• Urbanarium Debate – Vancouver Repels Creatives

    First off, I have to admit that an oxford-style debate is not my usual style of discussion.
    I have never been one for argument but instead tend to look at adversarial viewpoints with curiosity and interest, asking myself “where does that particular view come from”.  I’ve learned over the years that its just how I see things…and I’m intrigued by different perspectives.

    We all have reference points and past experiences that shape our outlook on life.  And with the complex problems that we face today, it’s even more important to understand where people/groups are coming from before we can start to collectively move towards change.

    The statement,  “Vancouver repels Creatives” however triggered a sense of obligation in me, and I was compelled to speak against it, not because I”m armed with factual evidence and proof to oppose it, but because it almost feels personal, like the statement itself drew out a “call to action” within me.

    My feeling was “Vancouver can’t repel creatives because we need more creativity than ever!”

    And after deciding to experience the Women’s march last Saturday, it affirms in me that we need to tap into the creativity that exists in all of us. A place that is positive, uplifting, inspirational and motivational….it can move mountains (and minds) toward a better future.

    The irony of the Urbanarium debate, at least for me, was that it wasn’t much of a debate…I felt both teams were actually on the same side but speaking up for different groups we each knew and understood. I think our combined statements started to articulate a very broad and diverse tapestry of the value of concerns that exist for our city’s creative people.

    Below are the 5 points that I focussed on. You can read Mark Busse’s points here. (my debate partner)

    Vancouver does not repel Creatives because…

    1. It is full of creatives.

    While this might seem like a ridiculous statement, and not the the kind of argument that wins these kinds of things, but… it is true, and the beginning of my personal story, and proof for what’s possible.

    I came to Vancouver from London, UK in 2003 and funnily enough, I heard similar grumblings back then. “nothing cool happens here”, “there is no real creative community”  “no fun city, etc.”

    But at the same time… I found other people…. people that were busy doing interesting, creative things.  I realized that it was not creatives that we were lacking, it was the amplification of their work.

    So along with my partner, we created an exhibition series to connect them with each other and their greater community. This was the start of my company Cause+Affect.

    It’s now 13 years since the first exhibition and I thought I’d do a little digging to see how many of these original 20 groups of multi-disciplinary self-starter artists and designers still lived and pursued their creative vocation in Vancouver.  Because clearly, if Vancouver repels creatives, than the majority of these folks would have fled a long time ago.

    Out of the 20 individuals, couples and companies, I discovered 1 was now working in London, 2 had moved their families to the Sunshine Coast for larger studio spaces and 1 I couldn’t track down.  So the rest of them here, 17 out of 20 are still in Vancouver running thriving independent creative businesses.

    Independent businesses that they built from the ground up.

    2 – Vancouver is a city of entrepreneurs.

    Small Business BC 2015 profile states that 98% of businesses in BC are small, and 4 out of 5 are below 5 employees.

    Non-creative people don’t turn ideas into reality and build businesses from scratch. Non-creative people don’t join small companies that are engaged in disrupting concepts and high-risk initiatives.  Small businesses are inherently creative, they’re very survival depends on it.

    I have witnessed this culture first hand as we produced and hosted PechaKucha Night Vancouver for the past 8 years – it was a talk-event, first of its kind in this city…before Public Salon, Raincity Chronicles, TedX, and Creative Mornings… and by the way, they’re all still happening because and for our creative community.

    We produced 38 volumes and brought 500 local speakers to the stage, showcased 30 musical acts and entertained and inspired over 35,000 audience members.

    And the creatives we chose to present on stage weren’t necessarily working in the traditional creative sectors of arts, dance, theatre etc.  Our core criteria was ‘people using creativity to make our city better’ and therefore the representation of creativity came forth in lawyers, architects, scientists, designers, and a majority of them were what I call “social and environmental entrepreneurs”  It was this group, the ones that stepped up and took the chance to follow their passion to make the city (or world) better. That inspired me most.

    I remember people asking if we were worried we were going to run out of people to invite to present!  BUT… new people just kept coming and Vancouver’s authentic identity was formed.

    And speaking of trend, another one we learned when analyzing the PechaKucha community over the last nine years was…

    3 – Creatives need Space.

    The majority of people mentioned “space” when asked why they came or stay in Vancouver.

