for change.

Since then, she's worked with foundations, governments, universities and non-profits to co-found four innovation labs, including one at UBC's business school. Together, she and her clients have done things like reduce chronic disease among South Asians, improve human rights in Peru, re-imagine higher education in Ontario and inspire climate action across municipalities. In 2018, Denise moved to Vancouver Island to help two National Geographic photographers launch an ocean conservation non-profit, doubling their revenue, reach and impact in less than a year.

These days, she works as a narrative strategist and certified coach for global innovators. After enjoying a 20-year amateur hockey career that culminated in a bronze medal at the Americas Masters Games, she now spends her spare time curling, kayaking and hiking the wet coast with her dogs. She also serves as a Board Trustee for CPAWS, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

Like many of her peers, Denise has spent much of her life fighting for equity at work and in sports – and is thrilled to be able to share her expertise and experience to support the FHL in its mission.

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Gabrielle Donnelly

Process Designer

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Gabrielle Donnelly

Process Designer

Gabrielle Donnelly is a writer, educator, and scholar-practitioner. Her work focuses on bridging social change theories and practices to support leaders and communities to engage with the complex issues of our times and create more compelling futures.

Gabrielle is Associate Professor of Community Development at Acadia University and a Lead Strategist at The Outside, a global consultancy activating large-scale equitable change. She is Consulting Editor with World Futures: The Journal of New Paradigm Research.
Born in London, England and raised in the traditional territory of the Blackfoot Confederacy (Calgary, Alberta), Gabrielle spends most of her time between Halifax (K’jipuktuk) and the Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia.

She's British to the bone, Irish at heart, Albertan to the soles of her (cowgirl) boots, a settler committed to the messy path of truth and reconciliation in Mi’kma’ki (Nova Scotia), and an aspiring global citizen.

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Jamie Gamble

Developmental Evaluation Lead

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Jamie Gamble

Developmental Evaluation Lead

Jamie Gamble is the Principal Consultant of Imprint Consulting and, since 2002, has provided strategy, evaluation, and organizational change leadership to groups spanning areas such as the arts, climate change, environmental protection, economic development, public health, youth leadership, citizen engagement, and sport.

Jamie’s specialization is developmental evaluation, commonly used to evaluate iterative efforts such as systems change or social innovation labs. He has led or supported over 50 developmental evaluations around the world. He has also authored several publications on evaluation including A Developmental Evaluation Primer, A Developmental Evaluation Companion, a chapter in Michael Quinn Patton’s Developmental Evaluation Exemplars, and Confronting the Wicked: Using Evaluation to Boost Innovation in Canadian Government Executive.

Jamie has a Masters in Management from McGill University.

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Kevin Forbes

Technology Lead - Open Ice project

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Kevin Forbes

Technology Lead - Open Ice project

Kevin Forbes provides oversight and direction for the data solution that consolidates and analyzes ice usage.

Kevin has spent most of his career working at the intersection of sport and technology, including leading various projects related to human performance technology, and research into environmental sustainability in sport and fan inclusion. He’s worked closely with leading sport brands such as the National Hockey League, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committees, Gatorade, various NHL, MLB, NBA and NFL teams, as well as military and government.

Kevin is currently the Director of Advisory for the Sports Innovation Lab, a company that is revolutionizing how organizations use data. Previously, Kevin spent ten years with Kinduct, a human performance technology company, helping to lead them from startup to scale-up through to acquisition.

Kevin resides in Nova Scotia with his wife and son. The “open ice” he usually finds himself on is a curling sheet and he also volunteers for the Blue Nose Marathon.

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Sarah MacNeil

Social Media Consultant

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Sarah MacNeil

Social Media Consultant

Sarah MacNeil began her career in municipal recreation as a municipal physical activity leader in Cumberland County, Nova Scotia where she developed a passion and knack for community engagement before finding her way into high performance sport as the Communications Lead for the Canadian Sport Institute Atlantic in Halifax.

Sarah continuously finds herself in roles that blend her love of sport and communications. In 2022 she was the Media Relations Manager for the Canoe '22 World Championships and in 2023 she traveled with Team Nova Scotia to the Canada Games as the team's communications advisor.

Although Sarah loves all things sport, hockey was her first love. She continues to play today after wrapping up her university hockey career with the Dalhousie Tigers in 2016.

If Sarah isn't playing hockey herself she can be found coaching the Hockey Nova Scotia and ISANS Newcomers hockey program and the Bedford Bravehearts Women's Learn-to-play program.

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