12 Days of YNPN: Ese Emerhi's Exceptional Leadership
Ese Emerhi has served on the YNPN National Board for five years. During that time, she's helped YNPN grow tremendously and has been involved at every level, from developing the big picture vision of what's next for YNPN to improving the details of chapter support.
This month Ese is leaving the board to pursue an exciting opportunity in Nigeria. We asked her to share some of her experiences, insights, and memories from the last five years.
How as serving on the YNPN Board been enriching, both personally and professionally?
I first got involved with YNPN when I joined YNPNdc as a board member in 2006. Before joining the local board, my professional experience had been primarily limited to the public sector though I had volunteered for numerous nonprofit organizations throughout college and in my early professional life. So serving on the local board gave me a direct look at the nonprofit sector and the challenges young people often face in navigating that space.
I quickly moved from regular board member to National Liaison to YNPN National for YNPNdc, and that's when I think I truly fell in love with this organization. The mission and vision of activating emerging leaders in the sector is something I am passionate about and believe in wholeheartedly. The opportunity to work and strategize with other young people who were just as equally passionate about the mission only made things that much better.
The one thing most people say is an added benefit of being involved with YNPN is the number of new friends you make. That is so true. I know I have a solid network of friends from the people I've come across: there's Kelly Cleaver in Detroit, Steve Strang in Chicago, Qiana Nurudin in Houston, and Malcolm Furgol in Washington, DC. These people and so many others have been pivotal to my growth both professionally and personally. When I decided to become an independent consultant some years back, the first place I turned to for potential new clients was my YNPN family and they come through with real clients that made that transition so much easier.
Ese during an exercise at the November Board Retreat
How have you seen the organization change during your time on the board, and what has it been like serving on the board of an organization that has grown quite a bit during your tenure?
What some people may not realize about YNPN and the type of people it ultimately attracts is that it has, at its very core, a deep entrepreneur spirit. This spirit allows us to never accept the status quo, to constantly be asking questions, to be able to pivot on the spot and change directions when needed. The biggest growth I've witnessed is watching the amazing growth of YNPNdc from when I first joined and they were struggling to find members. I remember the board gathered ourselves on a cold Winter day in an office in downtown DC to come up with one of our first strategic plans. During the visioning exercise conducted by the consultant we hired for that weekend I scribbled on a piece of flip chart of the wish of one day having an office on the iconic K street NW corridor of DC: this is the street most occupied by the powerful lobbying firms across the Nation. It seemed silly, hopeful, a dream that could not be realized. I mean, at that time, we didn't even have an official business bank account. Today, YNPNdc has an office on K street NW.
That dream came through! We believed and we acted as if it already was a reality.
YNPN National has grown leaps and bounds since I have been involved. We've always been challenging ourselves to think of a future of fully activated young leaders and we've done that in the way we work - our white papers, the types of partners we engage with, the communities we work in, and the impact we leave on those we encounter. We've moved from a full working all volunteer board to one that is finding its way as a governing board with staff that now reports to us. Most importantly, the biggest change I've witnessed is that we are now fully at the decision-making table with more senior organizations in the nonprofit sector; our opinions on how to improve the sector is sought after from small nonprofits to the White House. We still have a long way to go, and I have no doubt we will find our way.
Do you have any favorite YNPN memories?
There are too many to share here. Every Leaders Conference is a favorite memory because it is then that you get to see the whole network in one room. It may sound cliche, but even the bad memories are good ones! Oh, the debates we've had with each other in the board room, cramming five to a hotel room just to afford the Leaders Conference, late nights on the phone with chapter leaders trying to figure out solutions to their challenges. They've all been "growing" moments.
Outgoing National Board President Lydia McCoy, National ED Trish Tchume, and Ese
What would you say to someone considering joining the YNPN National Board or a local chapter board?
Do it! You will challenge yourself in ways you hadn't imagined. You will be given real leadership opportunities to determine the future direction of this organization. You will make friends - who knows, you might even find your life partner from this. I know of a few marriages that have come about because of YNPN. We are a full service organization!!
Do you have any final thoughts?
I'm leaving YNPN and America to move to Nigeria to start a new journey. It's time for me to move on and create a space for someone else to shine. While anything new is a terrifying thing, I know I am prepared for this new challenge in my life because I was given the opportunity to find my voice, sharpen my skills, and grow as an individual. I've always fancied the idea of YNPN going international, and who knows, just maybe I'll form the first YNPN chapter on the African continent.
I am excited about all the possibilities open to YNPN National and though I'll be away, I will be watching and cheering along. I'm going to miss my YNPN family. But like family, they will always be with me. Wishing you all the very best of luck!
What's next for Ese?
She'll be leaving Washington, DC to move to Nigeria where she will serve as the Program Lead of NDLink (a new knowledge platform) for the PIND Foundation. The mission of PIND Foundation is to establish and encourage innovative multi-stakeholder partnerships that support programs and activities, which empower communities to achieve a peaceful and enabling environment for equitable economic growth in the Niger Delta. NDLink will serve as a digital hub for sharing activities, connections, key discussions among stakeholders, program updates, and including building up the knowledge base of issues that impact the Niger Delta. As Program Manager for NDLink, Ese will be primarily responsible for the design, implementation, and engagement of the new knowledge platform.
Prior to PIND Foundation, Ese served as a KM officer and Community of Practice specialist for the World Bank Institute where she advised and lead workshops on the how-to of communities of practice for internal World Bank clients, including curating resources and templates that enabled clients to implement their own communities seamlessly on multiple collaborative platforms. She also served as a board member for the Washington Peace Center, and is currently serving as the Director of Institutional Operations for Vote of Quench. Originally from Nigeria, Ese has spent the majority of her adulthood traveling and living in multiple countries and is looking forward to this new exciting and challenging part of her professional growth in Nigeria.
We say farewell to Ese, but not goodbye!
Ese relaxes with fellow National Board Member Darrell Scott during the November Board Retreat
Top photo: Lydia McCoy, Ese Emerhi, Trish Tchume Left photo: Ese Emerhi and Malcolm Furgol Right photo: Ese Emerhi and Qyana Stewart