When I started my undergraduate degree, I had only a vague idea of what I wanted to do with my life. I was studying psychology and my default career path at that time was to stay in school for 8-10 years to become a research professor or a clinical psychologist. However, I didn’t take that path; over those four years I decided instead to pursue a career working with the people and organizations dedicated to making the world a better place (full disclosure: I still ended up going to grad school for a Masters degree, but in a field more focused on community development and social change).
The experiences in university that helped shape my current path were primarily in a small basement office that was home to the psychology students association, on which I served for three years as a member of the group’s executive. Our mission of supporting our fellow students and trying to build a sense of community was not an easy one – for one thing, a high number of students who attended this large university campus were commuters and often did not want to stay around campus after class. Our lack of resources and constant volunteer turnover as students graduated also made long-term planning difficult.
Despite those challenges, our small association was able to make a difference. We developed some innovative academic and social events, we built meaningful connections with students, staff, and faculty, we even created a new organizational structure that made it easier for people to contribute to the growth and leadership of the association. We had setbacks and frustrations along the way, but when I graduated, I felt that our small group of dedicated individuals made a difference, if not in the world at large then at least our little corner of it.
So, what’s the point of this story, aside from being the start of an alumni speech? Simply put, that time with the student association and other volunteer groups also made a difference in my life, pointing me to work with similar organizations and groups, and now to starting Strong Roots Consulting with its focus on building capacity. Let’s look at that word, capacity – why did I choose to identify Strong Roots’ mission with building capacity? Throughout my experiences working with grassroots initiatives and non-profit organizations, I have seen first-hand the amazing things that can be accomplished when people come together to enact a common vision by pooling their ideas, talents, and enthusiasm. I have also seen groups that have struggled when facing obstacles such as the loss of a key member or setbacks in obtaining funding. Even a positive change, such as the opportunity to grow in size and scope, can be challenging; without the needed structures and resources in place, growth may lead to burn-out. Individual determination and resourcefulness can help plant the seeds of new ideas, but more is needed to help them grow to full potential.
For Strong Roots, building capacity comes through four interconnected main activities. Community-based research focuses not just on collecting data but gaining an understanding of the trends affecting your vision, and most importatly, sharing those insights with stakeholders and partners. Strategic planning activities can help identify the bigger picture and support your organization in taking proactive steps. Grant preparation and assistance with volunteer management policies and procedures ensures that your organization has the resources and people needed to make a difference.
I hope this post has provided you with some insight into the origin of Strong Roots and how I can contribute to the success of your non-profit organization. Make sure to bookmark this blog for news about Strong Roots along with information and insights about the non-profit sector generally. If there is a topic you’d like to hear my thoughts on, or you would like more information about Strong Roots generally, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I look forward to helping non-profits in Saskatoon reach their potential!