–The following story was written by Taia Goguen-Garner

kelsey baergKelsey Baerg is currently in her first year of the Master of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership program (MPNL). She says she has already gained a number of transferable skills from the program, as well as exploring her interest in non-profits more deeply.

“I like to describe the MPNL program as an MBA for the charitable sector,” explains Baerg. “It focuses on leadership, not just in an organizational context, but also for the sector as a whole.”

Within the MPNL program, there is a strong focus on innovation and social entrepreneurship. Baerg is particularly interested in the start-up process of these types of endeavours.

“To me, it seems as though there is not a shortage of socially conscious ideas, but rather a lack of ability to get these ideas off the ground. Prior to working in the sector, I had falsely associated them with outdated websites, paper envelopes and dreary office desks. Through my work experience, I have grown to believe that the non-profit sector is actually a place where, out of necessity, innovation lives and breathes, and I wanted to pursue a program that shared these beliefs.”

Baerg will soon start a research project that focuses on the intersection between technology and non-profits.

“The technology sector pioneered a new approach to start-ups, focusing on collaboration through small business incubators and co-working spaces; alternative fundraising approaches, such as crowdfunding; and an impressive online presence.  I would like to focus my research within the program on how these tech start-up strategies can be used to create effective start-up models for non-profits and social enterprises.”

Each summer, the MPNL students travel to Ottawa for a two-week intensive Summer Institute which helps foster connections within the cohort. However, most of the program is based online allowing students from all over to take part in the program from the comfort of their own homes. This allows for a diverse range of students.

Baerg was born and raised in rural British Columbia, growing up on Vancouver Island, and now living in Nelson.

“For me, the lifestyle of rural living is very important, but the drawback is the lack of exciting educational opportunities. The online delivery format of this program has been instrumental in allowing me to maintain my current lifestyle, while still pursuing ‘big city’ education.”

Baerg first got interested in the nonprofit sector when completing her undergraduate degree in Political Science at the University of British Columbia.

“As a political science student, I became very interested in tech-based businesses and how they manage a global workforce. To me, an international team working towards a common goal, even within a small start-up business was such a powerful form of globalization. However, I couldn’t help but wonder why a lot of the focus of this incredible connectivity was being used to generate individual freedom and profit, and not to bring about the greater good.  Throughout my undergrad, I continued to build out my technical skill set with the desire to eventually use these skills in a philanthropic capacity.”

Shortly after Baerg graduated in 2014, she came across Make A Change, an organization that was using technology to improve the lives of marginalized people.

Make A Change Canada is a national charity providing web technology and business training to people living with disabilities and other barriers to employment. Baerg worked as the coordinator of the IBDE program from 2015 to 2018.  IBDE is a two-tiered certificate program in web technology and design.

“Over the course of the program, I got to know the students very well through my virtual office hours and our virtual classroom sessions.  The changes I witnessed in the confidence level, professionalism, and overall well-being of my clients as a result of participating in the program were so powerful.”

The MPNL program has already had a major impact on Baerg’s work. Shortly after returning from the Summer Institute, she was hired by Nelson at its Best, a local end-poverty initiative to develop a financial literacy and life skills program for youth.

“The MPNL program provided me with the skills I needed to take this program from conception to reality.”

“For me, education has been the single most empowering factor in my life and the MPNL program has provided me the skill set to give back in a similar capacity by increasing rural youth access to education.”

Susan Phillips, the program director and one of our profs, is an absolute powerhouse in the sector and it has been very inspiring to learn from her,” says Baerg.

Baerg recommends the program to anyone who is interested in leadership, philanthropic and non-profit work.  For more information about the MPNL program, click here.

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