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Alberta – Let’s Put Our Volunteers in the Spotlight!

“Volunteers want to be thanked and shown how they have made a difference – they want to know the impact of their contributions.”
so-happy-2013 Volunteer Recognition Study, by Volunteer Canada

As nonprofit organizations, we all rely on volunteers to meet our missions. With 24,800 nonprofit organization in Alberta, it is clear that the spirit of volunteerism is deeply rooted in our communities.

There are lots of different ways to recognize our amazing volunteers, but making sure volunteers are thanked and rewarded for their efforts is a critical part of fostering future and continued volunteer engagement. Our future depends on all of us working together and inspiring others to do the same, so communities will continue to prosper! Volunteer recognition is key to sharing this story and promoting volunteerism in Alberta.

The Government of Alberta hosts Stars of Alberta, Alberta’s most prestigious volunteer awards. The Stars of Alberta Volunteer Awards recognize extraordinary Albertans whose volunteer efforts have contributed to the well-being of their community and fellow community members. Six awards – two youth, adult, and senior – are presented annually, on or around International Volunteer Day, December 5. Nominations for the awards close September 20.

The Awards receive many nominations from Alberta’s major cities and in the adult and senior categories; however, we know Alberta is home to passionate, dedicated, and inspiring youth volunteers. We also know that Alberta’s rural communities are fantastic places to live because of local spirit of volunteerism and the contributions of the people who care about their community.

This year, nominate a youth volunteer, or volunteers from rural Alberta and help bring attention and shine a light on their incredible contributions!

Lethbridge, Warburg, Cochrane, Blackfalds, Fort McMurray, and Grand Prairie are a few of the communities across the province already celebrating youth volunteering through youth volunteer awards and Leaders of Tomorrow. Lethbridge drew a record number of nominees this year for their Leaders of Tomorrow event, and had over 300 people attend the celebration. The passion, interest, and dedication is alive and well.

We know that every Albertan community thrives because of the contributions of volunteers of all ages. Recognize an Albertan volunteer and thank them for all that they do so that the magic of volunteerism stays front and center, and our communities remain strong and connected as they grow.

Nominate a shining star before September 20!

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Guest Post: The Art of Disruption – A Reflection

This post originally appeared on the Tamarack Institute blog on July 25, 2016.

Join Tamarack in Toronto this September for the Community Change Institute!


Last week, Tamarack’s Liz Weaver and Paul Born hosted a webinar on Community Change: The Art of Disruption as part of a Community Change Webinar Series. In this conversation Liz and Paul discussed some emerging ideas and strategies that are disrupting how some communities today are responding to the complex issues that they face.

There were quite a few ideas that emerged from this conversation, but three in particular stood out to me:

Number 1 | The Power of Connection

Number 2 | The Power of the People

Number 3 | The Power of the BIG 5

The Power of Connection

Liz began the conversation with the acknowledgment that in today’s society people seem to be so connected, yet so disconnected at the same time. We see this in everyday life – we are constantly connected and dialed in to one another’s lives via Text, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and the list goes on and on. But at times it feels that despite this constant online connection, many people are experiencing less and less real-life, meaningful face-to-face interaction.Diverse_Hands.jpg

The same could be said of the many organizations that are working tirelessly to create real, meaningful change in our communities and across the globe. Thanks to technology we see change-makers across the globe praising one another’s work, sharing their successes and supporting one another – we also see the criticism, the analysis of each other’s failures and at times, outright competition. Within the realm of community change, individuals and organizations alike are so much more aware of what other organizations are doing and what is happening in other communities, but we are not as involved or connected as we could be. Change-makers are often so disconnected in their work and when they do connect it is often very surface-level.

During the webinar, Liz reminded us that there are so many wonderful organizations doing incredible work but many are not achieving the big-scale change that they so desire. When you look at groups that are creating real traction in their communities you notice that there is something different going on and I think the answer circles back to this idea of connection.

To create real change, both in our individual lives and within our communities we need to connect – real-life, meaningful face-to-face interaction. We need to completely disrupt the ways that we have existed and worked within the realm of community change thus far and do something different.

