Tanya Woods

Tanya Woods is working to create a more sustainable, connected world through kindness. As Chief Impact Officer for Kind Village, Tanya helps make positive social change more accessible to everyone by putting consumers, business owners and professionals in touch with the causes that most need their help,

Kind Village is a social enterprise, and Tanya inspires people to lend their expertise, their awareness-raising abilities or their funds to make things better for all, and she helps influence consumers to support companies and businesses that are dedicated to building better communities. For this, Tanya Woods is one of #150GreatPeople in Ottawa, and here she answers the questionnaire:

What makes Ottawa special to you?

Ottawa is special to me because it is home. I grew up in this city and have nostalgic memories embedded at every corner, it seems. It is the place I like to think of as my village, because at every outing the odds are high that I will run into people I know and have known for years, and that is pretty cool.

I remember growing up here and thinking Ottawa was a pretty city, a great place to raise a family, very cold (weather) and kind of boring. Over the years, the city has evolved and become reinvigorated with the vibrant energy of its incredible citizens and visitors! Having lived abroad and had the chance to visit world-class cities around the globe many times over, I can say that there is still no place that replicates the comforting feeling I get landing at MacDonald-Cartier airport – it’s that feeling you get when you know you are home.

What do you love most about living and working in Ottawa?

I love interacting with the people who share this community with me. Ottawa is a very diverse, caring and kind community. Those who have lived here for some time, I hope know this to be true. I also hope that those who are newer to the city are discovering how much heart resides here. I want newcomers to feel welcome. As a local that really matters to me. I also love that I never cease to be amazed by the talented creators, entrepreneurs, business owners and community builders who are constantly finding new ways to make our communities stronger, more sustainable and kinder.

The work that you do helps to make Ottawa a better place – why is this important to you?

Thank you! My values guide the work I do in the community, and values-based work is without a doubt the most fulfilling work one can do in their lifetime, which is why it is important to me.

I remember when I started my first non-profit (Artists Legal Services Ottawa). I worked closely with friends I knew who shared my love for the arts and who also wanted to empower creators by sharing essential knowledge to help them succeed at their craft. That was seven years ago and the organization is still going strong and has supported many creators in our community. The same values led me to join other friends to start Girl Force – a group of awesome individuals in Ottawa’s videogame industry who are voluntarily teaching girls and non-binary folks, ages 14+, the skills they need to make videogames and have careers in a field that they love. Again, the focus of this work is on empowerment through community and skills building.

The work that I have been able to do with these organizations, and many others, has provided me with lessons and gifts along the way that inform my most ambitious project, Kind Village. Kind Village has been a special project that I have been working on for five years, alongside so many of Ottawa’s kindest and brightest individuals, many of whom are on this list! 

You give back to the Ottawa community in various ways – is there one Ottawa-related achievement of which you are most proud?

I am most proud of what our Kind Village team and community has been able to achieve since our humble start in 2013.

For those who don’t know what Kind Village is, it is a social enterprise that two people started as an “audacious experiment” to see how much impact could be created using only in-kind resources. Today, the team has grown to 12 very talented individuals that focus efforts on harnessing the time, talents and things available from generous donors (in local communities) to help address big community issues like hunger, poverty, gaps in health and education, equality, human rights, and environmental challenges.

We have been able to help over 60 charities, while high-fiving thousands of incredible donors and supporters who care about their causes and the organizations – like charities and community non-profit groups – working to address the issues.
Since our start we have:

– Raised awareness and facilitated in-kind donations to many charities in Ottawa and beyond;
– Collected 400+ pyjamas for kids in need (Family Pyjama Party in the Capital, 2015);
– Inspired global youth attending the One Young World Summit by sharing the stories of incredible local change makers and Kind Village members (One Young City, 2016);
– Launched an initiative to tackle hunger in Canadian communities with top Canadian chefs and food industry trailblazers (Feed The City, 2017);
– Co-created one of Canada’s largest social impact, interactive art installations at Canada’s Science and Technology Museum with local artist eepmon (Yours To Discover, 2017); and,
– Launched our community giving platform (2017), which has been a core project (and big time labour of love) since our start.

2017 was a big year for us. A lot of our effort really started to materialize and we were fortunate to get recognized by great groups who are values aligned.
The local support we have had this year has been overwhelming and encouraging.

We were also fortunate to have some international recognition, including an invitation from the folks at the Obama Foundation, who selected us to attend the inaugural Obama Foundation Summit in Chicago at the end of 2017 and meet President Obama and his team. The Kind Village journey never ceases to amaze and humble me. I am so eternally grateful for everyone who has been part of this story. Thanks to all of you!

What do you hope for Ottawa in the future?

I would love Ottawa to become known as the world’s kindest (and as a result most vibrant and sustainable) city in the world. With such wonderful people, like those on this list, but also those quiet and mighty champions out in our local communities who often go unnoticed, I know this is possible and I am committed to seeing it happen! In fact, I would love to see a global competition for this… I think we will start that in 2018… consider this the launch!

I believe that the most successful cities in the future will shine because they can successfully articulate and embed the values of their citizens in all corners of the city and through all points of citizen engagement – whether with government, businesses, schools and other organizations, or just at the ice rink.

Ottawa, like many cities, is growing quickly, and it is important to ensure we have some creative and values-based and collaborative discussions and activities, championed by local leaders and citizens from all walks of life, on an ongoing basis.

Everyone has a voice, every voice is important, and every voice deserves to be valued and heard – that happens in #MyOttawa in the future.