Curious Public’s Chief Operations Officer and Project Director, Tracey Sobers has had a big career in communications and public service. She’s had senior roles in the Office of the Premier of Ontario, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, and Toronto Metropolitan University. She’s also worked with charitable and nonprofit organizations like the African Relief Committee, Mothercraft, Visions of Science, the African Canadian Children’s Heritage Program, Gilda’s Club of  Greater Toronto and Evergreen Brickworks. 

I spoke to Tracey about how she has led our agency’s initiative, UPLIFT, which gives no-cost marketing and communications support to Canadian nonprofits. But we also talked about why our work matters, and how words can drive good or be weaponized for political gain. 


Shannon Currie: You’ve helped lead Curious Public’s pro-bono initiative, UPLIFT. When you joined the agency, the program was still young. How did it evolve and why? 

Tracey Sobers:  When I joined the agency our President, Lloyd Rang, wanted me to rebrand what was then called the “Karma Project.” So I immediately leaned into the idea of local impact. I wanted the program to acknowledge that doing good work where you are – where you’re standing in your immediate circle – is important. If we all make an impact at the local level, it all adds up to creating positive change for society. I remembered the quote from Bishop Desmond Tutu: “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” And that became our motto. 

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”

SC: Do you think organizations creating local impact get lost in the shuffle? 

TS:. I do. Small nonprofits and charities don’t always get a decent share of charitable donations. I think they can get left behind because there are bigger names that get more attention and therefore a bigger share of public or corporate funding. Small organizations often lack the resources and time to focus on communications. They are so busy just getting the job done.. So UPLIFT helps a smaller organization move the needle by improving their communications and marketing, and it frees up their time to focus on other parts of their operations. 

SC: UPLIFT keeps evolving; this year, we expanded to include all of Canada. Is this exciting to you? What are you hoping for with this change?

TS: It was important to expand the program across Canada to reflect who we are as an organization and that we all come from different parts of the country. I’m excited about the idea of bringing our service through this opportunity to more organizations. So the more we can do to publicize what we have to offer, the greater the chances that we’ll find that one small organization that really needs our help. 

SC: It’s our agency’s practice to go through the UPLIFT applications together to decide which organization should get the support each year. But I’m curious, what do you look for in applications? 

TS: Tangible impact. 

SC: What does that mean?

TS: I’m all about what an organization does and making sure its programs and initiatives matter at the local level. I’m less concerned about what they ask us for in the application because we have a range of services and partners to help meet their goals. Most importantly, I want to know that our work together will help them make that tangible impact.  

SC: Going a bit broader from UPLIFT, why does what we do at Curious Public matter?

TS: It comes down to the fundamentals of communications. Our work matters because it’s about how and why we talk to each other; which further affects how we work together to solve problems. Good communications creates positive change. Talking with purpose will help us address things like climate change, inequality, and other complex challenges that we’re all grappling with. 

I heard a great quote once that encapsulates communications: “Leaders are not only responsible for what they say, they’re also responsible for what other people hear.” We have a responsibility as communicators to make sure the message is heard with its correct intent and the intent for resolution. And that takes skill. So professional communications is about words that carry the intended meaning and create real, positive change. 

SC: Do you think that is a lost concept in the world right now?

TS: These days, a lot of irresponsible leaders use words as weapons. The best example of that is what happened in the U.S. on January 6th. There you have a former president who is only using words for inflammatory impact, and then refusing to take responsibility for the results. 

SC: Do you think it’s possible that this kind of “loose talk” is being used right now as an intentional tactic? As in, walking right up to the line but preserving a kind of plausible deniability? 

TS: Absolutely, I do. I think it’s being used as an intentional tactic to gain power or influence. And, of course, it spills over to how we start to talk to each other. We’re losing the good graces of communication and are becoming a society that doesn’t understand the value of clarity. So that’s also why what we do is important. There is value in the well-written and well-spoken word. There is value in clarity. And you can have clarity and beauty at the same time. 

SC: One of our mantras at Curious Public is “Great words for good people.” We know what the “words” refers to, but how do you qualify “good people”? Who is “good people”?

TS: I think “good people” has two meanings from our perspective as a communications agency. “Good people” means people who understand the value of the written word – the value of good communications and storytelling. But, more importantly, it’s about people who want to have a positive impact. People who have a sense of community, a desire to give back, and who recognize that we all have a role to play in community success.

And, that, of course, brings us back to why UPLIFT is important to Curious Public. It’s all about doing something small to lift us all up.  


To learn more about Curious Public’s UPLIFT pro-bono initiative or to apply, visit our website. We’ve just extended the application period, so UPLIFT will now close September 30th, 2023.