top of page

Rainforest Circles: Empowering Leadership

Updated: Jun 5

The Calgary Innovation Coalition (CIC) has always been at the forefront of fostering innovation and entrepreneurial growth within the Calgary ecosystem. One of our recent successes is the funding and support of the Rainforest Circles program, a groundbreaking initiative designed to cultivate leadership, diversity, and trust within our community. Here's an overview of the program and the remarkable impact it has had on participants and the broader ecosystem. 

Background and Purpose 

The Rainforest Circles program emerged from the insights gained through the Rainforest Scorecard Assessments in 2021 and 2022, which underscored the need for a more diverse and inclusive innovation ecosystem in Calgary. In response, leadership and organizational behavior experts were engaged to reimagine leadership characteristics that align with the Rainforest Social Contract. The result was the Rainforest Leadership Commitment, which highlights five key leadership behaviors: 

  1. Inquiring with curiosity 

  1. Advocating and amplifying others 

  1. Nurturing and fostering connections 

  1. Speaking with candor 

  1. Leading with generosity and compassion 

The Rainforest Circles Experience 

Launched in 2023, Rainforest Circles is a seven-week, relationship-based learning experience designed to explore these reimagined leadership characteristics. The program kicked off with a large group meeting where participants, ranging from aspiring founders to experienced entrepreneurs, were divided into small cohorts. Each cohort engaged in weekly meetings to discuss curated pre-work centered around the five key leadership areas. 

Participants took turns hosting these meetings, which provided opportunities to practice the leadership skills they were learning. Additionally, two larger group meet-ups were held to hear from leadership experts, culminating in a final celebration of the group's learning journey. 

Impact and Feedback 

The 2023 Spring pilot of Rainforest Circles saw participation from 60 diverse members of the ecosystem. These individuals represented a broad spectrum of occupations, including entrepreneurs, educators, students, and new immigrants. The program facilitated the building of trusting relationships and the development of leadership behaviors that support more equitable and inclusive cultures. 

Key Outcomes: 

  • Positive Participant Experience: 91% of participants rated their experience highly, with 97% recommending it to others. 

  • Behavioral Changes: Significant improvements were seen in leadership behaviors, such as nurturing connections (+15.1%), speaking with candor (+10.3%), and leading with generosity and compassion (+9.4%). 

  • Diverse Engagement: Participants came from varied backgrounds, enhancing the program's richness and the ecosystem's inclusivity. 

Participant Actions Post-Program

  • Embracing empathy and compassion in leadership 

  • Enhancing communication skills 

  • Fostering allyship and advocacy 

  • Increasing self-awareness and addressing biases 

  • Committing to continuous learning and growth 

Looking Ahead 

The success of the Rainforest Circles program highlights the importance of continuous learning and community engagement in developing effective leadership. Participants expressed interest in deeper dives into current topics and exploring new areas such as organizational design, conflict resolution, equity, diversity, and inclusion. 

As we move forward, the Calgary Innovation Coalition remains committed to supporting programs like Rainforest Circles that foster a more connected, inclusive, and innovative ecosystem. By investing in leadership development, we are not only enhancing individual capabilities but also strengthening the entire community's fabric. 

Join Rainforest Circles  

We invite you to be part of this transformative journey. Whether you are an aspiring entrepreneur, an established leader, or simply someone passionate about making a difference, Rainforest Circles offers a unique opportunity to grow, connect, and lead. Together, we can build a more inclusive and vibrant Calgary innovation ecosystem. 


For more information about the Rainforest Circles program, please contact Meghan Donohoe at and Alicia Wight at

2 views0 comments


bottom of page