Engaging in the Community with LCF
The Engage! London program just wrapped up its 10th year and I was lucky enough to be part of this round of alumni. There are 191 community foundations across Canada that strategically invest in various regions. London Community Foundation (LCF) runs the Engage! London program and has been a vital charitable organization in the area, assisting in the creation of endowment funds and grants. The program itself is another way that LCF invests in the community as it helps connect professionals with causes in the London area, and provides a case study where participants can put their skills into practice to help make a difference.
Informative & Collaborative Meetings
Over the course of five months, there were monthly meetings with specific topics covered by area professionals, followed by time to work on our assigned case study. Some of the topics included a discussion on LCF's work from Community Foundations of Canada's CEO, Andrew Chunilall, strategic philanthropy, and board governance, risks and impact. Hearing about the expert's experiences on boards was insightful and informative as they shared what to be aware of when considering joining a board and how to best leverage your skill set to the organization you are volunteering for.
Along with getting to know our peers during the case study, each group was also assigned mentors to help provide advice and direction throughout the process. Not only were our mentors vital to assisting us in the completion of our presentation, we were also given the opportunity to connect with them individually to ask for their advice on volunteering, working on community boards and any other information that might be integral to being involved in the community. With the amount of knowledge and the diverse backgrounds of the mentors, there was plenty to learn. The piece that resonated for me, was that due to time constraints of family life, it's important to align yourself with organizations and boards that are best matched to your skill set. This means you can bring the right skills to the table and also broaden your knowledge without being overwhelmed.
Learning by Doing
The case study component was the most intensive piece of the Engage! London program. During the second monthly meeting we found out which case and group members we were assigned to. The project we were given was Museum London. The collaboration between multiple professionals and mentors helped us divide up the workload, discover whose skills best aligned with which pieces, and brought together creative ideas for the presentation. Of course, with several busy people, scheduling can be a bit difficult. We were able to dedicate time outside of the regular Engage! London meetings to have two site visits, strategic brainstorming, and final meetings to piece together the presentation slides and discussion points. We worked on finding strategic and creative ways for the museum to attract a more diverse audience and how they can become a cultural destination within the city of London.
Being in the Engage! London program was a great experience. It was inspiring to collaborate with like-minded peers who also brought a variety of talent and skills to the case study and our presentation. Tackling a large project with time constraints and conflicting schedules can be a challenge, but everyone was very committed to our project and put in a lot of effort to see it to completion. Learning more about Museum London and the Centre of the Forks campaign was exciting and the plans outline a great addition to the downtown core for arts and culture in London. I hope our group's suggestions compliment the museum campaign and will be helpful to them moving forward. If you have the opportunity to take part in the Engage! London program you should take advantage of it. It's a great compliment to volunteer work and professional development that can help broaden your thinking and your network while learning about fantastic organizations in the London area.