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Twitter Enhances Conference Experience

I had heard great things about WordCamp2011, so I knew WordCamp2012 was a going to be a useful professional development experience. WordCamp is a conference revolving around using the open source web development software, WordPress. I was impressed with how incredibly well organized it was, everything from registration to the final keynote. Startup Edmonton were good hosts and Roast Coffeehouse completely spoiled attendees with fresh coffee and delicious baked goods*.

One thing that caught me off-guard about WordCamp was the role that social media played in tying the conference together. Never before have I seen an event so effortlessly and effectively transformed by social media, specifically Twitter. I suppose this shouldn’t have come as a surprise given all the creative muscle possessed by the organizers and participants. WordCamp was truly Twitter in its purest form. Not only were people networking using Twitter, but also WordCamp’s hash tag, #wcyeg, was a bustling forum of discussion about the sessions of the day. The presenters were all amazing, but sadly, you had to choose one session over another. Fortunately, Twitter allowed attendees to sit in on one session and follow along in another, so you were never really missing what was going on in the next room.

Obviously, Twitter is no substitute for connecting with someone in the flesh, but it played a huge role in the conference by quickly connecting beginners with experts in a meaningful way. As one of the presenters pointed out in his presentation, social media is only one tool in the tool kit. While it may only be one tool, it took my WordCamp experience to the next level. No one at WordCamp2012 invented Twitter, but organizers, presenters, and attendees clearly knew how to use that tool to its full potential.

* I ate too many chocolate croissants.

Tim Henderson, Office and Communications Coordinator

Mittens are Like Shoes for my Hands

Courtesy of Crazy Aunt Purl

Courtesy of Crazy Aunt Purl


Mittens are warm,
Mittens are grand,
Mittens are like shoes for my hand.


As I travel around Southern Alberta sharing with communities what Volunteer Alberta has to offer, the question I am asked the most often is “what is risk management?”

What a great question! When I was first introduced to risk management, I thought it was a term created by insurance companies to sell insurance. These days it seems like we can buy insurance for everything and everyone is selling it!  My life insurance sales person tells me I don’t have enough, but when does a person have enough insurance? At what point are you throwing your money away?

Risk management is “hoping for the best, planning for the worst”; a lesson that we’re all taught in some form or another as children.  As we grow our planning becomes more complicated. Unfortunately, developing a risk management strategy is not as simple bringing an extra pair of mittens to school so our hands stay warm.

Risk management goes far beyond insurance. Insurance is just one strategy.  In the risk management session, Protect Your Assets, we give you ways to evaluate your level of risk and provide solutions to manage your risk. Do you need different policies? Do you need a different way of executing the program?  Risk management is not just a concern for upper management. It is something that everyone at every level of your organizations needs to be aware of- this includes volunteers, board, and all staff.  Many times the frontline workers that have a different view on risk and can offer solutions to reduce risk.

So, keep checking the Volunteer Alberta website or the latest issue of Sector Connector to see when a session is available in your area.  If one is not available, let me know we can start planning!


Amanda Liepert, Knowledge Exchange Coordinator

Leadership – Position or the Person?

Leadership  – we use this term so often but do we really know what it means? Is it the personal traits that one possesses and is a combination of skills, knowledge, attitudes and behaviours? Is it linked to a position of power or influence? Just Google the term and you will find thousands of references and definitions. Often we refer to leaders by the position they hold in an organization or community, such as an Executive Director, board member, or politician. What is interesting is that these describe the position they hold, but are they really leaders? This is the true question about leadership: is it the position, is it the person, or is it a combination?

Executive Directors, politicians and community leaders are in a position of influence. If we think of leadership as an ability to influence others towards a common goal, then they would clearly be in a “leadership position”. But that does not necessarily mean they are “true leaders” or “effective leaders”.  Margaret Wheatley, internationally recognized expert in organizational and leadership theory, suggests true leaders come from within and are not necessarily those in the leadership position. True leadership is not about control or power, but rather about creating environments where all members of the team are engaged in conversations and action. It is about harnessing the individual passion and desire for change in a collaborative and supportive manner. True leadership comes from a variety of sources. When Volunteer Alberta developed the ASK Leadership Assessment we asked 100 community representatives to identify leadership traits they most admire. Overwhelmingly, they said “passion” and “commitment”, and the ability to engage others in the process. Leadership come from within – the personal desire to influence change.

