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Leadership for the Nonprofit Sector - and Beyond! What might it take to grow really strong, powerful

I’ve written a lot recently about the importance of taking action locally and then networking globally. 

How do we take action locally though in a way that actually changes systems, and doesn’t just treat the symptoms of communities that are not really as inclusive as they could be? Or should be?

We have a LOT of charitable, nonprofit, community-minded organizations. And the number is growing. There is always soooooo much need. But are we getting at the root causes of all this need?

The Ontario Nonprofit Network (ONN) is focusing on 7 new leadership competencies as a means to increasing the capacity of the sector. It’s interesting the way they categorize different skills - and pose the idea that they do NOT have to all be in one person. Rather leadership is something that should be diversified throughout an organization. Different people could offer different talents and experience, and contribute in different ways to enable an organization to be as strong as possible.

However, ONN is very focused on developing the skills of staff people in the nonprofit sector. Staff are important, but really without the volunteers that drive these organizations - founded these organizations - where would we be? 

Really, the ideas and innovation of the sector are - and should be - coming from the volunteers with the passion for change that created various organizations to respond.

How do we do that?

A friend who's retired from Dalhousie University's Nonprofit Leadership Program, Grant MacDonald, writes a blog called Governing Good. In his most recent blog, called Refurbishing Your Chair, he reflects on the need to strengthen the leadership team of various organizations in a different way - starting with the Chair of a board, then looking at the partnership between the Chair of a board and its most senior staff person - usually an Executive Director or CEO.

This is in line with a new research project out of Victoria, BC that is also looking at board health as a means to strengthen leadership. It’s called Board Check Up.

All these learning opportunities are great, but are they really enough to support the kind of ‘grassroots’ leadership and innovation we need?

I’ve mentioned before an organization in the UK called Locality. It is a network of support for exactly the kind of grassroots leadership development I think we need. It is place-based, and covers a wide range of initiatives that are often ‘pain’ points for creating ‘powerful’ communities.

Would a Locality Canada work here? And what exactly would it, should it, look like? Who could be some partners? University, government, business, foundations...

That is a question I’m very interested in exploring right now. What would a place-based organization in Canada that focuses on developing really ‘hyper-local’, grassroots leadership look like? Any ideas - let us know. ;)



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