Exchange 2024

May 12th14th, Membertou Convention Center 

Unama’ki (Cape Breton Island)

We’re holding space for people to come together, rest, connect with each other, and share ideas with the intention of tapping into the creative energy and inspiration needed to break the status quo. We hear you: current systems and structures in the Community Impact (Nonprofit) Sector can make it hard to support our communities and ourselves; you’re feeling isolated, disconnected, and burnt out. You do the often undervalued yet critical work to make a positive impact in your communities – but where is the space to slow down, recharge, and get energized by what’s possible?

IONS Exchange is a two-day gathering that offers an opportunity for the people working and volunteering in the sector to be in community together, learn from Indigenous knowledge holders, gain new tools and ideas, and celebrate the work we are doing for our communities. 

Exchange speaks to the intentional design of the event, which will encourage relationship development and reciprocal knowledge sharing. This gathering is meant to give space to develop meaningful relationships within our network, learn about and offer promising practices and resources to support our work, and provide a sense of rest, unity, and empowerment to lift the spirit. IONS Exchange will offer a variety of ways and activities for people to learn, create, inspire, and connect. 

Reciprocity in Practice 

The theme of this year’s gathering is “Reciprocity in Practice.” We want this event to be different than a typical conference – we are hoping to create a space where people can feel engaged in both listening and speaking, connecting and introspecting, and giving and receiving.  

Our intent is for participants to walk away feeling cared for, with the energy of new relationships, and supported with tangible information, ideas, and tools for action in community impact work. We hope to enable a refreshed outlook on our shared challenges and successes, and inspiration from being able to fully engage in a space with like-minded others. 

As we are looking to care for you in reciprocity for all the great and hard work you put into our community, we seek to provide the following during the gathering: 

      • A comfortable space to be in together 
      • Thoughtful and engaging programming that meets the needs of multiples senses and learning styles 
      • Nourishment and refreshment in sharing food and drink throughout the day 
      • Plenty of information for awareness, accessibility, and a feeling of autonomy 
      • Enough spaciousness in the agenda to not feel rushed 
      • Facilitated opportunities for connection 
      • A positive atmosphere that uplifts celebrating the good work we are doing while encouraging challenging transformational thinking 
      • Opportunity to connect with the land, culture, and context of Membertou 

We know that in a post-pandemic world we are all craving meaningful connection, and a reimagining of what it means to be in place together. After some hard years for the Community Impact Sector, and navigating the unique challenges of the present, we feel a gathering like this can meet people where they are at and create space for connection and generating new ideas for action. We hope you will join us! 

Event Logistics


To register for Exchange please sign up online through Eventbrite. The registration fee is $150 per person and includes the 2 days of programming and the evening celebration. Lunches and a registration package with some promotional items are included with registration.  

If you are a member of an Equity Deserving Community and the cost of registration is a barrier to attending, please see the information about the IONS Exchange Stipend. 


We encourage people from all over Nova Scotia to join us in Membertou! The driving time from Yarmouth is ~7 hours, from Halifax is ~5 hours, from New Glasgow is ~3 hours. If you are a member of an Equity Deserving Community and the cost of travel is a barrier to attending please see the information about the IONS Exchange Stipend.  


If you need a place to stay overnight during Exchange, there are lots of hotel options in and around Membertou and Sydney. IONS has reserved a limited block of hotels in the Hampton Inn Sydney – which is right beside the Membertou Convention Center where Exchange is being held – for a special rate of $189+tax. The rooms are blocked for the nights of Sunday May 12, Monday May 13, and Tuesday May 14 (you can choose how many nights to book, it is not required to book all three). You may reserve from this block online at this special registration link, or else call the hotel at 902 564 6555 and ask for a reservation in the IONS Exchange block. 

Please note that hotels in this block are only held until April 19, 2024. 

If you are a member of an Equity Deserving Community and the cost of accommodations is a barrier to attending, please see the information about the IONS Exchange Stipend. 

IONS Exchange Stipend 

Our desire is for Exchange to be accessible to people working in the Community Impact Sector, especially those from Equity Deserving Communities. We have a limited number of Stipends available to cover registration, and/or travel, and/or accommodations – these are given through an application process based on need and number.  

We wish for the diversity of our sector to be reflected in the attendance of this event. We recognize the disproportionate barriers in particular to Indigenous, Black, and Racialized participants to engage in events such as Exchange, as well as members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ and disability communities. Thus, we are prioritizing removing financial barriers for people from these Equity Deserving Communities to encourage the conditions for greater exchange and relationship building between people from different parts of our sector.  

To apply for an IONS Exchange Stipend please fill out the following online form.  

Please note, we will only be accepting applications for Stipends until Monday, April 8, at 12pm noon. This is so that we have time to organize and communicate about the stipends to applicants, and people can make decisions about attendance and travel. We may accept and approve stipend applications on a rolling basis. 