    The work-life balance that Vancouver uniquely offers is a huge plus for those that need space (mind, body) to create.  My personal experience in London was like being a sponge.  It was exciting and dynamic but it was also distracting, over-stimulating and very competitive.  It didn’t give me the breathing space or down time to find my own creative path and I found more often than not I was replicating or building off of what was already there.

    In Vancouver, we are on the edge, at the periphery.  And there is something to said about being situated on the periphery. It is an environment where ideas and creative processes can be formed and incubated in ways that are allowed to be explored uninterrupted.

    Many artists and creatives I know were actually attracted to Vancouver for this very reason and the city itself has inspired their work because it gives them the space to reflect and re-charge their batteries.

    4.  Creatives see opportunities where others see constraints.

    To me, the very essence of the resolution “Vancouver repels creatives” is at odds with creativity.  Creative people aren’t told where or where not they can be creative, they just are…wherever they are.

    To me it’s like telling a kid he or she can’t play.  It’s just what they do.

    I understand and definitely feel a lot of the constraints of our growing city, but to me they only draw out my creative instincts to challenge them, defeat the status quo and rise up with creative solutions to address them.  The constraints in essence attract creativity!

    Creativity is our biggest resource. It is both a way of thinking and a mindset. Its a certain quality of disposition and attitude which includes curiosity, questioning and openness.  It’s the ability to learn from across disciplines and connect and apply ideas laterally and blending concepts from seemingly unrelated areas.  It requires pattern recognition and divergent thinking to open up new possibilities.  And if change is what is needed, than most of all it requires re-thinking what you think you already know.

    “There are those who choose to live here to work, and then there are those who choose to change here to live.”  Cause+Affect

  • 2016 Year in Review


    2016 was heads down, hearts up. 

    This last year has been the busiest one yet for Cause+Affect. In fact, we have only just pulled our heads up to look around, and surprise, it’s the end of the year. We’d like to say a big thanks to everyone who has put their trust in us this year, and also those who have helped us earn other people’s. Here’s our top 9 projects of the year, in no particular order.


    BC Housing

    BC Housing is a Crown corporation that provides assistance to renters, as well as emergency and subsidized housing.

    Over the past few years, BC Housing has been going through some significant organizational changes, transitioning from direct managers of subsidized housing for the most vulnerable, to a leadership organization that empowers a network of experts to find innovative solutions for the delivery of affordable housing.

    Our work with BC Housing focused on cultivating the organization’s internal culture around this evolution, before developing a new brand identity system that better symbolized where BC Housing is today. We look forward to continuing to work closely with the team as the brand roles out, to ensure the organization is connecting with its diverse audience groups.

    Visit BC Housing Website



    Odd Society

    Our longstanding relationship with Odd Society Spirits continues, and this year we were able to finally deliver on their inaugural batch of single malt whisky, named Highbrow. Highbrow begins in the tradition of Scottish methods but with a distinct local flavour distilled from 100% BC grown malted barley. Aside from whisky, we have developed other new branded products that will see the light of day in 2017. Watch this space.

    Visit Odd Society’s Website




    Moresports is a community-driven, collaborative and inclusive approach to give ALL kids a chance to play. As a city-wide strategy, it allies with the School Board, Parks Board and communities to meet kids where they are and turn local youth into coaches and leaders. One of Moresports’ guiding principles is to “include always” so they included us on their team! Together, we have helped the organization develop its delivery model and new brand. We have worked closely with leadership but more importantly, with the kids and youths to create a brand that they’d be proud to be a part of and maybe even wear on a t-shirt.

    View Moresports Project




    This year, Cause+Affect has been working with the City of Vancouver on the reset of their current Housing and Homelessness Strategy. Over the last 6 months, we have been focusing on developing and facilitating a new strategic process that encourages greater community engagement.

    Rather than the traditional “present and defend” model, where a strategy is produced and citizens are then asked for feedback, we developed a new model; Re:Address, where experts and engaged citizens are actively weaved into the strategic process, allowing the strategy to inform our community, while our community informs the strategy.

    A cornerstone to this process was Re:Address Week and the Re:Address Summit which convened hundreds of people across a wide diversity of topics all centred on improving dialogue around housing affordability.

    A new strategy is expected in early 2017 that will be shared with the public through a variety of different methods of community events.

    Visit Re:Address Website



    VIFF (The Vancouver International Film Festival)

    VIFF is a 35 year-old cultural institution in our city. It’s beloved by locals and one of the largest film festivals in North America. Even with all that success, VIFF became fully aware that their audience was shifting in their needs and the organization needed to adapt along with them. At the same time, VIFF wanted to take the opportunity to better serve the diversity of Vancouver’s filmmaking community, embracing the next wave of technologies used to tell stories on screen, and of course attract more corporate partnerships.

    What began with the restructuring of their organization and the way they communicate, soon moved into a new brand for the festival and the year-round programming they deliver at the Vancity Theatre.

    View VIFF Project




    When one if every five Canadians is affected by a mental illness, it’s important we all speak and hear the words “Me Too.”

    They’re just two simple little words, but they carry so much meaning: empathy, sympathy, understanding and support. They tell us we are not alone. And they are powerful weapons against the prejudice and stereotypes that surround mental health and hold people back from the treatment, respect and dignity we all deserve.

    This made MeToo the perfect name for a new mental illness awareness initiative from the VGH/UBC Hospital Foundation. The brand is led by a event series that brings people with mental illness to the stage to share stories of struggle and success.

    View MeToo Project



    VAHA (Vancouver Affordable Housing Agency)

    VAHA was established by the City of Vancouver as a new vehicle to deliver a variety of housing options with greater levels of affordability for people who live and work in Vancouver. Tasked with providing 2500 new homes by 2021, VAHA continues to develop innovative partnerships with a project pipeline of over 20 sites and 1000 units, with more sites to come.

    VAHA engaged Cause+Affect to help with a new brand and communications framework, as well as to facilitate the engagement of local communities in Vancouver as they look to add more and more homes into our neighbourhoods.

    Visit VAHA Website



    Metro Vancouver

    Our work with Metro Vancouver began with the Regional Parks service area. Cause+Affect helped this passionate group clarify the aspects of their service that mattered most and identify the unique attributes and personality that supported them. An evolved brand was developed to bring clarity and consistency to their communications.

    As a result of this great work with the Regional Parks team, Cause+Affect was recently engaged to deliver a more substantial chunk of work; the development of a holistic and streamlined brand system for Metro Vancouver, that included new identity and service architecture… soon to be revealed.

    Visit Metro Vancouver’s Website



    Our new digs

    And lastly, and maybe most importantly, we found a new home for Cause+Affect this year. Since our founding in 2004, we have always been in Gastown. In fact, our previous 3 offices were all within shouting distance of Gassy Jack…or Six Acres, whichever makes a more obvious location marker. Our new office is no different as its entrance is just off the courtyard of Gaoler’s Mews in The Garage Building at 12 Water Street.

    We are up on the 5th floor with views looking out to the North Shore mountains and rooftops of Gastown. If you are in the neighbourhood, drop by and say hello. We almost always have a pot of coffee on the go.

    Contact Us


    What’s Up for 2017?

    We have a remarkable project in progress with the City of Vancouver which we hope will see the light of day next year. Meanwhile, we are working with HFBC Housing Foundation to create a powerful new brand. A 100% packaging-free grocery store very close to our hearts will be launching their new identity in the coming months, and of course the completion of the City of Vancouver’s Housing and Homelessness Strategy is one of our key priorities. Ongoing work for BC Housing, Metro Vancouver, VIFF, and Odd Society will also keep us busy and a very, very new project with BC Hydro appears to be something quite special.

    Here’s to those that continue to make our city better. If we can help, just ask.



  • Speakers: Sublime&Ridiculous


    Sublime&Ridiculous Vol.1 – Speakers Announced

    Thursday, October 27th 2016  (7:00pm – 9:00pm)

    Sublime&Ridiculous is a new event series aimed at providing a dynamic and diverse discussion on topics that are pulled directly from local headlines. Vol.1 focuses on Housing Affordability and is presented in collaboration with the City of Vancouver as a part of the Re:Address week.

    We have assembled an incredible group of speakers who have first hand experience and expertise in the growing challenges of housing affordability.



    Kishone Roy – CEO, British Columbia Non-Profit Housing Association

    Kishone is CEO of the BC Non-Profit Housing Association where he advocates for the affordable housing sector in BC.During his time at BCNPHA it has doubled in size, seen governments invest over a billion new dollars in social housing, moved it’s offices into an innovative co-location and implemented major projects like the Rental Housing Index and the introduction of new professional designation for the sector. BCNPHA has also undergone a major expansion of their events and education programs and acquired an equity stake in Encasa Financial, a mutual fund company owned and managed by the sector.


