Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Building Capacity One Page at a Time

Since June, the YNPNsd Book Club has gone from a small idea into a monthly occurrence. It has become a space where members of the community, many new to YNPN, come to discuss the most pressing issues in the non-profit sector here in San Diego.

It’s funny really. I remember when I went to my first meeting to pitch the idea that we could READ about a topic (in what free time?) and get together and have substantive discussion around it. The thought was, “Well, let’s give it a try and see where it goes.”

I had not been reading as much as I would like, especially about issues facing non-profits and non-profit professionals. I wanted an excuse to make myself read more and then have a group with whom I could discuss the topic. A book club seemed natural, but this book club couldn’t be your grandma’s Sunday book club. I wanted to replace the gossip and crumpets with informed conversation in an edgy and attractive way.

I also wanted it to be something bigger and more impactful, which brings me to the real motivation to start a book club with YNPN. I wanted to help develop a professional development opportunity that would give people skills and knowledge to help fulfill their organizations’ missions while also building the capacity of the San Diego non-profit sector as a whole.

Getting people together to read and discuss these issues seemed like the logical choice. I saw that the YNPN chapter in the Bay Area had a book club, and it made sense to start one here. The book club would provide a different type of programming where we could build upon our collective knowledge and share experiences with each other as peers. Since many of us do not have formal training or education in the field, this type of peer exchange is a necessary way to build our individual and collective capacities to affect positive outcomes in the community.

The chapter is excited the book club has become one of YNPN’s most successful events, not in terms in pages read, but rather the connections made and the knowledge gained, which collectively help create positive community impact. Scott Bechter-Levin, a member of the YNPN San Diego Community Council and the founder of IdeaEncore and the Pacific Ridge School said, "Because the format encouraged deep conversations among dedicated and passionate nonprofit professionals, it was the best YNPN event in my three years involved with the chapter.” And we do it over happy hour, so it’s a win-win.

Moving forward, the book club’s success is evidence there is a need for robust professional development opportunities. The challenge now is to develop a series of programs, of which the book club is only a small piece, that benefit the YNPN community, and in turn the whole San Diego community. Through creating opportunities for San Diegans to build professional and personal relationships, develop new skills, and expand collective knowledge, YNPN can make a powerful impact in the region and even in the nation.

That means we need YOU! Please feel free to contact me with any ideas for professional development programs at

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