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Heather Barnhouse, '98 BSc, '03 MBA, '04 LLB
Creating Culture and Community
Where we Live, Work and Play

Community can be described as a feeling of fellowship with others; the result of sharing common attitudes, interests and goals.

Heather Barnhouse, '98 BSc, '03 MBA, '04 LLB
Creating Culture and Community
Where we Live, Work and Play


Culture can be described as the characteristics and knowledge of a particular group of people. For entrepreneurs who follow their passions, finding their community goes a long way towards establishing a culture for their ventures.

Unlike finance, accounting, marketing etc., few preparatory courses exist to fully prepare entrepreneurs for the challenges and obstacles they will face on their journeys, because each path is so unique and personalized for the individual entrepreneur. For them, the importance of finding community is paramount. Much is written about the disproportionate negative mental health repercussions caused by isolation and loneliness experienced by entrepreneurs. Having a community of support eases these feelings, and allows entrepreneurs to build resilience and focus on the multi-faceted requirements of building their businesses.

In the Jan/Feb 2019 Harvard Business Review, Gary Pisano wrote “The Hard Truth about Innovative Cultures”, which has a strong overlay to the sense of community relevant here. He indicates that “innovative cultures are generally depicted as pretty fun. When I asked the same managers to describe such cultures, they readily provided a list of characteristics identical to those extolled by management books: tolerance for failure, willingness to experiment, psychological safety, highly collaborative and nonhierarchical. And research supports the idea that these behaviors translate into better innovative performance.”

I see a strong overlap between the culture of innovation and community building, for entrepreneurs both within the businesses they are forming, as well as the community that they try to establish. VMS plays an important role in this ecosystem in Edmonton. If entrepreneurs can find the right culture within their community to help them focus on their businesses, not only will the businesses innovate and become stronger; the entire community will be strengthened. VMS’ approach to building mentorship teams with diverse backgrounds challenges the entrepreneurs and Mentors alike. The coaching approach endorsed by VMS allows for continuous improvement, and innovation the process.

I see a strong overlap between the culture of innovation and community building

Dentons’ sponsorship and participation in the VMS community aligns well with community building and innovative cultures. As a global business law firm, Dentons shares the view of the importance of building community and culture, both locally and within the widespread ecosystems businesses occupy. We work diligently with our clients to help them problem solve, strategize and execute on their plans to foster their own innovation and realize growth while building legacy. Dentons’ lawyers are mainstays in their own local communities, both in their area of practice and in a pro bono capacity. The vast number of initiatives that our lawyers participate in strengthens the community of the firm and the presence and commitment to innovation and giving back to the communities in which we live, work and play. One of the ways we hope to be able to continue to do so is through more ties to VMS—a team that mirrors our values of culture and community.

Heather Barnhouse
VMS Mentor since 2019
VMS Excellent Education Committee member
Representing Dentons’ partnership with VMS