What we Do

HeartWood has a unique approach to Community Youth Development because we offer leadership training programs to youth and we also offer professional development workshops and services to adults. Our direct work with young people keeps us relevant and connected to issues and approaches critical to youth, while our capacity-building and consulting work increases the ability of organizations and government to reach a diversity of young people across the province.

What We Offer

Youth Leadership Programs

Our youth leadership programs provide experiential learning experiences for youth to develop their personal leadership qualities through teamwork, community action, outdoor adventure, and helping others. We currently offer the following programs for youth:


Skills2Action is for Nova Scotians, aged 14-17, interested in taking action to make positive change in their community. Participants spend 3 days together to develop their skills to make a positive change through action projects related to their passions.

S2A occurs three times a year, and youth can participate in one, two or all three weekends to support their project and skill development. Within a supportive environment, youth learn about personal leadership and community involvement, and are given tools to conduct their own community development projects.  Youth leave Skills2Action energized, enthusiastic, and with a plan to use their skills and ideas to make a difference in their communities.


Taking the Lead

Taking the Lead is a leadership project for girls to support them to do community service learning projects that address the challenges and barriers that girls and young women face. This multi-month-long program includes team- and skill-building, personal asset-mapping and community asset-mapping.

Professional Development and Capacity Building for adults
Professional Development and Capacity Building for Adults

Our Professional Development and Capacity Building Programs supports adults who want to meaningfully engage youth. We currently offer the following programs:

Leading Innovative and Engaging Youth Programs

This four-day training is for people who are interested in learning facilitation and group dynamic processes to enhance their abilities to meaningfully engage youth. Participants share best practices, techniques, fun games and activities that engage youth, deepen their experiences, and enhance and build on their strengths and gifts. The concept of leadership, using an appreciative approach and service learning, is explored as ways to engage youth.

All In: Effective Tools for Positive Youth Group Development

Games, initiatives, and activities are excellent ways to actively engage youth in positive group experiences. This two-day workshop will build a deeper understanding of effectively moving groups through the stages of group development by facilitating fun, active and appropriate games and initiatives. This workshop will explore group development theory and provide concrete activities that are exciting, active and challenging for young people.

Mentoring In The Outdoors – NSOLD Program

Mentoring in the Outdoors provides support to adults and older youth interested in building their skills and experience for working with young people in the outdoors. The approach of outdoor facilitation that is used in Mentoring in the Outdoors recognizes nature as a powerful teacher and focuses on helping youth learn from, and engage in, their experiences and the experiences that nature provides. Various aspects that are explored include leadership, youth development, safety, mentoring and youth-adult partnerships in order to create and facilitate positive outdoor experiences which empower and encourage participant learning. This module is tailored to participants’ needs and can be one-day or longer.

Organizational Development and Systems Change
Since 2004, HeartWood Centre for Community Youth Development has established itself as a leader in youth engagement to support and enhance the systems that impact youth. Systems change involves an operational and culture shift that benefits youth, staff and the organization as a whole.

With over two decades of expertise and research in youth development and community engagement, HeartWood consults and provides training and coaching support for organizations looking to revitalize their youth program work and their organizational effectiveness.

HeartWood has worked with urban and rural municipalities, recreation departments, youth-serving organizations, health-related agencies, provincial government departments and educational institutions. Some of our major clients include:

  • Leaders of Today, Provincial Youth Network, 2010-present
  • Lunenburg District Office of Community Services, 2008-present
  • YouthScape HRM, 2006-09
  • HRM Public Libraries, 2005
  • HRM Recreation, Youth Engagement Strategy and Tool Kit, 2004-06
  • Department of Community Services, Youth Development Initiative, 2004

HeartWood’s systems change work is based on our provincially and nationally researched approach and framework. We customize our offerings to best suit the goals, assets and resources of a particular agency or organization. Our services include a combination of the following:

  • An appreciative assessment process that reviews the current and desired levels of youth engagement practices
  • Training for volunteers and staff in youth engagement practices and approaches,
  • Direct youth leadership training to build the skills and abilities of young people to contribute to the organization
  • Action projects that include both youth and adults and demonstrate tangible and positive youth action, and
  • Creation of practitioner and youth friendly documents, tools and DVD’s that both capture the story of change and provide insight and guidance

Customized Consulting and Research
HeartWood offers various support to adults, organizations, government agencies, and other groups and systems who are ready to embrace community youth development. Together we are able to identify meaningful ways to engage youth with conceptual tools, practice, research, and capacity building.

Here is a sample of programs and workshops we offer:

  • Introduction to Community Youth Development
  • Community Youth Development- Level 2
  • Youth Inclusion
  • Games Workshop
  • Asset Mapping
  • Facilitating Youth Groups
  • Team Building
  • Building A Youth Group
  • Youth-Adult Partnerships
  • Service Learning Projects
  • Participatory Action Research
  • Youth-Led Granting
  • Youth Action Teams

…and many more!

Hosted Programs
HeartWood is the host of a number of government initiatives including:

Leaders of Today (in partnership with the Child and Youth Strategy)

Leaders of Today (LOT) is a unique initiative of the Child and Youth Strategy to inform government programs and services from a youth perspective, to encourage and increase positive youth voice in the Province, and to provide a respectful place for youth culture and government culture to learn about each other and to grow together. Currently LOT facilitates two provincial summits per year and supports a variety of regional youth-led activities across the province.

Health and Wellness Youth Corps (in partnership with the Department of Health and Wellness)

The Nova Scotia Health and Wellness Youth Corps (HWYC) is a youth engagement program that provides young people (under the age of 30) with opportunities for hands-on employment experience with health promotion projects and initiatives. The HWYC has two main goals: 1. Nurture an awareness of, and interest in, health promotion issues amongst youth. 2. Encourage and support meaningful youth engagement in health promotion.