One Year Reflection and the Work Ahead

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.

Reflecting Back

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. 

With gratitude,


Executive Director,

genius//Next UP//Organize BC


3 reactions Share

National Indigenous Peoples Day

Today we celebrate Indigenous resilience and strength, creativity and innovation, diversity and relations. We must also think critically about the injustices Indigenous peoples experience every day. Direct erasure of Indigenous identities is continued today through exploitative and unsustainable economics, systemic white supremacist policies, normalized and unchecked racism, and settler-centred reconciliation. 

We commit to disrupt and dismantle colonial systems by persistently challenging our place on these lands and standing in solidarity with the rights for Indigenous self-determination and sovereignty. As we try and understand the truth that needs to come before reconciliation, here are some possible resources below.

Post any other resources you might want to share in the comments!

- Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Final Report:

- Land Acknowledgement App:

- Red Women Rising:

- 5 Actions you Can Take:

- Indigenous Ally Toolkit:


Add your reaction Share

CLP in the New Energy Economy Blog

A climate leadership program for the rest of us

CLP2 R2.jpeg


“I want to make a difference: I can’t make a climate treaty, I already compost … what’s in between?”

It’s a sentiment Mike Byerley hears often: More and more people want to get involved in climate action, but don’t know where to start.

Byerley is the director of programming with the Regeneration Learning Society, and runs the annual Alberta Climate Leadership Program.

“The program is for people outside the climate enterprise,” said Byerley, a geologist by training who worked in the Alberta oil patch for 13 years. “They are not activists, they are not climate scientists, they are not working in the policy sector or government.

“The people in the program are basically the 85 per cent of people excluded from participation on climate change.”

The five-month program, which is spread over five weekends, aims to help Alberta residents gain an understanding of the systemic nature of climate change and then apply that understanding to their own situations.

It’s our belief that the people closest to the system
are not the best to change the system.

“It’s our belief that the people closest to the system are not the best to change the system,” he said.

Each year the program accepts 25 participants over the age of 25 who are more established in their professional lives, understand the context in which they are working, and are on a leadership track. Sometimes these are people who have acquired the role of “climate person” or “environmental liaison” at their current jobs.

For example, the program’s alumni include a National Energy Board employee who manages stakeholder relationships with indigenous communities, a climate coordinator for a local governance council, as well as people from the regulatory sector and from oil and gas companies.

“They have the same cares and concerns and interests,” said Byerley, particularly people working in the oil and gas sector, “and they don’t feel like they can do anything.”

The program includes five weekend retreats in different locations (Calgary, Edmonton, Kananaskis and Red Deer). While it doesn’t have an academic focus, the program does begin with some classroom theory on economics, the petro-state, neoliberalism, and how justice affects social change.

“If you are working to change the world, people need to understand what you are asking and be interested in what you are asking,” said Byerley.

Participants then move on to develop their own projects, learning how to design, test and operationalize ideas.

Byerley said more than half of the participants carry their projects through to the end, even after they’ve completed the course. Some of the projects started during the program have led to an oil field company setting up a $2 million green tech fund, a food waste and surplus food recovery program, and an unlikely partnership between a solar energy company and an immigration resettlement worker doing home energy audits.

In addition to the theory and project work, a third aspect of the program is peer-based learning, where participants have the chance to work in groups and learn from each other.

“[We want people] saying lots of things out loud, because that changes your relationship to an idea,” said Byerley.

At the end of the five-month program, the intent is for participants to have the tools, skills and knowledge to add a climate change twist to the work they are already doing.

“We’re not asking people to do new work, we are asking people to add to their work,” said Byerley. “No one wants to do something new, but they don’t mind doing a little more.”


Applications are open until Feb. 25.

2 reactions Share

Meet your new Next UP BC Coordinator!

We are excited to announce Jackson Wai Chung Tse | 謝瑋聰 as our new Next UP BC Coordinator!
Here is a message from Jackson:


Dear Next UP BC!

It is with deep humility that I write to you today. I feel like I am (re)joining a path trodden by so many brilliant people before me. You shine like stars in your places in the world, and I am so grateful to accompany you along this small part of our journeys together.

For me, Next UP was first and foremost a community building experience. Even though I might not remember all the curriculum or resonate with all that was presented, the relationships I built were invaluable and are friends I still cherish to this day.

One of my biggest priorities now is to listen. Over the next few months, I would love to connect with you, and as the new BC Coordinator I hope to provide opportunities for BC alumni to network with each other. If you’re interested in these upcoming gatherings, feel free to keep an eye out on social media or on your emails.

As we figure out our next steps, I invite you to be patient with me, to share with me, and to hold me accountable as I move forward in this role. I will make mistakes, and am continuously learning/unlearning.