The Power of the People

A second aha moment that came from this recent webinar was in regards to the power of the people. As Paul explored ideas of community change and disruption he was simply overflowing with the possibilities of people. Paul reflected on the ways in which Canadian citizens have completely stepped up when it comes to positive community change, citing the example of many Canadian citizens’ support of Syrian refugees. He also mentioned incredible examples of leadership happening in the realm of poverty reduction in cities like Toronto and Edmonton. We are beginning to see a huge shift in social responsibility – where people and their cities are no longer waiting for big governments to step in and take action, but rather the people and the cities themselves are becoming the leaders in large-scale social change.

Protest-1.jpgWe are in a wonderful time where it seems people are no longer waiting on the world to change – they are creating that change. They have decided to throw out the rule book and write their own. This is disruption at it’s finest.

Citizens want to be involved, so let’s involve them. Citizens want to be engaged, so let’s engage them. Paul reminds us that within the realm of community change it is our responsibility and our privilege to truly and deeply engage the people within our communities who are outside our organizations. There is definitely something to be said about the power of the people and their ability to disrupt and impact real change.

The Power of the BIG 5

During the webinar, Liz and Paul also touch on Tamarack’s five BIG ideas for making significant change:5.png

  1. Collective Impact
  2. Community Engagement
  3. Collaborative Leadership
  4. Community Development and Innovation
  5. Evaluating Community Impact

Our Idea Areas are key principles and techniques that help community leaders to realize the change they want to see. It doesn’t matter what issue you are facing – whether you are tackling poverty reduction, dealing with food access issues, wanting to improve health or trying to deepen the sense of community in your city – the thinking around these five areas and the application of the guiding techniques will help you to achieve impact.

The question we must ask ourselves is this: How do we use these five BIG ideas to create positive disruption within the realm of community change? And what does the future of these five key idea areas look like?

Collective Impact

Liz talks about the future of Collective Impact – Collective Impact 3.0 if you will – and the emphasis on evolving from a shared-agenda, to a community-wide agenda. In order to create real, disruptive change the goals of a Collective Impact initiative must be owned by the entire community, not just the folks doing the ground work.

*Liz and Mark Cabaj will be hosting a webinar on Collective Impact 3.0 – Register now! They will also be writing a paper on Collective Impact 3.0 so keep your eyes open for this!

Community Engagement

In our cities and communities, a new generation of community engagement is emerging. People want to be engaged in decisions, they want to work together and they want better outcomes for themselves and their neighbours.

Paul talks about how he used to look at community engagement in three stages: inform, consult, and involve. But over the years has discovered that we can no longer separate these three pieces, we must inform, consult and involve in one stride. Engaging citizens in every stage is a critical component of any work that will impact community in any way.

Collaborative Leadership

In the conversation about Collaborative Leadership a listener asked the following question How can we better engage business in Collective Impact initiatives?” To which Liz responded that there are business leaders “with heart.” The more important question, Liz suggests, is how do we engage those business leaders who have heart and how do we connect them with community change?

Liz suggests that the best tactic to address this issue is to:

  1. Do your homework
  2. Find the right fit and engage in real conversations (remember that thing I said about connection? It works – we promise;))
  3. Don’t stress about the “no” – focus on the positive outcomes

The future of collaborative leadership is a future with positive, cross-sectoral relationships that disrupt the current boundaries set in place.

Community Innovation

In their conversation, Liz and Paul stress that positive disruption can come at a systems level but also at the level of community programming. Often times innovation is happening right on the ground, centred within a community. This is the type of innovation that is key to real community change and this is the type of innovation that should be shared.

This is the kind of work that we want to highlight at Tamarack – both at the Community Change Institute this fall but also in our everyday work.

Evaluation

Liz says “evaluation is key but what can we do about learning and sense-making amidst evaluation?” – It’s time to take evaluation to the next level. We need to begin to think about what we can truly learn from the evaluation process and results and really make sense of what is discovered.

For me, the Art of Disruption is about engaged people and organizations rising up, breaking through boundaries and working together in new ways. The Art of Disruption requires flexibility and encourages the evolution and adaptation of perspective and practice.

I recently attended a one-day event with Paul Born in London, Ontario and at one point he jokingly began to sing a song that I feel sums up the Art of Disruption beautifully…

“The more we get together, together, together – the more we get together the happier we will be!”

 Continue Learning: 

Happy Learning!

