The Dark Horse Conversation
Patricia Thompson

This paper is an exploration of the concept of renewal and the role of vocation in sustaining the vitality of nonprofit leaders. It illuminates the crucial role that reflective conversations can play in uncorking creativity and inoculating us from workplace stress. More than 150 leaders in the arts, environment, and community sectors responded to the invitation author Pat Thompson extended to talk about the sense of purpose that inspires and sustains their work. She has chronicled these conversations and reflected on what they reveal about the challenges and opportunities of vocational, organizational, and civic renewal. This lyrical paper takes the form of a letter to colleagues and invites further reflection on what these times are asking of nonprofit leaders and their organizations.

Through a new website,, Pat will continue and extend the conversation. The site is also a repository of resources and provides opportunities to connect with others on themes related to discovering, renewing, and sustaining work that makes a positive difference in the world. She is co-hosting this site with Kay Dyson Tam, a second-year University of Toronto student. They look forward to facilitating a multi-dimensional conversation on the issues, events, and people that help us see the connection between work and vocation.

The Metcalf Foundation is committed to supporting nonprofit leaders over the arc of their careers with several initiatives. We believe that engaged and inspired leaders are in the best position to step forward imaginatively and effectively to advance our common good.