Manitoba 4-H Council Gets Ready for Next 100 Years

Growing Forward 2 helps fund important strategic planning

As the board of the Manitoba 4-H Council celebrated the organization's 100th birthday last year, they recognized it was a good time to reflect on the future. They realized they had come a long way, but knew it was time to ask if they could do things better.

"It's always good to self-evaluate," said Clayton Robins, executive director of the Manitoba 4-H Council. "It's critical to evaluate your governance model and how you're functioning every day."

It's especially important for volunteer-based organizations to take a close look at how they are run. While 4-H took a big step several years ago in hiring an executive director to run things, the structure requires board members to be involved with many day-to-day details.

Working with Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development (MAFRD), 4-H applied for funding through the Growing Forward 2 Growing Visions program, a joint federal-provincial initiative to drive innovation in the agriculture, agrifood and agriproduct industries. The board received funds to hire a consultant to guide members through a much needed strategic planning process.


Manitoba 4-H Council is looking to build its capacity so it can offer more programs like its annual Fun Fest in Carman (seen here).

Building capacity

The process started with a survey that identified some of the key areas to be addressed. The most important was to build the capacity of the organization and decide how could it do more for its members.

4-H is known for its leadership building programs. It has about 2,300 members aged six to 25 in 156 clubs around the province. Members can undertake a wide range of projects, from public speaking competitions to arts and crafts activities. There are also food and technology projects and some more traditional farming projects.

"Underlying everything was the question of how we can best provide services to our members," says Leanne Sprung, technical lead with MAFRD and a member of the 4-H Executive Committee. "This process was about providing a board structure that is effective and is meeting the needs of our members."

For example, the planning session recommended that the board move away from being a representative working board towards being more policy driven. The board will focus more on developing policies while staff will carry them out. The idea is to give the organization more flexibility in bringing on the right people to advise it whenever the need arises.

"There was a very clear course of action that was put forward," says Robins. "We need to build more partnerships with other organizations that can help us achieve our goals." More work and research are needed, but the hope is that the new model will help 4-H deliver new projects and programs.

"We think we'll be able to offer more programs, because we'll be spending less time managing the board and more time on programming," says Sprung. Strategic planning has been done over the years, she adds, but having the funds available through Growing Visions opens up a lot of possibilities.

About Growing Visions
The Growing Visions program provides funds to help organizations develop and expand the agriculture, agrifood and agriproducts industry through strategic planning and management. Applicants must have been operating for at least one year to be eligible. They may apply for more than one project over the length of the program, up to a maximum of $35,000 of program funding, with government contributing up to 75 per cent.
Funds can go to a wide range of projects, including: consulting and speaker fees, staff training, costs to rent facilities and produce some materials.

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