Paul Born

Ashoka Fellow
Waterloo, ON, Canada
Fellow Since 2013
I firmly believe that whatever the problem - community is the answer.

As President and Co-Founder of the Tamarack Institute for the past 15 years, I lead a small national team of amazing practitioners and thought leaders. I also teach throughout North America and at times in countries around the world. I am the author of four books, two of them Canadian bestsellers, including Deepening Community: Finding Joy Together in Chaotic Times and Community Conversations.

Tamarack focuses on three areas of impact. The first two are practice areas in which we apply what we learn in our Learning Centre. I founded Vibrant Communities, a network of over 50 cities in Canada committed to reducing poverty. These cities use a collective impact framework and develop comprehensive poverty reduction strategies and form multi-sector leadership round tables to implement five-year campaigns to reduce the number of poor families in their city. To date we have reduced poverty for more than 250,000 families. Tamarack's second major area of impact is Deepening Community, where we work with 25 cities to develop strategies to strengthen a sense of community and collective altruism in their city. We are also working to link 100 neighbourhood strategy leaders by creating a learning community that will accelerate their impact. Tamarack's Learning Centre hosts learning communities in five thought leadership areas including Collective Impact, Community Engagement, Community Innovation, Collaborative Leadership, and Evaluating Community Impact. More than 22,000 learners attend learning events, webinars, communities of practice and engage in online learning to make their work of community change easier and more effective. We pride ourselves in turning theory into practice. In 2015 we hosted more than 13,000 learner days of training for community leaders who attended our learning events. In addition, every month more than 14,000 unique visitors learn with us online.


This profile was prepared when Paul Born was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2013.
The New Idea
Fundamentally altering the make-up of communities across Canada, Paul is capitalizing on the power of local collaboration and harnessing regional efforts to address complex social issues, like poverty. Paul uses a lens of innovation and systems change to bring together communities, building and applying place-based and highly tailored solutions.

Paul is transforming the way all Canadians address poverty by inverting the traditional hierarchy and reliance’s that assume governmental responsibility. Instead, he encourages cities to redefine themselves as communities of change and leaders in reducing poverty across Canada. Paul trains these newly self-defined communities and their stakeholders to identify and build highly localized cross-sector networks of support all missioned with the communal goal of developing solutions to complex social problems within their region. From these grass-roots, localized solutions, Paul works outwards building a layered community of communities connected through a learning network committed to sharing and disseminating best practices.

Paul also creates and leverages partnerships with national research and policy institutions to collect and analyze top innovations generated from the communities he works with in order to create the tangible resources necessary to support policy reform. Paul then utilizes these resources to reconstruct the role of the provincial and federal governments from one that struggles to create comprehensive poverty reduction strategies, to one that is able to provide complementary support to community-led initiatives.

A pioneer in enabling collaborative community engagement in Canada, Paul’s growing national network of Vibrant Communities is inspiring cities across North America to adopt a common set of core principles that are proving to effectively address poverty in a variety of different geographical regions.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person


Paul's detailed profile and info on his books can be found at and

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