Growing Leaders of Tomorrow with the IMPACT! Youth Conference for Sustainability Leadership

July 25, 2014

I can confidently say that the conference I attended back in May has had the biggest impact on me so far out of the twenty plus conferences I’ll estimate I’ve attended (who keeps track of those numbers anyway?). Therefore I would say The Co-operators aptly named it with IMPACT! Youth Conference for Sustainability Leadership. If you haven’t heard about this program and you are a student in post-secondary education interested in what sustainability leadership looks like or someone who wants to help grow these leaders of the future I highly recommend you look into it. Here are my reasons why:

Sustaina-what? Sustainability!

OK I can’t take credit for creating the cheer but try it, it’s quite catchy. One of the amazing things about this conference is the fact that everyone attending is coming from different sectors with a similar goal — making our world a better place for all. Sustainability can be a hard term to wrap your head around especially when you’re a student emerging in a specific field. When you get a chance like this to be with like-minded people from all over Canada, the puzzle pieces start to fall into place and you can begin to see what can be done both as individuals and as collaborators.  

The conference is part of a larger program which also includes IMPACT! Champions and the Impact! Fund. This was actually my second time attending the conference as I was a student in 2011 and then came back as a Challenge Leader/Alumni Facilitator in 2014. The 3-day conference which is held on the lovely University of Guelph campus focuses on three main areas of sustainability leadership; environmental, social, and economic.

You can’t deny leaving the conference fully inspired and motivated and a large part of it is due to the amazing mentors, speakers, and facilitators. After being in the co-operative sector for the last few years I had even more appreciation when I saw members of The Co-operators Board of Directors not just stopping by to bring greetings but staying for the full course and actively taking in the discussions and idea sharing that was happening.

The mentors. who this year were split up between “challenge groups” focused on issues such as citizen engagement, sustainable business models, poverty in Canada, sustainable food systems, Canada’s resource development, responsible consumerism and included people like Bob Willard (author of The New Sustainability Advantage), Ken Melamed (past-mayor of Whistler, BC), Peter MacConnachie (Sustainability Issues Manager at Suncor Energy), and Esther Speck (past Director of Sustainability and Community at MEC). Again these mentors spent the majority of the conference with us which allowed for so many more opportunities for them to share their knowledge and experience rather than just a workshop or panel discussion. Lastly our keynote speaker was Col. Chris Hadfield who was every bit of an inspirational speaker as you would assume he would be. One point of his that really resonated with me — “real sustainability lasts longer than our own agendas”.

There are many things for which I and the other participants can thank The Co-operators, and all other partners involved, but I’ll leave it at this — I truly believe that what they are doing, bringing youth across sectors to discuss environmental, social, and economic sustainability while also empowering them with the resources to initiate change, is in fact growing our leaders of tomorrow to build a better more sustainable world.

See for yourself!

Marianne Jurzyniec is a Governance Liaison Manager with Affinity Credit Union in Saskatoon Saskatchewan. After completing her Justice degree at the University of Regina and gaining experience working in community development her subsequent plans are to pursue a Masters in Public Policy. In 2011, she joined the Canadian Community Economic Development Network’s standing committee, Emerging Leaders, and has enjoyed the experience of meeting other people who share the same goals as she does.