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Meet Dr. Claudine Cousins, CEO of Empower Simcoe.

2022 Social Change Award Winner: Regional Impact

Dr. Claudine Cousins

Dr. Claudine Cousins is the Chief Executive Officer of Empower Simcoe, a human services organization in the broader health sector, and teaches part-time in the School of Business at Georgian College. She has over twenty-five years of leadership experience with various Ministries within the Ontario Public Service and the not-for-profit and profit sectors, including banking and investment. Dr. Claudine A. Cousins, a thought leader, strategist, and community change maker was awarded the Barrie Chamber of Commerce Woman in Business Visionary Award and nominated for the 2021 RBC Canadian Entrepreneur Award. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management, a Master of Arts Degree in Leadership, Post Graduate Certificates in Public Relations and Mental Health Law, and Doctorate in Health Care Administration. Claudine is a certified Human Resources Leader (CHRL), a member of Lakehead University’s Board of Governors, a Rotarian, champion for the Sandbox’s People and Culture CNNX Peer Group, a volunteer on the Human Resource Professionals Association’s Regulatory Committee, and a grateful parent to two future change agents — Shaquille and Jyde.


My first job ever was…Working at Burger King in Brampton when I was 14 years.  I can still feel that itchy, brown uniform, but I loved every moment. I had my own money, my independence, and I was learning all about responsibility.

I chose my career path because…I learned early in my life that I wanted to help people.  I have been an advocate, or more specifically a defender, of those who are less fortunate since I saw someone in grade 7 being bullied and continue to advocate for those who face barriers and are marginalized to this day.  

When starting out, I wish I knewthat my mom was right when she said that I had to try twice as hard and be twice as good.  Regardless of whether it was in school, or in my career, it didn’t matter what it was, I had to be twice as good.    

The part of my role that I love the most is…seeing people thrive!  There is just something so rewarding when you see someone excel and achieve their goals, even under the most challenging of circumstances.  

The biggest challenge of running a not-for-profit is…being asked by funders to do more with less year after year, while adding additional expectations and no realistic acknowledgement of the challenge. 

If you Googled me, you still wouldn’t know…that I climbed the 1,776 steps in the CN tower to raise funds for the United Way, in 24 minutes and 6 seconds!  I’ve got the t-shirt to prove it. 

My best advice from a mentor was…have your “two-minute elevator pitch” or what I call your “personal mission statement”, always at the ready.  

My advice for anyone who wants to build a not-for-profit is…know how to balance the push/pull of your head and your heart.  You need a combination of financial resources, know-how, where to go to source what you need, commitment, lots and lots of perseverance, and if you’re lucky, government funding or a grant! But without empathy and caring, it’s just a business.

One thing for-profit businesses could learn from the not-for-profit world is…To truly believe and live your organization’s vision and mission in order to deepen your connection with your employees and stakeholders. Because everyone wants to Be.Belong and Thrive!

I stay inspired by…drawing strength from seeing the people that are supported by Empower Simcoe thriving in a world built for able-bodied individuals.  I am inspired by their ability to rise above and excel in a world full of barriers against them. Also, by reading books from other individuals who have achieved success against all odds.

Success to me means…making a difference in every little thing I do every day, through my interactions with each person I come into contact with, and the contributions I make within my community and in my personal life.