Meet Blake Loates: The Only Canadian Selected For Facebook’s Community Leadership Program

Facebook has changed the way we interact with our communities, and Blake Loates is changing the way we open up about mental health.

Facebook groups have changed the way we interact with our communities. We use the platform to communicate with our friends, share photos, and tag each other in memes, all with a common goal of connection. With the possibility to bridge international distance, Facebook has given community leaders a platform where they can generate initiatives from the convenience of their track pads.

In February, Facebook announced the Facebook Community Leadership Program, which invited leaders from all over the world to apply. The selection committee, comprised of Facebook employees and community experts, selected 115 individuals out of 6,000 applicants over the course of a multi-step interview process. Representing forty six countries, this pilot project provides education and funding for leaders who use the platform as a tool for change. Both in person and online, participants will follow a year-long course where they will learn skills on how to better lead their community initiatives, and possibly receive funding to grow their platforms as organizations. 

Blake Loates, a photographer and mental health advocate, is the only Canadian to have made the cut. She’s the founder of We All Believe in You (WABIY), a project that started with her goal to end the stigma around mental health. As someone who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at a young age, Loates felt isolated in her battle and wanted to create a community to facilitate open conversation around the topic. 

After becoming a psychiatric nurse, Loates knew she wanted to combine her mental health experiences with her passion for photography. In May 2016, WABIY was officially launched at the Art Gallery of Alberta in partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association. The project, composed of portraits of people battling with mental health, openly displayed their stories as a way to advocate for a community where mental health can be discussed with honesty.

“I really want to be a better leader to the WABIY community. In my interview I said over and over again… ‘the funding would be amazing…but I want to serve the people of WABIY the best that I can. I really need help and training to do that,'” Loates shared in a Facebook post.

WABIY started a Facebook support group for people who battle with mental illness. The goal is to connect these people with a community that struggles with similar issues, to end the isolation and stigma around the topic. After being selected by the Facebook Community Leadership Program, Loates will continue to grow her platform, with the support of experts, to help community flourish through education and connection.