In January of 2013, a newly configured version of the YNPN National board gathered in the basement of the Ford Foundation for the first time. We’d just completed our first, whirlwind year as a staffed organization and we knew it was time to take serious stock of the vision and mission of the network we’d all been charged with stewarding.
As we walked through a series of exercises to deconstruct our core statements, one question came up repeatedly: what should we set as the scope of our vision? Should we focus specifically on impacting our members or the whole nonprofit sector? What was it that we were really aiming to affect? And what power did we actually have to effect that change?
Like most groups who are just getting to know each other, we didn’t agree immediately on the answer to this question, falling all along the scope spectrum between resolutely practical to wildly ambitious. Thanks, however, to some incredibly deft facilitation (shout out Caroline Bolas!), we were able to root ourselves in a shared understanding that YNPN was not in the business of building leaders for credentialing sake. Yes our mission and our programs would continue to develop the skills and networks of emerging professionals, but we were collectively resolute in the fact that we were doing so for the purpose of building stronger, more just, more equitable communities, supported by a diverse and powerful social sector.
In the years since setting this immense vision, we have continued to work together to build the ship that will get us there. It’s involved years of collective visioning for what network-wide infrastructure might look like, beta-testing those systems (YNPN 3.0 anyone?), individual chapter checkins during the Theory of Change process and virtual road trip, as well as countless feedback sessions via the Chapter Congress, national conference, and through our pilot chapters.
Like the board in the basement back in 2013, the ideas, concerns and priorities of the network fall along a vast spectrum. Settling into the place where we can all agree to move forward hasn’t always been easy. But I will say, as I prepare to step away from my formal role with the network that has been my professional home for over 10 years, I couldn’t be more proud of what we developed and what this network will continue to build.
As I leave YNPN, there is plenty that is unfinished. But we are creating a common language around the potential of the social sector of and shared practices for navigating that potential. I leave YNPN proud that as a network, we are serving 15 more communities - namely in the Midwest, Pacific Northwest, and the South - than we were 4 years ago. I leave YNPN proud that we have, for the first time in our history, an explicit stance on our commitment to Equity Diversity and Inclusion and named tactics to move our network towards them. I leave proud that we have an articulated Theory of Change that names the unique role that Members, Chapters, and National play in building stronger a more diverse and powerful social sector.
Culturally, though, I leave most proud that we have a network that thrives not because of who sits in executive leadership but because of the heads, hands, and hearts of our almost 500 chapter leaders, our board, and our staff. What I know is that these are heads and hearts that may disagree over particulars but who, at the end of the day, see crucial movements for social change building around us and believe deeply in the power of networks like YNPN to propel them forward. I am already so proud of where YNPN will go next.
December 31st will Trish’s last day with YNPN but you can stay in touch via twitter, linkedin or email (firstname.lastname@example.org.) Stay tuned to the January Chapter Leader Newsletter where we’ll be sharing our exciting interim leadership plan.