150 Profiles: Ali McConnell

As we mark the 150th anniversary of confederation, The Philanthropist is profiling Canadians from across the non-profit sector and putting a face to 150 individuals who work or volunteer in Canada’s social sector.

Name: Ali McConnell

Current role in the sector: Project Director, Northern Youth Leadership, a Project on Tides Canada’s Shared Platform and Managing Director, Empowering Kids in Uganda Society

Years working and/or volunteering in the non-profit sector:  7+ years.

What was your first job in the sector or a defining moment?
After completing my Masters Degree, I was a Social Worker with Gulu Support the Children Organisation (GUSCO) in Uganda. GUSCO is a Ugandan non-profit that runs a reception centre for children formerly abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army. I assisted with psychosocial support, family tracing, family reintegration, and livelihood skills development. From there I went on to found Empowering Kids in Uganda (EKU), a registered Canadian charity that supports children born into the Lord’s Resistance Army, who returned to Uganda without their parents.

I am very grateful to have had this experience early in my career because it had a profound impact on how I approach youth work. At GUSCO we spent 10 hours a day with the kids and our contact wasn’t confined to 1 hour counselling sessions. This focus on connection and informal interaction led to deeper and more trusting relationships, and provided youth with the opportunity to open-up, share their stories, and ask for the support they needed. Since leaving GUSCO, I have prioritized working for organizations where youth work is done in similar informal settings like over a game of pool, or while paddling a canoe.

Describe your desk/workspace.
My work space is decorated with art cards, pictures drawn by youth, and little souvenirs I’ve picked up in my travels that make me smile. I try to keep my desk clean and organized, but when I am in the midst of program development it is normally covered in paper and resources.

What are you reading or following that has expanded your understanding of the non-profit sector?
I am pursuing a Certificate in Non-Profit Management from Simon Fraser University and have a lot of reading related to that. I am currently doing a class on financial management, so I am reading a lot about accounting and bookkeeping.

What do you think our sector needs to be thinking about?
One of my focuses is ensuring that programming is relevant to and respectful of the people I am working with, and that it honours and incorporates their wisdom and knowledge.

Do you know someone we should profile as part of this series? Email us at philanthropistprofiles@gmail.com


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