PUBLISHED DECEMBER 24, 2020
Candies Kotchapaw, founder of Developing Young Leaders of Tomorrow, Today, is shown in Toronto on Oct. 3, 2020.
JENNIFER ROBERTS/THE GLOBE AND MAIL
“2020 arrived with much promise and much struggle, but nevertheless, we are now positioned to build upon, prepare to scale and launch brand new programs that are solely focused on advancing Black excellence in Canada and beyond.".
Editorial by Candies Kotchapaw, Executive Director
What a difference a foundational year makes! I am ecstatic at the progress we have made here at DYLOTT from where we started in 2017. We've made some giant steps from officially becoming a registered non-profit organization in 2019, to launching our first full Diplomats program.
2020 arrived with much promise and much struggle, but nevertheless, we are now positioned to build upon, prepare to scale and launch brand new programs that are solely focused on advancing Black excellence in Canada and beyond. Through our #LeadLikeAGirl program, we have had positive sustained impact on girls ages 8-17 who can now say they know senators, consuls general, climate activists, CEOs and other public and corporate leaders in Canada and globally. From where we started in 2018, 5 girls travelled with me to Ottawa to meet 4 women senators including Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard, Senator Kim Pate, Senator Anne Cools and Senator Ratna Omidvar. The 2019 cohort of girls participated in the International Day of the Girl events at the Senate. The 2020 cohort was able to join the virtual International Day of the girl event, hosted by Senator Kim Pate, joined by Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard and other senators and welcomed Member of Parliament Leah Gazan. DYLOTT's cohort has grown from 3, and 5 girls in the previous years to 16 in 2020!
Our girls have been working on a Climate Change project and are developing their climate justice advocacy skills. Through the incredible support of the Etobicoke North Community Development Officer Sherry Phillips and the Cluster groups, #LeadLikeAGirl was funded for our Climate project by the City of Toronto and Enbridge. We were able to welcome Youth Climate Lab as workshop facilitators, with Women of Influence Global's past communications specialist Ony Anukem, assisting the girls to draft a social media awareness campaign strategy as the major Climate change project. As an emerging influencer, one of my goals for 2020 with #LeadLikeAGirl was to identify and amplify a Black girl who could stand up as an activist, bringing Climate impact stories from the perspective of Canadian Black communities, similar to our Indigenous young sister Autumn Pelletier.
A visible representation of a prominent Black activist was not readily accessible, until I learned of Ugandan activist Vanessa Nakate's story of being cropped out of an Associated Press photo with fellow activists at the World Economic Forum. I am so very excited to say that our #LeadLikeAGirl young leaders met with Vanessa on December 5, 2020 via Zoom. There are already budding activists in this year's cohort, so meeting Vanessa further elevated their confidence. I am encouraged by the boldness and creativity of these young girls and look forward to seeing them be the leaders of tomorrow, today!
Our Black Diplomats Academy has entered the official development phase, after a successful pilot project in 2019. We are grateful for the wonderful training foundation provided to us by Young Diplomats of Canada, our official 2019 curriculum partner. Here, in 2020, we are excited to more closely align with the United Nations Decade for People of African's theme of Recognition, Justice and Development, by creating a diplomatic and negotiations focused program specifically geared towards the next generation of Black diplomats, ambassadors and business negotiators. Under the umbrella of the BDA program, we are excited to see our partnership community grow to include Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) as an official corporate partner. We also welcomed the Empire Club of Canada as our "Speaker Series platform" partner. As we work to continue the progress of sustained change making, we have connected with public and corporate departments and organizations to help build out the framework of this unique and timely leadership development program. Some of the conversations we have had include the Canadian Commission for UNESCO (CCUNESCO), Global Affairs Canada and more. On the operational side of programming, we have exponentially increased the number of registrants in our Model United Nations stream for high school and post secondary students; where in 2019, we sent 4 young women to the United Nations headquarters in New York City, for the Future We Want Model United Nations forum; This year, our recruitment and registration numbers topped more than 20 inquiries and 16 successful DYLOTT delegates for the Montreal Model United Nations virtual conference. Our future planning goal is to double the number year over year, so that by year 5, we will have over 200 MUNers from DYLOTT in any given year.
Similarly, the young working professionals’ stream of BDA held our annual speaker series event, hosted virtually by the Empire Club of Canada on December 4th, 2020. This year's theme is "Recognition and Development Under the UN Decade for People of African Descent and UN75: A Roadmap for Black talent in Canada." I moderated this panel, with speakers including Canadian Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard, WE-EMPOWER Coordinator Stephanie Dei and Public Ethics professional Georgette Morris. This event is the second edition, where in 2019, our topic was "Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals within Black Communities: Moving from Consumer to Producer." Last year's speakers included: Consul General Nadia Theodore, Philanthropist and Business Mogul Isaac Olowolafe Jr., Camille Dundas, Takara Small and Lekan Olawoye and moderated by Toronto Star columnist Tiffany Gooch. 2021 will ring in the launch of a module-based curriculum, led by Black and allied leaders from a wide range of public diplomacy and negotiation fields. Please stay tuned for this!
Among projected programs for launch in 2021, DYLOTT will roll out the Black Entrepreneurs in Innovation and Technology (BE-IT) program. The first project to launch under this digital transition guide program will see DYLOTT spearheading a labor market research project on the cybersecurity education, training and employment prospects for Black high school students. This research is part of a roadmap to facilitate economic stability and the successful preparation and transition of Black communities into the digital careers landscape. We are very pleased to have the financial support of Toronto Dominion (TD) Bank on the first phase of this project. We are very proud to have the University of Toronto Scarborough Management program onboard as our research partner. From this research, DYLOTT aims to develop and deliver a Cybersecurity Primer program, specifically geared towards meeting the unique intersectional gaps faced by Black young workers. As part of the #BuildBackBetter platform adopted by society to level the socio-economic-educational playing field laid bare by the impacts of COVID-19, our Cybersecurity Primer Program has been identified as one of the Future of Good's Top 100 Recovery projects in Canada.
We are enthusiastic about the prospects that BE-IT presents, and look forward to welcoming a broad range of corporate and government partners, funders and supporters on attaining the Black talent that DYLOTT is developing.
Overall, I must say that as a new founder, I have been honored to receive awards, nominations and feature articles for the work I get to do daily with DYLOTT. Standout recognitions have come from being named one of the Top 25 Women of Influence in Canada by Women of Influence Global, Top 100 Accomplished Black Canadian Women, Top 21 New Founders in Canada by Future of Good and being featured on the front page of the Globe and Mail! An honorable mention is being nominated as one of XL Canada's Top40 Under 40.
None of this program development and delivery work or the recognitions that have ensued, would have been possible without the tremendous dedication of the team of incredible volunteer staff team at DYLOTT, from our HR director to our advisors, operations and program managers to board members. We are a small but mighty team of Black excellence and active allies working together to build a legacy.