How I learned about power

main2.jpgFighting for a position to fight for people that need a better position is a real… well, fight. And, I don’t know how to do this. I don’t know all the questions to ask to move my organization’s mission forward. Or how best I can implement the ideas from the answers I come up with. I need others’ perspectives to understand what’s right, and to make sure what I am doing isn’t wrong. I need all the help I can get and I get the best tools for helping others from working with others. This is what I was hoping for when I applied for the YNPN-TC scholarship to the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits 2016 Nonprofit Essentials Conference, and this is what I experienced in spades.

As a fairly recent graduate and one of the newest additions to the local world of nonprofits, I am not wealthy. However, I do have a certain relationship to power that I didn’t have as a little kid in a working-poor family in South Minneapolis. Today, I have a role and an opportunity that I never imagined I’d have. I am an idealist at heart, but I understand the demand for practicality. I think this tension was masterfully named by the event’s keynote speaker, Dr. Vanjelis Ngwa in his deep exploration into the subtleties of power.

I think all well-intentioned people think about this conflicted attitude around power. Dr. Ngwa pointed out how we all see the benefits of power while pointing out most nonprofit professionals tend to recoil from it. For whatever reason, we have been indoctrinated to believe power and morality could only be combined in some theoretical liberal daydream. Or more often, simply in the lives of others but definitely not our own. It was refreshing and inspiring to hear Dr. Ngwa challenge this idea—as well as challenge each of us to find a positive and beneficial relationship to power for ourselves.

As I mentioned earlier, I went to this conference as a recipient of a YNPN-TC scholarship that covered part of the cost of attendance. It made it possible for me to attend. This is not the first time that I have benefited from something like this, but it was the first time that I participated in this scholarship structure. Please let me explain.

After working my way through a lengthy-yet-not-too-challenging application (no ridiculously personal essays had to be written), I was told I was selected for the scholarship and to RSVP by a certain date. After all that was taken care of, I was connected with the other recipients and invited to connect with one another.

And when say "invited" I mean just that. We were not guilted or shamed or prodded to meet under some artificial terms. The call went out for one of the recipients to make a space for us to meet if we are able, and really just see what comes from that. Not everyone that received a scholarship was able to attend the meeting, but those of us that did meet before the event had a good time.

On a personal level, it was so nice walking into the space of this conference knowing that I would know someone there. It was a relief to know that I would have someone to go to lunch with if I didn’t connect with anyone, or that I could invite someone to a lunch if they were looking to join a group.

This was a bit of a "value add" that I would not have expected with this scholarship. I work best when I work with other people, and I got a head start on my work by connecting with other people ahead of time.

I am looking forward to using the knowledge acquired from the breakouts, and developing the relationship made this year at the Nonprofit Essentials Conference. More importantly, I am looking forward to directing others to experience these events—as this was accessible, practical, and beneficial. 

Paul received a scholarship for the MCN Nonprofit Essentials Conference as a member benefit of YNPN-TC. Thanks to Minnesota Council of Nonprofits for their partnership in providing discounted membership and scholarship tickets to YNPN-TC members.

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