Keeping the Pulse, Holding the Tension: A 2019 YSI Collaborative Learning Document

It’s been a little while since you’ve heard from us!

We’ve been busy wrapping up our 3 years of Ontario Trillium Foundation GROW funding, while collaborating with the Young Leaders Circle in their work on young people’s leadership and governance, and getting excited about young people changing organizational systems across Northern Ontario with the Northern Lights Collaborative.

Our 3 years of learning together has culminated (who are we kidding - continues) with a new learning document. This YSI Collaborative Learning Document outlines our learning from 2016-2018 as we grew connections with young leaders from Tkaronto, Dish With One Spoon territory and Algoma, Robinson-Huron Treaty territory to Thunder Bay, Robinson-Superior Treaty territory. It contains questions, reflections, and celebrations; highlights the impact we’ve had; and digs deep into the tensions and experiences of ‘failing forward’ in this work.

We hope it offers continuing experience and insight into the complexity and care of organizing led by young people at this time, in this place.

Check out Keeping the Pulse, Holding the Tension: A YSI Collaborative Learning Document!

YSI Core Team Gathering - May 13-16 2018, Algoma

Hi there!

This spring 19 YSI Core Team members gathered in Algoma, ON to reflect on some of the patterns we've been noticing, and ask what's needed for youth organizing in Ontario now?

We started to get familiar with a leadership model being developed by the Young Leaders Circle that the Network will be stepping into (as we transition to being a Network without a central lead role after December 2018).

More info about our gathering and harvest!


What's been going on at YSI??!!

So. It's been a long time since you've heard from us here. Sorry about that!

That's partly because it's been a REALLY BUSY YEAR for YSI, and we haven't done a great job of blogging and sharing those things as they've been happening.

To try to do a better job of sharing what happened in 2017, and what's ahead for 2018, we made this little YSI Zine. Check it out for 2017 highlights as well as our 2018 Milestones, Calendar and more!

If you want to be more actively involved in YSI in 2018, check out the Zine above for what's happening, email Myia at or check out our YSI Core Team Facebook Group.


YSI 2017.png

VIDEO RELEASE: YSI & 4Rs Art of Hosting Training - Thunder Bay, December 2016

Been wondering what YSI is or what YSI has been up to?

Our video from our Art of Hosting Training (in collaboration with the brilliant folks at 4Rs Youth Movement) in Thunder Bay last December is ready! We think it beautifully articulates the power of what we created and experienced together that weekend, and what we're trying to do in the world. Take a look!

Thanks to our partners and funders who helped to make this possible:

Children's Peace Theatre (Toronto, ON)

SKETCH Working Arts (Toronto, ON)

Thinking Rock Community Arts (Thessalon, ON)

Community Arts & Heritage Education Project (Thunder Bay, ON)

Ontario Trillium Foundation

Inspirit Foundation

Counselling Foundation of Canada


Boys & Girls Clubs of Canada

Join YSI as our Northwest Nest Regional Lead! (Thunder Bay, ON)

Join YSI as our Northwest Nest Regional Lead! (Thunder Bay, ON)


YSI is seeking a Regional Lead to support the development of a youth-organizing hub (or "Nest") in the Thunder Bay area, as well as help support the YSI's province-wide work.


You will be part of a local and provincial team, responsible for coordination and implementation of new local programs. As part of this work, you will be building a local network of volunteers, individuals and organizations to better support the capacity of youth organizers to make positive change in your community.

We are looking for someone who has a passion for working collaboratively with diverse people and communities, and with strong foundations in youth-­driven and youth-­informed social change work.The ideal candidate is someone who brings a sense of adventure, tenacity, kindness, spirit and joy to their work.

Experience with program developmentbuilding networkspartnership development and effective communication across different groups are key for this position.

Critical to YSI’s work is the building of relationships between Indigenous and non-­Indigenous communities. Priority will be given to candidates who can positively work across cultures in communities, affirming in their practice, the acknowledgement, respect and gratitude to our province’s ancestry and stewardship.

*** We strongly encourage and welcome applications from people who identify as Indigenous (Métis, First Nation, Inuit, on/off reserve), a person of colour, LGTBQQ2, living with a disability, or a religious minority.*** 

Application deadline Tuesday May 30th, 2017.

Apply for the Northwest Nest Regional Lead Role

Art of Hosting - Krista's Reflection

A word that I would use to describe our weekend together is ‘magical’. Another word I would use to describe this weekend would be ‘scary’.

To begin, let me reflect on the purpose of this past weekend:


 To equip ourselves and others to facilitate meaningful cross cultural dialogue - making connections between theory and practice.

- To bring folks together to connect and deepen relationships and see ourselves as a larger whole that can plan forward.

