A year and a half into working for a big nonprofit that deals with complex community issues, I was struggling to get outside of my networking silo. It was taking enough time and energy to build rapport with people inside of (and working in partnership with) my organization, so I rarely had the energy to network outside (with the occasional exception of some people connected to my work).
Enter the EPIP-YNPN Leadership Institute (EYLI or Leadership Institute, for short). When my friend first told me about how a bunch of young nonprofit professionals were self-organizing to co-create an institute for leadership development, I was more than intrigued. What could this experience look like? Wouldn’t it be beneficial to network with like-minded professionals at similar points in their careers? What could we accomplish with all that collective talent?
All these questions (and the sheer excitement of knowing many fun people who were passionate about EYLI) made me want to apply. Fast forward to when I accepted the invitation to join the Leadership Institute – I was in for quite a ride!
From the opening retreat, there was a sense of ownership instilled in cohort participants. We came to understand that, as with many things, what we decided to put into the EYLI was what we would get out of it. This drove us to be intentional about creating a shared learning space through which we could bounce frustrations and ideas around and get to learn from each other in deep ways.
We were immersed in peer-learning and self-directed development. The best part of the Institute was the opportunity to choose a topic of my interest (servant leadership), delve into it more deeply, and coordinate a learning session on it so that the group could take and apply lessons from it in their own contexts. This is what shaping, influencing, and connection are about!
After 10 quick months, as our Leadership Institute journey came to a close, I couldn’t help but look back on it as a unique opportunity. I met with future rockstars of the nonprofit sector, I developed a deeper understanding of their perspectives, and I ultimately grew inspired by the depth of knowledge, courage, and passion (which was the best benefit).