What we do
You see a need to evolve your organization to better realize your purpose and/or to respond to ongoing complexity. Here are some questions we can help you answer.
- What shape do the proposed changes need to create the desired impacts?
- How do you support people to evolve into the new structure?
- What are the unexpected side effects of the evolution (positive and negative)?
If you are considering a significant change in how work is getting done, you need to evaluate if the changes will lead to the improvements you are seeking.
People get stuck in routines and ways of relating to one another that make adaptation and learning hard.
We work with organizational and project partners to explore, research, design, deliver, and evaluate new human architectures to respond to current and future needs These designs include how the work is organized, how decisions are made, what new products or services are necessary, or even what purpose the organizations serves.
Often this results in better workplaces and more effective organizations. Sometimes it doesn't. This is why we take an experimental approach so that complex interactions can be understood and refined. Intervene's approach allows for evidence to be created and transitions to be visible to more people, while recognizing that human systems are messy and complex.
We let you test assumptions before committing time and money.
We bring insight to see possible new paths, capacity development to help your people go down them, and impartial judgment to measure results.
Our focus is on transitions in human relationships within organizations and with external stakeholders.
- on-boarding of new employees
- systemic analysis and mapping of organizations and their challenges
- training programs
interdisciplinary research in all areas of organizational development
design and implementation of customized workshops
- interdepartmental or interdisciplinary collaborations
supervision of teams and organizational processes
- shift to new management practices, such as Agile or Teal
- new relationships with key stakeholders such as suppliers, customers, or contractors
- inter-organizational initiatives, including the design and implementation of innovation labs among organizations, or other kinds of spaces, processes or projects among organizations
- leadership development
Organizational Development & Systemic Management
Systemic design and consulting initiates the self-transforming and self-organizing capacities of organizations to respond and renew to ongoing complexity. Our aim is to initiate and accompany long-term, sustainable learning and renewal processes in order to make systems (organizations) more viable, successful and efficient.
Intervene focuses attention on the tension between the ongoing development of an organization and its desire to reduce complexity internally and externally. As organizations interact with other systems in a dynamic environment, reductions of complexity can hinder or prevent the survival, adaptability and learning of the system. Routines not only limit the available behaviours that an organization can deploy to adapt to its environment, but also the information that it can make use of in decision making and other organizational activities.
Choices reduce the complexity of your interactions with your various environments (what value to create, who to create value for, how to deliver value, who to hire, etc.) but also introduce new choices and new dynamics.
Intervene has worked at a variety of scales on a range of topics and themes. We have chosen to organize the work according to the level of focus, though it should be noted that most work spans organizational boundaries and the distinctions drawn here are intended to facilitate understanding.
Decolonizing Canadian Dance
Systemic Design - Decolonizing Canadian Dance
Attitudes about race and diversity have changed over time in Canada. Unfortunately, many of our institutions and systems continue to embody assumptions that privilege Western European traditions and tastes. This project focuses on national service for dance and a desire to update systems to support more diverse conceptions of dance. The rationale for favoring ballet and Western contemporary dance work is almost entirely historical and much harder to justify today. We need to change how the system operates now but also look to address the effects of past actions. This project, championed by the Canadian Dance Assembly, the national service organization for dance, is an effort to understand and design national service for a decolonized world.
The Canadian Dance Assembly has initiated a multi-year investigation to re-imagine service for the dance sector and an organizing structure to deliver on that service. The intention is to transform service for dance to be radically open, inclusive, and more reflective of Canada’s identity. The initiative aims to identify areas of duplication, gaps in service while creating new opportunities for under-served communities and evolving with the current social and political landscape in order to truly serve the national sector. Intervene was contracted to design the engagement and restructuring process to address calls of duplication and gaps in service.
Music in the Barns
Systemic Consulting - Music in the Barns
Founded in 2008, Music in the Barns transforms spaces into uniquely immersive, live concert experiences. The company has produced critically acclaimed performances, including bringing together over 1000 performers and onlookers of all ages in Toronto's City Centre and presenting Song of Extinction, a film and live score concert premiered in June 22, 2016 at the massive 400,000 sq. ft. Hearn Generating Station as part of Luminato's tenth anniversary season.
This success has not resulted in financial or operational stability. Intervene was commissioned to develop a set of strategies to continue the growth and energy of Music in the Barns while building resilient structures to sustain the work. Establishing strategy in creative organizations can be complex. Work is often project based and involves non-standard ways of operating and organizing. Unorthodox collaborations have been necessary and has resulted in diverse agents coming together in Canada and more recently in New York, where the work is finding new audiences and new homes.
Regent Park Film Festival
Systemic Development - Regent Park Film Festival
Created in 2003, the Regent Park Film Festival is a free community film festival that presents work of relevance to the Regent Park community in Toronto, Ontario. Often, the films address issues such as immigration, inner city life, and multiculturalism. The festival includes local and international works.