But, like many of you, I am also hopeful, hardworking, and a seeker of justice. I look forward to seeing you and hearing you in the months to come.

Sending my best,
Jackson Wai Chung Tse | 謝瑋聰
Pronouns: He, She, They
Jackson Wai Chung Tse | 謝瑋聰
Photography by the talented and vivacious Alana Paterson:
2 reactions Share

Support Young Leaders

"Like the rivers that connect this country, carving out pathways and enriching local communities, Next UP provides many opportunities for its participants to connect with their communities and question how they might create change.”

Jodi Lammiman, Next UP Calgary 3

Thank you for your support, ideas, and encouragement during this year of transition. Next UP’s goal continues to be to equip young people with the skills and tools needed to become effective leaders in movements for progressive social, economic, and environmental change.

Snapshot intensives, coupled with a shorter cohort program enable us to be responsive to community needs. In this time of increased polarity, I believe that now, more than ever, we need to support young leaders if we are to find solutions to our collective challenges.

Your support makes this all possible. Next UP costs approximately $2500/participant and we get by on a small budget. Your donations help us address accessibility needs, pay our presenters fairly, support young leaders to attend our programs at minimal (or no) cost to themselves, and plan ahead.

For every $50 donation made by January 1st, 2019, you will receive a set of unique Next UP "The River" cards, designed by Next Up alumna, Jodi Lammiman, and a charitable tax receipt for the full amount of your gift.

For every $100 donation made by January 1st, 2019, you will receive a coloured print of “The River” by Jodi Lammiman and a charitable tax receipt for the full amount of your gift.

Donate Now!

Thanks for all that you do. Let’s work with empathy and act with courage as we shape a more Just and equitable society, together.


Selena, on behalf of Next UP

P.S. If you would rather give monthly with whatever amount feels right to you, you can sign up as a monthly donor.

1 reaction Share

Equity and Movement Building

Equity and Movement Building at Next UP

We believe that before we can demand better of others, we must demand better of ourselves.

The progressive sector is not immune to systemic inequities - in fact, we can be the most blind to our complicities! As organizations that stand for justice, there is a prolific problem of racial inequity in the non-profit sector. We hear and acknowledge that there is a need for us to critically reflect on equity and decolonization within genius/Next Up.  We strongly desire to deepen and strengthen our equity and anti-oppression work, and we want to do this work in community, with you.

That is why we are working with two phenomenal leaders in transformative and inclusive organizational change: Natasha Aruliah and Parker Johnson. Natasha and Parker are leading a preliminary diversity, equity, and inclusion review of genius and Next Up. This is a starting place for the work we hope to do together. You can find their inspiring biographies below!

This work involves:

  • Reviewing how Next Up has evolved over time in each of our program communities;
  • Interviewing a cross-section of Vancouver alumni, program staff, Board, and stakeholders – asking critical questions about our understanding of and challenges to equity. I recognize that this is only a very small snapshot and we will work to expand opportunities for the network to engage with us;
  • Reviewing our processes such as organizational systems, program content, recruitment, and evaluations from an equity-centred lens.

We are deeply committed to safe(er) spaces that allow for authentic dialogue and centre equity at the core of what we do; this initial review is just the start of our work together! I will be looking to our national network to help us develop action plans, convene dialogues on systemic injustice and colonial harm in movements, and help us focus our equity and anti-oppression lenses. We will always feel as though there isn't enough time or money to do our best work but we can't wait until the timing is perfect; this is too urgent to wait, yet too vital to rush. This reflective work will take time, some tough love, and a lot of patience.

If you have any questions about this process or what’s coming up next, please reach out to me at I look forward to learning and growing in this work together.

- Selena Gignac

Executive Director

Natasha Aruliah identifies as a racialised immigrant settler, who currently lives and works on the unceded and traditional territories of the sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh), and xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) nations. Originally trained as a psychologist, she worked as a therapist in healthcare, education and community service settings, with a variety of marginalised communities. This work lead her to working with the systems and structures that cause harm, inequity and injustice to effect change. She now works as a facilitator, consultant, educator and coach, specialising in diversity, equity, inclusion, social justice and transformative change for both individuals and organisations, in the UK, Europe, USA and Canada. She has worked with government, union, non-profit, community and corporate organisations, specifically in education, healthcare, public policy, community services and the environment.

Parker Johnson is an African American man working in the field of prevention of harassment and discrimination, workplace equity and inclusion, and organizational change. He holds a MEd in higher education administration, planning and policy from Harvard University. Also Parker worked in the US in higher education student services focusing on diversity, equity and inclusion for 19 years before moving to Canada in 2002. He has taught courses in education, intercultural communication and cultural studies. For the past few years, he has been a facilitator on social justice issues with the Inner Activist Program. Parker also enjoys time with family and friends, traveling, journaling, and reading speculative fiction.


