First class of voluntary sector leaders experience innovative program


Published: 30Aug1999

The first class of national voluntary sector leaders has just completed the first of five two-week modules of the McGill-McConnell Program for National Voluntary Sector Leaders. The program, offered by McGill University’s Faculty of Management and The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, is the first Canadian graduate-level program specializing in the voluntary sector. Designed for senior and emerging leaders of Canada’s national voluntary organizations, the program aims at enhancing their capacities to understand, adapt and respond creatively and effectively to the underlying forces transforming Canadian society and the world.

The program is particularly timely in view of the set of roundtables convened by the Canadian government on the voluntary sector. This program will undoubtedly assist organizations in identifying innovative ways to address the series of challenges and changes that will result from this dialogue.

The first class of 40 participants -- hailing from 35 national organizations from across the country -- began the program with a highly insightful workshop by world-renowned journalist Gwynne Dyer on the role of the voluntary sector in societal and global trends. The participants then spent two weeks in a rigorous schedule designed to assess and develop their competency as leaders.

"In just one module, I’ve glimpsed the potential of a stronger voluntary sector. This is the richest educational experience of my life -- one that demonstrates that learning is not solely for the benefit of the organization, but also of society. This is a tremendous privilege," says Penny Milton, Executive Director of the Canadian Education Association.

"The whole initiative is outstanding," says David Armour, President of United Way of Canada - Centraide Canada. "There is a real opportunity to develop the knowledge of the non-profit organization leaders. We are really pleased that the program recognizes the specific challenges that working at the national level presents. The program design exceeded our expectations. We have one top manager in the first class and plan to send at least another person when the second class starts next June," he adds.

"The non-profit sector plays a key role in our society and economy – producing 1.3 million jobs and representing annual revenues of $90 billion a year in Canada alone -- and yet this key sector is neglected by mainstream management education," says Program Executive Director Frances Westley, professor at McGill’s Faculty of Management. "Moreover, managers of non-profit organizations face great challenges: strongly reduced government resources, the impact of globalization, and the challenge of advanced information and communications technology," she adds.

Modeled after Dr Henry Mintzberg and McGill University’s world acclaimed International Master’s Program in Practicing Management, this next generation program is built on the University’s established reputation and world class expertise in innovative leadership programs. "The volunteer sector is too important to be left with no management training in its own terms or, worse, to have to turn to business programs. I am delighted to see this program appear, especially with such fine faculty. I believe it will eventually have worldwide impact," says Henry Mintzberg.

The program has attracted top faculty members from leading Canadian universities. Faculty include Professor Nancy Adler, world-renowned leading authority on business leadership; Professor Harrie Vredenburg, distinguished professor of corporate environmental management; and Professor Brenda Zimmerman, highly respected in the voluntary sector.

The program, whose next class of 40 participants will start the program in June 2000, consists of five modules totaling 60 days over an 18-month period. The majority of the modules take place in Montreal, with one overseas module in Australia and India. A portion (25%) of the full academic cost is to be paid by the candidate’s national organization; the balance is provided by a grant from the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation. Additional bursaries are also available for those organizations which would be severely challenged to cover the full tuition costs of their candidates.

The J.W. McConnell Foundation -- Canada’s largest private foundation -- grew out of the deep commitment of Mr. John Wilson McConnell (1877-1963) to the public good, and his life-long involvement with non-profit and charitable work in Canada. Today, The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation continues to support outstanding organizations and trend-setting ideas that enhance the quality of life in Canada.

McGill’s Faculty of Management stands at the forefront of international management education, taking its lead from the business community. Widely recognized as Canada’s leading international business school, it boasts a worldwide reputation that attracts top students and faculty members from every continent, and offers one of the world’s most complete range of cross-disciplinary graduate business programs. Developed in close conjunction with industry, these programs illustrate McGill’s commitment to offer the most relevant education. Many of these programs are the first of their kind in Canada; others have yet to be duplicated anywhere in the world.