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Barbara Crook and Dan Greenberg Share Their Advice On How To Repair The World

The Dean’s Philos Award recognized individuals who have demonstrated outstanding philanthropic achievement and social commitment. This award was established in 2004 on the Telfer School of Management’s 35th Anniversary.


We’re both grateful to have grown up in, been educated in and live in a bilingual and multicultural country that has a deep Indigenous heritage. Because of our good fortune, we’ve long believed we have an obligation to give back to our community. When Dan was a student at the Telfer School in the early 1980s, the concept of corporate social responsibility made a lifelong impression on him. Later on, the Jewish principle of tikkun olam, which in Hebrew means repairing the world, became a beacon to guide our life together.

The idea behind tikkun olam is to do something small every day to mend the damage you see around you. While we’re fortunate to be able to contribute financially to causes we value, we believe our society sometimes pays too much attention to big donations. A million-dollar gift may get the headlines, but Canadians should also be excited by the idea of a million working people parting with some of their hard-earned money to fund causes and charities important to them.

Here’s what we mean. The Royal Ottawa Centre for Mental Health gives out Inspiration Awards each year. One winner a few years ago was a woman who had been treated at the Royal and decided to give back. A new Canadian who worked as a cleaner, she managed to volunteer her time and contribute $500 a year to the organization. Her shining example shows us that the truest measure of giving is not size but giving in a manner that is most meaningful and appropriate to the giver at that stage in their life.

This way of looking at giving is especially relevant to Telfer School students and recent graduates. Yes, you’re just starting out on your business careers and, yes, the coronavirus pandemic is playing havoc with the economy; yet you still can give even though you don't have much, if any, extra money. At the same time, the pandemic has laid bare many breaks in our worlds—small and large, figurative and literal—that cry out for repair.

Start simply, and start now, by finding time in your day for acts of kindness. And if you have options about how to handle a difficult situation, choose the kindest one. Adopt this attitude as you enter and rise in the business world. Show your best personal qualities—fairness, generosity and empathy—in your workplaces. Use them to make your organization more inclusive, your company’s relationships with customers and partners more rewarding, and your business’s operations more sustainable and responsible socially. Tikkun olam.

This is a summary of the interview conducted on September 16th, 2020 with Dan Greenberg and Barbara Crook.