The story of The Counselling Foundation of Canada begins with one man’s mission to improve the lives and livelihood of young people, and its inevitable growth into an organization that helps to promote the work and enhance the impact of community organizations across Canada.
Frank Lawson was a Toronto businessman and stockbroker who volunteered to become Chairman of the YMCA’s Counselling Service at the end of World War II, and he continued to be involved with the service for more than 20 years. At the time of assuming this position, career counselling was a relatively new idea, and the YMCA was Canada’s biggest purveyor of career and employment services. Mr. Lawson was a big proponent. In fact, between Frank Lawson and the Service’s Director, Gerald Cosgrave, the two developed and promoted career counselling theory and programs across Canada in a way that would influence future generations of organizational leaders.
Mr. Lawson believed counselling was a fundamental step to better identifying career paths for young people. He believed that in understanding a person’s motivations that they could be guided towards a suitable career for their temperament and respective interests. He acknowledged three key facets of life in which young people require guidance: they needed to distinguish the kind of work they could do and enjoy; also, many required the necessary education or training to strengthen their abilities; and, finally, young people often required help in dealing with negative attitudes that might otherwise hold them back from pursuing their goals.
It was based on these three guiding principles that Mr. Lawson founded The Counselling Foundation of Canada in 1959, which he directed until his death in 1984. At that time, his son Donald Lawson assumed the Chairmanship at that point and established a Board of Directors that included both family and non-family members to help grow the Foundation and expand its influence. What had been one man’s private foundation assumed a broader mandate and set out to identify projects to which it could dedicate financial support.
Over the year, the Foundation has regularly undertaken strategic planning exercises to review and identify how best to carry out its mission in light of the needs of the time. In 2012, the Board of Directors once again embarked on a strategic planning process to help define how to most effectively direct its efforts in the coming years. The combination of research and findings surfaced during this year-long process allowed for a healthy internal discussion leading the Foundation to clarify its mission, vision, values and guiding principles. The resultant Strategic Plan (adopted in December, 2012) articulates a renewed focus on the career development sphere and an ambitious agenda to work more collaboratively across sectors.
Today, the Foundation pursues those same ideals that Frank Lawson initiated decades ago with the belief that the future of the career counselling and career development field is important for the personal development and economic prosperity of Canadians. The Foundation believes it is important to play a positive influencing role in pushing the field to the next level by providing grants to organizations that have a positive impact on their communities; by working collaboratively with other philanthropic, government and private sector partners; and, by developing programs that are models of success and sharing best practices so that other organizations can readily learn from, adopt and expand their own programming.