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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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Coping After Natural Disasters – Care for your community with Psychological First Aid

Guest post by Owen Thompson, Alberta Museums Association

Albertans are no strangers to natural disasters. We have been faced with the threat of wildfire, flood, avalanche, extreme storms, extreme heat, tornados, the list goes on.

Yet, even within the framework of an experienced and professional infrastructure, the unprecedented flooding in summer of 2013 left a lasting impression on Alberta. It very literally changed the landscape of the Rockies in some areas and along the Bow River specifically. As one researcher from UBC explained, “the river widened substantially and degraded up to two meters in some places as the channel pattern was reorganized completely.”

Billions of dollars have been spent to recover from those few days almost three years ago. But the damage was not just physical; it also had psychological impact on many people, such as nonprofit staff and volunteers who were engaged in the aftermath of the floods, as well as the individuals they helped.

ThoughtfuNatural disasters, like other traumatic events, can have a last effect on the mental health of all those involved. Years later, residents of High River continue to report feeling “jittery” in June, or when heavy rains come through. The stress levels and anxiety that come with facing such drastic events can be debilitating. Helplessness can set in and action may stop when it is needed most. However, similar to the ways we mitigate physical damage, there are also ways to mitigate psychological damage.

For that reason, the Alberta Museums Association, through its Museum Flood Funding Program, is proud to be partnering with Volunteer Alberta and Alberta Health Services (AHS) to offer two workshops on Psychological First Aid (PFA) in southern Alberta.

Psychological First Aid (PFA) provides the tools Albertans working in the aftermath of natural disasters need to help other members of their communities. PFA can also lessen the emotional and mental impact for those workers themselves.

The PFA workshops provides tools and methods to:

  • offer practical care without forcing it
  • listen without pressure
  • connect people to the information and resources they need
  • protect people from further harm

The PFA workshops will address the deep psychological effects of trauma, with a focus on the aftermath of disaster situations, by sharing methods that can aid in the recovery process. This training is a great opportunity for staff, volunteers, and individuals who work with those struggling after natural disasters.

The training uses a “stepped-care” approach that tailors the type of care to the needs of each person. Some people will need access to professional therapy, while other people will recover on their own. While PFA is the first line of defense against stress-related mental health issues, it cannot replace the level of care offered by a professional.

The PFA workshops will be held in two southern Alberta locations:

  • High River on May 12
  • Medicine Hat on June 23

Find out more information on the workshops and register today.

 

Owen Thompson
Flood Advisory Lead
Alberta Museums Association

 

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We Are Listening Alberta! – Our New Website

Just before the holidays our new website went live. We are still working with our talented web developers at Adster Creative to sort out any kinks – we welcome your suggestions and we are excited to hear your first impressions on the changes!

We heard from our members that it was challenging to find specific programs, discover new initiatives, or find answers to your questions on our old website. This new website is designed with you in mind. We want you to be able to find our programs faster, uncover new programs, services, and resources, and discover information that fit your needs.

We hope that you find our website to be intuitive, inviting, and a great tool to finding out how we can help you and other Alberta nonprofits.

 

We Focused on You

FUNDING-HR SCiP - Colleagues Working (1)-minWe heard from our members that the top four areas you look for support are:

  1. Network Resources
  2. Human Resources
  3. Information Resources
  4. Financial Resources

We built our website around these four critical areas to easily direct you to programs, services, resources, and information that fit your needs.

 

Network Resources

The number one reason organizations join our membership is to be part of a provincial nonprofit network and to access knowledge exchange and meaningful connections across the province. We work to amplify the voice of Alberta’s nonprofits through a variety of influential partnerships and collaborations. Our website has been designed to help us grow and share the benefits of the network. It’s also easy for you to stay connected on nonprofit issues through our newsletters.

