It has been one year since I started as Executive Director with genius, and I would like to share with you my reflections on this past year, as well as inform you of what’s next and the ways in which we will need your support for the work ahead.
This past year has been one of transition and learning in so many ways. As an alumna of Next UP myself, it is an enormous privilege for me to be learning this new role within a community that I already care deeply about. I’ve felt supported in transitioning to work again with a toddler in tow - my daughter, Eloise, often joining a meeting, presentation, or video call. I’m listening and learning about what it means for me to be an ally and how to work in solidarity to challenge oppressive systems of power. I’ve also been busy connecting with countless grads, partners, and supporters who have shared with me their experiences of Next UP over the years. I’ve been surprised at just how different each of our programs are, and yet, I’m most struck by the deep sense of community.
Eloise on her way to the next intensive
Next UP has long been supported and held up in solidarity by the labour movement and progressive community, developing the program from the ground up. We would not be where we are today without the foundation you have all laid - your generosity of time, your sharing of expertise, critical funding, and on-the-ground support. With over 800 grads, the impact of your work is being seen throughout progressive movements! The past 13 years have also brought opportunities for growth and learning – Next UP programs have evolved, community needs have changed, and we are emboldened more and more by the network of grads and allies who are activating this work in new ways.
We want to build on the already incredible work being done by grads and Next UP staff across Canada. This past year, our work included:
- Ten focused intensives across Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, and Saskatchewan;
- Connecting events in Vancouver, Saskatoon, and Ottawa to bring together Next UP alumna and other progressive youth;
- A condensed cohort in Edmonton;
- A gathering hub for social change leaders through our “Social Justice Sunday School” partnership in Saskatoon;
- A game-jam and game-design program in Saskatoon that brought together Indigenous and racialized youth to explore their shared experiences of racism (with Inspirit Foundation and Neeched Up Games);
- Hired a Right Relations Director, to help lead us in decolonizing our own systems, and convene a dialogue series around colonial harm in organizing (in partnership with IndigenEYEZ).
Indigenous Youth in Action with Kim Haxton
So, What’s Next at Next UP?
As our communities face increased challenges, I see a vital role for young people in maintaining justice initiatives at both community and systems levels.I’ve heard from our network a need for Next UP to review our processes and refresh our curriculum to address the most pressing issues of this moment in time. This certainly isn’t a period of rest – it may even be the most challenging (and exciting!) work we’ve done yet! The work ahead includes:
- Finalizing our equity audit, to be shared in full;
- Deepening our commitment and approach to decolonization and equity with our Right Relations Director;
- Taking time this Fall to evaluate and enhance core programming, solidify funding relationships, and build capacity within Next UP;
- Preparing for the next generation of activists, with the goal of reanimating a cohort series in early 2020.
I can’t imagine doing any of this without the support of our network - YOU. Each conversation, email, and phone-call I’ve had this past year is influencing the work being done now. Your voice and feedback are so important to this process. In each region, we will be bringing grads and partners together to talk through some of these changes and to listen to what you and your communities need from Next UP. Until then, we will keep you updated on events and progress via our Facebook page and emails like this one. If you would like to reflect on your experience of Next UP and/or offer support in your city, please fill out this form HERE – and we’ll be in touch in September.
We’re Stronger, Together
Next UP was created with the belief that a better world is not just possible but is imperative; we must continue to support young leaders if we are to find solutions to our collective challenges. I believe in this mission, now, more than ever. The normalization of neoliberalism, systemic oppression and colonization, stalling of climate justice, and the rise in fascist attitudes are all serious and complex problems that are weaving their way into the fabric of our communities. We have an incredible opportunity this year to strengthen our response and model that justice work must also be JUST.
I’m grateful to have had such an incredible team and Board of Directors who really believe in social change and in our work together. I want to also thank all of you for the ways you have supported and contributed to Next UP over the past 13 years, including welcoming me through this year of transition. We’re proud of the work we’ve done and we’re excited for the work to come that will make the future even more resilient and Just.
genius//Next UP//Organize BC