One of the biggest lessons our experience with COVID-19 has taught us is that our environment can change quite quickly and suddenly. In what seems like the blink of an eye, our entire lives can be severely disrupted.

Only a few weeks ago, the media spotlight was on all things COVID-19.  Within the last couple of weeks, as cases of new infection fall and steps are underway to slowly reopen the economy, we see the eruption of mass protests and accompanying demands for racial justice sparked by the death of George Floyd in the US after a deadly encounter with Minneapolis police officers. The death of Mr. Floyd and the subsequent demonstrations demanding justice and police accountability reignited decades-long calls to address the systemic inequity and trauma inflicted by anti-Black racism. 

In case you are wondering what U.S.-triggered multi-city protests demanding racial equity and an end to anti-Black racism has to do with us in Canada and in the nonprofit sector, the answer is straightforward.  Both as a country and a sector we may find it easy to shake our heads in disgust and horror about the societal ills we see in the U.S, we find it extremely difficult to acknowledge and accept that those ills also has deep and intractable roots within Canada and within so many organizations dedicated to doing good for marginalized and vulnerable populations. 

As a sector, now may be the time to ask ourselves, has there been a notable shift in advancing social and racial justice? Have we moved from talk to concrete action planning? Have we really moved beyond prescriptive measures where the words “we should” or “we must” precedes some nebulous action to be taken?  

Peel Leadership Centre (PLC) has been an organization working with nonprofit staff to develop relevant and key leadership competencies.  We have also worked with several nonprofits to help strengthen organizational capacity to deliver on mission.  For over a year, well before we knew about COVID-19 and the reignited demands for racial justice and equity and the need to address anti-Black racism, PLC has been engaged in an intentional process to challenge and take a critical look at our programs and services, to re-imagine our role and to redefine how we can best support the nonprofit sector now and into the future.

Within the last year PLC convened and consulted with various and varied stakeholders within the sector to understand the current and future needs and gaps within the sector. As a result of those conversations, the typical list of issues and concerns were identified – lack of resources, funding, burnout, pace of technological change and leadership deficit within the sector. In terms of what the future of work in nonprofits will look like, the workforce is expected to be increasingly more diverse, the definition of what constitutes a place of work will be redefined, organizations will need to be agile, adaptable and innovative and workers will need to deepen existing competencies and develop new ones.  

PLC’s new programs, Executive Director Learning Network (EDLN) and Rising Leaders Network (RLN) are a few of the learning opportunities that are being provided to the people working in nonprofits/charities to help staff develop key leadership competencies. If you haven’t signed up yet, you can find details about EDLN here and about RLN here.

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