Community & Current Events

Michael MacMillan and Alison Loat: Charity founders

By: Ann Douglas

Photography by John Hryniuk Author: Canadian Living Credits: Photography by John Hryniuk

Community & Current Events

Michael MacMillan and Alison Loat: Charity founders

By: Ann Douglas
Names: Michael MacMillan and Alison Loat
Location: Toronto, Ont.
Job: Co-founders of Samara

Sometimes it takes two (or more) people to build a dream. That was certainly the case for Michael MacMillan and AlisonLoat, co-founders of Samara, a Toronto-based nonprofit for Canadians of all political stripes (including no stripes at all) who want to get their fellow citizens more politically engaged and informed.

Their dream
When Alison, a nonprofit entrepreneur and strategist, met Michael, the former CEO and chairman of the media company Alliance Atlantis, and heard about his desire to reignite the passion for democracy amongst his fellow Canadians, she promised to help him. The two went on to launch Samara in 2009 (the name is inspired by the winged "helicopter" seeds that fall from maple trees).  

"We became fellow travellers in this enterprise. It wasn't just my idea anymore; it was our idea," Michael recalls.

Samara's first and still best-known project was its series of exit interviews with former MPs about Canadian politics and political culture. Another project, Democracy Talks, helps organizations impart a deeper understanding of politics to young people and newcomers to Canada. And Samara will soon be launching the Samara Index, an annual checkup on the health of our democracy. The pair recently co-authored Tragedy in the Commons: What Members of Parliament Reveal About Canadian Politics (Random House Canada, $30), which will be released in April.

Their secret
When looking for potential allies to help build your dream, cast the net widely. "Allow yourself to experience the serendipities that can occur," says Michael.

Veronika Litinski, senior adviser for MaRS, is a passionate supporter of seeking out like-minded individuals. "Don't think you have to do it alone," she says.

We have more stories of extraordinary Canadians.
                                       
This story was originally titled "Meet the Dreamers" in the December 2013 issue.
           
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Community & Current Events

Michael MacMillan and Alison Loat: Charity founders

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