Light breakfast items will be available on Monday and Tuesday at the Membertou Convention Center before the day’s programming begins. If you stay at the Hampton Inn Sydney, a hot breakfast is included with your hotel stay. We are looking to arrange for coffee and refreshments to be available all day during programming so that people can stay energized and engaged. 

Lunch will be provided on Monday and Tuesday at the Membertou Convention Center – please be sure to fill out your dietary restrictions when you register on Eventbrite. 

Dinner will not be provided on Monday evening – there will be a 2 hour long break for participants to get some food between daytime programming and the evening event. We will give some guidance on restaurants and food options in the area near the Membertou Convention Center. 



We will be putting together information about the physical accessibility features of the venue to share with participants. We know that providing useful information about how to get around and what to expect is helpful for people to feel comfortable and to be able to fully engage.  

Please indicate any accessibility needs you may have in your Eventbrite registration form. If you have general questions or concerns related to accessibility, please contact IONS Engagement Lead Clary Chambers – We wish to support participants and remove barriers to participation as much as possible – we have some funding to cover additional accessibility costs on a case-by-case basis. 

Workshops and Offerings – Descriptions

We will be adding and updating descriptions as we get closer to the event – so stay tuned!

Exchange Human Library 

Hosted by the IONS Team

We’re excited to open Exchange 2024 with a morning session encouraging people to meet someone new and open minds and hearts to the possibilities of a more connected and reciprocal Community Impact Sector. The Human Library is a chance to personally connect with amazing people in our community to hear and share stories that can uplift and inspire.  

Participants will be given the opportunity to move around and spend time with “human books” and briefly dive into meaningful stories connected to 4 themes. There may even be a few spots to sign up as a “human book” if you feel so inclined! Stations will be spread around the Membertou Convention Center, and Wikuoms (Wigwams) will also be open outside the nearby Membertou Heritage Park to hear stories and conversations with local Mi’kmaw Elders. 

Good Governance 

Hosted by Tyler Colburne, IONS 

Governance is a concept that impacts all for-impact organizations, but it is not a concept that is universally defined. How organizations are created, maintained, supported, and evaluated for accountability is often through a colonial perspective and there are many paradoxes and tensions in striving for governance that is equitable and relational. This governance session will build on current and future-thinking governance practices so that participants can leave with new understandings, promising practices, and pathways forward for Good Governance in their own context.  

We will share definitions, lessons, frameworks, and practices from leaders in the governance space, while also giving time for participants to co-create and engage with the idea of governance in a creative, relational, and engaging way. This session is for anyone who is curious about Good Governance, from beginner to expert. 

Generative Conflict 

Hosted by Brook Thorndycraft, Big Waves Consulting 

What if you could understand disagreement and conflict as a source of learning, creativity, and possibility rather than as something to fear and avoid?  What if you could support people in your workplace to disagree in ways that build more authentic relationships, lead to better decisions, and even transform systems? This is a generative approach to conflict.  

This interactive workshop will introduce you to the Big Waves Generative Conflict Framework as well as a set of principles and practices that support groups to engage in conflict in relational, trauma-informed, and equity-centred ways. There will be time for discussion and small group dialogue to help you reflect on the framework in relation to your context.   

Evaluating Systems Change 

Hosted by Tania Cheng, Lumiere Consulting and Annika Voltan, IONS 

How do we know if our work is having the impact we intend? How does evaluation happen in the context of systems change? This is hard work! If you are new-ish to evaluation and are wanting to build a culture of learning and evaluation then this session is for you. 

In this session, we will discuss the mindsets and approaches to evaluating systems change and share how IONS is building a learning and evaluation culture across its team. You will have the opportunity to reflect on your organization’s learning and evaluation capacity, connect and exchange ideas with peers, and gain practical tips and resources for building a learning and evaluation culture.  

Participants will leave with: 

  • Increased understanding of mindsets and approaches of evaluating systems change 
  • A clearer picture of their organization’s current evaluation practice and where to begin 
  • Connections with other leaders who are interested in strengthening evaluation 
  • Practical tips and resources for building a learning and evaluation culture 

How to do HR When you don’t have HR 

Hosted by Nadia Bello, IONS and Park People 

What to do when you have a human resources dilemma but no human resources human? The session will explore ideas and resources for developing human resources capacity and tools to support non-profit organizations with low operational capacity and or without dedicated human resources staff. This workshop will be applicable to volunteer-based organizations as well.   

We will explore different ways to generate internal capacity, build confidence, share resources within the sector, explore existing HR tools, and look at the pros, cons and possibilities of each. Participants are invited to share current practices, challenges and successes and assess their HR needs.  You do not have to be an HR practitioner to have good HR practices!   