Sienna Jae Taylor
Tamarack Institute

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From the Vault: When the Going Gets Tough, Be More Like a Penguin

This is a post from our vault. Originally posted Sept 17, 2012 as There are Penguins in Grande Prairie.

I recently took a quick trip to beautiful Grande Prairie, or “GP” as the locals say, to give the keynote address at the first Non-profit & Social Purpose Expo hosted and located at The Community Village.

The theme of the talk was The Power of Community. In the weeks leading up to the event, I spent my usual post-work walk home mulling over the approach I’d take. Would I talk about Martha Parker’s ideas around managers and directors of volunteers becoming “strategists in community engagement”? Or I would I speak about the 2011 State of the World’s Volunteerism Report and the common global values regarding volunteerism? Although both of those topics interest me (among others), the one idea that made the most sense to me was to talk about Emperor Penguins.

To be clear, I’ve never paid much notice to penguins, I have always considered them cute, quirky birds that dress well, but after seeing the movie March of the Penguins I had a new found respect for Aptenodytes forsteri. While reflecting on the movie I came to the conclusion that these penguins can teach us something about the power of community.

give wayFirst, what are the similarities? Penguins and humans are both social animals, survive harsh winters and like to summer by the sea, are large and flightless, are mainly monogamous, and look good dressed up. How penguins endure, survive and thrive in their environment is where the lessons can be learned about the power of community. As a side note, when I refer to community I am talking specifically about a community of nonprofit/voluntary sector organizations that operate in the same community trying to improve said community. Without going into a lot of how penguins live (you can look it up on Wikipedia like I did) let’s just say Emperor penguins have chosen a tough path to survival and have chosen to band together during the toughest times.

So, what are the lessons the nonprofit/voluntary sector can learn from these birds:

1)      Survival depends on working together – Without each other, penguins would not be able to stay warm. Without other nonprofit organizations, no one would be able demonstrate their importance. It is a community of organizations that truly has the most impact.

2)      We are all trying to nurture something we care about – For penguins it is their eggs, and for organizations it is the cause, broader community, clients, volunteers, and employees we aim to nurture.

3)      Not everybody makes it– Despite our best efforts, sometimes environmental stresses and ever so slight missteps claim victims. No matter how difficult it is when a fellow organization fails or flounders, it is the larger community’s responsibility to show resolve and continue on to set the example of what is possible.

4)      It is worth the time, effort and energy it takes to work together as a community – In the end it’s about building a stronger community with more to offer and a brighter future, working together guarantees it.  Penguins hatch chicks, organizations get stronger networks working together to more effectively hatch positive community outcomes.

5)      When it feels cold and lonely that is the time to come together as a community – Penguins could chose to do it on their own rather than, literally, huddle together. Nonprofits should think the same way. When resources are low, and the future seems bleak, that is the exact time to look to your peers and find the opportunities to collaborate and find creative solution to common challenges.

There it is. Penguins demonstrate the power of community and, if nothing else, it is a strong image to remember. So, the next time you are feeling yourself out alone in the nonprofit world, think of the Emperor Penguins huddled together staying warm and surviving. It should at least inspire to reach out and connect to your nonprofit community.

Annand Ollivierre
Volunteer Alberta

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Alberta Stepping Up and Collaborating to Help Fort McMurray Evacuees

As the wildfire crisis in Fort McMurray and surrounding communities continues, the whole Volunteer Alberta office has been paying attention and keeping our Fort McMurray colleagues, partners, friends, and family in our thoughts.

We have been incredibly inspired by the response from Albertan’s across the province. Some of the stories we have heard so far:

  • Individuals are stepping up as impromptu, informal volunteers to deliver gas to stranded motorists and offer food and beds to evacuees.
  • Businesses are sharing what they have, including vets and kennels opening to pets in need of shelter, restaurants serving free food, family attractions waiving admission fees, and hotels, dorms, and camps providing lodging.
  • Nonprofits in all subsectors are helping in their own ways, including recreation and community centres providing shelter, counselling and referral services supporting evacuees, and disaster relief organizations meeting immediate needs.
  • Government at all levels is getting people out of immediate danger, communicating regularly about what is going on, and providing funding and resources where they are needed.