Intervene worked with the staff team at the Film Festival to address issues of collaboration, particularly as large numbers of volunteers and presenters were being added to support the annual festival. Unspoken rules and assumptions about how work gets done can undermine desired changes or responses to the external environment. Organizations often don't critically reflect on how they are organized and can imitate models ill-suited to their intentions. The coordination of action provides the most basic source of leverage or advantage. Intervene offered a capacity-building workshop to prepare the team to design and sustain the conditions within which solutions could thrive.
Two distinct research streams inform our practice.
1. Qualitative research on creativity and innovation (ethnographic, organizational research) including observational studies on organizational, team and group processes.
2. Experimental research on interventions and collaborative activity.
The exchange among academically-situated research, experimental approaches to working with groups, and Intervene’s core design practice ensures that engagements are adaptive and reflective of best and next practices in an emerging field.
Jerrold McGrath, President
Through organizational design, leadership development and strategy facilitation, Jerrold supports partner organizations to synthesize their ambitions and the needs of their stakeholders, communities and users. His practice focuses on creating spaces for people to come together so that different things can happen. When we design interactions with intent, we get better outcomes. When we make things special, we survive better because taking pains convinces us that the activity was worth doing.
Jerrold was the previously the Director of Creative Ecology Leadership at Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and the Director of Innovation and Program Partnerships for leadership programming at Banff Centre. He spent 10 years at Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and was tasked with creating opportunities for the Centre's different communities to come together and create together. Indigenous leaders, oil executives, artists, researchers, non-profit leaders, and local community members had different needs and expectations. Designing spaces that didn't privilege particular ways of seeing the world was an ongoing challenge. He had lots of practice.
Jerrold completed his Master's in Strategic Innovation and Change at the University of Denver with a focus on strategy formulation in creative sector organizations.
He has developed partnerships, cross-sector collaborations and development programs to leverage the strengths of various sectors in addressing complex, systems-level social and cultural issues (hopelessness, economic inequality, city building, etc.). He has also directed the creation of leadership and entrepreneurial programs that prepare individuals, project teams, and organizations to connect with other sectors, organize to leverage digital creation and consumption, benefit from greater diversity in audiences and creators, while setting a point of view and a path forward. Jerrold is based in Toronto.
Gerald Bartels, Vice-President, Research and Innovation
Gerald Bartels is a creativity researcher exploring organizational creativity and innovation processes from a communicative perspective.
His research projects are based on modern, ethnographic approaches and include diverse, international organizational settings, such as aerospace and automotive engineering companies, comedy and art festivals, community engagement centres, creativity and innovation centres, as well as entrepreneurial undertakings.
The projects have been funded by the Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Doctoral Scholarships Program and the Insight Grant Program of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).
Gerald holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in music, law and the social sciences; his doctoral thesis has been supervised by faculty members of Université de Montréal, Canada, and St. Gallen University, Switzerland.
Before immigrating to Canada, Gerald worked for a non-profit organization affiliated with the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning; a leading international aerospace and aeronautics company, and served as a ministerial advisor for a provincial government in Germany. He also worked as a consultant for a European-based corporate communication and strategic management firm.
At Intervene, Gerald applies systemic management approaches, organizational design and interaction analysis to help clients identify suitable organizational structures. In collaboration with the team and clients, he determines suitable communication and interaction architecture that enables organizations to deal with decision-making processes and operationally vital issues in a timely and effective manner. Throughout engagements, he emphasizes the analysis of the various communication and interaction processes and supports an organization’s systematic decision making.
Gerald presents regularly at international conferences and his work is published in academic journals and book chapters.
Gerald also teaches graduate courses and seminars in interdisciplinary research methods, organizational studies and creativity, and leadership ethics.
Gerald is based in Calgary, Alberta.
Network of Networks
Different projects require different collaborators and we are intensely proud of the people willing to work with us. Below are some examples of the exceptional people we bring to bear on client challenges and opportunities. Our process facilitators and content experts are drawn from diverse sectors and reflect the interdisciplinarity at the core of our work. Unorthodox collaborations are often necessary to understand and shift the complex relationships that define the space for a change. We draw on expertise in organizational design and development, management, leadership, coaching, change management, community development, ethnographic research, marketing, documentary film, theatre, culture change and more.
