NU Winnipeg: bring friends to a session on Human Rights

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.

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Weathering the winter with Next Up Calgary

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.Kananaskis

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.

decolonizing the treaties

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 if you can help out. The tentative date will be May 12.

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NUsworthy: Leigh Thomas wins award for academic excellence

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.Leigh_Thomas.png

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Leader de demain, au féminin!

This year, in Edmonton, we're collaborating with Coalition des Femmes de l’Alberta, offering a leadership program for young francophone and francophile women committed to social and environmental justice. We had our first meeting in early December and Nathalie Brunet sent us a few words about her experience in the program thus far. We're super excited to be working together!

-Laura Collison, Next Up Edmonton Coordinator

Last year I was a member of Regina’s first Next Up cohort, but I moved to Edmonton mid-winter and did not finish the program. I was learning lots, developing skills, and beginning to build a network in that community, so I was disappointed when I moved away. Correspondingly, I was excited when I was forwarded an email about Leader de demain, au féminin!, a collaborative project between Coalition des femmes de l'Alberta and Next Up. It is a pilot project for young Francophone and Francophile women in Edmonton committed to social and environmental justice that builds off of the Next Up curriculum and similarly aims to develop skills and competences necessary for effective leadership.

I grew up speaking French in Ontario so this seemed like a great opportunity for me. We had our first session December 2-3 and it left me feeling empowered, inspired, and re-motivated. In my past experience with Next Up I found that I learned from the experiences of my co-participants just as much as from the presenters. So, although the content of the first session was a review, the perspectives that the other participants bring spark interesting and inspiring conversations. I look forward to learning more from the life experiences of this diverse group of women with backgrounds from East Africa, South America, New Brunswick, and Québec.

Another interesting and new perspective has been working on my French vocabulary for social and environmental justice. In some ways it’s familiar, easy and heartening to speak in my native language, but in some other ways it has been challenging to express thoughts associated with topics that I am generally exposed to in English. I look forward to seeing how the female and francophone perspective of this program will shape the content of our sessions and I am excited for the opportunity to form connections and bonds within my new community.

L'année dernière, j’ai fait partie de la première cohorte Next Up de Regina. Cependant, j’ai déménagé à Edmonton au cours de l'hiver et je n'ai pas pu compléter le programme. J'apprenais beaucoup, développais des compétences, et commençais à me construire un réseau dans cette communauté. Ainsi, j’étais déçue de devoir partir. Dans ce contexte, j’étais très enthousiaste quand j’ai reçu un courriel à propos de Leader de demain, au féminin!, une collaboration entre la Coalition des femmes de l’Alberta et Next Up. Il s'agit d'un projet pilote pour les jeunes femmes francophones et francophiles d'Edmonton engagées dans la justice sociale et environnementale. Le programme s’appuie sur le succès de Next Up et vise également à développer les aptitudes et les compétences nécessaires pour devenir un leader efficace.

J'ai grandi en Ontario en parlant le français alors ceci m'a semblé une excellente occasion. Nous avons eu notre première session les 2 et 3 décembre et cela m'a laissée inspirée et motivée de nouveau. Au cours de mon expérience avec Next Up, j’ai réalisé que j'ai autant appris des expériences de mes coparticipants que des présentateurs. Donc, bien que le contenu de la première session ait été une révision, les perspectives que les autres participantes apportent suscitent des conversations intéressantes et inspirantes. J'ai hâte d'en apprendre davantage sur les expériences de vie de ce groupe diversifié de femmes d'Afrique de l'Est, d'Amérique du Sud, du Nouveau-Brunswick, et du Québec.

Une autre perspective nouvelle et intéressante a été de travailler sur mon vocabulaire français autour de la justice sociale et environnementale. À certains égards, il m’est familier, facile, et réconfortant de parler dans ma langue maternelle, mais d’un autre côté, il a été difficile d'exprimer des pensées associées à des sujets auxquels je suis généralement exposée en anglais. J'ai hâte de voir comment le point de vue des femmes et des francophones de ce programme façonnera le contenu de nos séances et je suis enthousiaste de pouvoir créer un réseau et des liens au sein de ma nouvelle communauté.