In a recent presentation in Edmonton Margaret Wheatley commented that, given the right set of circumstances, leaders from within any group will emerge, irrespective of position. For leadership to emerge, a set of complex factors need to be in place:

  • Organizational needs or priorities intersect with individual desires and commitment to make a difference;
  • The organizational culture supports a collaborative effort to work together; and
  • Influence and decision making is not in the hands of a few, but the responsibility of all.

Margaret Wheatley also noted that personal mastery is needed to create environments for others to engage in the conversations and decision-making processes. Leadership is about creating spaces and opportunities for all to come together to “do good work”. With this concept in mind, we see leaders in various stations within the organization or community. Leadership is not about position but rather about personal commitment and action.

“We believe that a leaders is anyone who wants to help at this time” (Margaret Wheatley 2001: Restoring Hope to the Future Through Critical Education of Leaders)

Toby Rabinovitz

Program Manager

P.S. Join Toby on November 20, from 11:00 am – 1:00 pm for a discussion about leadership at www.facebook.com/VolunteerAlberta.

SCiP Internships: Flexible & Fulfilling

When I told some friends that I was doing a SCiP internship, I got a lot of shocked reactions.

“Another job? How are you going to juggle all of that?”

“Are you sure that’s a good idea, what with starting a new program and everything?”

I was just starting graduate school in Library and Information Studies, and I had a part-time job already, so I admit I had some of those doubts myself.

But when I saw the SCiP internship for a Library Policy Development Intern, I had to apply. It sounded interesting and applicable to my program, and I wanted some hands-on experience. Applying was easy: I put together my application, submitted it, and heard back about it right away.

When I met with someone from the organization, I expressed my concerns about fitting another thing into my very busy schedule. He reassured me that they would be flexible enough to make it work, and he certainly followed through!

The SCiP internship turned out to be a truly excellent experience. My organization, Volunteer Alberta, was very flexible, and I was able to easily make the internship fit around my school and work commitments. Everyone at the organization was friendly and helpful, and most importantly, I got that hands-on experience in my field that I had signed up for. The chance to develop policy for a small library helped me hone many skills, particularly my research skills, and enhanced my overall knowledge of the field and the nonprofit/voluntary sector. The $1000 bursary at the end is a major perk, but I definitely feel like the experience I gained is worth more than the money.

Now, when people ask how my internship worked out, I tell them to apply themselves! There are a ton of internships to choose from, so there’s bound to be one for anyone’s field of interest, and it’s easy to get involved. And the pay-off is huge: I was able to network with people in my field and gain valuable skills and experience for my resume for the future. Even though I was worried about fitting an internship into my schedule, I didn’t have to be. My organization recognized I was a student, and worked with me to make it a success. I loved my experience and I would highly recommend it!

For more information on SCiP internships visit joinscip.ca or call Sam at 780.482.3300 ext 225.
Alexandria Eldridge

Library Policy Development Intern, Volunteer Alberta

Helping Kids Learn How to Skate: There’s an Internship for That

Kathryn Ursel, a first year Mount Royal University nursing student, is helping children learn to skate, making connections into her community, and staying active, all while earning a $1000 bursary as the Skate Program Assistant Intern for WinSport. Kathryn says, “I help with their learn-to-skate program. Basically, I help with assisting kids that can’t stand up because there are only so many instructors and they need an extra set of hands… I really like it because I’m working with children – I love working with children – and it’s really fun and active.”

Kathryn’s internship is part of the Serving Communities Internship Program (SCiP), which will create internships with nonprofits for more than 500 Alberta students this year alone. Unlike traditional internships, SCiP interns are engaged meaningfully for their skills and abilities, making a real contribution to the nonprofit and its clients. At the end of each internship, the student is paid a $1000 bursary from the Government of Alberta. This is the second year of the Serving Communities Internship Program.

The Skate Program Assistant internship was a great fit for Kathryn, who says, “hockey was a big part of my life back in Manitoba, so it was a way to stay active and I didn’t really have anything to do [after moving to Calgary].. I figured I could teach kids how to skate and that I’d be a good match. I’ve been skating since I was about two years old… After I talked to the Volunteer Manager, she told me how flexible [the internship] was and that it would be good for a university student. I was kind of worried that I wouldn’t have enough time once midterms came and once I got rushed with work. But all I have to do is let them know and they’re okay if I can’t show up for a shift.”

SCiP is funded by the Government of Alberta, and is provided at no cost to nonprofit organizations and Alberta’s post-secondary students. Delivered by Volunteer Alberta, there are currently over 250 internships available, with over 3000 students signed up for the program.

For more information on SCiP visit joinscip.ca  or email Sam at skriviak@volunteeralberta.ab.ca.


Jenna Marynowski

Communications and Marketing Manager

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