To Rise and to Shine: a Celebration of Rachel Berdan’s Leadership and Purpose

A cameo of Rachel Berdan and a banner reading, "To Rise and to Shine: A Celebration of Rachel Berdan's Leadership and Purpose"

To Rise and to Shine: a Celebration of Rachel Berdan’s Leadership and Purpose

It is with mixed emotions that we inform you that Rachel Berdan, Interim Co-CEO and Co-President of Pillar Nonprofit Network, has submitted her letter of resignation. We wish to express our deep gratitude for her contributions to the organization over a brief but consequential journey with us.

Rachel joined Pillar in 2019 as Social Innovation Coach, leading the Libro Social Enterprise Incubator program and subsequently co-creating accelerators for women and non-binary social entrepreneurs as part of the Women of Ontario Social Enterprise Network (WOSEN). In this capacity, Rachel brought her deep understanding of purpose-driven businesses and purpose-driven humans to help develop equity-centred support systems and resources for organizations, contributing to positive social and environmental change and making for more prosperous and resilient communities.

A gifted intrapreneur and leader, Rachel was appointed Pillar’s Director of Social Innovation in the Spring of 2021, co-creating a model of shared leadership with Pillar’s Senior Leadership Team and attracting new talent to the organization, all while completing an MA in Global Leadership from Royal Roads University and modelling lifelong learning for her colleagues and community. In 2022, Rachel’s role was redefined to better reflect her contributions as Pillar’s Vice-President, Transformation and Community-Based Economy.

No stranger to leading through organizational change, Rachel recently accepted the role of Interim Co-President and Co-CEO of Pillar Nonprofit Network. A two-time Ironman finisher, Rachel is a model of strength and resilience, but has helped to steward the Pillar team with the heart-centred community care that has been her hallmark. We look forward to honouring what we’ve learned from her and thank her for modelling how core organizational values can be fully embodied in leadership.

 Together the board and staff wish Rachel all the very best on her next adventure and thank her for her thoughtful and impactful work with Pillar.

~  The Pillar Nonprofit Network Team


A reflection from Rachel

After careful consideration and consultation with my family, I have resigned from my positions as Interim Co-President & CEO and VP, Transformation & Community-Based Economy at Pillar Nonprofit Network effective October 17th. I recognize this is yet another major change for the organization, the team, and the community we serve.

Change can take many forms; in my experience, it consistently brings an opportunity to reflect on where things are and where they’re going, what feels right and what other changes might be on the horizon. Over the last couple of months, I have thought a lot about what I love about Pillar - the work I’ve had a chance to do directly, the team I respect and appreciate deeply, the significant structural changes we’ve made to support Decent Work, and the strength of our shared leadership model. I am grateful to have been a part of this work in the sector. As I have reflected on the impact I want to have and how I am best able to honour and care for myself and community, I’ve realized it’s time to go in a different direction.

Over the 3 years I have spent at Pillar, I have deepened my learning about equity-centred and asset based community development, leadership, power, and what I value. I am grateful to have been able to engage in deep collaborative work to support systems transformation; the chance to do inner work alongside truly wonderful people, talk about what a more just world looks like, identify my role in creating it, and determine how I will hold myself accountable to doing my part has been life altering in the best of ways. I also appreciate the trust that was placed in me to support Pillar through a moment of significant change with the best interests of the organization and our work in mind. I have felt aligned with Pillar’s current strategic plan since it was first revealed and feel the same about the way the team has operationalized it. I could write a paragraph each about my appreciation for the colleagues and collaborators I’ve had a chance to work with in my time here (but I won’t), because each of these people has enriched my life in immeasurable ways. I know that the team and the community are in excellent hands with the interim leadership of Tanja Kueneman and with support through our shared leadership model from Dharshi Lacey, Maria Luisa Contursi, Melanie Riley, and Dawn Burns.

I don’t know exactly what the next steps will look like. I know I appreciate the challenge and beauty of collaborative work, holding space for people to uncover and connect with what’s true for them, the power of storytelling, exploring how grief and letting go of old patterns can make space for better ways of being, honouring how love and joy can make the hard work more manageable, and creating space to breathe between moments of change because that space is where the great ideas flow and meaningful relationships form. I know that equity-centred, asset based community development and heart- and people-centred advocacy will remain part of what I show up for and how I approach it. I am grateful for the ways I’ve been able to practice these things in my work at Pillar and look forward to what’s next.

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