Meet your facilitators For "Sustainable Leadership In Urgent Times"

We are getting excited for Next UP BC Presents: Sustainable Leadership in Urgent Times. We thought you might like to know more about the facilitators who will be leading this three-day weekend leadership program for young people.

This 3-day weekend leadership program for young people will be led by Laura Collison, our Next UP Edmonton Coordinator and Jackson Tse, owner of Benevolent Bodywork.

Laura Collison is a white Settler living in Amiskwaciwâskahikan (Edmonton) under Treaty 6. Laura was a participant in the 2010/11 Next Up Edmonton cohort and has served on Next Up Edmonton’s Advisory Committee.

Growing up surrounded by Albertans in border towns in BC and Saskatchewan led to a fascination with Alberta’s political culture. This drew her to study Sociology and Political Science at the University of Alberta’s Augustana Faculty. She learned that politics in Alberta is often frustrating, but never boring and the progressive community she found here helped her decide to make the province her home.

Laura is passionate about creating change through popular education and has developed workshops on feminism in community organizing, ending gender-based violence and sexual assault, and prison abolition. She also has experience in feminist community radio, youth leadership, volunteer engagement, public legal education, social marketing, and political campaigning. Laura has been a volunteer at the the federal prison for women in the Prairie region since 2008.

You can often find Laura knocking doors during elections; riding her bike to a meeting; hiking in the woods; or curling in Edmonton's LGBTQ curling league with her team, the Button Bangers.

Jackson Wai Chung Tse (he/she/they) is a queer, immigrant, multidisciplinary artist on unceded Coast Salish land, also known as Vancouver, Canada. He is a MEC Outdoor Nation Ambassador, the happy owner of, and enjoys facilitating and consulting for causes close to his heart.

In mainstream, dominated spaces, he want to bring more queer folks of colour to build community, give voice to those historically and systematically silenced and oppressed, and reclaim our joy, magic, and self-worth back from colonized ideas. He was honoured to be in the 2014/15 Calgary NextUp cohort.

Since graduating from civil engineering at Queen's University, teaching English overseas, and self-funding travel to 35 different countries around the world, Jackson has decided to move to the West Coast to be closer to his two biggest heartbeats: his best friend and the ocean.

Jackson likes to make love, hold solo dance parties when no one is around, and sink his hands into giant sacks of dried rice. He’s a big connection junkie. Sometimes he forgets to shave and his facial hair grows out in uneven patches. He still can’t get his moustache to join. Really, he's just a Chinese gay hippie unicorn radical faerie full of chocolate, smiles, and light.

He identifies as a person of colour to refugee parents, grew up in a low-income, suburban, and conservative home, and had a past as an evangelical Christian. As a sexual assault survivor, he knows the importance of giving people the power of choice. He tries not to make any assumptions, and he takes care to be completely present with the folks he's engaged with. His facilitation experience comes from his roles at organizations across Canada and the globe, including Camp fYrefly, Shad Valley International, Tim Horton’s Children’s Ranch, the Quantum Learning Network, the Centre for International Pedagogical Studies in France, the Ministry of Science and Education in Georgia, The Calgary Bridge Foundation for Youth, and numerous post-secondary institutions.
Jackson’s soul gets replenished from sharing food in conscious communities, spending time in nature, and expressing his creativity. In 2018, he made his debut with MachineNoisy Dance Society at the Vancouver Queer Arts Festival, and premiered his first film, Breaking the Silence featuring Paul Wong, at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival.

Please connect with Jackson at his Instagram, his ModelMayhem profile, or his Youtube videos.

Sustainable Leadership in Urgent Times is on September 28th - September 30th. The application deadline is Tuesday, September 18th. You can learn more information or apply now by clicking here.

If you have any questions, you can email

Add your reaction Share

Exciting Announcement from the Leadership of genius and Next UP

From the Board of Directors:

The genius Board of Directors is excited to welcome Selena Gignac into the role of Executive Director of the Global Youth Education Network Society (genius). Selena brings incredible experience and vision to the role and we are thrilled that she will be leading the important work of the organization.

Before introducing Selena to you, we want to take this opportunity to recognize outgoing Executive Director, Kevin Millsip, and his brilliant leadership over the past 14 years.

