A Board Member’s Perspective on Going Virtual

A Board Member’s Perspective on Going Virtual

This blog is a part of our monthly Board Member series. In January of 2016 YNPN began employing full-time staff remotely and in 2017 our operations will officially go virtual with the sole Executive Director Jamie Smith relocating to Portland, OR from New York, NY where we formerly maintained an office. The following blog captures the perspective and decision-making process the National Board of Directors made when making our operations and staffing model virtual.


“A desk is a dangerous place from which to see the world.” - author John le Carré

When you are confined to office tasks, you miss the opportunity to see members, funders, and other key stakeholders. At YNPN, we model the change we want to see in the sector. We believe that to advance a more diverse and powerful social sector, we must say goodbye to longstanding management myths, including how and where we hire. As YNPN has continued to grow and add staff the past few years, questions for the national board about where we operate and how we expand our capacity have become more urgent.

So where is our headquarters? A. San Francisco? B. New York? Or C. Neither.
We are a nationwide movement and we’re looking for leaders in all states. We believe there is talent in every inch of this country, and we believe we must stay relevant and accessible to all chapters, members, and prospective supporters.

In a previous job, my colleagues spoke in the language of field offices and headquarters. We had the impression that decision-making was centralized; we spent a lot of time thinking about power dynamics. More importantly, we were committed to old ways of thinking. HR experts are divided over whether employees who work remotely are more productive and happier, or disengaged slackers. Metrics like sick days and retention rates can tell the story at an individual organization. 

"Our identity as a movement empowering young leaders is not tied to one city." 

As YNPN enters another year, we can model the change we want to see by adapting our staffing practices. This mean"s celebrating the ability to meet people—staff, chapter leaders, members, and supporters—where they are. And a row of shiny desks and cubicles in the same city won’t accomplish that.


Our identity as a movement empowering young leaders is not tied to one city. Our resources aren’t tied to one city, either, but to a growing pool of individuals and organizations who recognize that the future of the sector is the future of YNPN, too. Our identity is tied to our story—a story of local, grassroots conversations we aim to amplify each day. With YNPN staff, Launchpad Fellows, and committee volunteers working all over the country, we gain insights into local markets and opportunities to work with talented people anywhere in the country.

We as social sector leaders can funnel our energy into systemically building and sourcing talent from diverse pipelines. Ralph Waldo Emerson writes, “Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” What if we let go of the wanting and focused on the looking?

We don’t need to yell, “break down the walls and see the people!” But we do need to offer you all an invitation: We are looking for leaders to join our National Voice Committee, our Fundraising Committee and our Network Engagement team. To grow the movement, we need to bring awareness to issues and opportunities facing young leaders living from coast to coast, from the U.S. to Canada (shout out to our first Canadian Chapter Ottawa!) and everywhere in between. We encourage you to plug in to our national initiatives.

Since 1997, when young idealists birthed the idea of a network that amplified new and different voices, we have challenged many social sector leadership myths. We have introduced new language and new faces. But we’re not done. Whether you’re in Little Rock, Cleveland, Tulsa, or beyond, we need your voice to advance a more diverse, powerful social sector.

Our board and staff live everywhere:

LaunchPadders this term are from Seattle, Oakland, Chicago and Grand Rapids

Executive Director Jamie Smith is in Portland, Oregon

Network Engagement Associate Jeff Key is in New Jersey

Board members are in Portland, Los Angeles, Albuquerque, Indianapolis, Cleveland, 
Greensboro, Washington DC and Baltimore 

These leaders, and those who are part of our chapters, are the ones creating new ideas, energy, and innovation that our country needs urgently. Successful grassroots movements bring together community leaders who represent diverse viewpoints, backgrounds, and experiences. Change is more powerful when it happens at many levels and in many locations.

To learn more about YNPN’s current initiatives join us: @ynpn, ynpn.org, and in Atlanta Aug 2017. We invite you to also stay tuned for the committee member application or contact us at applications@ynpn.org if you are interested in joining our team.


Kate_Capossela_for_website.jpgKate Capossela (@thekatecap) is passionate about strengthening America’s vital social change sector. Her love for motivating and building teams has taken her from Disneyland to rural China and many places in between. She serves on the National Board of YNPN. Learn more about Kate here.


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