Chapter One – The Importance of Deep Connection & Healing: Dan Walker (He/Him)

2022-07-07

 |  Community Spotlight Series

Welcome to the Stories to Empower: The Starfish Community Spotlight Series. This series is all about sharing the incredible stories and work of the inspiring people within The Starfish Canada’s community. Over the next few weeks, we will be introducing you to:

Dan Walker (he/him), Community Impact Manager at Arc’teryx,

Sophia Yang (she/her), Founder and Executive Director of Threading Change,

Niyonella Kamera (she/her), a fifth year student at Western University and the former Representation, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Manager at The Starfish Canada, and

Will Crolla (he/him), one of The Starfish Canada’s Top 25 Environmentalists Under 25 for 2021.

These four people exemplify the word ‘empowerment’ in different forms through the incredible lives and work that they lead. Through this series and the sharing of their stories, we hope to empower you to take that first or next step in your sustainability journey. We hope you enjoy diving into their stories!

Chapter One: Dan Walker (He/Him)

A deep respect and love for nature combined with a strong passion for centering community and justice characterize Dan Walker (he/him), Community Impact Manager at Arc’teryx. Dan is originally from Preston, England and is grateful to be living in K’emk’emeláy (Vancouver, BC, Canada) on the unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səl̓ilwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Peoples.

Dan holds a foundational belief in justice. Prior to coming to Canada, he spent years working in the criminal courts in the UK, over time realizing that the system wasn’t centering justice in the way that he had hoped. Before he took his final exams to become a lawyer, he asked himself, “Is this really what I want to do?”, and through that period of reflection, chose to move forward on a different path. 

Travelling in New Zealand after finishing Law School.

Fast forward a few years and a move across the Atlantic Ocean later, and Dan is now leading community impact for Canadian-based outdoor brand, Arc’teryx. When he first arrived at Arc’teryx, he used his analytical lens to ask questions about the brand that no one had asked before. Questions such as, What is Arc’teryx doing within the space of community impact? How are they listening to the needs of the communities that they are a part of? How are they responding to those needs?

Over time, he formed a role for himself at the brand and built an approach to community impact in order to make sure that the needs of the communities Arc’teryx engages with are being met. Dan’s work gives him hope and energizes him everyday.

“Arc’teryx is in no way leading the movements that we’re engaged in. Instead, we’re looking to the leaders of the movements within communities, seeking to map our strategy and resources to support them.”

Outside of his work at Arc’teryx, Dan values time outdoors, meditation, reading, music, and learning new things. Whether it’s making sourdough bread or learning a new language, he is constantly iterating and trying to perfect new skills. It’s where he finds the most joy. “This is why I enjoy life at a great depth, because there’s so much to continue to learn. Even in spaces that you think you know relatively well, you can continue to unlock new learnings.”

Time outdoors, whether it be trail running on the North Shore mountains or paddleboarding on the Pacific are also central to Dan’s being. Being out on a paddleboard on a BC lake is a special experience for him, away from the busyness and noise of the city. “Being at that level and perspective on the water, it really unlocks quite a space.”

Time in the mountains with friends and family. Photo by Anthony Dearden.

“The outdoors is foundational in my life. I am a different human today as I speak to you because I’ve been out on the trails this morning. It does something that I can’t articulate in words. The power of nature definitely moves me in ways that I am yet to learn.” 

An Inquiring Mind

Dan’s passion for learning and ideas coupled with his connection to movement and nature were rooted in him as a child. From reading about the Romans and the Egyptians to the Knights of Camelot, he developed a fascination for different ideas and approaches to the commonalities that we share as humans. He recalls a time around eleven years old when he travelled to London with his grandparents:

“It was the first time we’d ever been away from home, the first time we’d been to a big city. We visited various museums and had just finished visiting one of them and were going down the escalator in the tube and I remember my granddad turning to me and saying, ‘You have an inquiring mind. Don’t ever lose that.’” 

From that moment forward, he started to build that belief into his identity; to have an inquiring mind in everything that he does, to believe that there is always a better way.

Happy days growing up in Lostock Hall.  Simple pleasures and a loving family.

Dan’s connection to movement and nature stems from his time playing soccer and trips to the Lake District throughout childhood. Growing up, soccer was everything to him. Every waking minute beyond time spent in the classroom was dedicated to time spent on the field. Beyond soccer, he recalls harvesting mushrooms and assembling dens alongside his grandparents, deepening his connection and fascination to the landscape that he called home.

“From my belief in movement stems this connection to health, and from health I think about my connection to the health of the ecosystems and nature that we’re a part of. So there’s health within my own context, but there’s also health of the planet and the spaces within which we move. It’s all interconnected.” 

Dan’s love for learning and ideas, his belief in movement, and his connection to nature have been the values that have carried him throughout childhood till now. In his work at Arc’teryx, they talk about “sustainability as being a design challenge and a call for innovation”, and with the help of his inquiring mind and passion for all things ideation, he spends time trying to craft solutions, actions, new ways of being, new ways of connecting, and new ways of designing and innovating.

Winning the cup with great friends at Imperial College.