Wikuom Teachings 

Hosted by Lawrence Wells

Join Mi’kmaw elders Lawrence Wells and Jane Meader in wikuoms (wigwams) set up outside by the Membertou Heritage Park. Listen in and engage in deep conversation to learn more about Indigenous ways of being and knowing. Topics of teachings and conversation will include reciprocity, relationship, and what it means to be responsive and reimagine.  

Wikuom spaces will be available as an option during the “Exchange Human Library” opening session, as well as during the afternoon workshop session times. We invite you to be on the land, and open up to listening and learning in a different way! 

How Generative AI Can Help You and the Community Impact Sector 

Hosted by Robert Newcombe, Newcombe Consulting 

Discover how generative artificial intelligence (AI) can transform the way impact organizations create lasting change. When used effectively, AI can enhance productivity, spur creativity, and free up time to allow for more direct engagement with communities. This presentation will cover the basics of generative AI, including how it works, its strengths, weaknesses, and risks. It will conclude with a live demonstration to show precisely how it can assist you in your daily activities. 

Robert has helped organizations in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors improve processes, increase productivity, and leverage artificial intelligence. He is a thought leader in applying generative AI in the workplace and has spoken about AI at events such as the AISC WorkForward Conference, CME LeanCon, and Canada’s National Engineering Month. 

An Introduction to InterPlay for Community Resiliency & Care 

Hosted by Natalie Abdou, Interplay 

InterPlay is a powerful practice rooted in play and connection. It invites us to play with our birthright – yes birthright – of word, song, storytelling, movement, dance and stillness. It is a way to invite more connection, ease, affirmation, joy and resilience into our lives – with ourselves, those we love, and the web of life as a whole.  

We live in particularly demanding and turbulent times. For many of us, our body-spirits are overcome by stress, overwhelm, despair, rage and uncertainty. By engaging with the incremental and playful forms (practices) and tools (philosophies) of InterPlay, we invite the full spectrum of the stories within us to rise up and out of the body – from our glory to our grief.  

Our shared improvisation and play can support us simply unwinding, expressing what is alive in us, creating space for new insights and connecting more deeply with our own inner knowing and body wisdom. In playing and witnessing ourselves and others, we can learn from our lived experience in joyous ways and build a greater sense of connection, community and solidarity, along our collective journey of equity and transformation.  

During our spacious play time together we will:  

  • Invite the whole of ourselves to come and play – our inner child, sage, grump, clown, serious one, critiquer, dreamer, community weaver  
  • Take the time to express what is alive within us through sound, word, story, movement, dance and stillness 
  • Share and witness one another in our playing 
  • Gain affirmation and new insight to carry forward to support our day-to-day lives and community action  
  • Release stress, rest, be still, breathe and resource together 

Creating Welcoming Workplaces 

Hosted by Tyler Colbourne and Alexandra Theroux, IONS 

How can we create more welcoming and inviting cultures for our organizations? What are the things that need to change to support people of all identities and with any number of specific needs to thrive? Why is it important to change the way we have always done things? What kind of impact can these changes have on the organization and the people involved? What would it be like to have a workplace where people feel supported, welcomed, and celebrated for their skills, experience, and identities?  

Becoming a Welcoming Workplace is not something that can happen overnight. It requires time, conversation, and intentional effort from all levels of your organization – from the board to your volunteers and everyone in between.  

This workshop is for you if you work in the Community Impact Sector (non-profit sector) and are passionate about making change within workplace cultures and systems. Through generative conversation, reflection, and creativity, we hope to help participants explore and identify innovative ways of working that are more welcoming and people focused while also offering examples and resources to help implement some of the things we’ve been doing at IONS. 

Participants will leave with: 

  • Awareness about small changes to make big waves in their workplace 
  • Tangible resources to apply in their workplace 
  • Connections with likeminded folks interested in exploring welcoming workplaces 
  • A clear pathway to support the development of IONS’ resources related to this work 
  • Deeper insights and knowledge to underlying complex issues that create barriers/ opportunities around welcoming workplaces  
  • Resources for continuing their personal learning about how to create welcoming workplaces 

Tentative Agenda

Sunday May 12

6-8pm – Optional Welcome Reception at Eltuek Arts Center 

Monday May 13

8:00am-9:15am – Registration and Coffee Reception 

9:15am-12:00pm – Formal Indigenous Opening and Morning Sessions (TBA) 

12:00pm-1:00pm – Lunch (provided) 

1:00pm-4:30pm – Afternoon Sessions (TBA)  

4:30pm-6:30pm – Dinner Break  

6:30pm-9:00pm – Evening Celebration 

Tuesday May 14

7:00am – Optional Morning Welcome Ceremony (TBC) 

9:00am-12:15pm – Formal Indigenous Opening and Morning Sessions (TBA) 

12:15-1:00pm – Lunch (provided) 

1:00pm-1:30pm – Formal Indigenous Closing 

Stay in Touch!

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