Since founding genius in 2004, Kevin has grown the vision of the organization and its programs, and genius has seen an incredible evolution over that time. Next Up, our flagship program, began in Vancouver in 2006 and now offers social and environmental justice leadership programs in seven cities across Canada. It also offers specific Indigenous leadership training opportunities for Indigenous young adults in Saskatchewan and British Columbia. Genius has also supported the important work of Organize BC, Get Your Vote On, Front Runner and Hua Foundation. It has been an honour for the Directors to work alongside Kevin, support his vision, and celebrate the impact that genius has had. Kevin has shown incredible commitment, passion, and integrity throughout his tenure as Executive Director and we want to thank him for setting the stage for Selena to carry this organization into the next era.

We also want to thank Tracey Mitchell (former Acting Executive Director and Prairie Regional Manager, Next Up) and Kristie Starr (former Operations Manager and Fund Development Coordinator) for their incredible contributions to Next Up and for their guidance throughout this transition period. They will be truly missed and we wish them well in their new respective projects.

As for the future, we are very excited to welcome Selena into the role of Executive Director and watch how the organization benefits from her energy, vision, and many talents. She is described by her colleagues as an incredible relationship builder and convener. She has an extensive background in youth leadership training, both as a Next Up graduate and as a facilitator of youth leadership programs. Selena participated in Next Up Calgary during the first year it was offered (2010/2011), and, we are thrilled to have a Next Up alumna move into this leadership role.

Selena has coordinated global and national youth events, including supporting national youth conferences focused on reconciliation. She is Co-Chair of the Board of Directors of Canadian Roots Exchange, and has been a community facilitator with the 4Rs Youth Movement, which works to change the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth through nation-to-nation dialogue. She is a skilled facilitator, public speaker, and a powerful story teller.

During the interview process, Selena presented an exciting vision for how genius can evolve to build an even stronger social and environmental justice sector across the country. We were inspired by her ideas, her energy, and her creativity. As Selena stated, “genius demonstrates a daring belief that youth are not merely ‘leaders of the future’, but that with the right opportunities and support networks, they are already the leaders of today.” It was clear that Selena’s strong progressive values align with the mission of genius, and we know she will be an excellent leader for genius and its programs.

Welcome, Selena!

From Selena Gignac:

The transition from founding Executive Director to new leadership is momentous for an organization. Many in our network will recall Kevin’s beautiful story-telling and his ability to ground us in why this work is so vital to the fabric of our communities, but also to ourselves. His energy, joyful sense of humour, and stories of his once magnificent beard, will all be missed - but as Kevin has reassured me as I’ve come on board, he remains committed to supporting the movement. There is still so much to learn together.

I am deeply humbled by the Board’s belief in me and am ready to learn, listen, and be fearless with you. I am energized by this opportunity for genius to boldly redefine progressive leadership in Canada: leadership that holds institutions accountable to communities, challenges systems to be rooted in a culture of sustainability, demands equity without condition, and inspires not only individuals, but a generation, as instigators (agitators!) for change.

As an anglophone, Acadian-settler mother living in Alberta, my relationship with colonialism is complex. I believe that reconciliation is rooted in both an understanding of self and in collective community experience. This is critical and personal work for me as I strive within my own communities to decolonize what it means to be part of the Acadian diaspora. I am deeply committed to safe(er) spaces that allow for authentic dialogue and centre equity at the core of what we do.

In the coming months, I will be taking time to connect with our network of allies and alumni. You will notice some exciting changes as we move out of summer and into what would usually be our program year. If you’re looking for the usual Next Up program in your city in the fall, you will instead find an opportunity to gather and connect in focused intensives. As we approach 12 years of programming, we are launching an organizational equity review, which will challenge and strengthen our movement as we navigate changes to the progressive sector together; I look forward to sharing and discussing the results and action plan with you.

This shift in approach for the next few months isn’t about being quiet or passive. Genius is taking one deep, collective breath so we can take stock of how far we’ve come, and, loudly & boldly demand better of ourselves and of the world around us. I look forward to co-conspiring with you.

Selena Gignac
Executive Director

1 reaction Share

Next UP Sask Grad Discuss Saskatchewan Provincial Budget

Next UP Saskatchewan graduate, Dan Leblanc (NUSask Alum 2012-13) and his sister have recently discussed how the most recent Saskatchewan Provincial Budget has affected them.


Link to the video can be found here.

1 reaction Share

NU Sask grad building support for mental health patients

Next Up Saskatchewan 2012 Alumnus Jae Ford is a co-founder of Signs of Healing, an initiative to display signs outside the Irene & Les Dube Centre for Mental Health in Saskatoon. The group is currently fundraising to expand their initiative to five other inpatient units. To support the project click here. To read more about this project go to the Saskatoon Star Phoenix article or read the text from the article below.

Read more
Add your reaction Share