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.
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.
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.
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.
The second year of the Climate Leadership Program began March 2 - 4 in Kananaskis, Alberta. We took to the mountains and the home of the Stoney Nakoda people for the orientation weekend of our 5-weekend program. We gathered 27 participants from across Alberta, from Slave Lake, to Red Deer, Settler, Calgary and Edmonton. We’re excited to be learning together with Metis, newcomers, the energy industry, nonprofits, First Nations, farmers, unions members, researchers and more. We’re also looking forward to our many guest presenters, from government, academia, grassroots groups, think tanks, and hands on climate leaders. At the end of this program our new grads will be bringing back a climate action project to their workplaces and communities, taking actions that will move Alberta closer to the low carbon future that is necessary. All of this wouldn’t be possible without the committed support of Alberta EcoTrust and the Calgary Foundation. We’re grateful for their recognition of the importance of developing unlikely allies as Albertan climate leaders.
In addition, we held two successful events on March 24 in Edmonton and April 21 in Calgary, where NU and CLP grads, along with the public met their local CLP participants and learned about past and planned climate action projects. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to receive updates about ongoing Climate Connection afternoons.
C’est avec beaucoup d’émotion que le groupe s’est réuni le 25 février 2018 pour la dernière session du programme. Autour du thème de l’importance de prendre soin de soi, les participantes ont eu l’occasion encore une fois de partager leurs connaissances et d’apprendre par le leadership féministe et des compétences progressives. Le repas-partage qui s’en est suivi a été grandement apprécié par toutes. Les participantes sont reconnaissantes à chacun des invités d’avoir pris le temps et d’avoir accepté de partager leurs histoires et savoirs. Les différents ateliers ont servi de fondement à la formation du groupe en lui donnant la force de créer un changement durable. Voici un témoignage :
« Les sujets qui nous ont aidé à nous connaître nous-mêmes, je les ai trouvés magnifiques. Car en tant que personne, on change assez souvent sans s’en rendre compte ». Laura Osorio
Merci à toute l’équipe et à la prochaine fois!
Ève Robidoux-Descary, coordinatrice Leader de demain au féminin! 2017-2018
In collaboration with Next Up, the first cohort of Leader de demain, au féminin! by the Coalition des femmes de l’Alberta is already coming to an end.
It was with much emotion that the group met on February 25, 2018 for the last session of the program. Around the theme of the importance of self-care, participants had the opportunity once again to share their knowledge and learn through feminist leadership and progressive skills. The potluck that followed was greatly appreciated by all. Participants are grateful to each of the guests for taking the time and agreeing to share their stories and knowledge. The various workshops served as a foundation for the training of the group, giving them the strength to create lasting change. Here is a testimony:
"The topics that helped us know ourselves, I found them beautiful. Because as people, we change quite often without realizing it." Laura Osorio
Big thanks to the whole team and see you next time!
Ève Robidoux-Descary, coordinator Leader de demain au féminin! 2017-2018
Thanks to a small but mighty team of Advisory Committee members and alumni, Ottawa closed out 2017 with a wonderfully successful phone banking initiative raising over $1000 towards NU's Accessibility in Action Fund in just a few hours. Ontario has launched into 2018 with this sustained energy, and with a commitment to exploring new avenues for programming in the province. Intensive workshops ran in both Ottawa and Toronto in the the past few months, with over 50 new participants this year. We are doing our best to keep our network growing!
This year, Next UP Saskatchewan is offering workshops on topics ranging from storytelling to media to cultural responsiveness for which people of all ages can sign up. These workshops are instead of our usual cohort model as an experiment in offering shorter trainings to more people. In November 2017 and January 2018, Next UP Saskatchewan held nine Skills for Social Change workshops including five in Saskatoon, two in Regina, and two in Swift Current with over 140 people attending at least one workshop each.
This was the first time Next UP had visited Swift Current, home of outgoing Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall. And with a population of 16,000 people, Swift Current is the smallest community Next UP has ever served. Twenty-five participants learned about and practiced Joanna Macy’s Work That Reconnects on Friday, Jan 12th and another workshop on Saturday, Jan 13th focused on storytelling based on the work of Marshall Ganz.
The workshops in all three communities were also offered in partnership with several community-based organizations, allowing Next Up to connect with people who may not have previously been familiar with our work. These partners were The Stand Community Organizing Centre, Str8 Up, Stop the Cuts, CHEP Good Food, OUTSaskatoon, Regina Public Interest Research Group, Student Energy in Action for Regina Community Health, First United Church Swift Current, Swift Current Branch Library. More workshops will be offered in the spring and summer of 2018, with the hope of reaching out to at least two or three more smaller communities.
Next Up Winnipeg held its first 'Bring a Friend' session where we encouraged participants, alumni and community supporters of NU to bring their friends to the session. This is an initiative that we have decided to try, to broaden the reach of the program and intend to host these sessions twice in a program year moving forward.
Our guest speaker for the evening was Honourable Senator Marilou McPhedran who spoke about the progress and the setbacks we have had in regards to Human Rights advancements. She also brought the Senate to us and engaged in spirited and open conversation with participants about its workings, and avenues for citizen advocacy.
NUpdate from Calgary
We’re approaching the final weeks of another program year for Next Up Calgary. While the winter has been more wintery than some, we’re gratefully enjoying our new location in the offices of the Alberta EcoTrust Foundation. One definite winter pleasure was a recent social weekend in Kananaskis. We spent a lot of time talking social justice, playing many games and enjoying the U of C’s beautiful research station. We also got in some blizzard-y hikes and created some wet footwear and stronger friendships.
We’ve enjoyed a lot of ongoing support from our advisory network of grads and supporters this year. In particular, thanks are extended to the peer mentoring participants (who are meeting with 11 of our 13 participants). Special thanks to Meghan and Amy for coordinating this entire program. Members of this year’s advisory are also acting as independent support contacts to the cohort. These folks are available for confidential feedback and to support the coordinator in their accountability to the cohort, presenters, and advisory.
We’ve got a diverse and stimulating group of remaining sessions plus a couple of cool field trips remaining before the program check-out at the end of April. The field trips include a feminist Jane’s Walk to learn about sex work in Calgary, participating in the Climate Change Conversation with Katherine Hayhoe and George Marshall, the Alberta EcoTrust Environmental Gathering, and participating in the Social Media and Civic Culture symposium at the U of C. Yep, we’re as busy as always!
We’re looking for grads and others to volunteer with us in May to do a day of fundraising. We’ll provide the training, support, food, and fun company. You’ll bring your phone, and, with our help, we’ll raise some donations to keep our programming well supported for another year. Please email email@example.com if you can help out. The tentative date will be May 12.
Leigh Thomas, NUSask 2015-16, recently received an award for academic excellence. Leigh is a 3rd year student in the Regional and Urban Planning department at the University of Saskatchewan. You can read more about Leigh's accomplishments and aspirations on the University of Saskatchewan blog or you can find the full story by John Shelling, below.Read more