Courtesy Cindy Butler
When Allison Deer learned she had been unanimously accepted for the alumni board position she had applied to just a few weeks before, she felt honoured to join the team at Cape Breton University (CBU).
Her acceptance to this role is no surprise to those who know her. “Allison has always been a leader,” said Isadore Day, CEO at Bimaadzwin, where Deer works as a senior project advisor. “She’s somebody who gets things done one step at a time. And sometimes those (people) aren’t very loud or visible. She is so humble.”
Her passion, talent, and commitment made her the ideal candidate to join, as she has spent 40 years developing innovative solutions to issues faced by Indigenous communities across the territory.
“We had an extremely high number of applicants to our board of directors this year,” said Brandon Ellis, president of the board. “Allison was a standout just because of the skills that she brought.
“Just in terms of her leadership and cooperation and relationship building. I found she was very strong.”
Having studied a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) at CBU, Deer works to see problems through various lenses, which has allowed her to develop sustainable strategies for issues in sectors like Indigenous healthcare.
“Our consulting firm (Bimaadzwin) is focused on health, governance and economic development,” she explained. “We believe that these are the key to reconstituting Indigenous nationhood.”
Through her role as project manager of Bimaadzwin’s partnership with the international pharmaceutical company, Boehringer Ingelheim Canada, Deer has developed a business attitude that centres cultural safety.
“It’s Indigenous people helping Indigenous patients, with this model of care,” Deer explained.
Deer has developed an Indigenous Health Policy Framework which acts as the guiding principles that direct business objectives towards sustainable goals that uphold human rights. This framework grew into another project, Pathways Indigenous Health Collaborations.
“The purpose of pathways is really to close the healthcare gap through collaborations with Indigenous communities at the lead, creating their own solutions, not us prescribing solutions,” Deer noted. “Through these collaborations, the idea is to always improve healthcare systems and better healthcare outcomes.”
In 2020, Deer launched four pilot projects in various Indigenous communities across the territory that build on these guiding principles.
At the same time, she’s spent the last year mentoring emerging MBA students at the university, where Deer has instilled her unique approach to advocacy and business, showing the strength in connection and collaboration as well as giving back.
Deer believes her new role as vice president of the board will further advance the work she does mentoring and supporting Indigenous communities, as this position involves fostering connections with alumni at CBU. This distinct opportunity has allowed her to develop and strengthen networks and build business practices rooted in relationships.
“Relationship building and stakeholder relations would be two of the skills that she really stood out in,” Ellis noted. “Allison is up there among the top of our directors.”
“You know how she gets all this done?” Day asked. “She said, ‘Isadore, don’t worry about the big things. It’s all the little things. You take care of all the little things and they accumulate to create something that’s worthwhile in the end.’”