The magic came from the people who were in the space. While our invitations were careful and with a degree of consideration, I do believe that there was something more cosmic at play keeping us together. The people who came were woven together by something that can’t easily be defined (and I don’t think that any of us who attended would begin to try to define that ‘thing’... not yet, anyhow). 

However, I can say with confidence was that there was a central spirit holding us together, caring for our hearts and souls in a way that transcended cultural beliefs and boundaries. There was an outspoken promise to one another; we would respect each other, we would listen deeply. A lot of what was shared by folks still sticks with me. I think of the bravery and comfort that fueled a lot of what was said in those sacred circles of conversation. 

In terms of Purpose, meaningful dialogue, connecting and deepening relationships and seeing ourselves as a larger whole - in my view - was the easy part. For me, the scary part is jumping into the unknown with these new teachings that I have received from the grandmothers, elders, from my peers, and from Tim and Tuesday. I hope that I can do our weekend together justice as I unfold my learning and share it with the rest of the world.

I hope that I can transform the scariness of hosting challenging conversations into magic as the youth, adult allies, teachers and learners had done during the weekend of Art of Hosting.

The Uniting Fire - The Time is Now

A few times every year, every decade, there's some sort of convergence of energy and movement; some uniting event(s) that ask people to speak from the heart about how they’re feeling and where they’ll find the power to move through these times.

YSI seeks to be a space (physical, virtual, relational) that centers speaking from the heart; allows us to see and hear each other, and allows ourselves to feel seen and heard in the work we do and who we are. It is a space of deep connection and support through personal and collective action, growth and challenge.

One of the recurring themes that many YSI-ers experience is difficulty describing the magic mechanics of YSI - what it is that makes YSI so special. Last Wednesday, Nov 9th 2016, with the world waking up to the results of the US election and the ensuing fear, shock, readiness for deeper resistance and calls for action many of us were experiencing, we threw out a line to each other as a Network of people deeply committed to positive social change. The thread of conversation that emerged that day reminded us of the connection to each other (though many of us have not met in-person) and lightened our spirits, and many of us shared these words with others around us. We wanted to share these words more broadly, in the event they offer some support, and we think this conversation is one way of describing what YSI is and how we create this space where we can speak from the heart and unite in the fire there. We invite you, welcome you to join this fire.

(We hope you can forgive us the length of this post - read on and we hope you are rewarded with warmth in your chest and steadiness on your feet).


Dearest YSI-ers.

I've been trying to figure out what words I wanted to say to you all today, because I felt like I needed to say some words today.

I want to express my personal deep gratitude and sense of connection and inspiration to, for, from each of your personhoods - for the incredible truths and music and laughter and words and righteous anger and gentleness and growing and deep knowledge and wisdom that each of you carry in this world and share with others. Your experiences and knowledges are fundamentally important. The connection we build with one another through these experiences and knowledges is fundamentally important.

It is not my intention to center US politics. It is my intention to say that I am feeling my strength and ferocity and gentleness continuing to grow inside me as we collectively and differently feel this moment on the clock of the world, and as we figure out what continuing or new action to take, individually, personally, organizationally, as a community. One of my favourite quotes by Adrienne Maree-Brown is: things are not getting worse, they are getting uncovered. we must hold each other tight & continue to pull back the veil.  

It is an honor to feel the pulse at this moment on the clock of the world with you, to strategize and dream and work with you. To make mistakes and move toward pro-liberation work with you. To link into broader movement-building and resistance with you.

A couple places I go to:


Thank you for sharing this! I believe we are just as powerful as these people. The work that we do really matters and I feel that people need us to continue trail-blazing and edge-walking thru all the crap and creating change. I'm so happy to be a part of this circle because it has spirit and spirit lives and thrives thru us.

Much love to everyone. We have each other and that's a lot.


Thank you so much for your words. This is so beautiful. I was literally feeling this sense of gratitude for all of you yesterday afternoon for whatever result it was, I was going to be worried. I am so grateful for all of you, for your courage, for your caring, for your connection to Earth, to each other, to yourselves. This is revolutionary. This is the work. This, what we have, is the very thing that is needed and counter to what is trying to put us aside, to dismiss us, to blow out our fire. Let us keep the flame alive, keeping each other warm. 

<3 Love to you all. 


Thank you for your deep thoughtfulness in sending out this message of care and support. I was fortunate yesterday to be part of a group of thinkers and believers who chose to celebrate our community leaders, and ordinary people doing extraordinary things. We chose to celebrate change makers #raisingahand to create positive social, political, cultural, community change.

Maybe we can share on the YSI Facebook page all the amazing people in our lives who are shining examples of healthy leadership and positive, necessary social impact. Let's elevate and support our powerful community leaders and spread that love throughout our communities.

