In this fast-paced digital age, 4-H Canada believes youth conferences are more valuable than ever, and the 2023 4-H Canada Members Forum was the perfect example of ‘why’.

First offered in 1931, Members Forum is our longest running program. The 2023 edition took place in Calgary, AB from Nov. 26-30, with a packed schedule created around the theme, Embrace Your Path. Not only did youth delegates get active through hands-on learning opportunities, but they also spent the week in the ideal environment for face-to-face interactions that fostered networking, forged lasting connections, and provided invaluable career mentorship.

As one of the premier programs under 4-H Canada’s Environment & Healthy Living pillar, which is supported by our national partner, Corteva Agriscience, 4-H'ers had the chance to take part in a wide range of activities that focused on gaining a deeper awareness, knowledge, and understanding of what it means to positively impact the environment and lead healthy lives – all while forming lasting friendships and gaining mentors along the way.

Keep reading for highlights of the 2023 4-H Canada Members Forum, and insights straight from the participants.

Mentorship Circles

Always the highlight of Members Forum, Mentorship Circles give youth delegates the chance to gain valuable networking experience while connecting and learning from mentors within a variety of career sectors. It’s basically “career speed dating”.

This year, Mentorship Circles were held onsite at the renowned GrowCanada conference. Delegates were grouped into small teams, and enjoyed a networking lunch where they rotated through tables, connecting with their chosen mentors and gaining valuable insight on career opportunities within their fields of interest.

One of this year’s mentors - Tyler Groeneveld, Corteva Agriscience’s North American Director, Grains and Oils - spoke about how he came away from the experience energized and inspired by the youth delegates.

“Agriculture and food are critically important to Canada’s economy and show tremendous growth potential as we look to the years ahead,” said Tyler. “The youth I spoke with during the Mentorship Circles are the next generation of leaders in our industry. It was energizing to hear their enthusiasm and ideas - coming from diverse backgrounds, and from coast-to-coast. I left the Mentorship Circles excited that the future of agriculture in Canada will be in good hands!”

One of our delegates, Hannah S., left inspired and excited for the future as well:

“The most memorable thing that I learned from Tyler during the Mentorship Circles is that you shouldn’t be afraid to take the leap from where you are comfortable. He told us to put ourselves out there to be ‘the best you that you can be’, and to make ourselves known by finding that one thing about us that makes us different from the rest. I found his journey really inspiring, especially when he talked about the different boards and groups he’s part of. I left that Circle knowing that I can do the same and will try my hardest to get myself to where I want to go.”

The Mentorship Circles event made an impact on all involved, and gave delegates an extra boost of confidence to achieve their dream careers. Delegates returned home with a newfound sense of purpose, and a larger, more meaningful network they can reach out to for guidance.

Members Perspective Launch

This year’s Members Forum was also host to the launch of a new initiative: Members Perspective, a group project that delegates worked on throughout the entirety of the conference, then presented on the final day. First, delegates picked a topic from a pre-determined list (curated by 4-H Canada staff in partnership with our Youth Advisory Committee). Topics included Sustainable Careers in Agriculture, Body Positivity, and Breaking the Stigma of the Agriculture Sector.

It was up to the delegates to interpret these subjects and make them their own. They were encouraged to bring their personal perspectives and experiences to the conversations, as well as key learnings gained throughout the conference. Based on their findings, delegates identified an outcome/solution that could be implemented in their clubs, communities, their country, or their world.

“Members Perspective is now one of my favourite events at Members Forum,” said Chelsea Crawford, Youth Programs Manager for 4-H Canada. “This was our pilot year for the project, and it was a huge success! It’s a great opportunity for those who are usually quieter to shine in a smaller group and lead the discussion. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next year!”

The delegates were also enthusiastic about the new initiative.

I really enjoyed this aspect of Members Forum, not only because we were able to creatively format our group’s ideas, but also because of the different discussions that happened within the group,” said Beck S. “It was very entertaining as well as insightful. I got to dive into topics I didn't necessarily understand as well before.”

Networking Workshop

Prior to hitting the road for the GrowCanada conference, Members Forum delegates were treated to a Networking Workshop led by 4-H Canada’s Elizabeth Blaauwendraat, Adult Learning Manager. This workshop helped instill our members with the essential knowledge and skills to network with confidence at the conference.

From icebreaker BINGO to preparing an elevator pitch, members learned the importance of networking and how it can benefit them in the future. They also had a chance to brainstorm and prepare questions for their mentors ahead of Mentorship Circles.

“It was truly inspiring to see the delegates come out of their shells and get enthusiastic for the networking opportunities ahead of them,” said Elizabeth. “They had very insightful questions and took full advantage of the resources available to help present themselves as young professionals.”

The delegates also appreciated the opportunity to head into the GrowCanada conference with confidence.

Beck S. said, “I definitely met a few people that I feel I can reach out to later if I want to, and they would be happy to talk to me. It was also really encouraging when networking with some of the people at the conference. Many were top professionals in their industries, but were very interested in talking and learning about my own experiences in 4-H. It made it much less intimidating to talk to them.”

These are just a few of the many activities and adventures that took place at Members Forum. It was wonderful to see our enthusiastic delegates engage not only with each other, but also with professionals from a variety of fields. Youth conferences are not just about gaining knowledge; they are powerful catalysts for networking, connections, and mentorship. Connections at Members Forum were made at every level: staff, chaperone, mentor, and delegate.

As the ripple effect of making connections continues to spread, it’s clear Members Forum plays a pivotal role in nurturing the next generation of leaders, innovators, and changemakers, and it’s thanks to our partners like Corteva that we can create these meaningful opportunities for 4-H’ers across the country.

To learn more about 4-H Canada’s Members Forum, visit 4-h-canada.ca/programs/youth-programs-conferences/members-forum. Information on additional opportunities supported by our Environment & Healthy Living National Pillar Partner, Corteva Agriscience, can be found at 4-h-canada.ca/programs.

All Photo Credits:© 4-H Canada

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