Not only are people in every sector stepping up to help, collaboration within and across sectors to support evacuees has been amazing. Some examples:

  • Alberta Food Bank Association has organized for food banks in Edmonton and Calgary to transport large amounts of food to Athabasca and Lac La Biche food banks, using the strength of their network to meet emergency needs arising in those small communities.
  • Al Rashid Mosque in Edmonton is helping evacuees using the supplies, connections, and volunteers they have from welcoming Syrian refugees.
  • Airbnb is waiving service fees on listings from those wishing to share their accommodations with evacuees free of charge.
  • Both the provincial and federal governments are matching donations to the Canadian Red Cross, tripling donors’ efforts and enabling a coordinated disaster response. Many businesses are also donating and collecting donations to the Red Cross.
  • Oil companies including Shell and Suncor have been working with the evacuation effort to provide transportation and shelter to evacuees.
  • Volunteer Alberta has been sharing information and well wishes through Twitter, and waiting to hear how we can best help nonprofits, both from Fort McMurray and those helping around Alberta.

In the coming weeks and months, as both short and long term needs become more clear, communities will continue to respond and support evacuees and the community of Fort McMurray. I am sure we will continue to hear stories of Albertans in every sector and corner of the province finding ways to help out.

rogersIf you are looking for opportunities to help, keep in mind that the need has just begun.

Be patient as some organizations are experiencing overwhelming amount of support and donations, beyond what they can currently use or distribute! Your passion and enthusiasm is going to be very helpful as evacuees, organizations, and communities learn more about their ongoing needs – so hang tight.

To keep up to date on the help being provided for Fort McMurray evacuees, follow #ymmhelps on Twitter.

 

Sam Kriviak
Volunteer Alberta

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Creating vibrant communities starts with you

Promovo Community - Biking TogetherBuilding vibrant communities is complicated work. It relies on cooperation, participation, inclusion, and diversity. This means people from all walks of life, in all areas including business, government, community, and nonprofit organizations, must work together.

Volunteerism, in particular, has the power to transform your life, the lives of others, and entire communities. As nonprofit professionals, we know volunteers are the roots of our communities and our work depends on them!

When people, like you, come together, at home, in your job, or as a volunteer, positive impact can be made. Volunteerism creates vibrant communities.

Next week is National Volunteer Week (April 10-16), and, to celebrate, Volunteer Alberta has created a short, informative video. This video not only tells the story of how a single person makes a difference, it also introduces some complex ideas that we are exploring about system change through combined and collective efforts.

Last fall Volunteer Alberta explored these idea when we hosted, interCHANGE, a unique one-day conference (learn more about it here). We brought dynamic players from government, business, and nonprofit sectors together to explore how to tackle complex challenges that affect people’s quality-of-life.

interCHANGE was a step forward in a collective attempt to answer the question: “What relationships need to exist in order to create the conditions to make a positive impact in Alberta’s communities?”.

Together we explored how boundaries between sectors and service delivery are blurring. If we embrace these areas of overlap, we can create opportunities for dynamic collaborations and social innovation.

We learned challenges in today’s society require adaptive responses in order to have positive results – and that adaptive responses have three components:

  • Participatory – you have to be involved to make changes
  • Systemic – the issues and solutions are interconnected
  • Experimental – we need to be willing to try different and new approaches

(Did you know: We regularly post articles on systems change like this one on systems thinking, and this one on systems learning, and we’ll continue to dive deeper into our findings from interCHANGE in the future.)

CoachLet’s consider participatory action and look at it through the lens of volunteerism.

Volunteerism provides an opportunity for us to get involved, experiment in our community, and learn about the experiences of different people who lead different lives, aka. the ‘other’. Volunteering provides the opportunity for everyone involved to develop newfound understanding and empathy for the ‘other’.

The video, Vibrant Communities and You, highlights the role volunteers play in creating vibrant communities and is our gift to you for National Volunteer Week. Please share it on social media, pass it along, or even play it at your National Volunteer Week event.

You can find the video on our website to watch or download, or share/embed it via YouTube and Vimeo.

Volunteer Alberta supports community-service learning, when students gain experience and develop their skills by contributing to nonprofits. We are proud to have worked with the students and faculty at Pixel Blue College to create the animation in this video and grateful for their hard work.

 

Katherine Topolniski
Volunteer Alberta

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