 

Human Resources

Recruiting and engaging people as staff and volunteers is one of the ongoing efforts of nonprofit organizations. We offer programs and resources to help address these challenges. Our new website offers easier access to these programs, as well as resources for managing paid employees and volunteers, as well as learning resources for those working in nonprofits at any level.

 

Information Resources

While we had many pieces of information and resources, they were lost in our old website. People would get confused and frustrated trying to find what they were looking for and would leave without the resources they were looking for. So, we grouped together resources and information, with quick links right on our front page. The information you need is now quick and easy to find.

 

Financial Resources

Often the biggest challenge as nonprofits is ensuring we have funding to do what we do. We have gathered information to get you started. We have gathered a list of places to look for funding, as well as resources to help you get funded.

 

Our new website design is just one of the ways we have changed to better serve Alberta communities and support the nonprofit sector. Learn more about Volunteer Alberta, our vision, and values on our brand new About Us pages, and let us know what you think about our website and how we are doing – we are listening!

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Leadership, Respect, and Innovation – Notes from the Action Generation Residency

Drew Noiles, Volunteer Alberta Learning and Technology Coordinator, attended the Alberta Youth VOLUNTEER! Action Generation Residency in Banff in August, a leadership learning opportunity for young people.

Forest2We live in a world progressively captivated by what it means to truly lead. The leadership residency assembled about 25 of us for a unique, hands-on learning opportunity with the ultimate purpose of developing our individual and collective leadership skills, all while savoring a humbling dose of mountain culture.

Our residency took place at the breathtakingly beautiful Banff Centre. Alliteration aside, it began with a simple introduction, an ice-breaker, and a quote:

“One of the challenges of being a leader is mastering the shift from having others define your goals to being the architect of the organization’s purposes and objectives” (Mary Parker Follett, 1919)

Taped on the wall were group guidelines and reference points on how to get the most out of our leadership residency. One of these guiding messages stood out to me; in a dark blue sharpie it simply stated: Be Fit & Well.

It’s a statement that I have now come to understand to be synonymous with stepping outside of your fears, and allowing yourself to be open and in the moment. There is a very welcomed perspective change – an epiphany if you will – that takes place when everyone in a room begins from a place of equality and respect. This was a delightful transition to which our group was receptive and enthusiastic.

Over the course of the next three and a half days we were fed. We were fed well, and we were fed often. Looking back, having that amount of delectable treats available to you at all times really does enhance the entire experience. Keeping spirits high and eagerness abundant.

There were many topics discussed throughout our stay. Starting with collaboration and coaching, leading into goal setting, and understanding the importance of prototyping. The leadership residency provided us all the opportunity to not only identify challenges, but to address them in a safe space.

The lessons from the leadership residency that I am going to incorporate into my daily work:

  • Listening is something you are accountable for; listening is a responsibility.
  • Fail. We should be encouraged to fail, but to fail fast.  Creativity comes from allowing yourself to make mistakes.
  • The truth: great leaders are needed to shape a better world; and that type of leadership is rooted in the understanding of both wise practices and creative new approaches.

By the end I was left feeling very much a part of a community that inspires one another to take risks, to develop new ideas, and to find solutions for the present and future. Because in the end, that’s what learning is: understanding something you’ve understood before but in a new way.

Drew Noiles
Volunteer Alberta

New Government, New Platform – Will it impact the nonprofit sector?

LeafOn Monday, Canada elected a new Liberal Government. The new government’s platform will impact our members, partners, and stakeholders. We have highlighted a few areas of the platform that may relate to nonprofit work, in all sub-sectors, across Alberta.

Nonprofit advocacy in particular is an element of the platform relevant to Volunteer Alberta.

Nonprofit Advocacy

From Volunteer Alberta Executive Director, Jann Beeston:

At Volunteer Alberta we believe, along with many others, that public policy is better when the nonprofit sector voice at the table.

