Oishei Leaders

On a daily basis, staff members of the Oishei Foundation meet and work with leaders and ‘change agents’ from every sector of the non-profit world. Just as often, we are told by others of them. These are impressive people of conviction and passion who find creative ways to keep the work to which they are committed moving forward despite many obstacles.

As we have talked about the people we encounter, we have been particularly impressed with a growing number of younger people – those in their twenties and thirties, more or less – who have been emerging with great ideas, great energy, and great dedication to this region. In many instances, the foundation has encouraged peers to talk or work with each other, whether working within the same sector or in different sectors. Occasionally, these introductions have led to interesting and promising collaborations and approaches.

We wanted to take an even more proactive approach to getting young area leaders together, so we invited 20 non-profit leaders to an informal 24-hour gathering at Beaver Hollow Conference Center and Resort. Their assignment was relatively simple: meet peers on an extended basis in a tranquil setting and learn about each other’s work.

We chose an extended retreat-style meeting to enable everyone to relax, talk, listen, and understand in a deep way not only the work that’s being planned and accomplished, but to understand the challenges and frustrations they each face, along with the solutions and approaches they devise. The Foundation invited people from several different sectors because we believe there is much potential for cross-sector pollination, and opportunities are rare for those meetings. Our goals were to give these leaders time, distance from distraction, the opportunity to meet peers and, we hope, gain a better view of others who work for the betterment of Western New York.

As part of the experimental nature of the gathering, the Foundation chose not to participate directly or hire a facilitator from outside the group. The group itself was responsible, by whatever means it chose, to set an agenda (or not), and find methods – however formal or informal – for everyone to contribute in meaningful ways. There are many formal leadership development programs and courses. This, however, was a simple, but we feel overlooked, step in leadership development – meeting and getting to know peers in the community. We have continued to bring this group together in casual gatherings and yearly retreats as part of the Foundations' focus on improving the quality of the life in our area.

To view some videos related to Oishei Leaders, go here.