    Janice Abbot, CEO – Atira Women’s Resource Society

    Janice has been the CEO since 1992, leading the Society through its incredible growth from a single transition house located in South Surrey with a staff of seven to a large multi-service agency with two, for-profit subsidiaries, a development arm and more than 500 staff.

    She has headed up numerous innovative capital projects including Canada’s first multi-unit recycled shipping container housing development, which was completed in August 2013.

    Janice was recognized by BC Business Magazine as among one of BC’s 35 Most Influential Women in 2016.


    Sarah Hill – CEO, Greater Sydney Commission

    Sarah is recognised as a leading expert in the field of housing policy, with specific regard to affordable housing. As the CEO of the Greater Sydney Commission, a new, independent organization, she is  responsible for leading the planning of Greater Sydney. Sarah is also an Adjunct Professor at the University of Technology Sydney in the Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building. She was recognized as the Planning Institute of Australia’s current NSW Planner of the Year and also Australian Planner of the Year for 2016. She is also the recipient of two international planning awards including the Mayor of London Planning Award for Excellence and the Royal Town Planning Institute Award for Planning.


    David Eddy – CEO, Vancouver Native Housing Society

    David is CEO of Vancouver Native Housing Society (VNHS), a non-profit, off-reserve, Aboriginal housing provider in Vancouver, Canada. Under David’s leadership over the last seven years, VNHS has increased its portfolio by nearly 100% and broadened its mandate from strictly housing urban Aboriginal families and seniors to providing supportive housing for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal homeless people and those at risk of homelessness, housing for youth and for women fleeing violence. Since June, 2012 David has taken VNHS in a new direction of entrepreneurialism and self-sustainability, creating two social enterprises which have received international media attention and acclaim, the Skwachàys Lodge ( and the Urban Aboriginal Fair Trade Gallery. (


    Jen Muranetz – Filmmaker

    An accomplished digital storyteller and journalist, crafting newsworthy, original content for video and print platforms, Jen has over six years’ experience producing, reporting, writing, shooting and editing video for lifestyle news and broadcast. She currently works as a video journalist for Simon Fraser University and as a freelancer, creating compelling video and print media for independent clients and online platforms. She has been published in a variety of media outlets, including VICE Canada and Modern Agriculture. As part of Storyhive, Jen is working on a documentary called Better Together which delves into the subculture of co-housing by vignetting some of Vancouver’s most established collective houses.


    Kira Gerwing – Community Investment Manager, Vancity

    Kira’s work focuses on enabling the development of social enterprise real estate projects that result in community ownership, affordability, and green buildings. Kira’s work at Vancity stems from eight years of urban planning in Downtown Eastside neighbourhoods with the City of Vancouver. She has a passion for finding creative and engaging ways to ensure everyone’s fundamental right to flourish. As such, her efforts have centred on local economic development: crafting deals that create high-value, positive impact in communities and that leverage emerging opportunities in sustainability sectors of the economy. She has worked on projects and policies for affordable housing and social purpose real estate development, as well as local food, materials diversion, the creative economy, community-based forestry, sustainable fisheries, and eco-tourism.


    Ouri Scott – Intern Architect, Dialog

    As one of the first Indigenous women to graduate from the UBC’s Master of Architecture program, Ouri is driven to resolve prevalent, yet often unaddressed design issues that face First Nations people across Canada, and around the world. As a designer, she looks to develop a modern language of architecture that reflects and responds to contemporary First Nations culture. Her most recent work includes an award-winning concept for a net-zero, mixed-use development in Seattle that incorporates renewable energy strategies and intensive vertical farming. As a proud member of the Tlicho First Nation in northern Canada, Ouri works with First Nations communities across western Canada in the areas of community development, traditional knowledge and indigenous governance.


