Former Head & Hands leader named Concordia’s senior director of community engagement and social impact
Three-time alumna and well-respected figure in Montreal’s community sector Andrea Clarke (BSc 09, MSc 12, MBA 16) is bringing her expertise to Concordia’s Office of the Provost.
As the new director of community engagement and social impact, Clarke will lend her skills in strategic leadership to the Office of Community Engagement and the SHIFT Centre for Social Transformation.
In this role, she will build on Concordia’s reputation as a national leader in community engagement and social impact and ensure alignment with Concordia's academic priorities and commitments.
“I am thrilled to welcome Andrea to the Office of the Provost where she will further expand the opportunities for Concordia’s faculty and students to enter into mutually beneficial partnerships with community organizations,” says Anne Whitelaw, interim provost and vice-president, academic.
“Community engagement is a key component of Concordia’s identity as a next-gen university and Andrea will deepen the university’s work in this area.”
From 2015 to 2020, Clarke served as the executive director of Head & Hands, where she oversaw the development of its 50th anniversary strategic plan, fundraising and partnerships, and a diverse high-performing team of community workers.
Clarke serves on the board of directors of Carrefour Jeunesse Emploi NDG, Les Habitations Tango and The Mercy Project in addition to the coordination, advisory and evaluative committees of eight community organizations.
‘An important part of my inspiration comes from the desire for everyone to safely be their whole self, all of the time’
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Andrea Clarke: I completed three Concordia degrees in biology, biochemistry and business administration. My tenure as executive director at Head & Hands began while I was completing my MBA, and so I had the opportunity to have my classroom learning extend into my work.
I hadn’t realized it at the time, but my progression from science, to business administration, to the community sector was a reflection of my desire to gain a better understanding of the world in which we live and to use that knowledge to enact change.
What inspired your career in community engagement?
AC: It started from a desire to work more collaboratively and to find an environment where expertise would be recognized in the multitude of forms that it could take. Now an important part of my inspiration comes from the desire for everyone, myself included, to safely be their whole self, all of the time.
I have had the privilege of being relatively sheltered from the intersecting systems of oppression at work in our everyday lives. I want to leverage that privilege to actively support the work of folks who are critical of the aforementioned systems, and who seek to dismantle them, to our collective benefit.
Can you tell us about your mandate as senior director?
AC: Concordia is working to align the quality of its learning opportunities to larger trends and substantial challenges facing society. My role will be to help ensure that the knowledge and expertise within communities are recognized, valued and strengthened through equitable partnerships and collaborations. That includes working closely with the Office of Community Engagement, the SHIFT Centre for Social Transformation and the Office of the Provost.
What do you look forward to most in your role?
AC: Getting to dream big about the ways in which Concordia can take leadership in making community engagement and social impact an integral part of how universities think of their role in society.
How would you describe the state of community organizations in Montreal?
AC: I hesitate to give a description, as there are innumerable realities of which I am not aware. If pressed, I would say that community organizations in Montreal are doing their work with agility and care — continually looking to improve the ways in which they work with their communities and one another. And this is done despite the uncertainty around funding and resources that are part and parcel of the work.
What are some of Montreal community groups’ most pressing concerns?
AC: The pandemic has highlighted that there are massive gaps in our systems, which are not new. These gaps, often treated as unavoidable or accidental, consistently affect the most disenfranchised. As a society, we look to community organizations to fill those gaps, without providing adequate funding or integrating their often-stated recommendations regarding how those gaps could be addressed.