One-Day Workshops

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Upside Down Thinking For Collaboration

November 24, 2017 | Cambridge, ON

In this workshop, Mark Holmgren will explore how Upside Down Thinking helps us think more clearly about the pressures in our organizations that maintain the status quo. He will show how thinking differently can challenge our most basic assumptions about the work we do, and how these assumptions can sometimes reinforce the systems we are trying to change. Participants will spend time in dialogue, connecting and sharing their experiences, and will be challenged to consider how they can foster shared and collaborative visions of the future and how to make them come true.

Are you trying to collaborate with other agencies, businesses, and/or governments around complex issues and challenges but feeling stuck or frustrated by the lack of traction, how long things are taking, or resistance to collaborating to the extent that you know is needed? 

We know intuitively that we are better together than working in isolation, and we also know that to effect large scale change in our community requires innovation in service delivery, funding, community engagement and so on. All of us face the challenge of how to break through conventional thinking or habits and how to overcome status quo mindsets that, if we are honest, all of us experience in ourselves as well as others.

Taking new ideas into reality requires not just more thinking, but thinking differently about how to be the disruptive force that can unseat the status quo. These are a few of the questions Mark Holmgren will address in his workshop Upside Down Thinking For Collaboration.

Working with decades of experience putting new programs and systems into reality, Mark Holmgren, one of Alberta’s top community change leaders, will work with you to explore drivers of collaboration and different methods to thinking together that can help everyone foster game-changer actions to maximize community impact.


What is Upside Down Thinking? Sprouts through the concrete

Upside Down Thinking is both a mindset and a tool that we can use to challenge current practices in our community work and within our organizations. This approach to thinking helps us break through the pressures to maintain the status quo –  it's a supercharged form of disruptive thinking that can be used when engaged in critical, creative, or lateral thinking.

As a mindset, Upside Down Thinking goes beyond thinking better to address the challenges of a volatile and disruptive environment. It is about being the disruptive force that can unsettle our habits and dogma, leading to major change. It is about more than crafting inquiry; it goes further to pose new realities that run contrary to how we think and how we see our own identities within the context of our work.

What Will I Learn?

In this daylong session, Mark will blend together lecture and presentation with a variety of Upside Down Thinking table exercises, drawing upon his innovations and experiences with Upside Down Thinking. Participants will be presented with some of the most disruptive propositions from various sectors to work through and learn from together. Through interactive exercises, participants will also work on disruptive propositions that resonate directly to their own situations.

Spend the day with Mark to experience and learn:

- Exploring Lateral Thinking, Integrative Thinking, Divergent and Convergent Thinking, Systems Thinking as well as the fundamentals of Upside Down Thinking and how it can add value to other ways of thinking collaboratively.

- Practical tools: learn practical tools for thought from the Upside Down Thinking toolbox, such as asking Wicked Questions, heretical propositions, and turning norms upside down to bring about disruptive innovation.

- The impact of groups and organizations: how organization and group dynamics impact our ability to think and change together

- How to approach problems as solutions in disguise: change your approach to problem solving by challenging our solutions by rephrasing them as problems

- Principles to guide thinking upside down in groups

- Addressing resistance in implementing a new way of thinking

- Applying Upside Down Thinking in a group dynamic: how to practice Upside Down Thinking as both a group participant and facilitator

"We were hopeful to find a keynote speaker that could challenge our traditional ways of thinking, and push our innovation, and we were not disappointed! "


Alison Pearson, M.A., of the Children's Planning Table in Waterloo, Ontario



Mark is driven by the desire to change community conditions that cause and perpetuate poverty and the marginalization of the vulnerable and disadvantaged. A proven leader of poverty reduction efforts, Mark is known for his innovative eye and his ability to converge big picture thinking with on the ground implementation.

As the Director of Vibrant Communities Canada, Mark leads Tamarack’s engagement of 75 member communities leading local poverty reduction efforts and works with his team to develop learning opportunities and resources that add value to this Pan-Canadian network.

In addition to his ability to facilitate groups of all sizes around strategy development and solution-building, Mark has built and delivered curriculum related to collective impact, community innovation, strategic planning, and non-profit leadership.  Mark is a provocative speaker who challenges the status quo and fosters new and innovative ways of seeing and addressing social issues.

Prior to joining Tamarack, Mark was one of the Institute’s national thought leaders for three years. Previous roles and positions include leading a team of 120 staff as the CEO of Bissell Centre in Edmonton, a multi-service organization dedicated to ending poverty; serving as an executive staff for the United Way; and providing an array of organizational change consulting services for 20 years to social services agencies, educational institutions, health organizations, as well as local governments.

Mark is a poet, singer-song writer and digital artist and his creative side is often evident in the work he does with others. He frequently performs original songs and spoken word at Tamarack Learning Events. His work has appeared in dozens of literary magazines, on CBC Radio, and other publications. A highlight of his musical life was performing at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival.

Learn more about Mark


Cambridge, ON

November 24, 2017

Cambridge City Hall
50 Dickson St,
Cambridge, ON N1R 8S1


Registration will open at 8:30am and a light breakfast will be served. The workshop begins at 9:00am and runs until 4:00pm, with lunch and snacks provided.



Recognizing that our collective impact is greater when we lead together, Tamarack has developed a payment structure that offers subsidies to groups of colleagues who attend together.

The registration rates (in Canadian dollars) are as follows:

$149 per person for three or more colleagues from the same collaborative attending together

$179 per person for two people from the same collaborative attending together

$199 for single registration

The registration rate includes a full day workshop, practical exercises and a membership into Tamarack Institute's Learning community. Also enjoy a great lunch and fellowship with amazing community and civic leaders.

Thank you to our Partner

 Social Planning Council logo.jpeg

Register for Upside Down Thinking for Collaboration

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Have questions about the event? Reach out to Natasha.