June 2, 2022

Five Questions with Ken Sanderson of Teach for Canada


Innovation Series, Community Solutions Network

This new Innovation Series features some of the inspiring people working on smart solutions in communities across Canada

Ken Sanderson

Title: Executive Director

Organization: Teach for Canada

What are you working on right now?

I made the move from providing broadband services to working with schools, through Teach For Canada, which are in desperate need of such infrastructure. 

What do you like most about your work? 

Working to support schools, with the goal of ensuring quality education for every child, is incredibly rewarding work. Between inadequate access to educational resources and the disproportionate impact that the recent pandemic had on various First Nation communities and schools, this work has never been more important. 

How do you approach solving complex problems? 

First I make sure I am really clear on what I am trying to achieve. It is important to separate the goal from the tactic to achieve the goal. If you get stuck on a tactic, you will be limited in what you achieve. Then I analyze the issue to determine if it is a people issue, a technical issue, a systemic issue, or an external issue. The first three are within your realm of control to a degree.  

Next I try to find the root cause of the issue and assess what constraints I have that might limit potential solutions. As I work through these questions and processes, I usually have someone to bounce my thoughts and ideas off of. 

In every role I ever had, there was always a mentor. In all honesty, if you want to get ahead in a career, mentors are critical. They provide advice and they role model successful behaviours and strategies to do well in their roles.

What excites you about how community broadband is growing? 

Every time I visit a community and see new infrastructure build-outs, I am excited for them. The difference is night and day. It literally opens up a whole world of communication, information, and resources that more connected regions take for granted. 

What challenges do you see? 

In the short term, there have been a lot of wonderful improvements to various aspects of connectivity in a lot of communities. This has the immediate impact of giving people a communication tool and giving people access to a world of information and educational resources. However, I find that most of the broadband improvements have been through large corporations. The challenge I see here is one of a power differential. Community voice is lost and true partnership between company and community is often lacking with the larger corporations.  

As the larger networks continue to grow and benefit from government funding, truly community driven/owned networks are slowly being supplanted. The economies of scale make it hard for a community network to leverage the funds necessary to compete against massive billion dollar networks. 

Where do you look for inspiration? 

One simple principle: Leave people, places and things in a better state than when you first met or encountered them. 

Ken Sanderson consulted on the development of the Community Solutions Network’s suite of Community Broadband toolkits:
Getting Started with Community Broadband
Financing Community Broadband
Partnering for Success with Community Broadband
Models for Community Broadband

Connect with Ken on LinkedIn

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