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Why our network needs access to our policy priorities

Here at ONN, we’ve always tried to make sure we let our network know about the issues, policies and projects we are working on. Using our website, social media, annual conference and other engagement opportunities, we share lots of information a lot of the time.

However, as we think back on our journey so far we recognize that there is no one place to easily find a list of the policy issues we are focused on, why we really care about these issues and how they might be inter-related. And we’ve learned that we won’t be able to find new champions and unexpected bedfellows if no-one knows what we’re doing and why!

So, we decided to publish our policy priorities – what we are working on, what our vision is for each policy area and what are the next step and actions in 2016. This was harder than we thought – trying to explain sometimes very complicated and multi-year issues we’ve incrementally worked on, creating a vision for emerging issues and explicitly stating what we hope to achieve in the coming year. But as usual, our tenacious team rose to the challenge!

Read Our Policy Priorities

Here’s why we’re sharing our policy priorities with the world:

Accountability & Transparency

Our network is only as strong as the connections within it. ONN as an entity doesn’t own these issues – our sector does. Nonprofits around Ontario do. Our job is to convene, engage, learn, and advocate. And we can’t do any of those things if the sector doesn’t know about, inform and support our work.

Alignment & Champion Recruitment

We’ve learned that we can’t do our work alone. The issues we tackle are diverse, complex, and often too big for us to carry on our own. (Our staff team of eight is mighty, but not that mighty!) Our work is highly collaborative and we cross sectoral lines all the time in search of new partners. Our nonprofit network members speak passionately and articulately about issues that affect them on the ground. Through our network, we find champions and allies with whom we can, together, work on the systemic changes that we as a sector want to see. Many of our most fruitful collaborations extend beyond the sector itself – funders, government, researchers, consultants (lawyers, statisticians, and accountants, oh my!), cooperatives, for-profit social enterprises and other private sector partners. We’re often awed by the extent to which so many are on side with our vision of a healthy, resilient nonprofit sector in Ontario.

Learning & Evolution

We value continuous learning. We try to get out ahead of emerging issues and we don’t always get it right the first time – and the only way we can improve our submissions, reports, strategies and tactics is through dialogue. Our network doesn’t shy away from sharing their views with us (you can be an opinionated bunch!) and it is an essential aspect of how we work. Keep it coming. Our network will often see “Version 1.0” on our documents, a sign that this is our best thinking at the time and, with the network’s input, a stronger version will be on its way.

Focusing on what really matters to the sector as a whole

We are asked almost every week to take up a policy or program issue that is having a significant impact on Ontario nonprofits. We love hearing from our network about what’s affecting your ability to achieve your missions. At the same time, we can’t make progress on our identified priorities if we try to lead on every issue the sector faces – but we will do our best to support you in your advocacy work! We need to be nimble and respond to important issues when they arise and we have to trust that by focusing on the issues in our big “policy buckets” (our people/labour force, our finances, our structures/governance, and our systems) we will be able to make real gains for our sector. Publishing our policy priorities helps us to keep our eyes on the prize.

So, with that in mind – let us know what you think! Do these priorities address the issues that keep you up at night? Have we clearly explained what we are hoping to achieve? And most importantly, how can you help us?


Cathy and Liz

Policy wonks and network weavers

Share your thoughts with us!

Contact the ONN, info@theonn.ca.

Cathy Taylor and Liz Sutherland

Cathy is ONN's Executive Director and has been a member of the ONN team since June 2012. Throughout her 20 years working in the nonprofit sector, including as the founding Executive Director of the Volunteer Centre of Guelph/Wellington, she has been passionate about collaboration and leadership in the sector. | Liz Sutherland is ONN's Policy Advisor Liz joined ONN in 2015 and most recently worked as Senior Policy Analyst at the Council of Ontario Universities. She has worked on policy development and advocacy for many issues facing the sector- from procurement and human resource issues, to health and social policy, to the transformation of funding models.


  1. Diana Bumstead Says: April 16, 2016 at 5:40 pm

    Thanks Cathy and Liz for posting this. Policy work does not seem to be the strength of many of us in the non profit world and more transparency and collaboration can only make us stronger.