Love to you all.


Love to you all. Thank you beautiful souls for existing. Past these struggles... we'll make it. Today reminds me to turn to Spirit. Ceremony is needed. Love to all of you.

It's an honour and privilege to be a part of this circle. Thankful for your spirits, words and vibes.

Love you all. Stay strong and sensitive.

Thanks for the reminder that there is a place where we can all meet each other to share comfort and dream big together.

Beautiful words, thank you for sharing. I love you all!


So great to read this thread of friendship. Thank you for leading us, calling us forth into the heart of what matters. Days of truth are here. Let's step into them together.

Love to you all.


Thank you everyone, for these thoughts.

I offer you this, penned this morning...

and I look forward to meeting and working with you all as we traverse this uneven ground in solidarity.

with great respect and fierce love.


Amazing, that once again I find myself searching and finding without too much need to search, a gift in my in-box - wisdom & healing from YSI.

It amazed me that still, the community and spirit of YSI is what grounds me and reminds me what the focus needs to be. 

Thanks all, and thank you for being exactly the right leader at the right time in this movement.

Love love and more love.


Dear lovely community, thank you each and all. I am grateful that I get to step into these days of truth together to feel, feel, feel?

YSI is so good at reminding people that they are enough. For those who are finding it difficult to accept on this particular day, here's some fierce love from a friend of a friend that really helped me. 

Dear community, you have done so much plenty. You are enough. You are water. 

This is really good advice from Reece Chenault. [some modifications made]

First of all, take a deep breath in. Feel it in your chest. Then let it out slow. Pay attention to that breath. Feel it.

Now listen to me like you ain't ever listened to anyone in your life.

If you haven't slept all night for whatever reason, you shouldn't be planning anything but how to get a good sleep.

If you haven't eaten anything but trash (or nothing at all) have a meal made of actual food in a comfortable place.

If you have been drinking all night, or stayed sober, or... well, I don't really care... just have a glass of water. Then drink another one.

After you've done that, call your family and talk about something mundane. I don't care if it's a checklist of random stuff you need to do around the house or speculation about Empire, take a mental break.

Trump probably doesn't even believe the news yet.

Even HRC needed a moment, and I'm pretty sure she was one of those kids who started their book report the day it was assigned.

You have done plenty.

You are enough.

Take a break.


Thank you friends for pointing the way. Your words were medicine.

This is a day that tests our heart strength. What do we do in the face of despair? I say we need to feel it and send strength to all those who are feeling it too. Turn and face the light. 

Thank you. Deeply. Thank you for all you do. Each and every one of us, guided by Spirit, is making a difference.


Wow am I grateful for the reminder that we have this safe space to share what we are feeling, and these digitalized connections, as superficial or even institutionalized as they sometimes seem, can be profound - that it is enough to connect. That I am able to know truths you speak through words even without seeing faces.. So thank you for your words breaking away the norms of how we work, tearing apart institutional stories of the work we do, and connecting it back to spirit that has to be acknowledged in the ways we move through the world individually and collectively.

It does feel like a slightly different world today and so more vital we remember that our hearts are organs of fire. Fire grows and dreams of liberation.


Thank you Family, for all of this.  For being the world I want to live in.  For focusing on love, and light, and spirit, and ceremony.  Today I went and sat in the field with my dog and just felt the wind on my face and the sun that was warm and listened to the ravens who were talking to each other.  I drank lots of good hot tea and wrote a grant that I hope will help us do better by one another.  I heard words from all of you that made me feel so good inside.  Tonight I'm going to have a delicious meal of local fish and food from our garden and let my loved ones know I love them.  It's one of the worst days I've known so far in my life for this world, but it's still a good day.  Knowing all of you are out there gives me the strength to believe that this will all be okay.

So much love.


Hi all,

I feel like everyone contributed to a bright, life-giving fire today, throwing in logs of wood throughout the day made up of their responses or silent thoughts and wishes.  Thank you all for your light.

I had only stepped into the YSI circle for the briefest of moments while I was living in Toronto, and yet that moment has given me so many wonderful connections to others, thoughtful conversations, questions to ponder, and mysteries of the human condition to uncover.  

When I think of the spiritual nutrients I will need to keep me going in the next few days, I feel like many of them are what also feed many of the relationships that exist within this circle already and which I've taken with me since I've physically stepped outside of it: love, courage, vulnerability, the willingness to listen, to ask generous questions, to change, and to find joy even in the moments of discomfort.  

It is my hope that these virtues and principles will (continue to) find their way into the public discourse and discussions that our planetary community so sorely needs, especially in times and moments like these. 