-Nathalie Brunet, Leader de demain, au féminin! 2017-18 


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A new year with new roles


I’m just back from a Next UP team meeting in Calgary, where we planned the rest of this program year. I’ve come away from that meeting so inspired by the small yet mighty team that coordinates Next Up across the country, and so excited about the future of Next UP and all of our training programs here at genius. Our planning meeting also left me feeling like this work and organization is in great hands, as I plan for my transition out of my current role at genius in the new year.


In our Calgary meeting, we took time to reflect on some of the amazing moments of the last ten-plus years and some of the excellent stories in our network. We don’t take credit for all of the wonderful things that someone who’s been through one of our training programs does; however, we’ve heard from enough grads over the years to know that, for many people, things that they learned and people that they met in their programs have helped grads in their own justice work and journeys.


With ten years of Next UP, four years of Organize BC and three of CanRoots West, we have provided training for well over 1,600 people who are working for justice in a multitude of ways. Through Organize BC, we now offer a host of programs that include the core trainings, Organizing 2.0, CanRoots West, Firelight Campaign School, custom workshops and more. (OBC will also be working in Alberta in 2018 – more to come on that in the New Year!). Through Next UP, we offer training programs in 7 cities located in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. We’ve also implemented a number of new Next UP programs such as 3-day intensives, the Climate Leadership Program in Alberta, a francophone version of Next UP in Edmonton, the Indigenous Youth in Action program in partnership with the great folks at IndigenEYEZ, and, we have more ideas in development. When I look at the programming we’re doing across the country in addition to the projects that we have helped to incubate, namely the HUA foundation, Spirited Social Change and Frontrunner, I feel a sense of accomplishment, a deep sense of gratitude, and excitement about what the next stage of genius’s growth might look like.


In addition to offering new kinds of training formats, we’ve also put in place a lot of the un-glamorous but essential foundational background systems for genius over the past three years. When I think about how far we’ve come as an organization, from having one person working two days a week at the beginning of this journey to now having a super strong team of eleven people working across the country, it feels like a fine time for me to pass the torch.


In January, I’ll be transitioning to a new job and out of my role as the Executive Director of genius. (Starting January 2nd I’ll be moving into a new role with the Labour Department at the United Way of the Lower Mainland where I’ll get to work closely with unions in the region, which I’m excited about.) We will be posting for a new genius Executive Director shortly, and I encourage those of you who might be interested to take time over the winter break to seriously consider applying for the position, or think about other people you know who might be strong candidates.


For the next few months the awesome Tracey Mitchell, our Next UP Prairie Program Manager, will be the acting Executive Director of genius, as the board searches for and hires my replacement. I’ll continue to work with Tracey and the board during this process as an advisor and in supporting some transition pieces. Once the transition is complete, I’ll be stepping away from genius entirely.


It’s been such a great journey and a real honour to be able to do this work over the past 12 years. It’s hard for me believe that this project has consumed my focus for over a decade. Since we first discussed, back in 2005, the idea for what eventually became Next UP, I have met and worked with so many committed, smart, and strategic people doing incredible work to advance justice at all levels across the country. I’ve lost count of how many people I’ve met whose work and courage have inspired me.


Along the way, anytime I began to feel down about the state of the world and the many fronts that we all work on for justice, I have always been able to look at the amazing work that people are doing in our network, reminding me that this work takes time, that we’re in it for the long term, that even victories need to be defended, and that powerful changes can come from so many places and fronts. The past few years I have found myself working with more and more grads from our various programs who are now colleagues and co-conspirators. About once every two weeks I will have a conversation with an alum about the work that they’re doing in their community and we will talk over strategies and approaches for their respective efforts. It’s a pretty great feeling to be part of these conversations.


The work we’ve done here is not perfect. It never will be. And, I’m proud of how far we’ve come and what we’ve accomplished so far, and, I can’t wait to see where the work goes next.


To all of the partners and funders of our work over the years, thank you so, so much. Seriously, without your belief in this idea and your support, none of this would have happened. To the many people who have offered their time and talents as advisors, session guests, and supporters…thank you. You are brilliant and the world is truly a better place because of the work that you do in it.


