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 Solutions:

  • 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.