Celebrating Sustainability: Bringing People Together
by Kristina Inrig
Sustainable Eastern Ontario is a network organization that fosters partnerships and collaborates on sustainability activities across Eastern Ontario. We do this by bringing sustainability groups together, developing strategic collaborations across the sector, building capacity of administration and operations, and celebrating successes across the region. We are raising the profile and capability of sustainability initiatives and telling the story of transition and resilience in our community.
Sustainable Eastern Ontario Wheel of Sustainability. Figure courtesy of Kristina Inrig
One of our most important roles is to bring organizations together. The National Capital Environmental Non-profit Network (NCENN) is our flagship program and has been running since 2008 to bring Ottawa environmental non-governmental organizations groups (ENGOs) together. With regular meetings throughout the year, the NCENN has become a reliable and supportive space where groups can share challenges and opportunities with each other. From ENGO Roundtables, where we share updates about our organizations, to specific training sessions on key capacity issues, the NCENN has become an important way to keep connecting.
Join Sustainable Eastern Ontario at one of our upcoming 2016 NCENN meetings held from 1:30-3:30 pm at the second floor of the West End Well on the fourth Friday of the month: Friday, Jan. 22nd, Friday, Feb. 26th, Friday, Mar. 25th, Friday, Apr. 22nd, Friday, May 27th, Friday, Jun. 24th.
Another way that Sustainable Eastern Ontario helps connect groups is through our regular Capacity-Building Workshops, which are special full day learning sessions. The Eastern Ontario Environmental Funder Forum and our regular Capacity-Building retreat are two examples of these types of workshops.
A complete list of all past events, retreats, and workshops is available on the Sustainable Eastern Ontario website. You can also find a draft of the Capacity-Building Directory, which connects groups to services and tools that will help their organizations. The National Capital Green Pages--online edition called Sustainable 613--is also available through the website and connects the community to hundreds of environmental businesses, organizations, and partners.
It's great to bring like-minded groups together to share and learn, but it's also important for Sustainable Eastern Ontario to build strong collaborations within the community. There are so many opportunities for collaborating on sustainability. This can include working together on shared projects or facing common themes such as sustainable transportation, energy, and sustainable living. Supporting collaborative fundraising proposals and sharing resources is another great way to bring groups together.
The new Sustainable Capacity Centre is focused on building collaborations among environmental groups. By creating a physical space with the resources that groups need to make a difference, we also bring organizations together in the same location and this, naturally and intentionally, will result in increased collaborations among these groups and other key community partners.
One of the most practical ways that Sustainable Eastern Ontario is working in our community is through capacity-building. This term gets thrown around quite a lot these days and everything seems to be "capacity-building," so it's hard to tell what it really means. To us at SEO, capacity-building is about supporting groups in becoming the best that they can be. We focus on tangible ways to support the internal capacity of an organization by helping with everything from book-keeping to board development. Sustainable Eastern Ontario takes a practical and hands-on approach to capacity-building by getting to the heart of what an organization is doing well or not doing so well and then providing concrete suggestions and resources to help improve its operations.
As a way to help groups understand their own internal capacity, Sustainable Eastern Ontario highlights five core capacity themes:
- Financial Management & Fundraising
- Communications & Outreach
- Governance & Board Development
- Volunteer Engagement & Human Resources Management
- Risk Management & Legal Issues
Our Capacity Check-Up is a customized report that examines these five areas in detail to identify what could be improved for an organization. With support from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Sustainable Eastern Ontario is working to provide Capacity Check-ups to several groups each year from 2015-2018. In addition, there is some micro funding available to support organizations in the Champlain region who are tackling one or more of the activities identified in the resulting report.
There are several other ways that Sustainable Eastern Ontario is focused on capacity-building. Through our new social enterprise, GreenBooks, we have a full book-keeping service for ENGOs. This includes payroll, data entry, and the creation of financial statements from an independent party. We have also developed the "10 Funding Streams" as a way to help explain fundraising and revenue diversification. This approach is used to create a Fund Development Strategy for groups so that they know which of the 10 Funding Streams to focus on and how to find funding in the best ways possible. There is a new Board Development series of Fact Sheets that provide a quick training tool for board members on topics such as "Creating a culture of Fundraising" and other key themes.
So where do you start? Capacity-building can seem overwhelming, especially for small organizations with limited or no staff. To access some of the tools mentioned above such as the Capacity Check-Up or the Capacity Micro Funding, the first thing that organizations should do is complete a survey at www.ncenn.ca/survey so that Sustainable Eastern Ontario has an idea of where the organization is coming from and what the biggest priorities and needs are.
Sustainable Eastern Ontario takes a positive approach to working with organizations and celebrating sustainability in our community. This spirit of celebration is a key pillar to the work we are doing, because it helps tell the story of the people and organizations who are working for change. Our new "Sustainable Champions" initiative will feature key people and groups that are making a difference for sustainability.
This special edition of the Peace and Environment News that Sustainable Eastern Ontario has sponsored is another way in which we highlight the important work that is taking place. It is amazing to see how many organizations are working on projects and activities across Eastern Ontario that promote sustainability. One of our greatest strengths in this region is the rich history of active and thoughtful community engagement and the volunteers and staff who champion this work. The next seven generations can be greener as we work together for sustainable change.
Kristina Inrig is the Executive Director of Sustainable Eastern Ontario and can often be found on the second floor of the West End Well at the Sustainable Capacity Centre.
The PERC thanks the above organizations for their support.
Thank you to Sustainable Eastern Ontario, the Community Foundation of Ottawa, and the Ontario Trillium Foundation for sponsoring the Winter 2015-2016 edition of the PEN.