Back Together – Stronger Than Ever!

By: Rebecca Harris, CAE

From July 13th to 15th, the CSAE Trillium Network gathered in-person at the Summer Summit in beautiful Muskoka for the first time since 2019! The Summit was a sold-out event as many members travelled to Deerhurst Resort to reconnect and participate in some top-notch professional development.

The Summer Summit schedule was packed with education – with over 25 sessions to choose from. The event began with a “Spotlight on Sustainability” panel session which offered delegates a glimpse into the sustainability work done at the Culinary Tourism Alliance (CTA) and the Canadian Urban Transit Research and Innovation Consortium (CUTRIC). The information shared by both presenters was eye-opening and showcased the good work that can be done to ensure our organizations are operating effectively, sustainably, and through an equitable lens. The importance of a systems-level approach was stressed, and time was devoted to discussing how all levels of an organization should be evaluated to ensure that they are being run in the most equitable and sustainable manner possible. The presenters touched on everything from Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) audits and strategy, to salary reviews to ensure they meet a living wage to carbon neutral strategies, to utilizing your associations’ research as a way to make the world a better place while at the same time diversifying revenues. A key quote from the presentation was “…pick a few champions and you can change the world!”.

The opening keynote on day two was Michael Bach the founder of the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion (CCDI[CB1] ). Michael used his time to speak to delegates about privilege and how we have little to no control over our privilege but can choose to use it for good in the form of allyship with those who do not enjoy the same privileges as us. He took time to explain that we all have varying levels of privilege based on our intersecting identities. The video “What us Privilege?” was shown to delegates to illustrate this concept. In this video, 10 participants are read a list of 35 social privileges or disadvantages and each person took a step forward or back dependant on how they identified with the statement. The visual representation of privilege that is shown in the video helps to illustrate the various systems of privilege and individual privilege that can impact upon our lives. Michael noted that we do our best learning when we’re a little uncomfortable and encouraged delegates to let go of any feelings of guilt around their privilege as guilt does not help you or those who do not have your privilege. His presentation was met with a standing ovation and many conversations on DEI and privilege were continued during the networking at the Summit.

Time and space do not allow for an in-depth summary on all the sessions at the Summit, but here are a few other takeaways from the various sessions:

  • Lack of member growth is a sign of a poor member value proposition.
  • There is unleashed potential within your associations – capitalize on your member’s expertise.
  • It’s easy to fall in love with an idea or program – but if it is not working you should scrap it and focus on something that works.
  • When designing programs and services we often focus only on content, but we should also consider context. How someone experiences our programs and services is just as important. Design an experience for your end-user.
  • Look at your data to find “so what” insights.
  • Have the courage and the confidence to see uncertainty as opportunity.

The Summer Summit also had lots of opportunities to network and mingle with peers – after being apart for so long it was great to reconnect with colleague and form new relationships. Conversations ranged from in-depth discussions of the key learnings from sessions, to pandemic hobbies (including whether you jumped on the sourdough and banana bread making bandwagon!), to the future of our sector and the impact we can all make on the world.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the amazing planning committee and dedicated CSAE staff for all their hard work in pulling the Summer Summit program together!

Rebecca Harris, M.A., CAE