A Training Workshop for Environmental NGOs on Thursday April 10, 2014 was hosted by the Sustainability Network at the Centre for Social Innovation, in downtown Toronto. The workshop was led by Matt Price and Graham Saul (Ecology Ottawa) and funded by the Gosling Foundation.

There is a growing trend towards people-centred campaigns, enhanced by technology and data. NGOs that wish to be a part of this trend need to retool around the best practices of organizing and engagement. Advancing our various issues has now become about how we best support citizen mobilization and leadership.

‘Engagement Organizing’ is an approach that strives to marry organizing, technology, and a culture of developing leadership in others. It represents a shift away from expert-driven, direct mail groups toward a model that focuses on nimble, data-driven, learning organizations that place relationship building and mobilization of supporters at the heart of their work. The result can be build resilient, effective organizations that continue to advance their work in an ever-more competitive world.

The workshop was an opportunity to share the theory and practice of developing successful engagement organizations. Session leaders described real world stories and techniques of others doing this kind of work, and also tapped into lessons from participants in the room.

Participating Organizations included:

Nature Canada Bird Studies Canada
Bruce Trail Conservancy Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserve
Blue Mountain Watershed Trust Foundation Leadnow
Haliburton Highlands Land Trust Ontario Nature
Canadians for Clean Prosperity Wellington Water Watchers
Canadian Freshwater Alliance Registered Nurses Association of Ontario
Environment Hamilton ReForest London
Sustainable Vaughn Sustainable Brant
Land Over Landings

Matt Price has worked with a wide variety of environmental organizations in Canada and the U.S. over the past 15 years, from the grassroots to the giants. He now assists NGOs in implementing engagement organizing. Graham Saul has worked on global justice and environmental issues for 20 years and is Executive Director of Ecology Ottawa, a group that has embraced this model and that therefore has real world experience to share – successes and failures both.

Related reading:

Revenge of the Beaver (January 2012)

Engagement Organizing (Fall 2012)

EO reading list (links to 12 papers):

‘Canada’s New Organizers’, a Huffington Post article by Matt Price: