The Connected North
November 2nd, 1:00-3:00 pm
Willa Black will discuss her involvement in this incredible collaboration between Indigenous people of the North and many supportive organizations with financial and technological means reaching out to help our Northern people. She will provide stories of what these communities are like, what they are dealing with and the urgent need we have in this country to deploy resources and goodwill to the families that need it the most. She will take us through the process of how she became involved in this program and how she convinced corporate Canada this was the time to get involved and learn more about how the North can teach the people of the South while transferring the skills and knowledge to the people of the North. Willa has inspired and led this initiative which is now starting to scale. Come and hear from a woman who recognized that technology could provide those far away with an exciting, innovative and collaborative two way learning exchange.
As Vice-President, Corporate Affairs and CSR for Cisco Canada, Willa Black is responsible for strategies to drive Cisco's brand relevance and transformational impact. She leads CSR programming with a focus on Education and Healthcare, building strategic partnerships and reinforcing the company’s commitment to social innovation working with governments, non-governmental organizations, and communities across Canada.
Named one of Canada’s Top 25 Women of Influence for 2011, one of the Canadian Board Diversity Council’s 2015 Diversity 50, the Federated Press Canadian Woman Leader of the Year for 2015, and the recipient of the 2015 Canadian Aboriginal Business Council’s Award for Excellence in Aboriginal Relations, Black has held Marketing and CSR leadership roles at Cisco Canada since 1999. She has developed and led award-winning programming including the “25 Transformational Canadians” campaign to mark Cisco’s 25th anniversary, in partnership with CTV and The Globe and Mail; and the One Million Acts of Green campaign in partnership with the CBC. Thousands of Canadians participated in this national challenge to drive personal commitment towards environmental sustainability, logging in excess of 1.8 million “green acts” and saving 105, 695, 538 kgs of Green House Gas emissions.
In 2014, Black led the development and launch of Connected North, a ground-breaking virtual program showcasing innovations in the field of learning with the aim to reduce Aboriginal drop-out rates. The program connects students and classrooms in under-served, remote Aboriginal communities with students in Canada’s south via Cisco Telepresence Technology driving cultural exchange and mentoring. Connected North also provides real time Experts-on-Demand in the classroom, virtual fieldtrips and teacher training and support via high definition video. After the success of the pilot in Aqsarniit Middle School in Iqaluit, Connected North is now scaling across Nunavut, the NWT, the Yukon, Saskatchewan and Ontario. Black also led the virtual program delivery of Youth Tele-Psychiatry services now operating in ten communities across Nunavut, in partnership with the Toronto Hospital for Sick Children and the RBC Foundation
A 30-year veteran of the public relations and marketing industry, Black began her career at Ogilvy & Mather Advertising in Toronto. This was followed by 14 years at Royal Trust/Royal Bank where she was Director, Public Affairs for the Wealth Management division, RBC.
Black sits on the boards of the Canadian Club, the Toronto Civic Action Steering Committee, the Board of Trustees for the Gordon Foundation, the Advisory Board for CityWorks/Evergreen Brickworks and was a Founding Member of the Children’s Book Bank in Regent Park. She has also participated in many IT industry initiatives including the Canadian e-Business Initiative, the Information Technology Association of Canada InGenious Awards Steering Committee and is a frequent speaker at various industry and association events.
She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Williams College in Massachusetts, USA. A resident of Toronto, Willa is married and a mother of three.