A Q&A with the Community Team
Each Newsletter issue will spotlight the work of the different teams that make up the National Office. This issue includes an interview with Geneva, our Assistant Manager of Community Engagement. Geneva oversees our community empowerment initiatives and works to help our University and Professional Chapter networks maximize their potential!
Q: What does an average day look like on the community team?
A:While the average day can vary dramatically, our team is usually focused on either preparing and facilitating leadership programming, creating and sending out communications promoting the great things our volunteers are getting up to, or working on strategic planning and vision-setting for our Chapter community’s impact each year. Working alongside our dedicated volunteers across the country, we work to ensure that, by the time they graduate, all of our members feel equipped to think systemically and make significant changes in their own communities and beyond.
Q:How many chapters are in EWB’s network – are you looking to create more?
A: We currently have around 38 university and professional Chapters in our network, including 5 Professional Chapters that just restarted this year. While we are always looking to expand and support individuals looking to start up new Chapters, we are focusing on supporting membership retention and recruitment within our existing Chapters as they navigate their first full semester online.
Q:How does one join a university or professional chapter?
A: The most organic way folks typically get involved with their local Chapter is through coming across a Chapter recruitment booth during orientation, or hearing about EWB through a poster or friend and attending a Chapter meeting. Increasingly in today’s socially distant reality, new members are connecting to us online through our website (www.ewb.ca/getinvolved) by filling out a membership form and then getting connected to their local Chapter. If there currently is no Professional or University Chapter near you, we also offer the tools to support starting up a new Chapter, or getting involved remotely with an established Chapter. Just send an email to email@example.com and we will be happy to get you connected!
Q:What is EWB providing to the chapters that universities don’t?
A: For engineering students in particular, EWB provides a source of education and critical international development conversations that aren’t typically provided in the classroom. Local Chapters host a range of activities, including interactive member learning workshops, the opportunity to participate in national advocacy campaigns, and partnerships with community organizations that focus on local social justice and equity initiatives. Members get to connect with like-minded people across disciplines and provinces, working towards opportunities to put their learning to work in positions such as the Junior Fellowship and on the Distributed Team.
Q: What is the purpose of the chapters? Is it to fundraise, social group, etc?
A: Chapters create spaces for students and young professionals to pick up valuable leadership and communication skills they may carry with them far beyond their time at EWB. Led by volunteers with the support of our Team, Chapters provide a space for members to find and connect with like-minded people and to courageously commit to new leadership experiences in the area of social justice. While fundraising is part of a Chapter’s mandate, education, community-building, and leadership development opportunities are the true purpose of local Chapters.
Q:What type of projects do the chapters take on?
A: Chapters take on a variety of projects that fall within the broader framework of rejecting band-aid solutions. Focusing on the five commitments of anti-oppression & identity-based equity, equitable access to healthcare, environmental sustainability, economic & food systems security, and reconciliation in Canada & abroad, Chapters undertake initiatives that push for progress in these very complex, systemic issues. In any given campus or city, it is not unusual to see EWBers selling Fair Trade coffee, leading workshops on water quality management in elementary school classrooms, or canvassing for increased funding to Canada’s Official Development Assistance program.
Q: How does national office facilitate the connectedness of a community so wide spread?
A:We encourage members to meet and connect in person, learning about and sharing ideas around EWB’s values and theory of change. The rest of the year, we support the Community in staying connected by facilitating collaborative spaces through Slack’s instant messaging platform and regional pod calls. This year’s new Community Distributed Team initiative has helped us to elevate connectivity with and between Chapters, as well. By providing programming updates to their respective pods and receiving honest, on-the-ground feedback from volunteers, they have helped to filter up Chapters’ needs in a way that directly influences our central programming, keeping it relevant for all Chapters.
Q: Why is this work important for EWB to be doing?
A: Anyone who is familiar with EWB’s Chapter community is quick to note that our national network of volunteers is one of the most active and connected networks of its kind in the non-profit space. Chapter programming helps young people across Canada realize their potential as engaged citizens, facilitators, and systems change thinkers within their classrooms and workplaces. EWB Chapter alumni have gone on to do a number of impressive things, making significant changes within existing companies or going on to start their own social enterprises. Importantly, current members also have an impact in their communities, forging relationships with other clubs and organizations and developing programs that influence systems change education in local elementary and high schools.