Coming back from my summer vacation, I feel re-energized and ready to take on my list of projects for the fall. To start, I’m reviewing some of the good ideas that surfaced as part of last season’s Five Good Ideas series. In case you don’t have time to watch videos of the lunch-and-learn sessions you may have missed before our new season launches on September 21, here are some highlights from last season.
Working with evidence
To do our work well, we need to have access to good, relevant and clear data. At the same time, we also have data that could be of importance to other organizations and their work – if only we were willing and found ways to share.
Harvey Low, Manager, Social Research & Analysis Unit, Toronto Social Development Finance & Administration Division, City of Toronto, talked about how to use, share and contribute to Open Data. He provided five ideas on how the non-profit sector can communicate its priorities to government, in particular local municipalities, around what types of data it needs. At the same time he suggested ways that the sector could position itself as a source of open data to support public policy.
In his session about survey research, Keith Neuman, Ph.D., Executive Director, Environics Institute for Survey Research, presented his five ideas on how to think about and conduct surveys and ask the right questions. He pointed out that the primary task of survey design and analysis is “translation”: transforming your organization’s questions into a language that is meaningful to those you want to hear from, and then reinterpreting what they tell you to answer those questions.
Being a good collaborator
None of us can achieve real change by working alone. We need to work with others – be it in well-established partnerships or loosely arranged collaborations.
In her session about collaboration, Anne Gloger, Director, East Scarborough Storefront, explored some fresh ways of thinking about working together and discussed how to create inspiring and successful collaborations. Her ideas ranged from taking responsibility for choices and respecting choices of others to ensuring that you create an enabling environment.
According to Matthew Thomas, Managing Director, Prospect Madison, some of the most complex challenges facing Canadian communities today – from youth unemployment, barriers to accessing social services, and environmental degradation – can only be addressed by civil society working in partnership with government and business to develop sustainable solutions. In his session about cross-sector leadership, Matthew looked at the type of leaders (and leadership) needed to lead across sectors and to ensure successful collaborations to solve the complex problems in our communities.
Building support for your issues
As we think about the changes we’re working to make, we also need to think about how – and to whom – we communicate our issues. This means effectively engaging media and public policy stakeholders.
In his session, Robert Steiner, Director, The Fellowships In Global Journalism, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto, explained that non-profits that know how to help news media cover a public issue are now in a better position than ever to engage the public. Instead of just pitching story ideas or experts, he suggests working with media partners to help them cover our issues consistently, and deeply.
Pedro Barata, Vice President, Communications and Public Affairs, United Way Toronto, offered his five good ideas on how to get our issues on the public policy dance floor. His five good ideas answered important questions about how to get our policy solutions implemented, including what we can do to bring the worlds of theory and practice together and what we should be thinking about to make our ideas shine.
Finding the right support from your board and volunteers
Many small non-profits rely on volunteers, both to serve on their boards and to help them in their day-to-day work.
In his five good ideas on how to engage today’s volunteers, David Allen, Executive Director, Volunteer Toronto explained that while today’s volunteers still possess a strong desire to make a contribution to the community, they also seek experiences that respond to their personal goals and interests and can showcase and develop their job skills. He suggests, among other things, to invest significant time to understanding what motivates each of your volunteers and to match them to the right role.
Robin Cardozo, Chief Operating Officer, SickKids Foundation, looked at how to engage your board effectively. Together with Jehad Aliweiwi, Executive Director, Laidlaw Foundation, Earl Miller, Board President, West Neighbourhood House, and Jini Stolk, Board Chair, Ontario Nonprofit Network, he explored the question how you can build a sense of passionate and committed engagement in the space of a few hours each month. His ideas included planning for an orientation schedule that is more than just a single event and to actively plan for meaningful conversations at every meeting.
Registration is now open for the first two sessions of our 2015-16 season.
- September 21: Five Good Ideas about Collective Impact
With Liz Weaver, Vice-President, Tamarack – An Institute for Community Engagement. Register online
- October 23: Five Good Ideas about Public Speaking
With David Leonard, Director of Events and Special Projects, The Walrus. Register online
See you in September!