“I Left My Heart in San Francisco” By: Dana Bright

The Leadership Institute, a partnership between Executive Service Corps (ESC) and YNPN Chicago, recently welcomed its 3rd class of YNPN Chicago members selected to participate via a competitive application process. Thanks to the feedback and participation of the 30 or so YNPN Chicago members who have become alum of the program, The Institute continually evolves to stay relevant, timely and worthwhile towards the interests and needs of young nonprofit professionals seeking to achieve greater levels of leadership in the nonprofit sector. As an example, this past year The Institute was more formally organized into a two-year program.

Though still a very young program, The Institute has already proved itself in achieving its overarching goal: Help ensure the future leadership and vitality of the Chicago region’s nonprofit and public service sectors. Past participants rave that the program has helped them to focus on and identify career goals and develop plan to reach them. Other Leadership Institute participants have been able to secure job promotions, including moving up into the Executive Director role.

It is not only the YNPN Chicago members who are benefitting from the program and the overall experience. The volunteer coaches and mentors provided by ESC have greatly enjoyed working with YNPN Chicago members both as a group and individually in coaching sessions that are part of the program. The ESC volunteers report feeling a great deal of satisfaction knowing that they played a big part in helping our members achieve their personal and professional goals.

It was this element of exchange and camaraderie between multiple generations of nonprofit leaders, those at the early stages of their career along with those with a lengthy tenure, which I felt important to highlight and recognize. The opportunity came with a “call for proposals” announcement from the American Society on Aging. The American Society on Aging (ASA) is the largest member organization of multidisciplinary professionals in the field of aging. My employer is a proud member of ASA. For most of my career working in the field of aging, I have been very fortunate to attend ASA’s annual conference, “Aging in America”.

Last fall, I and fellow YNPN Chicago Executive Co-Chair, Aaron House, worked with leadership at ESC to develop and submit a proposal to ASA  entitled, “The Leadership Institute: Expanding the Role of Older Adults in Facilitated Peer Learning and Coaching.” Our main goal was to highlight The Leadership Institute as a unique intergenerational opportunity and experience that exemplifies how older adults can help address the growing nonprofit leadership gap. Early this year, we received word that our proposal was accepted, and we were invited to give a poster presentation!

Our poster presented not only the major highlights of the two-year Leadership Institute but also current circumstances in the nonprofit sector that warrant a program such as this and the impact the program has had on participants. We also wanted to leave conference participants with some “take-a-ways,” so we included information about how to find a local YNPN and ESC chapter.

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Several weeks ago, I traveled to sunny San Francisco to present the poster on behalf of YNPN Chicago and ESC. It was a wonderful opportunity to expose the thousands of conference attendees to the program and toot the horn about the work we are doing in Chicago and very exciting to chat with those who stopped by to talk to me about the poster. I hope our participation in this conference fosters continued dialogue about sustainability and replications of program models such as The Leadership Institute, as well as the importance of making more intergenerational opportunities available for nonprofit professionals.

–          Dana Bright, LSW, is the Coordinator for Health Promotion with Older Adult Programs at Rush University Medical Center where she oversees health promotion and disease prevention program development and implementation for older adults and caregivers. Ms. Bright currently serves as a regional coordinator in the City of Chicago responsible for the dissemination and evaluation of evidence-based health programming and in this role has developed expertise in the application of these programs in community practice and factors that facilitate program dissemination.

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