GONGOS: Greening Ottawa NGO's

On June 18th, 2009 participants from 25 Ottawa-based NGOs attended the second workshop of GONGOS: Greening Ottawa NGOs.  This workshop focused on developing a sustainability vision and conducting a baseline sustainability assessment for their organizations.  The 2009 cohort of organizations includes the Canadian Red Cross Society, the United Way, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Ottawa Folk Festival, Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation, and Independent Living Canada.  This gathering of diverse NGOs in one place provided participants with the unique opportunity for both enhanced networking and partnership building and collaborative learning. Bill Rostek, Procurement Director for Canadian Red Cross Society shared that the Red Cross "values the interaction with the other not-for-profit organizations that are participating”. TNS Advisor Chad Park said this sentiment has been communicated to him by many of the participants and believes that this contributed to the incredible energy that was felt in the room during the workshops: “Many participants have told us that this is the first time they have been in the same room with such a wide variety of NGOs, sharing experiences and insights together.” Diane Champagne, Executive Assistant to the National Director for Independent Living Canada acknowledged that “after each [workshop] I walk away with better ideas on how to improve the greening activities in our office.” Furthermore she states that her organization has “incorporated the sustainability concepts and greening ideas learned from the program and hope to set a precedent for all 27 Independent Living Centres throughout the Country”.

With financial support from the Ontario Trillium Foundation and in partnership with Ottawa’s EnviroCentre, TNS helped launch this two-year initiative in early 2009. The aim of the program is to assist NGOs in assessing and improving their practices and programs from a sustainability perspective, including “greening” their organizational practices.  The program helps NGOs access sustainability training and creates a local network of NGOs engaged in sustainability planning with a common language and approach. Each year 25 local NGOs will participate in a series of four workshops, structured around the key elements of The Natural Step Framework. Participating organizations represent a wide variety of sectors, including health, social, housing, arts, and environmental organizations.

Sessions three and four, which are scheduled to occur in October and November will focus on action planning and implementation. Organizers and participants alike are ready to continue on the sustainability journey. If you belong to an Ottawa-based not-for-profit organization that may be interested in participating in the 2010 series please contact Dana Silk of the EnviroCentre (dana.silk@ottawa.ca) or Alexandre Magnin (amagnin@naturalstep.ca) for more information.  We will be holding a informational wine and cheese on January 25th 5-7pm if you are interested in participating.  Interested NGOs in other communities should also contact Alexandre Magnin, as adapted versions of the program are being considered in other cities across Canada.