From research to policy implementation, Canadian public servants possess the knowledge and expertise that have shaped and strengthened the country’s socioeconomic landscape. In this article, we look at the tremendous impact of former high-level government officials who decided to share their expertise and knowledge as volunteers.
With over 50 years of experience of working in Canada and around the world, the Canadian Executive Service Organization (CESO) knows that developing a strong economic infrastructure leads to sustainable change that works for everyone. The organization works with local partners to strengthen their capacity to create an equitable environment for the private sector to thrive and contribute to inclusive growth. “Our volunteers are experts who act as mentors or advisors sharing a lifetime of experience,” explains Wendy Harris (CESO CEO and President) “They equip partners with the skills, experience and confidence to reach their objectives, grow their businesses and develop their communities in a sustainable manner.”
We spoke with three retired Canadian government executives who chose to become CESO volunteers and find meaningful ways to share their years of experience. They talked to us about their motivation, experience and learning as a volunteer.
First, tell us about your professional background, specifically your work as a Canadian public servant.
Bryan Marshman: I am a professional accountant (FCPA, FCGA). Most of my career has been with the Canada Revenue Authority (CRA). I was working in the compliance department in Toronto offices for 28 years. I also worked in the head office in Ottawa as a manager with the International Tax Directorate (ITD).
Darren Schemmer: I spent 25 years in the Canadian public and foreign services. I was posted abroad to Honduras, the Organization of American States, Egypt and as High Commissioner to Ghana. At the Global Affairs headquarters, I held many positions, including Assistant Deputy Minister for Partnerships for Development.
Brenda Boucher: I served as a public servant for 38 years with the provincial government of New Brunswick where I held a number of roles including Director of Planning in Economic Development. I also became an Assistant Deputy Minister in the Premier’s Office and served as a liaison with New Brunswick’s 15 First Nations.
You’re all currently active volunteers with CESO. Can you tell us your own motivation to becoming a volunteer? Why CESO?
Bryan: Before I retired, I read an article about Canadians volunteering abroad. The article made me realize how rewarding volunteering could be. I had been provided with a very significant amount of training and knowledge throughout my career, which I now realize is a valuable commodity. CESO’s model and mandate give me an opportunity to give back in a way that fits my lifestyle.
Darren: I have volunteered throughout my life and wanted to continue to do so. CESO suits me as a retiree, and I believe in its mission of creating stronger economies and better lives.
Brenda: Volunteering has been part of my personal fabric since I was a young professional. I was initially drawn to assignment opportunities with Indigenous Communities in northern Canada. The MERIT project in Mongolia also looked particularly intriguing, and although not on my “wish list” of places to visit, Mongolia has found a special place in my heart. My assignments in Mongolia have been extremely rewarding personally, and have afforded me the opportunity to give back by sharing some of my experiences and knowledge from my many years as a public servant in New Brunswick.
How have your experiences as a volunteer enriched your life?
Bryan: Meeting, speaking with, and sharing knowledge with CESO clients and partners around the globe and here at home is extremely rewarding. For me, it is far more enriching and rewarding to travel as a CESO volunteer to countries such as the Ukraine, China, Guyana, Honduras, Vietnam, and Tanzania where I have the opportunity to experience their culture and see things their way, while working with them to improve their community and businesses.
Darren: This is hard to answer because sometimes you don’t realize a benefit until much later. An idea you were exposed to, a skill you learned, a person you met, can suddenly open an unexpected opportunity. More immediately, the chance to meet different people with different experiences but similar challenges, and to work on them together, is very rewarding. Ultimately, I believe I learn as much as I share.
Brenda: My experiences with CESO have left me with an overwhelming feeling of gratitude as a Canadian. I am proud of my country and feel fortunate to have an opportunity, through CESO, to share my experiences and knowledge with other countries.
Why should other Canadian government executives share their experience and expertise?
Bryan: If you have spent your whole life serving the Canadian public, then you have far more knowledge and know-how than you can imagine. I would ask you to consider sharing this knowledge with others.
Darren: The Canadian public service is one of the best in the world. Many countries are interested in learning how we craft policy, design services and deliver programs. At a higher level, many countries want to know how we maintain an impartial professional public service across many years of governments.
Brenda: The Canadian experience in the public sector in general, and at the executive level in particular, is a privilege that can help enrich and inform those in other countries.
Share your skills and expertise
Your skills and expertise as a Canadian government executive can make a difference. Like Bryan, Darren and Brenda, you too can become part of the solution.
Strong governance and public institutions are key to creating an equitable environment for individuals and communities to prosper. Last year, CESO volunteers completed over 110 assignments with 46 governmental and community organizations globally. Your knowledge and experience can help catalyze innovative and collaborative solutions to local challenges, including poverty reduction, in countries around the world.
CESO is actively looking for senior-level professionals with a variety of expertise, including government and public sector experience as well as management and leadership proficiency, to fill short-term assignments of approximately two to four weeks in our program countries.
If you have more than 10 years of professional experience and are looking for a meaningful way to share your skills, consider becoming a CESO Volunteer Advisor.
To learn more about how to become a CESO Volunteer Advisor, visit our website: www.ceso-saco.com/volunteer.