Graduating Law School.  With no idea what comes next.

When asked if he thought his path had gone to plan, his answer was a confident “No”. “Life’s not gone as planned and that’s a good thing.”

He chose the legal route because at the time, he thought it was a good thing, the right thing for his family and the right thing for him. Even still, he believes that everything turned out in a brilliant way. The time that he spent working within the legal space has helped him develop the skills necessary to think about the complexity of the systems that he works in now in a unique way. He is able to think about problems and the intersectionality of different concepts at a holistic level that brings depth and hope to his work.

“I always used to believe that you could look forward to five years’ time and say, ‘I’ll probably be around here’, but I’m not convinced that I believe that now. Is there even value in doing that? I question it more as I get older. Being much more in the moment and going with where things inspire you and being flexible, that is much more important to me than it ever has been.”

Healing through Connection and Community 

When asked about the importance of community and connection, Dan responded by saying, “I think it’s everything.” Without community, without connection to community, and without connection within community, he questions whether or not we are having the fullest and most impactful society possible. Community is a foundational part of his life and where he draws immense value and meaning. 

Finding community and stretching my thinking with the Blue Sky Funders Forum. https://blueskyfundersforum.org/about/program-committee

Who am I? What do I value? What are the things that cause me distress? What are the things that light me up? How do I act in alignment with these things? These are all questions that Dan ponders on a daily basis, ensuring that whenever he engages with his community or the different communities that he works with, he has the space and ability to be present and truly listen to what others have to say.

In order to foster strong, resilient, and supportive communities, Dan believes that it starts with you. 

“Understand and get comfortable with who you are and your identity and your lived experience. Let go of the ego in order to truly be present with others, in order to try and understand others at a deeper level. Welcome the differences that we have between each other, celebrate them. Look to the commonalities within humanity. This is the value of connection to community.”

By virtue of our being we are social creatures that need interaction and connection. Dan believes that there is more depth to life when we celebrate our joy and our pain together, leaning on each other for support during times of healing. 

Apparently having a delightful time travelling in Arizona. That landscape. That light.

His motivation to keep doing what he’s doing during challenging times comes from his connection to his community. He looks to the network of people in his life to draw energy and inspiration from; for fun, for challenge, for reflection, and for support. He has surrounded himself with a group of people who reflect his values, and encourages others to do the same in order to get the most joy and meaning out of life. 

What brings Dan hope? He notes some of the incredible organizations that inspire and empower him everyday. Organizations such as Colour the Trails, Indigenous Women Outdoors, and The Kickback. To Dan, it’s not about leading; it’s about being a part of the collective working together to heal, to challenge the status quo, to shift power and resources, and to unpack systems that are no longer serving us as a whole.

“To do it alone is impossible. We need to support one another around our well-being as we do this complicated work. We are only effective if we’re well enough and capable to engage in the work.”

Learning by Doing

These days, Dan is centering joy and gratitude by delving into ideas that are important to him through conversations with friends and family. He finds value in exploring different perspectives by learning about how others have thought about big ideas and how they have worked through them for centuries. 

Dan has one key piece of advice for those seeking to find their footing in the areas they are passionate about:

“Explore different areas. Go into different roles and different topics. Be in non-profits. Be in a corporation. Be in government. Within those roles, try and understand, what is it about that role that you like and what is it about that role that you don’t like. And then in the next role, try and find more of what you like and continue to move towards the work that fuels you.”

Time beside the ocean in Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ First Nation territory

He also recommends trying to find work that aligns with your values, developing a sense of who you are and what your real value in the work is. Feeling energized and fueled by the work, ensuring that both your ability and appetite for the role that you’re in are strong. “Try different roles, learn by doing, develop your skills in the process, and as you do, really start to develop a sense of what it is that you value.”  

Scrambling at Mt. Tricouni within Kwékwayex Kwelháynexw ta Skwxwú7mesh Temíxw (Wild Sprit Places of the Squamish peoples lands) with friends. Photo by Anthony Dearden.

As Dan continues along his path within the space of community impact, he always takes time to reflect back on a song by English spoken word performer, poet, recording artist, novelist, and playwright, Kae Tempest. 

“But, when time pulls lives apart, hold your own. When everything is fluid, nothing can be known with any certainty, hold your own. Hold it till you feel it there. As dark and dense and wet as earth. As vast and bright and sweet as air. When all there is knowing that you feel what you are feeling, hold your own. Ask your hands to know the things they hold, I know, the days are reeling past in such squealing blasts. But stop for breath and you will know it’s yours.”

~ Kae Tempest, Hold Your Own


This article was written by Victoria Lim, Writer at The Starfish Canada, and Micaela Yawney, Editor-in-Chief at The Starfish Canada. Endless gratitude to Dan for allowing us to share your story in today’s article. To learn more about Arc’teryx, please go to https://arcteryx.com/ca/en/explore/whoweare/.

Stay tuned to our Youth Journal over the next few weeks as we introduce more incredible individuals from our community within this series. Thanks for reading Chapter One of the Stories to Empower: The Starfish Community Spotlight Series!