I also can't help but think of the opening quote, penned by Boris Pasternak, in one of Margaret Wheatley's books that I hold dear (Leadership for Uncertain Times), which reads: "It is not revolutions or upheavals / That clear the road to new and better days / But revelations, lavishness and torments / of someone's soul, inspired and ablaze." 

That then reminded me of a brief excerpt from a book written by Krista Tippet, on the great questions of meaning for our time, where she interviews an American activist called Frances Kissling, who says "...can human beings come to understand their own well-being as linked to that of others, in wider and wider circles, beyond family and tribe?"

Which then brought me back, as circles often do, to the beginning of another book I just received today, called Lights of the Forest, that I thought so eloquently captured today's virtual fire and that gives me hope for bright days ahead.

"When a person walks through a forest on a dark night, and meets up with another person who has a lantern, he no longer gropes and stumbles in the dark.  But, at the crossroads they part, and the one without a light must again find his way in the darkness.  If a person carries his own light, he need not be afraid of any darkness."


Dear YSI family,

I took these words to heart yesterday and carried them with me throughout the day. I needed them and they helped me find the strength within. I began the day with a beautiful sunrise ceremony for the water protectors across turtle island and particularly focused on Standing Rock and some students and staff from Lakehead University that are making the journey there today. To my surprise this brought out predominantly non-Indigenous allies. Everyone had good thoughts to share and connections to make with what is happening in the world and our community. In this space I was safe to speak my truth and pray. Beginning the day this way also gave me strength. I had a day that continued being surrounded by people, communities of caring individuals, that get what's going on in the world, are committed to personal growth and genuinely helping and so many opportunities for YSI to collaborate that I could not help but feel the light in spite of the darkness out there. What has happened in American politics does affect us for we are all connected. But it is all the more reason to push on and create safe spaces tor awareness, organizing and healing and if there's one thing I've learned that is powerful in my culture it's to pray for myself, those close to me and *importantly* those who hurt me because sometimes they need the prayers the most.



Chatting today in the park conjured up images of crossing a fast creek. If you've ever done this you'll know the feeling. Steady, careful steps or you'll get swept away by the power and unpredictability of the flowing waters. But sometimes you just need to stand in the middle and resist movement, letting the water flow over and around you, before you start again. Today I feel like that person in the middle of the creek. But still have in my sight the other side. And if you've ever tried to cross a river with a few friends, the crossing becomes easier and reaching the other side much more possible. Thanks everyone for helping me hold on to the possible. 



Request For Proposals: YSI is seeking an Evaluator!

Youth Social Infrastructure Collaborative (YSI) is seeking a consultant, consulting firm, or collaborative of individuals to learn with us over the next 18 months in the capacity of Evaluator. This work will be undertaken remotely and in-person; we welcome applications from individuals and groups across Ontario.

See RFP here for more info!

Deadline for application: Friday Nov 11th 2016.


The Fire in Algoma - Krista’s Story.

The Youth Social Infrastructure Collaborative has a historic, tangible presence in the North for some time now. I know this as I have reflected on the power of YSI in my hometown. Sault Ste. Marie, multiple times as an aspiring community developer. I first heard of the collaborative in one of my university classes while pursuing a degree in Community Economic and Social Development at Algoma University. Look at this organization of volunteers doing all of the things we are theorizing about!

During my first learning experience as a person doing community development work in a northern research institute, I was working on a project for Indigenous youth led by Indigenous youth. For those of us working on that project, YSI was an ever present influence. I was immensely inspired by the conscious way that they hosted space, the inclusiveness of the work that YSI did, and the encouraged dialogue between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in my region.

More inspiring that simply the processes that YSI had were the people engaged in the collaborative. I had the good fortune of connecting with people who had been involved with YSI Algoma in one way or another in various capacities in my community, Sault Ste. Marie. These people helped me understand how I want to be in the world.

By some stroke of magical luck, I - Krista Bissiallon - am an employee with YSI. I was not present when the fire in Algoma was initially lit, but I can certainly feel it today. I feel it in the way that I was welcomed into the collaborative with kindness and happiness.

When I began my work with YSI, I knew that the universe was gifting me with an amazing opportunity. I knew that this work would be challenging and rewarding, I also knew that it would take some time to find my footing and confidence. The work that has been done before me has been full of heart and soul, done by people who invested a lot of themselves into the processes. I knew that when I began, I wanted to make sure that I am honoring all that has been done to the fullest. The rewards are in contributing to the impact of YSI and the challenges are in being totally confident in my power and ability.

When I feel uncertain of my path, I remember that there is a belief within YSI that the right people will come at the right time. I am the right person involved with YSI at this time, When challenged by an obstacle - whether real or perceived - I remember that I am here for a reason:  I have something to contribute to the fire here in Algoma.