Leadership and The Workplace

Nonprofit Spark

Renee McGivern

Nonprofit Spark – A nonprofit reinvents itself: LiveWorkPlay takes on social change – 04/16/12

It’s National Volunteer Week in Canada and so I speak this week with the leader of an organization that has transformed the way it thinks about and manages volunteers. The show isn’t just about volunteers, though. You’ll hear how about an honest-to-goodness transformation in how this agency serves its members, and how the board and staff function.

This conversation ties in beautifully to the Interview with Paul Schmitz of Public Allies a few weeks ago. Paul is the author of a new book, Everyone Leads: Building Leadership from the Community Up. In our conversation the week of March 5, 2012, he shared passionately that nonprofits need to give up a programmatic model of operation to focus instead on causing lasting social change. It requires seeking out and nurturing leaders in their communities. Paul is a thought-provoking change agent, and he manages a dozen offices throughout the country. So after the interview I wondered, well, where can I find a smaller, local nonprofit that is actually shifting from a programmatic model of service to focusing on causing social change?

Lo and behold, I discovered Keenan Wellar an Executive Staff Co-Leader of LiveWorkPlay, an Ottawa, Canada nonprofit that supports people with intellectual disabilities to have a good life. Keenan is co-founder of the organization with his wife, Julie Kingstone. He has a background in teaching and special education, he is a master at social media, and he is learning to be a marketing genius. Keenan describes how LiveWorkPlay used to serve its members, tap into volunteers, and operate day to day. And he then contrasts that with what is happening now because of their renewed commitment to the original intention of the organization: Changing how the community views people with intellectual disabilities. Here’s a real, on-the-ground example of organizational reinvention that’s beginning to cause lasting social change in Ottawa. I hope you enjoy it.