May 2023 marked the 131st YWCA Canada Annual Members Meeting, this year held in Waskesiu Lake, Saskatchewan, and hosted by YWCA Prince Albert. YWCA Cambridge was able to send four delegates: our board chair, Norma McDonald Ewing, CEO, Kim Decker, Director of Philanthropy, Nataleigh Ballantyne and Director of Communications and Advocacy, Roz Gunn.
This year’s theme, “Leading Through Changing Landscapes,” provided valuable insights and takeaways for participants. The event allowed staff and volunteers from across the YWCA Canada federation (comprising 30 member associations from across the country) to connect face-to-face, share experiences, discuss challenges, explore opportunities, and learn from notable speakers such as Carol Crowe, President of Indigenous Visions and certified ECOCanada Environmental Professional (EP).
It would be impossible to enumerate all of the takeaways from this year’s AMM. It was such an enriching and jam-packed three days, filled with genuine, shared introspection and some incredibly difficult, but important, conversations.
Here are just a few key takeaways shared by the YWCA Cambridge team:
Transitional not transactional
Thursday was a day full of Indigenous ceremony. AMM participants all worked together to prepare a delicious, traditional feast that we would share together following a sweat ceremony. YWCA delegates were invited to Paspiwin Cultural Heritage Site, where Knowledge Keeper Nina Wilson and her family guided us through the practice and history of the sweat lodge. Participants were then invited to experience a sweat together, an experience words couldn’t do justice. It was an honour to be given such an opportunity and we thank Nina and her family for welcoming us to participate, and for sharing so much wisdom with us all.
During the sweat lodge ceremony, Elder Nina used the phrase “transitional not transactional” when discussing how she hoped this experience of ceremony resonated with participants. The phrase emphasized the need to approach change as a transition rather than a mere transaction. Understanding that change involves learning, healing, and growth, participants were encouraged to commit to the process of change and not merely treat it as a transactional event.
Inclusive leadership – leader as host, not hero – and psychological safety
It was emphasized that effective leadership entails creating an inclusive work environment and fostering psychological safety. To enable team members to thrive, perform at their best, and enjoy their roles, managers should empower their teams, exhibit humility, and prioritize honesty. Cultivating a safe workplace culture is essential to fostering growth and ensuring the wellbeing of employees. In a workshop led by Betty Mutwiri, she spoke about a leader being a “host, not hero.” A leader who is a host leads with compassion and aims to help employees thrive and grow – professionally and personally (because our kind of work gets personal!). This form of leadership is critical in spaces like we have in YWCAs, where staff and volunteers must feel safe, supported and valued while they’re doing what can often be difficult and heart-breaking work.
Impactful work and community engagement
This AMM highlighted the significant and impactful work being done by the YWCA Canada federation and its members associations in their respective communities. While the work can be challenging and demanding, participants were reminded of the importance of keeping the larger perspective in mind. Recognizing the positive change they make in their communities strengthens the national movement as a whole, and helps us continue our work toward realizing inclusive gender equity and justice for all.
Overall, AMM provided a platform for collaboration, learning, and inspiration. Attendees left with a renewed commitment to embrace change, foster inclusive leadership, and continue making a meaningful impact in their communities.
We extended our deepest gratitude to YWCA Canada, YWCA Prince Albert, YWCA Regina, and to each and every panelist and speaker who so generously shared their experiences and wisdom with us.