Our Officers and Directors

Mary Ellen Gurnham (Chair)

Mary Ellen is a Registered Nurse who recently retired from the position of Senior Director Interprofessional Practice and Learning, with the Nova Scotia Health Authority.

Mary Ellen’s career spanned 44 years holding positions in clinical practice, operational management, professional practice and learning. Mary Ellen has experience in strategic planning, policy development and implementation, change leadership, program development, implementation and evaluation. She has served on a number of professional and volunteer boards, such as the United Way, YMCA, and Canadian Nurses Protective Society, and her current role as the Chair for the Victoria Hall Society.

Joanne Linzey

Now retired, Joanne Linzey worked for over 40 years with non-profit organizations and communities. As a CEO, coach and trainer, she provided strategic advice on change management, board governance, strategic planning, leadership development, community engagement, and project management to not-for-profit organizations that sought to increase their effectiveness and impact. Joanne is a recipient of the Queen’s Jubilee Award (2005) for her contributions to community life in Canada. She is also currently the Chair of the Board of the Peter Gzowski Foundation for Literacy and the Ross Creek Centre for the Arts.

From co-founding and managing a women-led public transit system in a northern Yukon community, to co-creating the national ABC Canada Literacy Foundation, Ms. Linzey worked to establish and build strong effective organizations that are important to building sustainable communities. With a consortium of Brazilian not-for-profits (2000–2005) Ms. Linzey worked as a trainer and coach to help the leadership build their capacity to work collaboratively in low-income communities. She continued to work in Brasil until 2014. As the CEO of the United Way of Halifax ( 1995–2006) and then as the Vice-president of Community Impact for United Way of Canada (2006–2009), she was responsible for leading major change initiatives that helped United Way staff and boards transform to organizations working to change community conditions.

Jill Provoe (Vice Chair)

Jill Provoe is a bi-racial woman from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Through her work as a college administrator, she espouses a culturally-empowered leadership style in the pursuit of academic excellence and equitable student success. Currently in the role of Senior Advisor to the Vice-President Academic on Educational Equity, she is responsible for building a framework and organizational structure to grow and sustain a culture of equity within Academic and across the college community.

In her previous role as Dean, School of Access, she was responsible for managing access programs across Nova Scotia, which includes 14 campuses and 3 Learning Centres. Key to this work is cultivating inclusive and responsive teaching and learning environments that improve student access, experience and outcomes in embracing educational equity as a catalyst for meaningful change.

The level of intentionality we are now seeing locally and nationally to shift attitudes and open the doors of opportunity for all is truly unprecedented. Inspiring Communities is a key player in supporting the development of vibrant communities with equity at the centre as we dismantle systemic barriers to economic and social inclusion. This powerful vision keeps me motivated to constantly give my best as a board member!

Stephanie Pronk 

Stephanie is a passionate life-long learner, and an advocate for doing business better, in a way that values people and planet over profit. She started her career at the Hub Halifax, where she learned that building strong local (in-person) social networks is the key to happiness, and to successfully starting any project. At the same time she joined the Halifax Music Co-op, a social enterprise working to make music accessible. She played flute in their orchestral and jazz arrangements, and Chaired their Board of Directors for three years. She has worked for social enterprises in the UK (Community Enterprise in Scotland) and Canada (Common Good Solutions), and currently serves as a Director of the Social Enterprise Institute (SEI). In 2014 she was named a Top 50 under 30 Leader in Atlantic Canada (21 Inc.). This program, through road trips and lots of social events, connected her to other young, fired-up community-builders that remain connected as friends and supporters to this day.

Now, Stephanie teaches Entrepreneurship to photography, music production, music business and other Creative Industry students at the Nova Scotia Community College. She is most proud of being a new mum to baby Henry, who she welcomed into the world in December 2019.

Stephanie has a business degree with certificates in Psych and French from Saint Mary’s University, a certificate in eLearning from the University of Calgary, and a certificate in Project Management from the University of British Columbia. She’s completed consultant training from leading North American consultant Carter MacNamara, and Applied Leadership training through Bluteau DeVinney.

I decided to join Inspiring Communities as a Board member in 2019 because of my passion for connecting and building community, and in making our initiatives more informed and focused on the good work we do.

Pam Cooley

Pam is described by her colleagues as a “practical visionary”. She can see the big picture and know where to start.  She is the Founder of Choosethical Ventures Inc., a consulting and facilitation services company that is based in Vancouver and Halifax. Since 1996 Pam has worked with over 250 businesses, not-for-profits, and all levels of government departments. She worked in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver for 20 years leading projects that include to anti-poverty, advancement of women, social enterprise, community development, housing, food security and safe injection sites.  She has led complex strategic planning and organizational, community and business development based on a strong platform of ethics and innovation. Most recently her clients in NS include The Office of Aboriginal Affairs in Nova Scotia, the “Made in Nova Scotia” tri-partied treaty negotiations, The Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre and The NS Department of Lands and Forestry,

In Halifax, Pam is known as “the CarShare Lady” co-founding the thriving CarShare Atlantic (now Communauto Atlantic)  in the Atlantic Canadian marketplace. She is always open to the next idea that will add value to the world and quality to the lives of others.

Inspiring Communities is an important organization and I am grateful for the work IC is doing for the future of Nova Scotia. I hope that I can add to the development of the organization and look forward to working with the staff and the other Board members.

John Gunn (Treasurer)

John Gunn

John Gunn has been a dedicated professional accountant for more than 40 years. His most recent professional roles included National HR Partner with Grant Thornton and CEO with CA School of Business in Western Canada, following which he served more than three years helping oversee and guide the rationalization of the accounting profession. In addition to his dedicated work leading the professional education program for accountants, John has served on not for profit boards throughout the last 20 plus years, for organizations including Saint Andrew’s United Church, environmental charity Clean Foundation, MPA Society, a non-profit service agency that supports people living with mental illness and ACCORD, the Association for Creative Change in Organization Renewal and Development.

John notes that part of what has drawn him, in retirement, to Inspiring Communities, is leaning into his emerging personal mission:
“Our province (and our world) can use all the impactful social innovation and creative change making efforts we can muster, to tackle the complex problems burgeoning around us. How can I help?”

Sue LaPierre

Sue LaPierre has worked for United Way Halifax for 20 years and holds the role of Director of Community Impact. In joining Inspiring Communities’ board, Sue says for her, social innovation “means nurturing relationships, keeping values at the front, and a belief that we can do better.”

Determined is a word often used to describe Sue: Sue sets bold goals for herself and in service of community, bold goals rooted in the belief that we can do better and getting uncomfortable is good and stretches us to new places.  Sue has helped transform United Way Halifax into an organization committed to alleviating the impacts of and finding solutions to poverty, and committed to equity. Outside of United Way, Sue can often be found outdoors; running, walking, cycling, and swimming. Her greatest inspiration is her husband’s unwavering integrity, and she believes the true meaning of love is wanting to be a better person because of it.

Sue cites Marathon: You Can Do It! By Jeff Galloway as a book that has influenced her greatly:

My key takeaway is this:  “when you think you are going slow, slow down and go slower.” This sentiment has inspired me, it forces no ego, it’s not a race, it’s a run. This is true for distance events and so many other things in life.