BIG 3 Calgary

  • what am I good at?
  • what do I care about?
  • what shall I do about it?

By Sujata Devadas, September 23, 2015

Answer these questions and make the change. Engage in 3 initiatives, to improve the life of someone outside your family - for the city, for the street or the neighborhood. Then mentor 3 others. Help them engage in 3 further initiatives. 

After winning the election to be the Mayor of Calgary in 2010, Naheed Kurban Nenshi invited Calgarians to think of 3 things they could do to make the city of Calgary a more attractive metropolis.


This idea to kindle Calgary residents to contribute time and effort for making their city a better community was engendered by the Mayor’s Civic Engagement Committee. “We invited the Calgary Foundation, Youth Central, our Federation of Calgary Community Associations, Volunteer Calgary and a few others to find ways to encourage citizen’s participation.” says Nancy Close, Community Relations Coordinator, Mayor’s office. Such contributions inevitably enrich the fabric of the city and cumulatively, foster a culture of engagement among citizens.

2015, © Sharing Solutions Publications

Professor Emerita Mary Valentich

So many ways


“What would serve Calgary best,” Mary Valentich believes,“is to foster a social movement that entails all kinds of positive acts among neighbours, within communities, and at all levels of government.”

Mary is a a valued member on the Mayor’s Civic Engagement Committee, a fabulous volunteer - a perpetual community activist promoting a better life for all.

Mary has been a Professor Emerita, Faculty of Social Work, University of Calgary for over a decade. With a 40 year career in social work and its education, she is a protagonist of the BIG 3 YYC. One such contribution she recently made was to lead a team on a 3-hour clean up in Marlborough, followed by dinner. “A Day of Service organized by Environmental Design Faculty and Social Work” says Mary. 

Another delightful example adopted by a large number of home owners adopting the BIG 3 initiative is to set up a Little Free Libraryon their front lawn, set on its popular stride by Cheri Macaulay. Such miniature libraries are found all over Calgary to unite people who love reading. Books that you don’t need are left inside this decorative box for others to borrow and read. Take a book, return a book.

Yet a third initiative to build community spirit is to organize a Neighbor Day. It could be a picnic at the local park, an event to share gardening tips and plants or a ‘tidy-up-the-local-park’ venture. It is a way to get neighbors to connect with each other. The benefits of such camaraderie are unpredictable and has garnered enthusiastic support.

Unsung champions

Many such grassroots initiatives are featured on the 3 THINGS FOR CALGARY website. To encourage such active citizenship, Stepping Stones at Calgary Foundation, may give a small grassroots grant to make it happen.

2015, © Sharing Solutions Publications

Julie Black, Citizen Engagement Associate, Calgary Foundation

But Julie Black, Citizen Engagement Associate at the Calgary Foundation, points out that while grants make a difference for some projects, “the majority of people who take up the BIG 3 challenge  ask for no grant at all. They are happy enough to pay out of their own pocket, happy to give it their time and attention.”

Julie’s experience at Calgary Foundation has been that people are extremely self-motivated, and willing to mobilize whatever resources they need to bring their idea to life, whether it is to apply for grants, or to ask for donations, or to get their friends and family to help.


After the disastrous flood hit Calgary on June 20, 2013,  Nancy Close tells us, “We did not raise the profile of 3 Things for Calgary during the flood at all. Calgarians just came together on their own, to help each another.” 75,000 residents were affected. But so many volunteers just came into being, helping complete strangers to bring life back to normal. Unsung heroes.

It is people who constitute the fabric of any community. Such goodwill was amply evident at the time, and rest assured, it still exists.

Food donations, serving free breakfast perhaps… or raising mental health awareness… or helping older adults. In Calgary, just removing snow would be a great way to express goodwill to neighbors. Visiting a senior citizen living alone, holding a photography and sculptural show…it all counts in this city, YYC, with over a million residents.

2015, © Sharing Solutions Publications

Folks Festival, Calgary: (from l. to r.) Nancy Close, Mary Valentich and Cheri Macaulay.

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