Advocacy is a key part of Volunteer Alberta’s work. We can only do this work through the valuable input from our members, partners, and networks. We have worked in strategic partnership, with other nonprofit organizations, to influence direction related to;

  • privacy legislation,
  • vulnerable sector police information checks,
  • lobbyist act,
  • charitable donation tax credit,
  • nonprofit data,
  • funding mechanisms,
  • and the Alberta nonprofit incorporation review. 

Your voice is vital. It matters to our work, and to nonprofit advocacy and public policy work that impacts our sector and communities.

The Liberal platform promises to “modernize the rules” governing nonprofit advocacy, stating:

“We will allow charities to do their work on behalf of Canadians free from political harassment, and will modernize the rules governing the charitable and not-for-profit sectors. This will include clarifying the rules governing “political activity,” with an understanding that charities make an important contribution to public debate and public policy. A new legislative framework to strengthen the sector will emerge from this process.”

We will work to find opportunities for Alberta nonprofits to participate in the evolution of this and other new legislative frameworks. Volunteer Alberta will connect with both our strong provincial network of capacity building organizations, and national organization like Volunteer Canada and Imagine Canada. We look forward to working collaboratively and to communicating with the sector on issues that impact across Canada.

Other Areas of Interest

On addition to the Liberal platform promise regarding nonprofit advocacy, the platform includes many other promises that you may want to keep track of as the new government settles in.

The following promises may impact the nonprofit sector under our new federal government:

  • Employment:
    • Create youth jobs in the heritage sector through the Young Canada Works program.
    • Waive Employment Insurance premiums for 12 months for 18-24 years old hired into permanent positions in 2016, 2017, and 2018.
  • Technology and Data:
    • Crowdsource policy ideas from citizens using technology.
    • Increase data collection and availability, including reinstatement of the long-form census and changes to Statistics Canada.
  • Infrastructure:
    • Invest in affordable housing, seniors’ facilities, early learning and child care, and cultural and recreational infrastructure.
    • Create more infrastructure funding and loan opportunities for municipalities.
  • Arts:
    • Invest in cultural and creative industries, including doubling investment in the Canada Council for the Arts and increased funding for other arts bodies and programs.
  • Environment:
    • Work with provinces, territories, and other willing partners to address water and soil conservation and development issues.
    • Support innovation and the use of clean technologies in the forestry, fisheries, mining, energy, and agricultural sectors.
  • Indigenous Peoples:
    • Address housing, infrastructure, health and mental health care, community safety and policing, child welfare, and education through a nation-to-nation process with Indigenous Peoples.
    • New funding for Indigenous communities to promote and preserve Indigenous languages and cultures.
  • Women:
    • Work with experts and advocates to develop and implement a comprehensive federal gender violence strategy and action plan.
    • Increase investments in Canada’s network of shelters and transition houses for those fleeing domestic violence.
  • People with Disabilities:
    • Consult with provinces, territories, and other stakeholders to introduce a National Disabilities Act to eliminate systemic barriers for Canadians with disabilities.
  • Housing and Homelessness:
    • Commit funding for Housing First initiatives for homeless Canadians.
  • International Aid:
    • Consult with Canadian and international aid organizations to review current policies and funding frameworks.
    • Widen international aid reproductive health services and increase spending on international development.
  • Unions:
    • Repeal Bills C-377 and C-525 that diminished Canada’s labour movement.

Review the Liberal platform for more information on these promises.

The platform includes further promises on issues that nonprofit sub-sectors and organizations may care about. Find more information on these promises in the platform:

  • Funding for post-secondary students
  • Accessible mental health services
  • Poverty reduction for children and seniors
  • Investment in agricultural research and technical and marketing assistance
  • Gender equality in government and public policies
  • National inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls
  • Respect for Indigenous traditions in environmental stewardship
  • Climate change response framework and strengthened environmental protections
  • Quicker and increased immigration and refugee intake

What is your response to the Liberal government’s platform as it relates to the nonprofit sector and nonprofit organization issues in Alberta? Please share in the comments!

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