Among the outcomes shared by Pillar's Community Advisory Panel following a community conversation and online survey was the membership's desire to hear from Pillar's Interim CEO about Pillar's operations. In an email to members and Pillar newsletter subscribers sent Monday, April 3, Maureen Cassidy outlined the organization's recent activities.
As I enter my sixth month at Pillar Nonprofit Network, it is my pleasure to provide you with an update on our progress. When I first stepped into the role, I recognized that Pillar was in a period of significant change and upheaval and that being responsive to the needs of the staff, the membership, and the community had to be my top priorities. It was also evident that despite multiple pressures and challenges the team had persisted in their efforts to support the network and continue the deep equity work they had initiated at the beginning of this strategic planning cycle. I was and continue to be impressed by their unwavering dedication to creating positive impact in this community. I join them in demonstrating to all of you that we are committed to living the lessons learned in these last 8 months.
I am grateful to all of you who have taken the time to meet with me to share your concerns and to the Community Advisory Panel who have stepped forward to offer support. At the end of February, the Panel held a gathering at Innovation Works inviting the Pillar Community to come together with the intention to listen intently and thoughtfully to you who care so deeply about this organization. The information they gathered is intended to help them in the Board recruitment process. They have also shared with me your desire to hear what I and the Pillar team have been up to. I am delighted for the invitation to check in with you all.
Listening is essential for all of us in this moment. When I began my new role at Pillar, I knew that my first and most important task would be to listen. I began my outreach first with the incredible staff here, creating space and time for them to share their thoughts and concerns about Pillar’s legacy in this community, its current state and future hopes. Despite the circumstances of my arrival, I have been welcomed with warmth and generosity by everyone, and I have learned so much.
During this time, I have also met with dozens of people in the broader Pillar community, speaking with many of you, asking questions and, of course, listening and learning all that I can. With humility and deep gratitude, I thank you all for your generosity in sharing your perspectives with me as you have. My outreach is far from complete. Indeed, once I’ve spoken with everyone who wants to do so, it will be time to begin again. Listening and learning are continuous processes after all.
With the benefit of the knowledge that I continue to gain through these conversations, I am also working closely with the senior team here to determine our path forward during this transitional period as we continue on the road to post-pandemic recovery. As we communicated to you early in 2023, we have made a commitment to focus on Pillar’s core mission. To this end, we have set the following five priorities:
- Deliver knowledge, learning, and educational experiences to the impact sector in support of social and economic recovery;
- Collaborate and build capacity within the nonprofit network through public policy support, advocacy, impact storytelling, and network support;
- Convene the sector to discuss emerging concerns and complex issues, problem solve and build community-led solutions.
- Define and promote the opportunities to strengthen sector knowledge of Social Enterprise, Social Finance, and the UNs Sustainable Development Goals; and
- Ensure the longevity and financial sustainability of the organization, including Innovation Works, as a means to deliver for our members and the sector at large.
Setting priorities is one step in defining who we are and where we’re going. These priorities also represent a renewed commitment to our Strategic Plan which set us on the path towards “creating transformational change, shifting systems of oppression, and helping to support an equitable and sustainable recovery”. The next step, which has already begun, is deciding how we want to get to where we’re going. This will involve decisions about strategies and tactics as well as defining the structure which will help us to deliver on our priorities. Our entire team will continue to be involved in these next steps.
However, the last few months have been about much more than just planning. There has also been a lot of doing. As many of you acknowledged in your comments during the Community Conversation, Pillar staff have never stopped doing the incredible work they are known for. Some of our accomplishments these past nine months have included:
- Thirteen Project 51 voter engagement pop-up events during the municipal election campaign
- SDG Cities - delivering local in-person training to university students and participating in research partnerships
- Continued partnerships with Libro and SVX in Pillar’s Verge Capital social finance initiative
- City Studio Hubbub, a celebratory showcase and networking event featuring the students and projects making London more liveable, sustainable and joyful.
- December’s Meaningful Market at Innovation Works which featured social impact vendors
- 100 people attended an event featuring Imagine Canada’s President and CEO, Bruce MacDonald, who shared some perspectives on key issues facing the nonprofit sector
- Outreach to all levels of government including delegations to municipal council on their strategic plan, and the Minister of Finance on the provincial budget
- Wrapped up Women of Ontario Social Enterprise Network - a province-wide, collaborative, 3- year, federal project to support women entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds
- Partnering with London Food Bank on our Living Wall to encourage conversations and draw attention to the food insecurity crisis in London
- Pursuing partnerships with economic and social recovery driving organizations in London
- Participated in the City’s Health and Housing Whole of Community Response Summit
- Participated in consultation regarding newcomer settlement services in London
- Welcomed Sidetrack Cafe to Innovation Works (Tues, Wed, Thurs, 9:00 - 2:00)
- Deepened our relationships with other network organizations like Ontario Nonprofit Network, Imagine Canada, the Ontario Volunteer Centre Network, Volunteer Canada, and the Federation of Nonprofit Networks to help nonprofits focus on their mission and the communities they serve
- Continued collaboration with Elgin Middlesex Oxford Workforce Planning and Development Board to gather and interpret regional nonprofit sector workforce data
- Preparing for the re-launch (early April) of the CEO/ ED Support Network
- Pillar’s Pollinating Purpose Podcast completed 7 episodes featuring regional changemakers
- Working to restructure member resources & information to make them easier to find
- Realigned our internal organizational structure to better support emerging issues for our membership, the network, and the community
- Refined and added to the Decent Work measures announced last spring to continue supporting healing for our staff and to make sure that new staff arrive in a psychologically safe workplace
- Continuing Community Learning Series (CLS) including Indigenous Treaty Series plus plans for shared youth CLS in March; a local CLS aligned with Policy Talks in May; SDGs in higher education in September; and a re-launch of All About Boards this fall
- Four active research partnerships with local groups and universities.
- A new partnership with the Boland Survey on nonprofit sector compensation data that I wrote to you about in late March.
- Collaborated with nonprofit sector organizations across Canada and local Muslim-led organizations to respond to investigations of Islamophobia in the CRA.
This is just a sample of the work we continue to do here at Pillar Nonprofit Network. All of this work takes place with our deep commitment to Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Justice and with a focus on continuous improvement, doing better, being better. Pillar employees are driven each and every day by the desire to have a positive impact in our community and by the hope that comes with that goal.
Finally, I want you to know that staff have shared with me how supported they have felt from you, the community. Pillar’s strength lies in our membership and in our community and network connections. You have stood with us through good times and bad and we are grateful for your loyalty and your continued support. We look forward to continuing to work together with you to advance the goals of the social impact sector and to leverage the collective power of our networks to build an engaged, inclusive and vibrant community.
Whether we’ve had a chance to speak yet or not, I’d be happy to hear back from you about this email or anything else you’d like to discuss.
MaureenMaureen Cassidy (she/her)
Interim CEO | Pillar Nonprofit Networkc/o Innovation Works, 201 King Street (2nd Floor), London, ON N6A 1C9519-433-7876, ext 201