Welcoming Newcomers into the Fold
Written by Caroline McAndrews
This past year, I’ve been a part of the advisory committee for Independent Sector’s NGen pre-conference. I’ve also been an attendee for the past 5 years. More and more I’ve seen associations such as Independent Sector try to increase programming for younger and/or emerging leaders. The NGen program also includes a fellowship class and webinars throughout the year. What made me excited about this year’s program, though, is the creative and innovative pre-work that has happened in order to prep attendees for the conference.
Programming for younger leaders at national sector-wide conferences is often a one-off replication of the larger conference itself, just focused on a different set of people. As a result, these spaces can often replicate the subtle hierarchies that exist in larger settings, including what my good colleague Mac Antigua (the director of Alumni Engagement for Public Allies and head of this year’s NGEN advisory committee) likes to call the “cool-kids table.” In other words, the folks who attend the conference year after year and have already cemented their networks.
One of the goals of programming for next generation leaders is to help build up nascent or non-existent networks and encourage collaboration across organizations at new levels. In order to get a jump start this year – and to welcome new attendees who unlike me do not have 5 years of relationships developed with NGen attendees – Mac has been hosting conference calls to introduce newcomers to each other along with one or two long-time attendees. It’s a virtual version of the buddy-system. I got to co-lead one of these calls with him yesterday and am excited by the connections that were made and the great group of people I’m going to meet in person at the end of the month when the conference takes place in New York.
If you’ll be at the conference, you should also check out the other spaces where BMP will be presenting, including a session hosted by our former staffer Trish Tchume, who is now the National Director of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network. She’s put together a great group of folks that includes Ai-Jen Poo of Domestic Workers Alliance and the Caring Across Generations campaign and Decker Ngongang who manages the Black Male Achievement Fellowship at Echoing Green. They’ll be talking about alternative leadership structures, and our very own Frances Kunreuther and Sean Thomas-Breitfeld will share lessons from implementing their co-directorship.
Frances will also be part of two more sessions at the conference. In one, she will lead a roundable discussion titled, “Serivice to Advocacy: a Series of 5% Shifts”, based on our recent work on how providers can make small shifts to integrate constituency mobilization into their everyday work. The other is a “Connections” roundtable discussion that will cover a variety of important sector issues, from sustainability and cross-sector collaboration to the impact of technology on the sector.
Let us know if you’re planning on attending and we’ll look out for you. In the meantime, I’m excited to see how NGen will change this year, and if prepping attendees beforehand can make a difference in the types of connections made at the conference itself. Hope to see you in New York!