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Partner Q + A: getting to know Scott Shaw

Posted by carlyorourke

Scott Shaw joined the SVP Partner team in April, 2015. He was the President and CEO of Sutton Group Realty Services for 32 years, and in September of this year, stepped into the Director role. Scott is now able to spend more time in the philanthropic realm where his passion for helping others is truly making an impact in Vancouver’s social sector.

As SVP’s Manager of Communications and Engagement, it’s my privilege to get to know the people who power SVP’s mission, our Partners. My first ever SVP Vancouver prospect meeting was with Scott. After our initial introductions, we began to talk about travel, family and life in general – something we both could have chatted about for hours – before we dived into SVP’s impact in the community with the help of its Partners and dedicated Investees. Scott assured me that even before we met, he’d already decided that SVP was a sound investment for both his donation and his most valuable gift, time.

Since that initial meeting, Scott has jumped into SVP with both feet, as a volunteer, Co-Funder, and Co-Lead Partner for one of SVP’s newest Investees, Social Diversity for Children (SDC) – an innovative, up and coming non-profit whose mission is to provide quality learning programs to empower children with disabilities from all socioeconomic backgrounds.

Keep reading to learn where Scott invested his allowance as a young boy and the unique place he gets his “think on”.

How were you introduced to SVP? What path brought you here?

It’s been an interesting path getting to this point. Over the past two decades, my wife Marion has dedicated herself to founding and servicing a couple of innovative, locally-based non-profit organizations. I give her full credit for being my “North Star”, guiding me toward the path of volunteerism. I’ve discovered a great deal of personal satisfaction from charitable work, but my involvement has been mostly behind the scenes. The responsibilities of running a number of companies really limited the time I could spend on these activities. Now I’ve reached a point where I can delegate day-to-day business operations, and I’m very interested in spending much more time helping others on social venture projects.

During a business lunch this spring, a mutual friend, Randy Garg, introduced me by email to Norm Francis and Paul Geyer. Paul and I connected in person at Paul’s favourite Waves Coffee and he gave me the background of SVP. Within an hour I asked, “Where do I sign?”  Later, Gina Ungaro came to my office and I started my SVP journey right there.

What is your favourite part about being involved in SVP?

I really like the thought of getting hands-on with a meaningful project and helping a team to convert plans that may exist on paper or discussion stage into action. The SVP community is a great environment for this.

What did you dream of being when you were a kid?

Like many young kids, I dreamed of doing something that looked like fun to do and helpful for my family and friends, like becoming a fireman or a train engineer. Being a train engineer won out because I could make my toy train go anywhere and deliver anything, if I had enough track. I spent a lot of my allowance buying new track!

What do you think is the biggest barrier to creating social change?

It seems to be human nature that most people are resistant to change. We get comfortable in our ways and seeing things only from our perspective. We all need to make the conscious effort to step out of our comfort zone from time to time and see things from the point of view of others, and act accordingly. The results are often surprisingly positive. Each of us can share these positive experiences with others. This is the best way to overcome barriers and strengthen the foundation of social change.

What is the most memorable experience you’ve had with SVP so far?

I’m new to the SVP community so it’s all an invigorating experience for me. I enjoy being a Co-Lead Partner for Social Diversity for Children, getting exposure to the Opportunities Committee and learning about the Co-Funding process to advance new opportunities. I can’t wait to do more.

What social issue are you most passionate about?

A lot of my current non-profit charitable activities take place in Canada’s poorest district, the downtown eastside of Vancouver. I see many people who have given up hope, and when hope is gone, the future is dismal. As a bare minimum, every person needs a safe shelter, proper nutrition and more importantly some form of social network that offers positive support. I take it as my personal mission to see that some of these peoples’ lives are improved to the stage where they can regain a sense of value and hope.

What do you look forward to on the weekends?

At this point in my life, I look at each of the seven days of a week as an opportunity to do something interesting and meaningful, either by myself or with friends and family. Every workday can be a weekend day if you do something you really enjoy.

Which non-profit organization do you wish everyone knew about?

I’m going to be very partisan here and mention a non-profit I’ve supported for many years, the locally-based C.A.R.E. Society. Their members are all volunteers and have regular programs designed to bring seniors living in lower-income residences out of isolation. But they also have an innovative program that assists students to travel overseas for humanitarian work. The students from UBC, SFU and Langara that have undertaken this work find the experience positively life-changing. As one example, a young student who introduced a simple water purification device to a Ugandan community a few years back has refined the device and it’s now in use bringing pure water to people in 30 countries. We have several hundred of these kinds of stories.

What is your favourite place in Vancouver?

Besides home, which will always be my most favorite place, I’ve modified a small ferry boat that used to ply our local waters into a floating office and personal creative centre. It’s a great “get-away” location to plan interesting projects for the future. A floating think tank.

What are you known for professionally? What do you have a knack for?

I’ve been fortunate to be self-motivated and really enjoy bringing people together to work in a strong and innovative team environment. I’ve never been satisfied walking a well-trodden path, and I treat every venture, even those that don’t work out, as a learning experience that I can build on for the future.

What are you most passionate about professionally and personally? What excites you about your work and the contribution you can make?

I’m most passionate about “time”. The most valuable thing we have in this life is time. We can earn more money, we can gain more friends, but the amount of time we have is finite. I think we have to find a balance in our lives and apportion our time wisely. And this is a very different balance for each of us, depending on our circumstances and the stage of life we’re at. I’ve tried to spend my time wisely raising a family, building businesses and developing my relationships. Perhaps I can make my best contribution to society by helping others spend their time wisely.

I encourage people to spend a meaningful portion of their time on non-profit activities that have the possibility to benefit our community in a positive way, even if only in a small way. I really believe in the “ripple effect”. Individual stones we throw into the water may be small, but the ripples they produce travel great distances.  It’s the possibility for major social change by the cumulative effect of many small, positive and individual actions that I find most exciting. And I look forward to tossing a lot more stones into the water!