So, thank you all so much for all that you do to build a better world in all of your communities. I’ve come to understand that leadership appears in so many forms and that the work can be advanced from so many leverage points, from those who seek elected office to folks working on the ground in all kinds of community organizing efforts.


Let me wrap up this message by asking you to help with Next UP’s current fundraising effort. In the last few weeks, you’ve heard from Juliana, Janelle, and Paula about the difference Next Up made in their lives and why your support matters, particularly in helping make this program more accessible going forward. And you’ve heard from Kamil, who is excited to be part of our Edmonton program next year and who will benefit from ASL interpretation, paid for through the Accessibility Fund we created in December. Your monthly contribution or single gift in any amount is eligible for a tax receipt and will help to share Next UP with many more people over the coming years. Thank you so much to those that have already given in recent weeks, and over the last many years. We couldn’t do this work without you.


Thanks to all of you again for being so awesome.


See you out there soon.


With love and gratitude,


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Donate by December 20 and double your dollars!

UPDATE noon on December 20, 2017:We are so close! So far we’ve raised $3650. That means we only need $1350 more to get us to $5000 so that we can reach our match goal.

It’s our biggest fundraising challenge ever and we’re counting on you to help us reach this goal.

HSA Alberta and the Alberta Federation of Labour have pledged to match donations up to $5000 by midnight December 20th and all of the money will go toward our new Accessibility in Action fund. So now is the time to pitch in!

NU does its best to keep the cost of programs low, but there’s a growing need for additional money to support parents with subsidies for childcare, rural residents with travel subsides to NU program cities, and to support participants who require language translation or ASL interpretation or assistance for visual impairment, and other accessibility supports.  In addition to running a variety of programs, we all want NU to be accessible. Your contribution today will help get us to our goal.

Kamil_Burnat.jpgKamil Burnat, a future participant in Next Up Edmonton, has this to say about what accessibility to Next Up means to him:

When I heard about the Next Up program it started a fire in my heart because I knew this program could help me to use tools to build bridges with other communities outside of the Deaf community. I am motivated to participate in this program because I believe it will allow me to make a big difference in my community by learning and dialoguing about other folks working to support their own communities. However, to fully participate and ensure that communication is clear, I would prefer to use ASL interpreters to translate between English and ASL for me. I think this will not only benefit me, but also be an important learning opportunity for other participants in the program to learn more about how tools such as ASL interpreters are beneficial for accessibility of Deaf folks in many settings. I hope this will create stronger relationships between the hearing and Deaf community within the Next Up community.

 You can help make this and more happen by donating to Next Up through our site on CanadaHelps. Every dollar you give between now and December 20th will be doubled (up to $5000) and you'll not only receive our heartfelt thanks, but a tax receipt too. 

Here are some of the ways your donation can make a difference:

Consider becoming a monthly donor:

$10 monthly donation supports one participant in a 3-day intensive program

$20 monthly donation contributes to one participant who requests additional support for childcare, travel, interpretation services, etc.

$40 monthly donation pays for the lunch costs for a 3-day long program

$50 monthly donation pays for the venue costs for a 3-day long program

$70 monthly donation pays for one hour of ASL/language interpretation per month

Or if you choose to give a one-time donation

$200 pays for three hours of ASL/language interpretation for a workshop

$150 contributes to a childcare subsidy for a participant in a 3-day long program

$100 contributes to travel costs for a participant to get from their home community to a program city

$85 pays for one participant’s registration fee to a 3-day intensive program

$75 provides an honorarium for a guest speaker who shares their knowledge with the group

$50 contributes to a childcare subsidy for a participant in a workshop

$20 buys a flipchart pad, markers, and other miscellaneous workshop supplies


Thank you for your support.

Every dollar counts double from now to December 20!

Donate today!

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NU alumni welcome newcomers to Saskatoon

Rebecca Zakreski is the Volunteer Connections coordinator at Saskatoon Open Door Society, helping newcomers find volunteer placements. 

Rebecca and her co-lead on the project, Stephanie Shyluk, are both alumni of Next Up Saskatoon in 2016-17 and 2010-11 respectively. Their work was recently featured by the Immigrant Access Fund (IAF) in a guest blog post

There are hundreds of organizations in Saskatoon that benefit from the hard work of volunteers, and each day newcomers come through Open Door Society looking to see how they can be of help to others. For more information about volunteering, please contact


UP Next Up's accessibility!

