JohnQ - Case Study

This is municipal leadership at the service of our citizens. JohnQ delivers regional services and develops strategic projects in the Winnipeg Metropolitan Region to make communities better.

The 17 municipalities of the Winnipeg Metropolitan Region completed a detailed action plan in 2017 to advance common objectives together. Many of their priorities have seen strong progress, but tackling some of the bigger projects was always limited by the WMRs capacity to move budget or generate new funds for research, seed money or pilot projects that would benefit all. Driven by the desire to create a pool of resources they could draw upon for projects like these, they sought revenue streams in many places. After much research it was determined that coordinated, collective procurement could provide better value for taxpayer dollars on purchases today, and could be a pooled source of revenue to build shared capacity, which would result in further savings, and ultimately to pool resources toward projects and programs on the ground.

With insights from other jurisdictions, legal counsel, Economic Development expertise, and the help of a highly respected business advisory council, the structure of JohnQ was outlined. The next critical step was to secure, at least, the benefit of the doubt from key stakeholders in the process, elected officials in each municipality, administrators and staff and business leaders.

Core Issues:
  • Creating a new entity in Canada that was complex and difficult to explain
  • Multiple ownership = decision-making by committee
  • High degree of skepticism, wait and see
  • Low ownership / buy-in beyond the founding members
  • Election cycle meant brand needed to be established and understood quickly
  • High risk of any start-up, this one under-capitalized
  • Many unanswered questions
Key Objectives:
  • Work with the Founding Members on a Forecast for the Future, defining their vision; and a brand platform, articulating the market, the audience, the tone of voice, etc.
  • Developing a name that was memorable, relevant to the purpose of the organization and slightly controversial to set the tone and demonstrate the capacity to stretch traditional boundaries.
  • Establish unquestionably that the purpose of JohnQ is to maximize value for taxpayer dollars and deliver more for member communities; suppliers and purchasers.
  • Reinforce the messaging that the elected officials, business leaders, municipalities and taxpayers are all JohnQ and all benefit from its success.
Challenges and Insights:

The major challenge was the complexity of the messaging and the lack of definitive answers to key questions. It was important to build credibility in the process, while simultaneously owning that all the answers were not yet in place and that it would require open-minded commitment from many people to shape this evolution.

There were two distinct mindsets about the tone of JohnQ – revolutionary vs. reliable. The name presented its challenges, with its clear male focus, which caused some discomfort and uncertainty for both women and men.


Timing was critical. With summer approaching and municipal general elections taking place in October, it was important that elected officials understood the project enough to feel they could speak to it, on the campaign trail. Whether they were fully supportive, on the fence, or diametrically opposed, it was important that everyone clearly understood the premise and the principles.


The strategy was clear – lead with purpose, supported by principles and present the information in clear unapologetic language that is hard to dispute. Challenge the preconception that this is someone else’s pet project by bringing the ownership to the people.

  • We create prosperity in our communities.
  • Every tax dollar is important and should be leveraged to the greatest benefit of our communities.
  • We can achieve more as a collective of equals collaborating to benefit member municipalities and leverage tax dollars, at times investing more in the short term, for long term gain.
  • The environment and our economy can grow and prosper simultaneously, securing the future of our communities.
  • Collaboration and cooperation, with respect for the autonomy of municipalities is our means to mutual success.
  • We are accountable to provide responsible ownership and oversight, including commitment to the vision and strong fiduciary responsibility, protecting the self-sufficiency and sustainability of the Development Corporation.

The audacious tone of voice was tempered with clean, professional, conservative photography, creating an ‘executive revolution’. The brand was launched at the WMR AGM, with over 150 elected officials, business leaders and NGO representatives in attendance. The speakers were all highly recognizable and respected in the community, and their presentations rolled through a time line of evolution from the formation of the region to today. Powerpoint and videos supported the speakers’ key messages; handouts described the principles, fact sheets demonstrated the value, everyone in attendance received a package of I am JohnQ business cards and a lapel button.

Centrepieces demonstrated the steps to shared success. An invitation to media and a news release were sent out locally, garnering a story in the Winnipeg Free Press and coverage on CJOB radio. Subsequently the releases were sent to media outlets in the affected municipalities.

The website went live and the first JohnQ e-newsletter followed the launch. Subsequent blog posts about progress of the project and other interesting information for municipal decision- makers followed.


“I’m going to take these business cards to a meeting I have out of Province next week and this is going to be the main topic of conversation”. – Guest comment

Following is an excerpt of an unsolicited response from a guest:

“I wanted to send you a quick note to congratulate you, your team, board members and all others involved on hosting what I thought was a ‘brilliant meeting’. I am in full support of the direction that the WMR is taking and believe that your forward thinking, cutting edge initiatives, leadership and hard work will no doubt help to continue to develop and strengthen the region – which in turn will significantly benefit us all. All of the speakers were outstanding – their expertise on the matters they were speaking on was admirable and their passion was contagious. As you can probably tell I was beyond excited to be able to be involved (I’m still riding the ‘high’).”

Municipalities Team Up For Cost Savings
By: Martin Cash – Winnipeg Free Press

A number of municipalities surrounding the City of Winnipeg have formed a new regional development corporation to enhance co-operation and hopefully produce savings and increased levels of service.

To date 13 of the 17 member municipalities of Winnipeg Metropolitan Region (which recently changed its name from Partnership of the Manitoba Capital Region) have anted up $7,500 to form JohnQ Public Impact Inc.

Among other things, the new entity hopes it might be able to find about $2 million in annual saving for its municipality members through shared procurement programs.

Brad Erb, chairman of the new corporation and the reeve of the Rural Municipality of MacDonald, said in addition to cost savings, procurement activities could also be a revenue generator in the short term to get the corporation up and running. All the details have not been worked out yet, but the plan is for the municipalities to re-invest savings back into the corporation.

“We are hoping it will evolve beyond procurement,” Erb said. “We’re thinking down the road of the possibility of things like auditing or even legal services.”

JohnQ is currently in the midst of a pilot project procuring a series of 12 items for the municipalities’ emergency services crews.