Chief Community Builder
Doug Griffiths – Chief Community Builder
Growing up on a ranch outside a small community was a great practical education for Doug Griffiths, giving him a strong work ethic and critical thinking skills. He went on to also acquire an Honours BA Philosophy, followed by a B.Ed, and in 2016 completed the Executive MBA program at the University of Alberta. Education, whether he is learning or teaching, has always been an important aspect of his life. After teaching and ranching for several years, Doug successfully served as an elected Member of the Legislative Assembly in the Province of Alberta for four consecutive terms. In that time, he served in two senior Cabinet portfolios as Minister of Municipal Affairs and Minister of Service Alberta, as well as three junior positions in Agriculture, Finance, and Solicitor General.
Doug retired from politics in January 2015 to actively pursue his passion of helping communities, organizations and businesses grow stronger. In his best-selling book, 13 Ways to Kill Your Community, Doug identifies challenges and opportunities that all our communities face. The lessons that come from those stories are applicable to all types of communities, whether they are towns, organizations, or businesses. His talents include seeing through the lies we tell ourselves, overcoming bad attitudes, targeted and focused tactical planning, communicating with those who are afraid to change, and building enduring prosperity for communities. His passion lies in building strong communities, because within strong communities leadership can succeed, businesses can prosper, and families can find a great quality of life.
Consumer Behaviour Expert
Heather Thomson – Consumer Behaviour Expert
Heather Thomson is the Executive Director of the Alberta School of Business – Centre for Cities and Communities. As one of the founders of the centre, Heather is mentoring the next generation of business innovators while working with leaders in the business community with an emphasis on education, consulting, academic & applied research and industry outreach. Heather also works as a consultant with 13 Ways Inc. a Community Development Firm. Heather delivers business and community assessments, builds community plans that specialize in economic development, local businesses prosperity and beautification. Heather has worked with hundreds of communities and has delivered dozens of keynote presentations across North America.
Prior to her work with the University of Alberta and 13 Ways, Heather has worked at lululemon athletica, ATB Financial and started her career with McDonalds Restaurants. She is passionate about business success and growing the pool of talent to work in this fascinating industry.
Heather is a business advocate and strategist.
A few highlights include:
- Employed hundreds of business students who have worked with more than 2500
organizations in the Edmonton region
- Has secured 1.3 million dollars in funding to support the local business community
recover from the effects of the pandemic
- Helped create the new Centre for Cities and Communities
- Works with national media networks to deliver consumer behaviour research to the
- Serves on the Edmonton Business Association and past member of Old Strathcona
Business Association Economic Recovery Task Force
- Working on her masters in behavioural economics
A forward-thinker in every sense, Heather is of the belief that even the most challenging of
situations can be resolved from an angle of compassion, understanding and collaboration.
Heather is a proud mom of two boys, an avid snowboarder, and an advocate for gender parity
and equity in the workforce… especially for working parents.
Head of Digital
Ashley Szakal – Head of Digital
Ashley Szakal is a Digital Expert. She works with communities to enhance their digital presence from branding, to social media and website development. Her focus is to create meaningful experiences through design. Her team of experienced developers, programmers and SEO analysts have developed hundreds of successful website projects in a variety of industries. For the past 4 years, their focus has been on Municipal website design.
Before 13 Ways, Ashley worked as a Marketing & Corporate Image Manager for 10 years. Her work saw her travel across North America, Europe and Asia to develop global digital marketing strategies.
Ashley is passionate about empowering women and girls within her community. In 2018 she received the Leading Women of Ontario award for her work. She is currently on the board of directors of Girls Inc. of York, and volunteers in summer camps to teach school-aged girls to code.
Courtney Borst – Operations Manager
Courtney Borst started with 13 Ways as the Operations Manager in June 2019. Courtney was previously working for Executive Education at the University of Alberta starting as a Program Administrator for the Government Portfolio. She then filled a temporary position as Program Advisor in the municipality portfolio, then move to a Program Coordinator for the Public portfolio. A few of Courtney’s clients included the Government of Alberta, The Government of the Northwest Territories, The Tlicho Government, and Alberta Health Services. While filling in for the Advisor position Courtney discovered her curiosity and interest for the municipal world and gladly accepted a position with 13 Ways.
Courtney received her Marketing Diploma from Flemming College in Peterborough Ontario, a certificate for Hospitality Management from The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) and finally her Wedding Planner Certificate. Her passion for learning, change and organization has pushed and guided her to new challenges and adventures in her career and personal life.