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Connecting ‘builders’ to help shape the future of Ontario’s nonprofit sector

I had only been living in the province of Ontario for a few months when I saw the Call for Applications for an inaugural fellowship of Connect the Sector, in partnership with the Ontario Nonprofit Network. Connect the Sector is group of nonprofit professionals with the vision to connect across generations and collaborate for systems change in the nonprofit sector. I had spent the previous months applying for jobs and reading about organizations in the region, but what I read in the Connect the Sector Fellowship description struck me as different; it said they were looking for “builders”.

In the Maritimes, what is often preached in the development of emerging leaders is that it is easy to be a “big fish in a small pond”. I once heard someone say that the primary resource in the region is the density of networks and connections. It is easy to be a part of conversations in a community of that size. As much as anyone can, I had my finger on the pulse of what was surrounding me. Therefore, what I saw in the Fellowship was an opportunity to start building meaningful relations and to start learning about my new community.

I was also motivated to be a Fellow because it reminded me of my involvement with 21inc, an action-tank for emerging leadership in Atlantic Canada. In 2008, I was a part of their inaugural experiential learning opportunity for emerging leaders of all sectors. Since then, I have been an employee, a board member, and continue to be an active alumna of the organization. 21inc has been the convener of crucial discussions through its Ideas Festival, a biennial event that brings together established thinkers and doers with young leaders to engage with ideas that can shape the region and to equip themselves with the knowledge and networks to transcend the region’s challenges. 21inc is a very small non-profit organization, yet has great impact because it is nimble and innovative, and leverages champions and mentors across sectors. I’m proud of 21inc because it has shined a light on the young talent in the region, and has made sure that they are recognized as today’s leaders, not merely tomorrow’s.

In joining ONN’s Labour Force Constellation, I certainly look forward to applying my experience of 21inc in highlighting cross-sector partnerships, and new models of leadership, as well as widening, and deepening, my knowledge of the non-profit sector of Ontario. I will be joining the Labour Force constellation and I could not have asked for a better place to get such an education.

Just in meeting the rest of my cohorts, it became obvious that the Fellowship will be the catalyst to many great things. We will leverage the opportunity and support being offered to add to the momentum of the work being done at the ONN, and we will “up our game” in the work and volunteering that we already do in our communities. We are eager to learn, to listen, to contribute and to leave our mark. We welcome the opportunity to connect with leaders and champions of the non-profit sector, and hope that by osmosis, we can dream bigger and bolder.

Since completing her studies in Political Science (B.Soc. Sc, Université de Moncton, M.A., Dalhousie University), Julie Breau has primarily worked in the field of peace and security, notably for the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative and working on military training simulations for the Pearson Peacekeeping Centre. She has also been involved in leadership development and the exchange of ideas in Atlantic Canada, through a long-time involvement with 21inc, an action-tank for emerging leaders in that region.


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