When Erin Spink first learned about the Action Canada fellowship, she was intrigued. When she read the bios of past fellows – doctors, professors, directors of institutes – she was a bit intimidated. Spink’s job with the Canadian Cancer Society has taken her to Toronto, but she still considers herself a small-town girl.
She applied anyway, “on a lark,” and was thrilled to learn that she has been named one of this year’s fellows.
The Action Canada fellowship is designed to build leadership skills and understanding of public policy. Of more than 120 applicants, a maximum of 20 are selected each year. The recipients come from all backgrounds and professions, from right across the country.
The fellows will take part in six working conferences to learn about public policy and how it’s shaped. They will also split into smaller groups to work on a policy project related to the year’s theme. For example, a past group put together a proposal for a system of green bonds that would work like Victory Bonds for the environment.
This year’s theme is economic transformations for Canada, and each applicant, as part of the application process, had to write their response to the theme. Drawing on her experience working with volunteers at the cancer society and her own volunteer work with the Special Olympics, Spink wrote about social capital and its impact on economic capital.
After submitting their applications, the candidates were narrowed to a shortlist of 30 who were interviewed by telephone and then flown to Ottawa to be interviewed by a panel that included Canadian astronaut Julie Payette and Newfoundland judge Malcolm Rowe.
Each group will be matched with a mentor who will help them form their ideas into a project. Spink is also excited about the prospect of learning writing skills from top Canadian journalists like Andrew Cohen, a columnist and journalism professor at Carleton University.
Spink lives in Toronto now, but says her intention has always been to return to Elmira some day.
“I’m an Elmira girl and will always be an Elmira girl,” she said. “This is an opportunity to gain skills that I can bring back to the community.”