A letter from Caroline Riseboro, President and CEO, Plan International Canada
It started with optimism.
When I first crossed the vibrant blue and pink threshold into the Plan International Canada offices, I felt an overwhelming sense of it, coupled with the desire and keen intent to ensure the organization would become the leading authority on girls’ rights and gender equality at home and around the globe.
Though my time at Plan has comprised many seasons of change and transformation, this sense of optimism has remained steady. It’s extended to carry me through challenges, strengthened to propel our continuous upward trajectory and at many times, stood on its own two feet to help weather a storm and renew its existence.
As leaders, I believe our role is much greater than ourselves. It involves giving away power to build a strong, capable team and inspiring those around us to envision the goals we set out to accomplish. I see leadership not as the authority or power that one person holds, but as one person’s ability to unleash the power and greatness of their team.
On my very first day at Plan as President & CEO, I launched a challenge to the organization – let’s dream again. We spoke about the art of the possible and what we could accomplish together if we had no limitations. We started to envision the future state at the core of our vision – igniting a movement in Canada that unleashes the multiplying power of girls to end inequality for children. We began to build a team for the organization we wanted to be, manifesting our growth and transforming from the ground up.
We called on Canadians to Defy Normal, to believe in the power and potential of every child and to take a stand anywhere children are oppressed, exploited or left behind and anywhere girls aren’t equally valued. We drastically grew revenue, maximizing our ability to deliver programs with life-changing impact around the globe. We increased our domestic youth programs and launched the award-winning Girls Belong Here, an initiative to demonstrate the inherent power and leadership potential of girls and young women. We took a stand on the global stage, helping secure a historic $3.8B global commitment for the education of children in crisis and emergencies. We unveiled Youth for Gender Equality, a three-year initiative that engaged youth in a national conversation on how to spearhead progress towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 5: Gender Equality, and led to the release of the ground-breaking report, The Youth-Led Roadmap for Gender Equality.
We dreamed bigger than we ever have, and together, we delivered more than we ever thought possible.
But we were not without failure. I owe a great deal of our success to perseverance and grit. Our team has had many hard days – we took risks that didn’t work out as expected, made changes that faced criticism and made some bets that didn’t always pay off. Each challenge played an integral role in our transformational journey and influenced our eventual success.
I have immense gratitude for the teams, all staff, partners, donors, stakeholders, and government representatives who have been instrumental to these successes. Sometimes, the most influential change comes not only from working within our organization, but from partnering with others who share in our vision. We recognized early on that we could only do so much as an individual organization, and that our ability to impact significant progress toward gender equality was contingent on the strength of the partnerships we forged and fostered. Our work and achievements to date embody this principle and highlight Plan’s role in inspiring Canadians’ in pursuit of a more equitable world.
Reflecting on my time at Plan, I am incredibly grateful for what we have accomplished together. I remain optimistic for the future of gender equality and confident that the organization will play a critical role in its advancement, in Canada and globally.
To the team at Plan, keep dreaming – about the world you want to create, the future you believe in and the movement you are igniting. Through endless dreaming, you will continue to unlock possibility and defy what we’ve so easily come to accept as normal.
With deepest gratitude,
Caroline RiseboroPresident & CEO
Plan International Canada