Events, Non-profit

Reimagining the Future: Key Takeaways from ONN Driven

Nonprofit Driven by ONN - May 14-15, 2024

Shelley Mayer

Categories: Events, Non-profit

June 27, 2024

The 2024 Ontario Nonprofit Network (ONN) Driven conference brought together thought leaders and practitioners from across the nonprofit sector to explore themes of innovation, equity, and community collaboration. This year’s conference emphasized the need to dream bigger, work together, and advance social justice in meaningful ways.

Vision and Imagination: Dreaming Bigger Together

A recurring theme at the conference was the power of imagination and collective vision. Linxi Mytkolli (Diabetes Action Canada) underscored the challenge of only dreaming in the silos of our communities and the importance of negotiating with policymakers to turn these dreams into reality. Cathy Taylor of the Lawson Foundation said it best in her opening remarks: “To imagine a different future, we need to reimagine a different set of assumptions.” By reimagining current assumptions, the nonprofit sector can envision and work towards a brighter future.

Community and Collaboration: Building Stronger Together

The nonprofit sector’s community-first mindset serves as a gold standard for businesses to emulate. The conference highlighted numerous examples of how different movements and sectors are collaborating to achieve shared goals. The sector panel discussions emphasized the importance of interconnectedness and holistic program delivery. Sree Nallamothu from Toronto Neighbourhood Centres highlighted the need to work together for holistic delivery of programs and services. The Day 2 panel on Exercising our Agency to Shape the Future discussed the need for an abundance mindset and leveraging collective strengths to deliver inclusive and culturally responsive services.

Equity and Social Justice: Advancing Together

Social justice, particularly within the context of Indigenous land and colonialism, was a critical conversation at the conference. Patty Krawec, author and co-founder of the Nii’kinaaganaa Foundation, emphasized the role of meeting material needs and organizing against the systemic causes of those needs. She quoted Dean Spade’s concept of mutual aid: “Mutual aid is the radical act of caring for each other while working to change the world.” Cheryll Case, who runs CP Planning, a nonprofit urban planning accelerator in Toronto, emphasized a rights-based approach to urban planning to ensure affordable housing for all, advocating for more inclusivity and solidarity to change power dynamics in the field of urban planning.

Innovation and Adaptation: Innovating Together

Innovation in the nonprofit sector, especially in a post-crisis future, is crucial. The conference sessions on nonprofit innovation and AI’s role in enhancing work showcased the sector’s adaptability. Fahad Qureshi from Infaque emphasized ethical considerations and governance when integrating AI. Dan Kershaw from Furniture Bank shared their AI manifesto and highlighted that getting started is the most important step. Furniture Bank used AI to create visual representations of their impact stories, spotlighting furniture poverty. Susan Somogyi Wells of Family Service Ontario explained how AI can handle tasks like writing, developing plans, and drafting grant proposals efficiently.


In conclusion, the ONN Driven conference provided valuable insights and actionable takeaways for the nonprofit sector. By embracing the themes of vision, community, equity, and innovation, we can work together to create a more equitable, innovative, and resilient future. Let’s take these lessons forward, implementing them in our organizations and communities to drive meaningful change.


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