Ten ideas pollinating at YSI (Part 1: Renewed purpose)

Winter’s been busy!

Ten reflections Spring to mind...

Okay, actually, our updates are spread over three posts. You can view Part 2 and 3 here and here

Gerard, an Anishanaabe elder in our community, often reminds us of the need to work seasonally - allowing our organizations and teams to follow the natural rhythms and cycles of which we are a part.

Winter was a time to hibernate and get our house in order, even as we continued to support the Algoma nest, seed our new Young Spirit Circles initiative, brought on four incredible local Spirit hosts, and continue tending the relationships of this beautiful community.

Spring is becoming a time to renew ourselves in plain view. Here are ten ideas that we are pollinating.


1. Purpose, Outcome & Process is what makes shared leadership ‘POP.'

Okay, bad pun. Still, the POP tool provides a crucial mindset for making sure that all initiatives are driven by shared strategic focus: What would we like to inspire or create? What tangible changes must we accomplish? What steps will we take to get us there?

We are learning to check in with these questions at all levels, from the entire network to our group meetings to this very blog post.


2. YSI’s purpose is to create social glue for a more resilient and equitable youth sector.

We believe that positive relationships of mutual support between diverse community organizers and allies of all ages can decrease the isolation of people and projects, and improve the coordination of learning and supports for grassroots-led change efforts. 

This past year we’ve been creating some tangible pieces of this vision, like...

  • connecting diverse individuals through dialogical, arts-based, and cross-cultural learning;
  • supporting the formation of local youth-led groups that enable community-driven collaborative responses; and
  • building wider networks that support these local groups to operate in complex environments. 

The above purpose responds to what we see as fundamental challenges in the nonprofit sector in general, and the youth-focused sector in particular:

  • lack of coordination among existing resources; 
  • real and perceived insufficiency of resources; 
  • strained conditions for creating authentic relationships and connections; and
  • a deficit-based mindset towards youth (especially those from communities that have been traditionally marginalized).


3. Clarifying outcomes is an important and intensive task for networked groups.

As any business leader will tell you, what gets measured gets done. We are working to build a culture of shared learning and outcomes-driven evaluation in our diverse networked context. This is uncharted territory for social change initiatives. It requires clarifying fuzzy assumptions about how change happens and negotiating what matters most. And then putting energy into gathering information about it and making sense of what we find.

We have not arrived at a final answer yet, recognizing that we need to firm up our governance (see below) before rushing to specificity. Nonetheless, we must continue this work of clarifying how we track and make sense of ‘success’ -- drawing from the provincial Stepping Up report, from the evolving autonomy of the Algoma Nest, from reflections at CollabCamp, from supports available through Innoweave and the new provincial Youth Research & Evaluation eXchange (YouthREX). 


4. To be led by purpose and outcomes, we need a good process. 

Over the last several months, we have worked to realign our work within small action-focused teams with lightweight decision-making rules. We have focused our loose 'Core Team' of self-organized volunteers into three action groups that will support YSI's ongoing renewal as we continue with our current projects

These action groups are working on short-term funding, operational maintenance and longer-term revenue building that will fuse modern and traditional wisdom about how communities thrive. We'll tell you more about this next week.

We are stitching these threads together through a ‘core steward team’ of seven people self-selected from our network to take decisions in a transparent and accountable way. We will build up our governance around this temporary group using the principles of Anishinaabe clan teachings, as previously described by Jon


Spring doesn’t come all at once! 

Over the next two weeks, we will share two more sets of big ideas from our three ongoing projects and three action groups (available here and here!).

Stay tuned...