Emerging Leaders Network: The first eight weeks

It’s only been eight weeks since we launched our Emerging Leaders Network but the group’s membership has already risen to 85 people and we’ve held several fantastic events so far.  This is an update on what has been happening with the Network since it began in late May, and is also a glimpse of the exciting events we’ve got planned for the next few months.

It didn’t take long after we announced the creation of the Network’s online community for younger nonprofit professionals in the Victoria area to start signing up in droves.  In fact, within a week 42 members had joined!  Two weeks after that, the membership had soared to 66 emerging leaders, and (as mentioned above) today the Network numbers almost 20 more.  It will continue to grow, I’m sure, as more individuals with an eye to leading a nonprofit organization in the future find out about this exciting new group.

As the Network’s project lead, I spent time in June and July getting together with Network members in five “Blue Sky Sessions.”  These brainstorming sessions (named after similar sessions at Disney) were casual get-togethers where all ideas about what the members would like the Network to look like were considered and discussed.  The ideas that came forward were incredible!  Emerging leaders proposed topics for workshops and meetings and suggested possible speakers, books, websites, and other resources that they felt were important to share with their colleagues.  Through these sessions I learned a lot about emerging leaders’ preferences, capabilities, worries, ambitions and needs – information that is going to help immensely with planning desirable activities for Network members this year.

On June 28 we held the first bi-monthly Emerging Leaders Network meeting which featured Volunteer Victoria’s Executive Director Val Green as the guest speaker and saw 34 emerging leaders attend to kick off the Network.  The buzz of excitement in the room was incredible as attendees started meeting their similar-age colleagues at other nonprofit organizations.  And Val, a true believer in the capabilities of emerging leaders, shared her leadership learnings from her more than 25 years of nonprofit experience and time as an Executive Director.  What a great start to the Network!  (Don’t worry, we audio-taped the session so new Network members can listen in, after they join, to all meetings.)

Next it was time to start connecting with current nonprofit leaders to see how they could get involved in the Network.  I already had information from the Blue Sky sessions about how emerging leaders would like to connect with current leaders, so I developed a checklist document to send to Executive Directors of local nonprofit organizations to gauge their level of interest in these connections.  The document was sent out to Volunteer Victoria’s Executive Director’s Network email list and soon the responses came flooding in.  It turns out that EDs are just as interested in connecting with emerging leaders to learn from them as the other way around – nice!  Now I’m organizing short coffee and lunch sessions to bring emerging leaders and current leaders together, have more ideas for future speakers for Network meetings and workshops, and will eventually be able to feature leader interviews in podcasts that will be made available to all Network members.  Speed networking events that will bring together emerging leaders and current leaders are also on the horizon.

What else have we been up to so far?  Well, we held our first casual mixer for emerging leaders only at a downtown pub in mid-July.  And, a sub-set of the Network membership is also helping me plan a five-day leadership course, to be offered over a five-month period from Fall 2010 to Spring 2011.  The program is intended to ground emerging leaders in the knowledge they need to have in order to lead nonprofit organizations.

All said, the first two months of the Emerging Leaders Network has been a whirlwind of activity and lots more is yet to come.

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