When a cause is shared by many, a network can make a world of difference.
A network can be empowered by its membership to act in their common interest, or it can strengthen the role and contributions of its members. A great network does both, and can adapt with changing circumstances.
In the mid 1980s, I started my career with the Conservation Council of Ontario (CCO), a formal council of 25 organizations and 50 individuals. It had been founded in 1951 as a united voice for conservation interests at a time that predated a Ministry of the Environment.
If the life of an NGO is hard, the life of a network can be even harder. Several times over the thirty years I was with the CCO we experienced a funding crisis, and each time we rebounded with a combination of creativity and leadership.
- In the 1980s, it was the Conservation Strategy for Ontario, a major study supported by the work of seven issue-oriented task forces made up of Council members and other advisors. The report helped pave the way for the Ontario Round Table on Environment and Economy, the Province’s response to the World Commission on Environment and Development.
- In the early 1990’s, it was the Community Action Program, a 180 degree shift in focus from government policy to community based action. Several of the participating communities used our low-cost model as a stepping stone to be selected as a Green Community under a provincial energy conservation fund.
- After the 2003 blackout, the CCO responded to the Province’s call for energy conservation with the We Conserve initiative and Doors Closed — a highly successful movement-based social marketing campaign.
- In 2011, coming full circle, we published Ontario’s Conservation Strategy as a voluntary transition strategy reflecting the commitment of the Council and its members.
Currently, the CCO is again dealing with a funding crisis. In this, it is not alone, for the constant cuts in funding combined with ever-tightening constraints on funding programs has made it increasingly difficult for many environmental networks and organizations to stay afloat.
If your organization or network is struggling to find the right mission, or is in need of new ideas, I can help. I’ve experienced it all from the inside, which makes me a perfect outside advisor.