Fonds F0592 - Don Simpson fonds

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Don Simpson fonds

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  • 1960-1999 predominant (Creation)
  • [190-?]-2011 (Creation)

Physical description area

Physical description

36.07 m of textual records
306 photographs
1 photograph album
26 posters
8 CDs
7 DVDs
11 computer diskettes
16 audio cassettes
1 audio tape (0.6 cm)
21 video cassettes
11 objects: baseball hats, buttons, etc.

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Archival description area

Name of creator

Biographical history

Donald (Don) George Simpson is a Canadian innovator and mentor in organizational development who has worked as an educator, historian, businessman, Third World aid administrator, researcher, consultant and entrepreneur, in more than 70 countries worldwide.

Simpson was born in 1934 in Weston, Ontario (west Toronto), and grew up in Sudbury and Mimico, a suburb west of Toronto. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology at the University of Western Ontario (UWO), and then taught high school science and history at Sir Adam Beck Secondary School in London, Ontario, from 1957 to 1965. In 1957, Simpson married Marion Henderson of London. Together they had four children: Janice, David, Christine and Craig.

Simpson completed a Master of Arts in History in 1965, writing on British imperialism in Africa; he then began teaching comparative education at UWO's new Althouse Faculty of Education, at the same time working on his Ph.D. on Ontario black history, finished in 1971.

Simpson was one of the creators of the African Students Foundation, which brought 300 Africans to Canada in the 1960s for a university education. He was also a co-founder and executive secretary of Canadian Crossroads Africa from 1960 to 1965. Crossroads took him to Nigeria in 1960 and Ethiopia in 1963 on volunteer work placements; then, from 1967 to 1968, he and his family lived in Ghana when Simpson served as the first regional director in West Africa for Canadian University Services Overseas (CUSO).

Having returned to Canada, during the 1970s Simpson regularly worked "on loan" away from the Althouse Faculty of Education for other agencies, including CUSO, Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) and UWO's new Office of International Education. At the latter, he was involved in the creation of a computerized Cross-Cultural Learner Centre designed to educate Canadians, particularly volunteers for overseas service, about the developing world.

Simpson has also worked with Canada's First Nations, co-chairing the Southern Support Group for the Dene Nation in the Northwest Territories (1974-1977); sitting on the executive of the National Coalition against the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline (1977); mentoring at CBC North as the Inuit Broadcasting Corporation was formed (1980); and serving on various review committees on Native education and education in the Canadian North, among other activities.

In 1983, Simpson joined the Centre for International Business at UWO, then became Director in 1985. He then formed two consulting firms: Kanchar International, to foster business collaboration between Canada and Africa; and Salasan Associates Inc., to build leadership and human resource capacity in First Nations and international settings.

In 1990, Simpson accepted the position of Vice President and Director of the Banff Centre for Management in Alberta. It was in Banff that Simpson created the International Institute for Innovation, or Triple i. Incorporated in 1993, the Triple i changed from a non-profit organization to a private company, with several reincarnations and parent companies. By 1999 it had evolved into the Innovation Expedition (IE). Simpson was Chief Explorer from the beginning. Having first applied its trademarked Challenge Dialogue Process to a public roundtable process in Alberta, IE went on to apply its method to food and agriculture, information technology, education and learning, and health. Working with organizations committed to transforming themselves, the company has undertaken projects in North America, Europe, Africa, India, Southeast Asia, China and Japan. Since 2000, Simpson's varied projects in innovation and organizational development have continued, engaging with work in strategic foresight, innovation network building, conservation and energy transformation.

In 2007, Simpson served as Innovator-in-Residence at York University's Harriet Tubman Institute for Research on the Global Migrations of African Peoples. Simpson is the author of "Under the North Star: black communities in Upper Canada before Confederation (1867)" (2005), based on his doctoral thesis; "Renaissance leadership: rethinking and leading the future" (2010), with Stephen Murgatroyd; and a memoir, "A Canadian odyssey: a personal and national journey towards cross-cultural harmony" (in progress). Simpson was named Professor Emeritus at the University of Western Ontario in 1991. In 1993, he received the Commemorative Medal for the 125th Anniversary of Canadian Confederation, awarded to people who have made a significant contribution to Canada, their community or to their fellow Canadians.

Custodial history

Scope and content

Fonds consists of records documenting the personal and professional experiences of Don Simpson from the 1950s to 2011 in countries around the world. Records include correspondence, notebooks, reports and toolkits, speeches, resource material, memorabilia and other records relating to his activities in a wide range of educational, social justice, development, government and business innovation organizations. Topics covered include international education and cross-cultural understanding; international development and health; the rights of Canada's Aboriginal peoples; the history of African-Canadian communities; environmental issues; innovation in business and the non-profit sector; human resources development; and economic development from Alberta to China and Africa. Fonds also consists of personal correspondence, family photographs and memorabilia relating to Simpson's personal and family life.

Notes area

Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition

Fonds was donated by Don Simpson in August 2010.


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Restrictions on access

Some files restricted due to third party personal information. Access to some files permitted only through a research agreement. Requests must be directed to the University Archivist.

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The fonds comprises the following accessions: 2010-020. Further accruals may be expected.

General note

See Harris, Carolyn. 2012. “Paper Memories, Presented Selves: Original Order and the Arrangement of the Donald G. Simpson Fonds at York University”. Archivaria 74 (November), 195-217.

Finding aid may contain language from the era in which it was written. This includes historical, unclear, or biased terminology which may not have been selected by Indigenous peoples. To learn more about historical and contemporary terminology, see resources listed at

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Dates of creation, revision and deletion

2011/06/09 Carolyn Harris:. (Creation)
2011/06/09 Awaiting review by the Data Collection Archivist
2012/06/29 Karen Suurtamm. Continuing description after departure of Carolyn.
2012/10/03 Dubeau. Added link for online URL.
2014/07/22 Migrated to AtoM.
2020/05/28 KCP. Added general note: Archivaria article citation.
2020/10/28 KCP. Added historical language note.

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