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: Jen Cooper
Current role in the sector: Project co-ordinator in environmental education at Atlantic Coastal Action Program (ACAP) Cape Breton.
Years working and/or volunteering in the non-profit sector: On and off for 14 years. Solid for 4.
What was your first job in the sector or a defining moment?
My first job in the sector was a student position at the organization that I’ve found my way back to. I started out identifying invertebrates as a volunteer and by the end of the summer I had a job taking shoreline samples and performing energy audit surveys to help people use less electricity at home. I began to thrive on connecting the social community to the ecological community–and they began to thrive back.
Describe your desk/workspace.
I’ll not comment on its level of order but I will list some of the greatest things I see on my desk at the moment: a piece of a hornet nest (extraordinary engineers; it’s waterproof and did not break down in our latest Eco Kids experiment), a cat skull (found by our Trashformers team when they were cleaning up litter in a woodlot), yellow lampmussel shells (a species at risk in Nova Scotia, collected in the watershed that supplies clean, safe tap water for North Sydney–all the cleaner for their filter feeding), a chunk of asphalt (long story), a pop-up drawing of our garden by my daughter (small and mighty), and three staplers (I don’t know how they got here).
What are you reading or following that has expanded your understanding of the non-profit sector?
I had the fortune to recently attend a conference called Many Hands Many Voices put on by the Community Sector Council of Nova Scotia. I had the delight to be in a rather large room at the beautiful convention centre in Membertou First Nation, with dozens of other humans working in non-profits. Everybody present wanted to make their piece of the world a better place. Inspiring falls short of describing how every motley crew of a lunch table or workshop circle felt. Each of us was hungry to connect with strangers to make our community stronger and support each other. I’ve been reeling ever since and it is making this proposal season a little fresher and more centered on collaboration.
What do you think our sector needs to be thinking about?
I think that the non-profit sector is inherently working on the bright side of our country’s dark corners. I think inclusion and collaboration are very important because we are only as strong as our weakest link. Let’s help each other to be strong. I also think that reconciliation is something every organization needs to be considering. Where do we stand and what are we doing to reconcile Canada’s unpleasant past?
Do you know someone we should profile as part of this series? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org