‘Leadership is action’ – it’s a maxim that perhaps best sums up the essence of how we’ve always gone about our work at The Counselling Foundation of Canada, since Frank Lawson formally established the organization in 1959. In the decades since, the Foundation has managed to grow its influence and continually re-frame its mission in response to the needs of those agencies and communities that benefit most from our assistance.
Among the most important grants that the Foundation awarded during Frank Lawson’s lifetime were those directed towards university career centres. He felt this is where the Foundation’s influence would be most profound while improving technical skills was a secondary concern. The Foundation would fund the start-up costs for these career centres on the understanding that the university would, one, promote a psychological approach to counselling and, two, assume the financial responsibility for the centre once it was up and running.
In first establishing the Foundation, Mr. Lawson sought to create and enrich counselling programs and improve the technical skills of counsellors. He was particularly determined to develop and pilot grant opportunities that would elevate ideas of self-worth and the importance of work among young people. Grant applications were subjected to rigorous standards and those approved were considered a solid investment in the provision of counselling services to young people.
After Frank Lawson’s death in 1984, and with the establishment of university career centres having already taken place, two of Frank Lawson’s children, Donald Lawson and Jean Hamm assumed leadership of the Foundation. Over the years, the Foundation’s mandate has evolved and expanded to focus more fully on efforts that would contribute to the total development of the individual. Counselling, mentoring and volunteering in the community were all developed as pillars of the program, while also maintaining a large role in the professional development of counsellors. While still leveraging their strengths in counselling and career development, the Foundation has expanded the scope of its mission to include factors that affect future employability, which helps address a number of issues among youth and adults alike.
It is testament to Frank Lawson’s vision and determination to legitimize the field of counselling that it is today embraced by secondary and post-secondary education institutions, as well as community-based organizations. It is the Foundation’s willingness to take an idea and nurture it – to let it grow and evolve naturally, and pass the responsibility on to others – that distinguishes The Counselling Foundation of Canada.