In October of last year The Planetary Society announced that we were beginning to expand our work in Canada. We set out to grow membership, build our volunteer network and find our place in the Canadian space community.
When we started this initiative we had nearly 1,800 members in Canada as well as two Outreach Coordinators. Acting as National Coordinator for Canada, I toured the country attending conferences, meeting with Planetary Society members and learning about the Canadian space community – the institutions, organizations and individuals working to advance space exploration and Canada’s role in those efforts. These initial conversations sparked immediate developments, and the momentum we’ve picked up since has been inspiring.
Opportunity: 10 Years on Mars, in Toronto
Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye video chats with the winners of a model rover building contest at a Toronto event celebrating ten years of the Opportunity rover on Mars.
In large part as a response to the first announcement of our Canadian initiative, our volunteer network has grown and developed at an amazing rate. We now have nine Outreach Coordinators leading volunteers across the country, bringing space exploration to their communities, and helping us do work that is meaningful to the Canadian public.
I am also proud to report that in the months since we began this initiative, Canadian membership has exceeded 2,000 and continues to grow. This boom was unexpected, coming before any concerted efforts to cultivate membership. But with increased activity comes increased exposure, and membership follows. We’re excited by the prospect of how many Canadian members we’ll bring in when we begin active recruitment efforts.
Our fledgling Canadian Volunteer Network has been connecting with leaders in the Canadian space community, looking for ways to contribute to the outreach work being done and to fill in the gaps. True to Canadian character, the space community here has been open-minded, helpful, and cooperative, and we’ve developed strong working relationships with organizations including the Canadian Space Society, the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, and the Space Tourism Society of Canada. This collaborative approach will be what carries The Planetary Society forward as a global organization.
From among the many experts we have worked with so far, we’ve added to our Advisory Council two outstanding Canadians who can help us truly make a difference in the country: the CBC’s Quirks and Quarks host Bob McDonald, and science philanthropist Lorne Trottier. We hope to continue building our Canadian Advisory Council, bringing greater international perspective to The Planetary Society’s direction.
With this solid foundation of members, volunteers, partners and advisors we are ready to take the next steps forward. We plan to significantly increase Canadian membership, develop Canadian content for our website and magazine, and design and implement advocacy and education campaigns that will make a difference in Canada. All of these activities will help The Planetary Society as a whole to advance our goals and flourish as an organization.
Planetary Society volunteers at the University of British Columbia
Volunteers gather with students, faculty and the general public at an exhibition showcasing the relationship between art and science.
Our experience in Canada has already greatly informed the Society’s overall outreach strategy. We’ve seen that a modest investment of time and attention – meeting with people, calling out for volunteers, and creating tools to support those volunteers – can yield remarkable results. This has inspired new investment in our Global Volunteer Network and its role in The Planetary Society’s future.
We are applying lessons learned in Canada to build a stronger, more active and more effective outreach program. We are looking forward to a Society with volunteers and representatives worldwide – a truly planetary organization.
I deeply admire how passionate and talented our Planetary Society members are, and how generously they have volunteered their time and energy to help us gain better footing in Canada. I am sure that many of you have considered volunteering with us, and now more than ever I encourage you to do so. Connect with your local Outreach Coordinator, with our Global Volunteer Coordinator, or with me if you’re in Canada. There is much we can do together.
We are dreaming big. I hope you will join us in celebrating what we’ve accomplished so far, and in building an even brighter future.