YNPN => Symbol Sign

YNPN => Symbol Sign

This post comes to us from the Director of YNPN National, Trish Tchume.

A few years ago I became really fascinated with the AIGA Symbol Signs.  I’m not sure what first caught my interest about them but it probably had something to do with their connection to other things I tend to be drawn to – shared meaning, simple ways of stating the complex, or pretty pictures :).

I love the idea that, because of simple human ingenuity, a Tagalog-only speaker who falls ill as she makes her way through the Denver airport would know from the white cross on a dark background in front of her that help is close by.

I’ve been involved with YNPN for several years now but my first couple of months as director of YNPN – especially my time on the road – has crystallized for me how important it is for even the most savvy among us to have clear, identifiable ways of finding and accessing what we need.  It’s clear to me that YNPN has grown to be that for many young nonprofit professionals as well as those seeking to become young nonprofit professionals.  Here’s how I know…

At this point in my directorship, I’ve spent time with chapters in Phoenix, Chicago, DC, San Francisco (twice), and at home in NYC.  In each of these places I’ve met YNPNers who’ve shared more or less the same story.  It goes something like this:

I was working for [insert small nonprofit] in [insert city/town/hamlet] and I didn’t really know anybody else in the sector there.  So I heard about YNPN and I started going to events.  I moved to [insert city/town/hamlet where we are having current conversation] a few months ago to work for [insert new small nonprofit] and I didn’t really know anyone in the sector here – but I knew about YNPN!  So I started coming to YNPN events here and now I have a community.

I’ve probably had this conversation 6 times in the past 3 months and, as dorky as it sounds, I still get chills.  I love, love, love that this beautiful little idea that a few young nonprofiteers  dreamed up around a CompassPoint conference table 15 years ago – this little idea that so many of you have grabbed onto and nurtured in your own communities – has become the symbol sign for “inroad to my local nonprofit community” for tens of thousands of young people who want to commit themselves to change wherever they land.

As you all may have noticed over the past several years (and especially over the last 12 months) the world is finally waking up to the notion that the world’s most pressing problems are too widespread, too complex to be solved by any one person, party, organization or nation.  At the same time the world is waking up to the fact that the most vibrant ideas for how to build a better world also don’t live in any one person or company or organization or government - the best ideas live amongst the people.  And those ideas emerge when you create a framework and then allow people to bring their best selves to it.  We’ve seen that everywhere from campaign house parties to the iPhone app store to Wikipedia to the Occupy Everywhere movement.  And we certainly see it in the work you do as chapters of YNPN.

That alone would get me out of bed every morning to do what I can to strengthen this national network, but the conversations that YNPN has been invited to be a part of over the past several months have reminded me that, as a network, we have an even bigger role to play.

For example, on November 15, YNPN was invited to be one of the 200 government, nonprofit and philanthropic institutions to participate in the White House Forum on Nonprofit Leadership. YNPN was fortunate enough to be at the table during the White House forum to think through what these different mechanisms might look like. There were a number of recommendations that emerged from the groups which will become the framework for the Initiative for Nonprofit Talent and Leadership (click here to learn more about how YOU can become involved with this initiative!) Time and again however the refrain arose: “We need on-ramps and training opportunities for the diverse array of professional emerging in the sector. We need opportunities for them to network and build connections in the field.”  It drove home for me yet again what a vital role YNPN is already playing in advancing the sector and how well-positioned we are to play this vital role for an even greater number and more diverse set of change agents.

But how do we take our work to scale while maintaining the grassroots, people-powered ethos of the network that attracted so many of us?  We have some of the answers – stronger technological infrastructure, a more robust communications strategy, clearer channels between national and amongst the chapters so that resources can be shared more readily…But what else?  How do we make sure that the best ideas from all of you are harvested?  How do we make sure that YNPN becomes the symbol sign for an even broader, more diverse array of  young people looking to make change via the social sector?

On January 25th we’ll be hosting a webinar where we’ll begin to lay out the plan for gathering answers to these questions over the coming year (more info on the webinar to come!)  but we hope you’ll share your questions and ideas with us in the meantime via the comments below, Twitter (hashtag #ynpn) or by emailing me directly at trish@ynpn.org.

I couldn’t be more excited for what we’ll build together.

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