(Originally posted on YNPN National's blog)
During our recent book club Twitter chat, our ED Trish Tchume encapsulated YNPN’s approach to leadership in 140 characters: “The YNPN model relies on the idea that everyone leads. Our chapter leaders start, build up, and run the network. We are because they are.”
One of the best examples of this is our National Conference and Leaders Institute, which brings YNPN chapter leaders from across the country together to connect, share best practices, and collaboratively develop the future of the network. Since 2007, these national gatherings have been hosted by one of our local chapters with support from the national organization. Our local chapter leaders plan the conference from start to finish, including developing and presenting the conference sessions.
This year’s conference will be hosted by YNPN Twin Cities in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota. We spoke to Leah Lundquist, National Conference Committe Chair, and Jamie Millard, Board Chair of YNPN Twin Cities, to hear about what it’s been like serving as a YNPN chapter leader and planning a conference for hundreds of their peers.
So, tell us a little about yourselves. What do you do outside of YNPN and what’s your role in YNPN TC? How long have you been involved with YNPN, and how long have you been part of YNPN Twin Cities’ chapter leadership?
Leah: I’m in my 5th year (final term) of serving with YNPN Twin Cities. In that time I’ve served as Programming Chair, National Liaison and now National Conference Local Host Lead. Outside of YNPN Twin Cities, I am currently helping develop the Hubert Project, an OpenEd initiative encouraging the creation and sharing of free, multimedia materials to be used in training, teaching and self-directed professional development for nonprofit and civic leaders.
Jamie: Outside of YNPN TC, I’m a co-executive director for Pollen and co-founder of the literary arts magazine Paper Darts. I’m the board chair of YNPN TC and have been involved for more than four years.
What have you enjoyed most about being a YNPN chapter leader?
Jamie: Seeing other YNPN board members and volunteers find opportunity to take ownership over projects and dedicate vision to creating the community they want to work and live in.
Leah: When I moved to Minnesota 7 years ago, the network provided me an incredible support system and team of colleagues outside of the small nonprofits I have worked in. I’ve learned so much from serving on the board that I bring to my work. I love passing that forward, providing opportunities for other YNPs across the Twin Cities to connect, try bold things and build the relationships that will sustain all of us through our careers.
In addition to those connections, how has chapter leadership been valuable for you professionally outside of your work with YNPN?
Leah: Leading a chapter has helped me get up close and personal with the life stages a start up nonprofit goes through and the many important governance discussions that take place at each of those stages. It’s provided a safe space for me to speak up, experiment and push my own creativity. Though we have traditional chapter leadership roles, we function highly horizontally as a chapter, so I’ve also learned a ton about effective teamwork and being always cognizant of organizational culture.
Hosting a national conference is a big task. What motivated your chapter to step up and apply?
Leah: It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when the idea was first floated, but I have a hunch that it was after a whole cohort of our board members returned from their road trip to the Grand Rapids conference. Both the travel time and experience of the conference itself was such a bonding experience for them and a perspective-widening opportunity to get to know the national network that we’ve asked ourselves since then if we might be conference host at some point. Finally the stars aligned with the right people and capacity for us to help make this happen. We are all proud and appreciative to be living in a metropolitan area with such a robust nonprofit and philanthropic sector and are excited to invite others from the network to get a taste of this.
Jamie: We knew this would be a unique opportunity to infuse energy into our local YNP community by bringing chapter leaders across the country to highlight what makes the MSP community thrive.
Do you have a favorite memory from past conferences?
Jamie: I do! I attended Grand Rapids (2011) and San Francisco (2012) recently. My favorite moments were when I got to experience something local and specific to that community. It reminded me that being a member of YNPN Twin Cities is truly about being part of a national movement.
What’s been the most challenging aspect of planning an event for hundreds of your peers from across the country?
Leah: The nail biting suspense as you wait for people to register. It’s the whole middle school party syndrome: “I planned this huge party… I hope everyone shows up!!” (Save me from the suspense: Chapter leaders, register today!)
And what’s been the most fun?
Leah: Coming up with creative, meaningful networking ideas for the evenings and during the day. We definitely want you to leave feeling like you have relationships across the network that will be sustained and that you saw at least a slice of the Twin Cities! It’s also been great working alongside National to push ourselves to go beyond what has happened in past years to bring in new partners like Echoing Green and the International Institute for Sustained Dialogue.
What are you most looking forward to at the conference?
Leah: I’m really looking forward to hearing Linda Nguyen’s keynote on Thursday! It’s so neat to have someone speak who is both an early YNPN founder and an incredible leader on civic engagement! I’m also looking forward to the deep learning and discussions I see happening Friday through the 2 deep dive opportunities with Echoing Green and IISD alongside the Chapter Leaders Institute.
What can our leaders look forward to doing in the Twin Cities this June?
Jamie: Hands down spending time outside along the river or lakes. A walk down St. Anthony Main eating gelato from Wilde Roast — that’d be a pretty perfect way to spend an afternoon.
Leah: There’s no limit to the things I love about the Twin Cities in the summer. There’s always great music at the Cedar Cultural Center and the iconic First Avenue. From the Humphrey School (where the conference is being held), I like to rent a Nice Ride bike and pedal downtown along the bike trail that runs along the Mississippi River. One of the great things attendees might want to stick around for the weekend of the conference is the Twin Cities PRIDE festival–TC Pride is the third largest Pride festival in the country and largest free Pride in the U.S.
Why do you think it’s important for chapter leaders to come together in person?
Leah: When chapter leaders come together in person, we can all question our limiting beliefs and assumptions about what it means to be a YNPN chapter. This sparks new ideas and relationships that can make us more effective–not only in our work on our YNPN boards, but also in each of our professional roles.
For those who aren’t YNPN chapter leaders (yet!), we’ll be sharing insights from the conference on social media during the event on June 26-28.