    Rowan Arundel – Researcher, University of Amsterdam

    Rowan is a researcher within the Centre of Urban Studies and the Department of Geography, Planning and International Development at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. He is embedded within the EU-funded research project HOUWEL and focuses on quantitative research into changing housing careers of young adults, growing housing inequalities and the relationship between labour market divides and housing outcomes. He is in the final stages of completing his PhD. He has recently published on ‘declining homeownership across Europe in the post-crisis era,’ ‘trends in parental co-residence and shared living,’ and has several upcoming publications on ‘boomerang returns to the parental home’, ‘growing inequalities in housing wealth accumulation’, as well as ‘labour market insecurity and the end of mass homeownership.’


    Get Tickets Here


    Thursday, October 27th 2016  (7:00pm – 9:00pm)

    Vancouver Convention Centre – East

    999 Canada Place
    2nd floor, Parkview Terrace Room

  • Rebrand: The Vancouver International Film Festival


    The Vancouver International Film Festival is a 35 year-old cultural institution in our city. It’s beloved by locals and one of the largest film festivals in North America. Even with all that success, VIFF became fully aware that their audience was shifting in their needs and the organization needed to adapt along with them. At the same time VIFF wanted to take the opportunity to better serve the diversity of our filmmaking community, embrace the next wave of technologies used to tell stories on screen, and of course attract more corporate partnerships.


    The Restructure

    VIFF’s main branding challenge is that they have become so much more than just a film festival. Not only have they added a significant industry conference to their brand family but also program and operate a theatre year round.

    The work to meet these challenges is still in progress, but it debuted with a strategic restructuring of the 2016 Vancouver International Film Festival that will carry on year-round at their Vancouver International Film Centre.


    To begin, VIFF has expanded the frame to include more diverse experiences. Envisioned as Film+, this strategy adds more talks, parties, exhibitions and workshops to appeal to both those who work in the film industry and the public. These experiences serve as a complement to the film screenings, not a replacement, and are organized around streams which pool the experiences based on themes (and are open for unique sponsorship).

    For example, the Impact stream focuses on films and discussions that spark action and social change, while the Next stream looks at the future of technology as a catalyst for storytelling.

    Much of Next will be built around the VIFF Hub, which roots the festival at the Vancouver International Film Centre and creates a space for the exploration of new screen-based experiences like VR, as well as spot to hear from industry leaders and creators and listen to music late into the night.

    All streams will continue on year-round at the Vancouver International Film Centre as the year round programming becomes more closely connected to that of the Festival.


    Discovering Discovery: Defining the VIFF Brand

    Research is always a key part of our process, and it was a particularly substantial part of this project. We interviewed audience members, the local film industry, sponsors, partners and staff. We sifted through reams of reports and scanned the entire global landscape of international film festivals.

    With this understanding, we worked with the team at VIFF to build a brand around a core set of values — what sets VIFF apart? What does it truly stand for?


    What was cultivated was a strong commitment to home and VIFF’s place in the world. VIFF programs the largest annual exhibition of East Asian films outside of Asia, is Canada’s largest documentary film festival, programs the largest selection of Canadian films in the country and celebrates and support local BC talent.

    As the organization moves forward, it became clear that it wanted to bring more diversity to its experiences, both in audience and experience. As well, it recognized the difference between itself in other festivals in that it continues to celebrate the creators rather than the celebrities. And lastly, VIFF values the content, but does forget about the total experience.

    VIFF is proud of its place on the West Coast of Canada, a unique position that is both separate but connected.

    We call it the edge of discovery.

    Artboard 1 copy


    Visually Communicating the VIFF Brand

    Finally we get to the part of the process that most people associate with branding: the visual identity. We really wanted to communicate VIFF’s boldness and vibrancy with its logo, colours, type and graphics.

    “Disassociating ourselves from TIFF, SIFF (or any other ‘IFF’) we eschew the lowercase and carved our wordmark out of a solid mass. By removing the extraneous details, we create a symbol that reveals a unique meaning, but only after study and appreciation. Much like the programming at VIFF, it is substantial, cerebral and rewarding.”


    We designed a graphic system to hold the brand and to expand the frame as VIFF moved towards film+, which you can see in motion in this trailer for VIFF 2016 we worked on with Post Pro Media with music by Warsaw Sound.

    All of the graphic design work and strategic thinking came together on VIFF’s website. As a major touchpoint for interaction with the brand, it had to be easy to use, memorable and communicate the new brand. It leads with content in the streams right away to greet visitors.

    With a massive film festival comes a huge marketing push and after many hours in front of our computers designing signage, ads and program covers, we looked up and found that our work followed us wherever we looked.


