Navigating Changes: The challenges our group faced during a year of transitions

Written by: Ian Mantel, UTSG Chapter Co-President

Supporting Education, Empowerment, and Development through Science (S.E.E.D.S.) is a registered Canadian charity with chapters at the University of Toronto’s St. George and Scarborough campuses, and York University. We develop and deliver workshops to youth in Toronto’s priority neighbourhoods, with a focus on educating them about the health challenges that may face their communities, through a scientific lens. We hope that through our programming, we can inspire these youths to become leaders in their communities, helping to improve health outcomes. We also hope to foster a love of science within them, which will hopefully last a life time.

This year, S.E.E.D.S. went through a host of changes as an organization, that meant that the chapters had to hold off on delivering our programming until the second semester of the year. Now that the semester is almost over, we can look back on this awkward transition period and see that we learned a lot. Hopefully, if your group ever finds itself in this situation, our experiences can be helpful to you!

Hiring

Even though our programming wasn’t to start until January of 2017, we still tried very hard to make sure that our hiring was done right at the beginning of first semester. This came with the obvious pro that hiring was out of the way, and it wouldn’t have to be thought of when the semester got busy – a very good thing, because recruitment can be very stressful, and very time consuming. There were however, some drawbacks to being so ahead of the game. When people first apply to be a part of your organization, and when they first hear back that they are invited to be a part of your group, this is the time when they are most excited. They are ready to learn as much as they possibly can about the values and mission of your group, and want to hit the ground running to help. However, because our programming didn’t start until January, having everyone hired in September meant that many were left wondering where they fit as part of the organization later in the semester, as their help wasn’t needed quite yet. There was the risk that many would lose interest in the group, and when it came time for work to be done, would no longer wish to be a part of it. Luckily for us, when our programming did start, we still had a fabulous pool of volunteers to choose from, who were committed to helping us help our communities. If we were to find ourselves in this transition period again, however, we might consider holding off on hiring until there are tasks ready for our volunteers to do as soon as they join the group.

Training

While originally we planned on training our new recruits right after hiring, we ended up waiting until just a few weeks before our programming started. I think this was definitely a good idea, as it meant that our expectations on how to deliver workshops were still fresh in the minds of our new recruits.

Social

One thing that we did hope to do this year was create a more social atmosphere for the members of our group. Given that our group is more “service based”, in that we are providing a service to the community through the delivery of our workshops, it means that it can be very tricky to get everyone together to socialize. We did hope to make this year more about socializing, along with providing our workshops. Again, this was very hard for us to do, and it is in part because we waited so long between hiring and programming. I think that we should have taken advantage of the gap between these two periods to better organize our group socially. Making sure everyone knows each other well also would have kept everyone into the mission of our group better.

Moving Forward

One thing that this transition year has helped us do is realize exactly the type of group we’d like to run in the future. We know that we want to make things more social, and increase campus engagement. But, that’s the thing with all clubs on campus – they’re dynamic. One year is never going to run exactly the same way as the one before it, and that’s okay. If anything, this year has made me really excited to stay with S.E.E.D.S. UTSG in the future, to see how we can keep this awesome group going, and keep engaging not only the students our programming targets, but student right here on the St. George campus, as well as the members of our club.

Ian Mantel

UTSG Chapter Co-President

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