Suddenly it’s almost December and we have so many projects on the go: multi-month programs running in Winnipeg, Edmonton, and Calgary; evening workshops in Saskatoon focused on Social Media, Building Indigenous-Settler Alliances, and Public Speaking; and plans to launch new workshops in Regina, Vancouver, Ottawa, and Toronto in the new year.

We are doing our best to make NU more available to more people, planning our first workshops in some rural areas of Saskatchewan and keeping the newest programs going like Next Up Winnipeg, which is just starting its 4th year, and BC Indigenous Youth in Action, which will be in its 3rd year in 2018. Expanding our programs means that we need to expand our accessibility and raise funds for participants who need subsidies for travel from rural areas to program cities or for childcare during sessions or for language interpretation throughout a program or for other accessibility supports.

You can help make this all happen by donating to Next Up through our site on CanadaHelps and you'll not only receive our heartfelt thanks, but a tax receipt too. 

Here's how your donation can make a difference:

Consider becoming a monthly donor:

$10 monthly donation supports one participant in a 3-day intensive program

$20 monthly donation contributes to one participant who requests additional support for childcare, travel, interpretation services, etc.

$40 monthly donation pays for the lunch costs for a 3-day long program

$50 monthly donation pays for the venue costs for a 3-day long program

$70 monthly donation pays for one hour of ASL/language interpretation per month

Or if you choose to give a one-time donation

$200 pays for three hours of ASL/language interpretation for a workshop

$150 contributes to a childcare subsidy for a participant in a 3-day long program

$100 contributes to travel costs for a participant to get from their home community to a program city

$85 pays for one participant’s registration fee to a 3-day intensive program

$75 provides an honorarium for a guest speaker who shares their knowledge with the group

$50 contributes to a childcare subsidy for a participant in a workshop

$20 buys a flipchart pad, markers, and other miscellaneous workshop supplies


We can't thank you enough for your support. Every dollar counts!

Donate today!

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Up Next - Climate Leadership Program 2018


 The Climate Leadership Program (CLP) completed a very successful pilot in 2016. This spring we’re going to be running the program again. It’s open to all people living in Alberta who are 25 and older (no upper age cut off) who work, volunteer and organize outside of the traditional areas of climate change action. Applications will open in January, with the program beginning in March. It will take place over 5 weekends, held in Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer and Kananaskis. Keep an eye on our applications page for the call-out. Meanwhile, you're welcome to contact Mike Byerley, NU Calgary and CLP Coordinator, with your questions and requests.


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Next Up Winnipeg is back in action with cohort 4!

During our orientation in October, we asked participants to share what they're excited to learn and share in their Next Up year. Here's what a few of them had to say.


"When I first heard of the Next Up program, immediately I knew it was something I was very interested in. Working in the social services field I have been witness to many of the injustices that many marginalized people face on a regular basis. Reading more into the Next Up program, I knew this was a perfect beginning point for me to engage in actively making changes within the system. I am excited to meet likeminded people, build my network, and begin learning about how to make effective changes in a very broken system. I am looking forward to starting this journey and am grateful for this opportunity!" Samantha Harris


"I have always had a dream of fighting injustice in my society. Being a black woman, I have seen my people deprived of so many opportunities. I wanted to be a fighter but I did not have the weapons to fight; which is why I joined Next Up. I joined this leadership program so I could sharpen my skills and develop the necessary skills needed to fight for my people. I believe that this is the start of something new for me and that this program would help me to better make a change in the society." Anjolaoluwa Obafisoye


"When I read the words 'progressive leadership' I knew Next Up was something I had to be a part of. I am so excited to be a part of a group of likeminded individuals looking to effect change in areas of social justice and environmentalism. Through Next Up, I hope to make lasting connections with fellow progressive change makers in my community. My activism centers around LGBTQIA issues and intersectional feminism and I want to learn how to inspire and motivate people to rally around a movement or cause, skills I look forward to learning through Next Up." Juliana Perez



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