Nova Bhattacharya (sample project: Decolonizing Canadian Dance)
Nova Bhattacharya studied bharatnatyam in Toronto with Menaka Thakkar. An eloquent performer, she is described by the press as “sly and dreamily contemplative” (Now Magazine), a “contained goddess” (Globe & Mail), and a “mischievous visitor from another world…” (Märksiche Allemeine). Her choreographic language investigates contemporary exploration of bharatnatyam’s mult-disciplinary techniques, diving into poetic, metaphoric, and mythic exaltations of the human spirit. She has created works for the Canada Dance Festival, Dancemakers, Tarragon Theatre, Toronto Dance Theatre, and others. The desire to integrate her practice into contemporary Canadian cultural expression, continues to take her along an exhilarating path of exploration and collaboration with a wide range of artists, including Peggy Baker, Dana Gingras, Ed Hanley, Mika Kurosawa, Marc Parent, and José Navas. In 2008, she founded Nova Dance, a company dedicated to creating a professional context for Indian classical dancers and to reflecting the evolution of bharatnatyam in the Canadian milieu. In 2012 she received the Victor Martyn Lynch-Staunton Award for artistic achievement in dance, and in 2016, the Summerworks’ Outstanding Direction Award. The jury citation lauded her “radical work that pulls apart notions of power, tradition, and ritual, puncturing exoticism and querying the contemporary."
Amy Gottung (Sample Project: Long Winter)
Amy Gottung is an arts coach and consultant focused on advancing strategies, knowledge, and innovation in the creative sector. Her current client base spans from Vancouver to Newfoundland, and reflects organizational structures ranging from DIY youth collectives to leading regional institutions, and projects that include epic theatre cycles, inter-arts festivals, and animated films, among many others.
Over the past decade, Amy has held leading positions in management, production, and fundraising departments for a range of arts and non-profit organizations in the U.S. and Canada. As a producer, she has managed teams in the hundreds in the creation of operas, television series, and multi-media events for platforms ranging from live broadcast media, to stadium concerts, to international festivals.
Amy began her career in broadcast media, cutting her teeth as a shooter, editor and host for Plum TV, a former U.S. resort-area national television network. Demonstrating a strength for interview and non-fiction narrative, Amy subsequently worked as an integral member of core production and research teams at two leading documentary production companies, PBS and Florentine Films. As a video and podcast producer, Amy has created segments for digital media outlets including the Toronto Star/Kit Magazine, Sweet Potato Chronicles, and Bell Fibe TV, in addition to a number of corporate and creative clients. Amy holds a Bachelor of Music (classical voice and English Literature) from McGill University and a SSHRC-funded Master of Arts in Musicology from the University of Toronto. She is an active singer, educator, facilitator, and artist. Her primary medium is interrogation.
Stephanie Markowitz (sample project: Hope Decoded)
Stephanie Markowitz is a Toronto-based adult educator, video maker and performer. She recently finished a musical documentary that explores the space of the Jewish summer camp through the music of a band called Mermaid Café. Her performance art practice with feminist art rock band VAG HALEN has taken her to venues and stages internationally including the Venice Biennale and the Bournemouth Arts by the Sea Festival. In 2013, Stephanie completed her MEd at the University of Toronto (OISE) in Adult Education and Community Development. She has facilitated community reference panels for St. Joseph’s Health Centre, St. Michael’s Hospital and a Quality of Care Information Protection consultation in partnership with MASS LBP. Over the last two years, Stephanie has been faculty at the Banff Centre and has designed and facilitated leadership and organizational development programs for a wide range of clients including the Toronto Arts Council, The New Fundamentals Program, the Ambassadors Program and the Peter Lougheed Leadership College.
Jacob Zimmer (sample project: New Fundamentals: Leadership for the Creative Ecology)
Jacob Zimmer is a theatre maker, process designer, facilitator and dramaturge. Born in Cape Breton and growing up in Halifax, Jacob has shown work and facilitated conferences across the country. Jacob studied at Simon Fraser University’s School for the Contemporary Arts and in 2004 was a technical intern with The Wooster Group and studied Viewpoints, Suzuki and Composition with Anne Bogart and the SITI Company in New York. Jacob received the 2008 Ken McDougall Award for emerging directors.
Jacob founded Small Wooden Shoe, a company that engages with the world around us and its history in a curiously critical manner while maintaining the need to perform – to step up and to entertain. We create spaces to reduce alienation while admitting difference.
Jacob was a process designer and faculty member in Leadership at Banff Centre for the Arts and Creativity. He organized the UnConference on the Future(s) of Toronto Performance and has facilitated unconference events for PACT, Harbourfront Centre and LMDA as well as Small Wooden Shoe and Dancemakers.
Jacob worked extensively as a dramaturge with Dancemakers and the Centre for Creation in Toronto and in an on-going dramaturgical collaboration with Public Recordings as well as having been a co-director of HUB 14, a rehearsal and performance studio in Toronto.
Jacob has led performance workshops for theatre makers, dancers and choreographers, young people and non-arts professionals. As a featured speaker he gave the keynote address at Performance Creation Canada in Halifax (2008); spoke at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary (2010); Performance Creation Canada in Armstrong BC (2010); and has been an invited panelist for the Literary Managers and Dramaturges of the Americas, Canadian Stage, Canadian Dance Association, Society for Dance History Scholars and the Toronto Fringe Festival among others.