    Change has come to VIFF and we look forward to what comes next.
    View full case study here.




  • The legacy of D.H.E.

    Back in November of 2010 we decided to put a rock&roll band on the stage to open Pecha Kucha Night. It was our 14th show and we thought it would bring some life to the event. Who knew that this decision would bring so much to the future of Cause+Affect. The band we chose was called The Racoons, and lucky for us, they brought along an additional member of the group for the live performance: a trumpet player named Doug Hamilton-Evans.

    Following the gig, Jane had a short conversation with him and it turns out that Doug could write even better than he played the trumpet. Coincidentally, he was also a former student of a wonderful friend and colleague of ours named Brian Hendricks. Brian taught at UVic and in turn vouched for these writing talents that Doug spoke about. That proved to be enough for us, Doug joined Cause+Affect as our “communications guy”.

    His first project was working out brand messaging for Modo leading to a 6 year stint that involved many other local brands including Odd Society Spirits, Tides Canada, Fresh Roots, Pivot Legal Society, Fairware, Integrative, Equilibrium, Citystudio, PechaKucha Night and most recently, VIFF. For these clients, Doug was in charge of writing, ideas, and brand strategy as well as being the nicest guy around. He treated our clients as friends and in many ways became a role model for how we interact with the people we work with.

    Doug created this role himself and has evolved and crafted it over the years. As it turns out, it will be somewhat difficult to replicate. See, more important than just work stuff, Doug’s role included many other things that contributed to what has made Cause+Affect what it is. Crucial cultural decisions like playlists, office locations, how we talked about ourselves, coffee brands, social activities, potential clients, cocktail recipes and alcoholic must have’s, blog topics, holiday literature, and bike riding fashion and accessories were all his “bailey wick”. They will now be at the mercy of the collective.

    This is because Doug is leaving Cause+Affect. He has decided to expand this mind, grow his skills and take in more of what the world has to offer him. He will begin a Masters of Media and Communications at the illustrious Goldsmiths in London, UK in September.

    On behalf of Jane and everyone else who has been a part of Cause+Affect during the reign of Doug Hamilton Evans, we would like to take this opportunity to publicly say thank you. We have accomplished an amazing amount over the past 6 years and you have been a part of all of it.

    London is lucky to have you.

    Now, just before you go, can you post this to the blog….nobody knows how to do that.

  • Jane and Steven Join the Board of A Better Life Foundation


    In Support of our Community

    Jane and I founded Cause+Affect at the East end of Water Street in 2004. Since that time, we have moved through four separate offices never more than 100 steps away from the Gassy Jack statue. While we now live North Vancouver, much of our history and our identity comes from the streets of Gastown and the amazing community that makes up the Downtown Eastside.

    It is with that in mind that we are excited and honoured to take Board positions with A Better Life Foundation (ABLF). This young, scrappy and innovative organization has a wonderful duality of empowerment and support. It not only provides meal programs to those most in need, but also employs many that have barriers keeping them from traditional forms of employment. Their work at ABLF builds skills and provides socialization and education as well as the chance to be part of something.

    The organization is run by Mark Brand, a friend who we have come to know well over the years. His care, drive and charm have garnered a significant amount of attention. Our support for him is based on what we see as an authentic need to put his talents towards making positive change. 

    We have joined the board along with a number of others who share our passion for this community and together we feel confident that we can help Mark and his team grow ABLF into a significant charitable organization. One that is built on integrity, guts and hard work. 

    ABLF would eventually love your support, but for now, your respect and curiosity is a great start.

    To open the door for that process, we would love for you to join us at the next Greasy Spoon dinner on April 26 at Save on Meats. Chef Trevor Bird from Fable Kitchen will fuse fine dining and diner food to deliver a four course meal to remember. Proceeds go towards the hunger solutions part of A Better Life Foundation. 

    We hope to see you there.

    – Steven Cox

  • Creative Director Steven Cox joins Board of CPAWS-BC

    CPAWS-Grizzly-BearJane and I have been in Vancouver since 2003 and have become more and more entrenched as Vancouverites each year. So it is with honour and pride that I share the news that I have joined the Board of Directors for the British Columbia chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society – more commonly known as CPAWS-BC – a non-profit, grassroots-based conservation organization devoted purely to protecting Canada’s wilderness in our public lands and oceans. 

