Our tribute to Greg Butler, a visionary mentor and friend

January 19, 2015

We were devastated to learn that our long-time mentor and friend Greg Butler passed away in London, England over the weekend. We wanted to share how Greg touched our lives over the last 15 years. ~ Jennifer & Michael

It was January 30, 2000 - Superbowl Sunday - when we first met Greg Butler. It was our first week in Seattle where we had just moved for a 6-month consulting project developing youth strategy. Greg was a neighbour to our manager and he hosted us all for a Superbowl party, where we met his wife Diane and children Catherine, Jack and Tim, with most of us watching the ads more than the game! At the time Greg had his own business related to education and we stayed in touch with him as we began our journey in getting TakingITGlobal started as an NGO.

A few years later, our roles had switched - we were working hard to raise funds and establish TakingITGlobal's role in the charitable sector supporting global education and engaged citizenship, and Greg had joined Microsoft and was planning Partners in Learning (PIL), a global initiative to support the meaningful integration of technology to support learning. Greg wanted to make sure that PIL would authentically support important work happening on the ground, and gain a diversity of input into how it would evolve, so he invited Michael to join an International Advisory Board to help spearhead the initiative. This led to building deep relationships with many leaders in education innovation who we now call friends, including Eduardo Chaves in Brazil, Bruce Dixon and Jenny Lewis in Australia, and Deirdre Butler in Ireland.

Michael fondly remembers sharing a meal with Greg and Michael Fullan many years ago, where he was so inspired by the life-long commitment to positive change in education that both Michael and Greg had bonded on, it motivated him to double-down on his work at TakingITGlobal. Greg was a huge champion for the DeforestACTION project that was born out of connections he made for us to Microsoft in Asia, not only did he visit himself personally as part of launching some of the on-the-ground activities, but he even organized a family holiday trip to volunteer at the Tasikoki Wildlife Rescue Center in Sulawesi.

Over more than a decade of friendship, Greg provided many invaluable opportunities for us to showcase our vision and work at TakingITGlobal on a global level, including several Microsoft Government Leaders Forums, an Education Leaders Forum in Paris in 2008, and the Education Leaders Briefing in London where he did a 1:1 interview with Michael on stage in 2010.

Greg always provided great mentorship on building effective relationships, which came from his involvement with the International Partnership Brokers Association, where he became an Accredited Partnership Broker. We loved the key learnings around building partnerships with trust, sustainability, and mutual benefit, and together with Greg, we launched "Introduction to Partnering", a free online mini-course on Partnership Brokering to strengthen cross-sector partnerships for development, in late 2010. In 2013, Greg helped to secure a scholarship from Microsoft for Jennifer to join the Partnership Brokering Level I training in Malta where she had an opportunity to develop and refine her skills to benefit the work across the entire education sector.

When Greg left Microsoft to launch Collaborative Impact to lead several exciting projects like New Pedagogies for Deep Learning, we were excited to continue finding ways to grow our work together. Last year, Greg connected us to Julie Wright and the Waterloo Global Science Initiative, which led to a partnership to create the Equinox Fellowship, supporting a number of young education leaders across the globe. Greg was a master facilitator eager to give his time in support of sparking positive change, recently working with our friends at the Canadian Education Association last October to facilitate the Challenge to Change symposium, during which we met for dinner. We'll never forget this recent connection with Greg where we gained so much wisdom from him on finding balance and strategies to thrive with the enormity of the challenges we all worked on tackling.

Diane, Catherine, Tim, and Jack, we're so sorry for your tremendous loss. Greg's friendship and vision will inspire our work forever into the future. We promise to work with Greg's colleagues at Collaborative Impact to continue his work and ensure the legacy of his vision and commitment to education is realized. We are in discussions to create a legacy project in his name and will post details soon.

For those that never had the opportunity to meet Greg or hear his enthusiastic passion for education, here's a recent presentation he gave: 

Michael Furdyk Michael is the co-founder of TakingITGlobal
Inspires 219 people
Jennifer Corriero Jennifer is the Executive Director of TakingITGlobal and has been named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.
Inspires 373 people
(including you)