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Hollyhock – Making the World Better Starts with Self

Hollyhock | PowHERhouse

Dana Bass Solomon, CEO at Hollyhock. Photo: Katie M. Simmons

Guest Author Kait Burgan interviewed Dana Bass Solomon for PowHERhouse:

We live in a world where time is short, lists are long and a paradigm shift in how we show up is becoming more and more necessary if we are going to collectively thrive.

How can we begin to thrive individually, in community or even globally, if collectively we are not compassionate towards a perspective different than our own? With information from the other side of the world, much of it heartbreaking, and only a click away, the responsibility we have to make positive change is perhaps greater now than it ever has been.  That change starts with self.

Dana Bass Solomon is the CEO at Hollyhock, Canada’s Leadership Learning Centre on Cortes Island.  She says that the mission of Hollyhock is “to inspire, nourish and support and inspire people who are making the world better,” and adds that the founders came from the environmental, social justice and human potential movements.

Hollyhock | PowHERhouse

Photo: Courtesy of Hollyhock. “The Lodge is where meals are shared, conversations begin and continue as body and soul are nourished.”

Hollyhock has been working at making the world a better place since before it was officially founded in 1982.  The land carries history in being a summer gathering place for the Coast Salish people.  Then came a homesteading family in the early 20th Century, followed by the Cold Mountain Centre in the early 1970’s.  While making the world a better place can, at first, seem like a bold and overwhelming, seemingly impossible task, it becomes possible by following the philosophy that making the world better begins with making individuals better, and making yourself better.

Hollyhock | PowHERhouse

Photo: Fjordlands Horz. “At first, programs based in singing or kayaking appear to have nothing to do with leadership or making the world better, but not far below the surface, are lessons that can be implemented in any negotiation, interaction or difficult conversation.”

Dana has taken numerous programs at Hollyhock since first being invited to the Social Venture Institute on Cortes Island in 1998, and what she has learnt through those programs she carries with her in everything she does.

“My best advice,” she says, summing it all up on the phone: “Be real.  Being conscious and being real are my best advice as a leader.  If you say what’s real, even if it’s not perfect, the person you’re relating with can feel and respond in a more caring and authentic way.”

Dana has been instrumental in guiding Hollyhock and its programs and plays a pivotal role in attracting the more than 2000 people who visit Hollyhock each year. She currently leads the finance, fundraising and marketing, and collaborative programming initiatives.  She references some singing programs from the 2016 curriculum as an example of their unique approach to lifelong learning.  She acknowledges that at first, singing doesn’t lend itself to changing the world in any measurable way. “If you can learn to quietly listen, which is necessary when singing with others, you will find that learning to sing isn’t just about singing,” Dana says. “It’s about listening.” These are skills that can be taken with you into a boardroom when you have to sit across the table to negotiate with someone who represents values in contrast with your own.  For Hollyhock, an example would be logging:  Dana recalls a few years ago when opposing parties, after experiencing Hollyhock, learned to listen to each other’s views, and progress was made in otherwise deadlocked strongholds in relation to the environment.

Hollyhock | PowHERhouse

Photo: Kait Burgan

“Lifelong learning is about having difficult conversations and that’s important because that’s how change happens.” Dana says. “If I ask a good question and pause to listen, I will learn so much more and become a better leader.  A part of that listening is not jumping to conclusions.  I listen and if I have a reaction, I do what I can to be aware of that reaction before responding.”

To think that time is going to slow down, that change will happen in our personal lives or that shift will take place on global scale without our active participation is naive. Making the world a better place starts with making improvements to yourself.

Hollyhock | PowHERhouse

Photo: Kait Burgan “A small amount of remaining colour serves as a reminder of what was, and what will be again come Spring 2017, when the Hollyhock Gardens bloom in magnificent glory.”

Hollyhock is preparing for its 35th year of programming on Cortes Island. The 2016 season is over and the gardens have been put to bed. Work continues behind the scenes as the staff and board prepare to release the program for 2017, featuring more than one hundred sessions with world-class teachers, leaders and thought innovators. A sneak peek of the 2017 program is now available at

“I am dedicating my prime work years to Hollyhock and its affiliated organizations because I believe now is the time to turn the tide towards positive change in North America.” – Dana Bass Solomon

Contributed by Guest Author, Kait Burgan Hollyhock | PowHERhouse

Kait Burgan’s career in media on Vancouver Island spans nearly two-decades and three mediums. From radio news, to newspaper columns and features, and a well established place in the heart of Island television viewers, Kait knows that none of it means anything without genuine curiosity, empathy as well as an ability and desire to get behind the headline.

“For me,” she says, “It’s all about inspiration through curiosity. I love peeking into someone’s passion and interpreting their story for them so that others can be inspired by it.”

Recently, Kait’s career trajectory took an unexpected turn and she has stepped into the newly created role of Director of Media Relations for Cristina Mittermeier, one of the world’s most influential conservation photographers. Through Cristina, Kait is also works with renowned photographer Paul Nicklen, and SeaLegacy, the NGO they co-founded in 2014. SeaLegacy is a collective of some of the planet’s most well respected photographers, videographers and storytellers who are on a mission to protect 20% of the world’s oceans by 2020.,,

Kait Burgan is the Host and Co-Producer of PowHER TV’s First Season, a 13 part television series for women, about women, by women, that aired on Shaw TV in British Columbia and Alberta, as well as on line and Shaw Video on Demand.

In addition to engaging audiences on an international scale through her work with Cristina Mittermeier and SeaLegacy, Kait is looking to re-appear on Vancouver Island television screens in early 2017 in some exciting new projects that are currently in development.

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1 Comment

  1. […] Dana’s PowHERhouse Portrait feature interview is available here. […]

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