About Heliotrope

Heliotrope is a social enterprise founded to develop and introduce Prelude. Prelude is a group learning game for youth and adults. Prelude fosters 21 Century Skills while reducing the EQ Gap. It’s used in schools, from Grade 6 to College, and in business fields such as project management and employee retraining. For more information about this dynamic learning game, please see the Prelude Overview as well as the many Videos, Case Studies, and White Papers throughout this website.


Like sunlight, the imagination is a limitless source of transformational energy. Einstein said it encircles the world. Everything begins with trust in one’s innate capacity to dream, to aspire, and to create.


To nurture the human spirit at school, at work, and within the community by playing Prelude.


MaRS is a non-profit innovation centre connecting science, technology and social entrepreneurs with business skills, networks and capital. SiG@MaRS is a collaborative partnership between The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, the University of Waterloo, MaRS, and PLAN Institute. MaRS has been an active Heliotrope advisor since 2008.

The Centre for Social Innovation has a mission to catalyze social innovation  in Toronto and around the globe. CSI has been an advisor since 2006.

Eastern Townships School Board is one of Quebec’s nine English-speaking boards. It serves 7000 students in: 20 elementary schools, 3 secondary schools, 1 alternative secondary school, 2 vocational education centres, 2 adult ed centres, and 1 centre of excellence. ETSB was the first education institution to license Prelude in 2009.


Heliotrope works with a range of innovative partners in the business, non profit, and government sectors. For more, please click here.

Trainers & Practitioners

Prelude Trainers and Practitioners include educators, psychologists, counselors, social workers, human resource managers, and project management consultants.


Howard B. Esbin created Prelude and founded Heliotrope. He oversees strategy, marketing, and sales. Howard has 25 years of progressive management experience in the private sector, international development, and philanthropy. This includes overseeing the merchandising of a national jewellery retail chain, assisting an African rural cooperative market its carvings internationally, managing a fair trade company, and leading a volunteer-based non-profit that raised millions for charities through a volleyball tourney/rock concert. Howard went back to university to find out why so many people devalued their own creativity. He earned his doctorate in education from McGill University in 1998. He’s also a trained artist and certified gemologist. Prelude is the result of his business experience and academic research. UNESCO, the International Labour Organization, and the Canadian Education Association have published his work.

Ross McKegney oversees Heliotrope’s technology platform underlying Prelude, evangelizing the platform to stakeholders, managing strategic alliances with technology partners, and building and managing the R&D organization.He also is a business technologist and serial entrepreneur with a decade of experience in enterprise architecture, product management, technical pre-sales, strategic partner management, and software R&D. HeRoss has filed 10 patents in areas ranging from digital media to SOA to business-to-business e-Commerce. He holds a BA/BCS from UNB, an MSc in Computing from Queen’s University, and an MBA from the Rotman School. In parallel to his progressive career in technology management, he is a professor of technology strategy at the UOIT business school, and advisor to several technology-oriented startups.

What Is A Heliotrope?

Heliotrope is one of those words with several different meanings. It describes variously a small purple flower, a gemstone, a survey instrument, and a botanical phenomenon. Plants that face towards the sun throughout the day, such as sunflowers or shamrocks, are also called heliotropes. The phenomenon is called a heliotropic effect. This term also describes what occurs when groups create and share  life-affirming images of their future. People naturally respond to this positive vision  just as flowers turn towards the sun.