    My connection to the natural world was grown over the summers of my youth that I spent on an off-the-grid island in Lake of the Woods in Northern Ontario. A long standing family asset, this 30 acres of wilderness was incredibly unique and my extended family formed a conservation society to manage and protect it. It was both the repeated connection to this wilderness and the sense of responsibility for its protection that had a profound impact on me and my concept of our role as Canadians. 

    In my estimation, CPAWS is one of the most significant environmental organizations in Canada. Since its founding in 1963 it has helped protect over 400,000 square kilometres of threatened areas. As a Board member, I have the privilege to apply the same strategies we employ at Cause+Affect to help cultivate an organization’s culture and share it with their audience to help grow CPAWS’ funding and impact and help it find its place among from the many other excellent ENGOs out there. 

    For more information about CPAWS-BC see their website, volunteer, donate or join us at any of our upcoming events out in the wilderness or in Vancouver’s only geodesic dome…..

    Explore BC’s Sea of Glass

    Wednesday, March 23 at the TELUS World of Science

    200 metres below the surface there live reefs built by fragile glass sponges that cover more than 1,000 square kilometres of sea floor and rises eight storeys in some places.

    Join CPAWS and international scientists to discover the mysterious world of BC’s Glass Sponge Reefs on Wednesday, March 23 from 6:30pm – 9:30pm at the TELUS World of Science.

    Get tickets

  • Why corporate values don’t matter (on their own)

    Why corporate values don't matter (on their own)

    Almost every organization whether for-profit, non-profit, or charity has worked through a mission and vision statement and selected a few choice corporate values. With pride and joy they hang them on the wall for all to admire and then, more often than not, they promptly forget about them. 

    It’s a sad truth because defining what an organization believes in and where it’s going can be the most important thing it does (besides doing the thing it has set out to do).

    Knowing what you believe in and why is important

    We know that staff do better when they feel a part of their organization, which is strengthened with a clear understanding of why the organization exists and what it is trying to change.

    Efficiency goes up. Quality goes up. There are fewer meetings and even fewer arguments. With that comes a sense of pride and ownership that is contagious.

    And we know that when leaders have a clear understanding of why they do what they do – not just “what” and “how” – they make better decisions faster and more consistently. When leaders know and act on what makes their organization special it forms an emotional connection with who they work with and for.

    A few key words won’t cut it

    Returning to corporate values: These are supposed to be the things that you care most about. The underlying beliefs that get you out of bed in morning.

    But are they really?

    The most common corporate values are usually some combination of

    • Integrity
    • Respect
    • Teamwork
    • Quality
    • and the biggest value of all….Innovation.

    If you have a product or service that is somewhat dangerous, ‘Safety’ usually joins the list as well.

    But what does this list of qualities really mean? If we didn’t have this list would it meant that we don’t want to work together, or achieve good things, or be honest, or try to do better?

    No, all of that pretty much go without saying. In fact, what we find more and more is that this process of defining corporate values is pretty much useless on its own.

    To give you an even more obvious example of the lack of impact that corporate values in isolation can make, let’s look at two very different organizations.

    Two very different organizations

    Let’s compare Vancity, a Credit Union in Vancouver that prides itself on an authentic approach to localized financial, social and environmental well being, and Transcanada, a major energy company developing and operating some of the largest fossil fuel pipelines in North America.

    You might be surprised to learn that both organizations share the same corporate values of Integrity, Innovation and Responsibility [1].

    How is that possible when their brands and culture are almost polar opposites in every way?

    It shows that Values are only the start, not the end of defining what makes your organization meaningful. Vancity itself has a brand that goes beyond a statement of values. When they say “Make good money” we get it.

    So where do you go from there?

    Beyond mission, vision and values

    At Cause+Affect, our brand process has been designed to provide our clients with a “Cultural Compass” – a set of tools for aligning and inspiring staff and helping leadership make decisions.

    Mission, Vision and Values form a valuable part of that compass, but the key is moving beyond those tools to find the essence of the organization that belongs to it and it alone.

    One of the key “products” of this process is the manifesto.

    The Manifesto – the words behind the values

    The term alone scares some of our clients as it brings to mind something dangerously political.

    But as we use it, the manifesto is an opportunity to share not only the “what” but the “how” and –most importantly – the “why” you do what you do, with the people that matter most to you.

