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The groundwork for leadership across generations

The groundwork for leadership across generations

Have we been here before?

Last year, inequality, challenges to democracy, and labour force reform weighed on the minds of many nonprofit workers. Past generations were no strangers to similar problems, albeit under different conditions.

Some of us may take comfort in seeing patterns in history to help understand how and why we repeat, recycle, or renew them. We would be remiss if we did not attempt to resolve the big and unprecedented problems facing our time, along with the issues that have prevailed across decades. So, how can future generations take up good policies and practices, and be better equipped to navigate their time in history?

Enter the Connect the Sector fellowship. Connect the Sector (CTS) is an incubated project of ONN, volunteer led by nonprofit professionals at the early stages of their career. The aim of this group is to strengthen connections across generations, to influence the future of Ontario’s nonprofit sector. For the past three years, CTS has connected fellows (comprised of a majority of young emerging leaders) with ONN’s policy working groups. Fellows contributed to issues on the sector’s labour force, financing, data and evaluation, and our governance structures. They found mentors. They made a network. They modelled a way of learning.

CTS wanted to try something a little different for the 2016-2017 fellowship. The steering committee thought, “Hmm – we’ve learned a lot about working across generations, we see some challenges, and we see patterns.” We needed to put this stuff down on paper and spark a broader discussion which embraced existing solutions and challenged others. So this year, we’ve paired six fellows with co-authors who will write articles for The Philanthropist about intergenerational issues in the nonprofit sector. They have completed their idea formation and are currently writing their drafts.

A definition, by way of internet search magic, from dictionary.com- Intergenerational- “relating to, involving, or affecting several generations. (2)

While we’ll leave a bit of mystery for the article series launch (starting in Spring 2017), many of the fellowship conversations have centered around our people and our democracy. We consider this series a starting point which will hopefully spur healthy debate and discussion about how we work and learn across generations – at any age, at any stage of career. 

Since the fellowship started in early 2016, we have brought fellows, co-authors, and advisors together to attempt to answer a few big questions:

– In what ways have we seen intergenerational leadership throughout history?
– Why is intergenerational leadership needed today?
– What are examples of intergenerational leadership that we can draw on from different cultural contexts?
– Where will future leadership in the nonprofit workforce come from?
– What conditions might young leaders need to thrive in the sector?

We invite you, in the meantime, to share some thoughts on the questions above on Twitter – catch us at @connectsector.


Tara Mazurk
Tara Mazurk

Tara is a member of the steering committee of Connect the Sector. Until recently, Tara worked on projects with ONN as its Engagement Coordinator. As an avid community developer and storyteller, Tara previously held roles as the Curator for Humber College’s Lakeshore Grounds Interpretive Centre and a consultant and writer for Canadian Artists’ Representation (CARFAC) Ontario.

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