Rob Howarth pictured with his fellow participants at the Synergia Institute, Italy.
Leading and Learning Participants Benefit From Professional Development Grants

Italy, California, Montreal, and New York. These are just some of the destinations participants in the Leading and Learning Program have visited to further their professional development. Attending conferences, symposiums, or meeting with peers, they have improved their own leadership skills and been able to strengthen their organizations.

Rob Howarth, Executive Director of the Toronto Neighbourhood Centres, applied for a grant because he felt a need to expand his thinking around creating more inclusive and sustainable economic structures in the community. Along with three local partner organizations, he received a grant to travel to the Synergia Conference in Italy. For Howarth, going with a group of peers from Toronto was critical to the success of the experience. “We went as six individuals from four organizations. Having a shared network made the experience really powerful and also we were able to sustain it once we got back, much more so than going as an individual.”


Kendra Fry, General Manager at Toronto’s Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre for Faith, Justice and the Arts runs both a faith-based space and a performing arts venue. This is a model that she believes could and should be shared broadly. Her Metcalf grant allowed her and colleagues from two partner organizations to travel to Philadelphia and New York to explore similar kinds of models. “Given that 9,000 faith-based spaces across Canada may have to close their doors in the next decade and that arts organizations are always looking for affordable venues, what I learned can benefit two different groups of people,” Fry said. “And, in the process, it could also save many buildings that are historically and culturally valuable.”

The Leading and Learning grant is unique in that there is a real spirit of experimentation that you don’t find elsewhere. I didn’t have to have the answer to apply; I just had to have a good question.

Kendra Fry,

General Manager, Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre for Faith, Justice and the Arts, Advisor Faith and the Common Good

For Keith Brooks, Programs Director of the Environmental Defence, the Leading and Learning grant was a game changer. Partnering with peers from the Pembina Institute and Équiterre, he travelled to San Francisco and Sacramento to meet with environmental groups and people in government. “The four days of meetings allowed us to build relationships, which we have drawn upon multiple times already,” said Brooks. “People we met in California have come up to Toronto and we’ve also been back. Our network is bigger and stronger as a result. In fact, now we’ve set up biweekly calls with activists from Canada and the U.S. to talk about climate change policies. We couldn’t have done this without the Metcalf Leading and Learning Grant.”

The Leading and Learning Program contains two funding streams: the Network Learning Fund and the Individual Leadership Fund. Applicants to either stream must work in one of Metcalf’s three program areas, Performing Arts, Inclusive Local Economies, or Environment and be connected to a charitable organization.

This grant supported learning objectives, which is really rare.

Rob Howarth

Executive Director of the Toronto Neighbourhood Centres

The Network Learning Fund provides support to a group of organizations that would like to explore a shared concern, challenge, or area of common interest. Initiatives could include a curated study tour, peer shadowing at a specific organization, engaging in innovative practices and initiatives, or attending a conference, festival, or symposium, coupled with pre- and post-event meetings. The fund is designed to encourage shared learning and provide opportunities to develop professional leadership, strengthen sector relationships, and create informal communities of peers who are motivated to pursue collaborative work.

The Individual Leadership Fund is designed for senior non-profit management individuals who wish to pursue professional leadership development by participating in a recognized leadership program with a clear training curriculum. Past participants have taken courses offered at places like the Banff Centre and the Rockwood Leadership Institute.

Leading and Learning was tremendously valuable for us because we were able to build meaningful international relationships that we have drawn upon multiple times already.

Keith Brooks

Programs Director, Environmental Defence

May 15 is the deadline for both funds. More details and application information can be found here.