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Reintroducing: Hollyhock Leadership Institute

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Happy group of people celebrating Hollyhock Leadership Institute.

Sixteen years ago I walked through the gate at Hollyhock for my first ever Hollyhock Leadership gathering.

I was a young Operations Manager working in advocacy in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and I was excited (and more than a little nervous) for the opportunity to connect with close to 100 people working to promote social and ecological justice. 

By the time I got to Social Change Institute 2007, Hollyhock Leadership Institute (HLI), a sister organization to Hollyhock proper, had been bringing together activists, community leaders, and social innovators to advance high impact social change for close to a decade. 

Under the leadership of the indefatigable Karen Mahon, HLI brought together 1000s of people working in advocacy, social enterprise, not-for-profit organizations to strategize, share skills, and network. 

Central to the HLI theory of change was the idea that the personal and the societal were connected – that in order to create the world we want, we must become the best version of ourselves. 

The impact of this work was profound and resulted in a better networked, connected, and trained progressive sector, particularly on the west coast of Canada. 

For a number of reasons, Hollyhock Leadership Institute did not survive the great recession of 2008. Hollyhock proper carried on with a number of the large gatherings (Social Venture Institute, Social Change Institute, Media that Matters, Web of Change) and continued to focus on equipping emerging leaders with both the personal and professional skill required to lead. 

When I took on the role of CEO at Hollyhock in 2017, I was keen to re-imagine what Hollyhock Leadership Institute would need to look like to answer the call of the challenges we face as a species. And the challenges are dire – from climate change, to income inequality, to system racism, to democratic deficit. 

What skills are required to lead in these times? How could Hollyhock answer the call? What changes do we need to make to our model? 

We are thrilled to relaunch Hollyhock Leadership Institute this year as a catalyst for social transformation and an integral part of Hollyhock and our work.

We have divided our Hollyhock Leadership offerings into four main streams that will feature large group gatherings and smaller teacher-led trainings and workshops all designed to connect, catalyze, and engage. 

Our pedagogy is based on a peer-to-peer learning model that weaves together hard skills and lived experience, body and mind, personal growth and social transformation. Our four streams are all intricately connected and represent central aspects of human society in the 21st century:  

Next Economy

A collection of hosted and curated gatherings aimed to strengthen new economic models that promote justice, participation, well-being, and belonging. 


Gatherings that organize people power to lead progressive social change through digital advocacy, democratic participation, and grassroots organizing. 


A collection of hosted programs that centre the voices and teachings of innovative leaders in anti-racism, liberation, and decolonization. 


A container of high impact climate gatherings focused on further resourcing and networking the climate movement to create a future for life on the planet. 

By intentionally pairing personal growth and social transformation the goal of our HLI programming is to accelerate the conversations, connections, and skills required to pull human society away from the brink and to generate new ways of being together that are just, regenerative, and affirming. 

We are excited about what we are offering in 2023 and what we have planned for 2024 and beyond. There is so much to be done and it will be better together. 

It would not be an exaggeration to say that the connections I made at that first gathering shaped my work (and life) for years to come. I know that the original iteration of Hollyhock Leadership Institute did that for so many people working for social and environmental change. 

We are excited to be doubling down on these offerings in our relaunch of Hollyhock Leadership Institute. We look forward to the change this work will catalyze. 

Thank you for being part of it. 



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