About

Keenan Wellar

Thanks for visiting “Keenan Speaks” an extension of my personal blog. I’m the Co-Leader and Director of Communications for Ottawa-based charitable organization LiveWorkPlay.ca, which supports people with intellectual disabilities to experience life as included members of the community. My wife Julie Kingstone and I co-founded LiveWorkPlay back in 1995. It became our surprise full-time occupation in 1997 when I left my position as a project manager in the IT education sector and Julie left her position as a Recreation Therapist at a local hospital.

The organization has undergone many ups and downs, but the trend has almost always been positive, and the last eight years in particular have been pretty spectacular. Starting in 2008 we made many changes that have paid off in a big way in terms of our ability not only to assist individuals with intellectual disabilities, but to develop inclusive thoughts and actions throughout Ottawa. Our efforts and successes in supporting inclusion in housing, employment, and community life was recognized in 2013 with a United Way Ottawa Community Builder of the Year Award for Belonging to Community.


I currently serve LiveWorkPlay under the title “Co-Leader and Director of Communications.” Although I have a hand in many things, Julie and I found it helpful to others to make our job titles a little more descriptive (she is Co-Leader and Director of Operations).

Working with an amazing staff team of 15 and more than 120 volunteers, I maintain daily involvement in the lives of more than 80 individuals and families that benefit from LiveWorkPlay supports and services. My role is transitioning: the majority of my energies are now dedicated to partnership development, marketing and communications, and strategic initiatives. I have accepted the responsibility to explore the abundance of opportunities in our community and work with individuals, businesses, and organizations that can help change our community one life at a time.

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LiveWorkPlay received the 2014 Community Living Ontario Social Media Award (click on photo for details)

The outcomes of my work in marketing and communications have been reflected most publicly through the organization’s media relations and robust social media strategy, but it’s really about building trust and relationships with others. At a time when voluntary organizations are struggling with succession and sustainability, LiveWorkPlay has attracted highly qualified staff, grown its volunteer corps, built a robust board of directors, and diversified its funding. In 2014 I was honoured to accept the Community Living Ontario social media award.

Recognized in 2010 with a personal United Way Ottawa Community Builder Award (which bears my name but is shared with many) I am an active community volunteer, providing mainly pro bono workshops for non-profit organizations at local, provincial, and national events. I am currently taking a break from some of my volunteer interests (such as Meals on Wheels; I wear my 1000 hours of service pin at many local events and encourage people to get involved, it is a great place to volunteer) to avoid getting overextended.

I recently decided to make two exceptions to the self-imposed limiting of my volunteer efforts. I in the fall of 2012 I accepted a position with United Way Ottawa as a Focus Area Champion (Belonging To Community) where I will assist in promoting United Way efforts to reduce unemployment for people with disabilities. I could hardly say “no” to a platform that allows me to express my passion for a cause that I have already been championing for 20 years.

Secondly, through a membership arrangement between LiveWorkPlay and Rotary Club of West Ottawa, I have also become a Rotarian, and once again, the main purpose is to promote the employment of people with disabilities. However, I am so impressed with the great work of this international organization I have found myself getting involved in ways that go beyond my original intent! At a time when many service clubs are struggling, RCWO has been adding new members at an astonishing rate!

I’ve also started to do more writing, including contributions to professional journals. I am interested in the non-profit community beyond my own field of work, particularly as regards the need for reform. In a nutshell, I believe we have too strong of a program orientation and not enough of a focus on organizational ends. In other words, the purpose of charities is not to run programs, it is to solve problems. We have too many scarce resources being channeled into programs that aren’t actually evaluated for the contribution they make to the community. There are also many inefficiencies, which relates to the disturbing trend of younger people being discouraged about working in this sector.

Underlying all of my efforts be they in business, community, or personal life, is an affinity with the sociological concept of social capital, which refers to the connections within and between social networks. Through this understanding of human relationships and their value, I utilize social capital to pursue positive change in the context of institutional barriers and biases that make change difficult for individuals and communities alike.

As part of my shifting work responsibilities I have started to spend more time communicating formally and informally in an effort engage people and groups in a dialogue about building an inclusive society. Partnerships often begin with a cup of coffee and open agenda about improving our community. If that sounds like a conversation worth having, I invite you to contact me – as everyone says these days “I’m busy” but you won’t be ignored, I will get back to you!

EDUCATION

My formal educational background includes an Honours BA in History and a Bachelor of Education with Ontario Teacher Certification (both from the University of Ottawa) as well as an MA in Applied Linguistics & Discourse Studies (Carleton University) and a Professional Certificate in Public Sector and Non-Profit Marketing (Sprott School of Business at Carleton University). I would be interested in completing a doctorate at some point in the future, perhaps in semi-retirement.

Professional development is part of our culture at LiveWorkPlay, and I’ve learned a lot from amazing thinkers and communicators like Dr. Al Condeluci and David Hingsburger. I’ve had the privilege to not only attend seminars and workshops with such important social change aficionados, but also to have honest and open small group conversations. I think this is how most people learn best.

PERSONAL

I like to read on my Kindle and enjoy watching what I consider quality television, which includes current shows like Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, and my new favourite, The Newsroom.

I love the Pittsburgh Steelers and I think the US Open tennis tournament is one of the greatest experiences on earth (admittedly, I have seen only a fraction of the planet). Julie and I have attended the Open for the past 8 years. I am very excited for the return of CFL Football in Ottawa. Go RedBlacks!

When I get out of the house in my own part of the world I enjoy photography, whether it is the urban areas near my home in Beechwood Village (Ottawa-Vanier) or more natural settings, especially in and around Frontenac Provincial Park, which remains a “wild place.” My wife Julie Kingstone and I love kayaking together, especially if the day ends with a really great meal, preferably with some red wine shared with great friends.

I like to stay up late – sometimes very late – which over the years has been both a gift and a curse. If you are a fellow night owl, you might find me up late with my synapses firing. On a typical late night I will be doing some writing, editing some video, and perhaps some listening and reading – anything from non-profit management articles to the news of the day or a Jack Reacher adventure. Reach out to me @socialkeenan on Twitter or http://fb.me/kwellar on Facebook at strange hours and you might be startled by a quick reply!

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