    It’s also an opportunity to develop your brand’s tone of voice and personality.

    Not to oversell its importance, but the manifesto pretty much sums up your entire brand in a snapshot.

    The many types of manifestos

    We have seen many different types of manifestos over the years. The important thing to note is that there is no one way to do them.

    A manifesto can be 10 lines or 100. It can be a poem, an essay, a bunch of words. It could even be a collection of photographs, or song lyrics. The important thing is that it matters to you.

    Some of the manifestos we’ve written, including our own

    Back in 2006, we developed a brand for the Globe Foundation of Canada called EPIC focused on a more sustainable approach to consumer products. We worked closely with their internal team to produce a manifesto titled, “A new narrative for a new world”.

    EPIC Manifesto

    Just last year, we worked with the staff at Modo to produce a manifesto as part of a brand evolution process. Over the last five years we have helped them evolve from their former advocacy space to adopt a comfortable role in a values-led consumer landscape. The opportunity to go back to their roots and share more about what they care about most was more than welcome by all.


    And lastly, we find our own manifesto hot off the presses, something that has taken us 12 years to get around to writing. We hope it says to you what it says to us. And we’d love to hear your thoughts.


    [1] Transcanada has further values of Collaboration and Responsibility. Which means Vancity clearly doesn’t value those things. Source: Vancity’s Values and Transcanada’s Values.

  • What Branding can Learn from Architecture

    14_Opening Night 1Branding isn’t really a traditional vocation that you go to school for. Sure, there are some programs out there but most people in branding find their way there from other disciplines. 

    I would argue that the majority of those people come from either a communications or graphic design background. For the writers, branding is a storytelling exercise where the focus tends to be on the message above all else. For graphic designers, brand is usually a collection of aesthetic decisions including logos, colours, images and fonts. If a process is too heavily dominated by one or the other you can usually tell, and in many cases achieving holistic brand experiences is a challenge.

    Jane and I arrived in the brand world from a background in architecture. This journey was unexpected but seems like a natural progression as we look back. For us, architecture was a playground for human interaction. And we were happiest when that playground was layered with some greater message, meaning and purpose. This led us to the design of branded spaces including restaurants, museums and gallery exhibitions, retail interiors, even airplanes.

    From there it was fairly straightforward to grow the brand experience from spatial to graphic design and writing, etc as most of these assets were already present within the spatial solution. See, we approach the design of a brand as a system of human interactions and experiences with many layers and scales, just like an architectural space. This is also why we often use the term ‘culture’ instead of brand when we describe our approach.

    Culture, for us, is a shared way of doing something with passion, and brand is really just the facilitation and communication of that unique culture. You should be able to build it, feel it, touch it, smell it, live with it. Every touchpoint should affect your feelings and perceptions, and influence your relationship with the brand as a whole.

    These days, we don’t design nearly as many spaces as we used to. What we do now is choreograph culture. We work with companies and organizations to manifest the things that make them special and develop experiences that show those traits off to the people that matter most to them.

    So we still think as designers of space. But they’re cultural spaces. And they exist primarily in the mind.

    -Steven Cox-

  • Introducing the new PechaKucha Night Producer: Becki Chan!

    PechaKucha_Vancovuer03As you likely know, we at Cause+Affect have relinquished control of PechaKucha Night Vancouver. What you may not know is that we were as in the dark as you about what would happen next!

    Many groups and individuals applied to PechaKucha Headquarters in Tokyo for the right to produce this landmark event. We can’t imagine their decision was easy, but it only makes sense that they selected…….

    Becki Chan!!

    Becki Chan is a multidisciplinary designer working in jewellery, public art, interior andspatial design. She’s a maker of things, an event organizer and overall busy, creative person.

    She’s also a previous Cause+Affect team member, a great friend and was a key part of the team that produced PechaKucha Night Vancouver for five years before moving to Toronto to serve as the lead spatial designer at Bruce Mau Design. Now she’s back and ready to shake things up with an event and audience she knows intimately.

    We don’t know exactly what she has planned, but we know it will be great. To hear the breaking news and continue to keep up with everything PechaKucha Night Vancouver, sign up for the NEW newsletter at And the new Twitter account.

    We’ll see you at the next PechaKucha Night!

    Congratulations, Becki!