Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee
What I learned from attending the Broadbent Institute Progress Summit

By: Laura Ainsman Sohinki

During my time as CJPAC’s Director of Outreach and Programming, I was incredibly fortunate to experience some pretty awesome things. I helped plan a rocking ACTION Party for over 1400 young adults and elected officials, I traveled to Ottawa with inspired (and inspiring) groups of high school and university students and I had the chance to see the beauty of Canada and a lot of ruach through our summer camp tour. But one of my favourite experiences was attending the 2014 Broadbent Institute Progress Summit with CJPAC Deputy Executive Director, Rachel Chertkoff.

Founded by former federal NDP Leader and Member of Parliament, Ed Broadbent, the Broadbent Institute is an independent, non-partisan progressive think tank. They work to champion progressive change by promoting democracy, equality and sustainability and the training of a new generation of leaders.

Having been involved in politics for over 10 years, I have worked on and attended many conferences. The Broadbent Institute stands out for the high quality of the sessions and speakers and the friendliness and excitement of the participants. For example, while attending a session on social media run by a former candidate, the entire room was following conference tweets, tweeting at each other and demonstrating the power and effectiveness of a strong social media campaign while sitting in a single room.

One of the most exciting moments of the conference came in an elevator. After attending a rousing plenary session during which Julia Gillard, the former Prime Minister of Australia, spoke, Rachel and I headed up to a reception. The door to the elevator opens and Ms. Gillard herself stepped in. She could not have been nicer as Rachel and I asked her what seemed like a million questions about the conference, her experiences and the future of Canada. It was so cool to have this very informal chance to speak with a world leader.

Just prior to attending the conference, I read Brad Lavigne’s book, Building the Orange Wave: The Inside Story behind the Historic Rise of Jack Layton and the NDP, and I was completely star struck upon meeting Brad, Anne McGrath (then National Director of the NDP) and others who were mentioned in the book. Not only did they indulge my desire to take a selfie, but Brad, Anne and others talked to me about the book, the events depicted and the future of the party, and they remembered me long after the conference as their number one fan girl.

This year’s Progress Summit looks to be just as exciting and innovative as the one I attended in 2014. The theme for the conference is “Shaping the Future” and it promises to bring together leaders from across the spectrum. Scheduled speakers include elected and former MLAs, MPPs, MPs and provincial and federal Ministers from all parties, journalists, movement leaders, community organizers and political strategists. There will be networking opportunities, including informal receptions, lunches and plenty of time to run into people in the hallway.

Please take advantage of any opportunity you may have to attend this amazing conference, you never know who you will meet in an elevator!

Laura Ainsman Sohinki has over 15 years of experience working in politics and pro-Israel advocacy. She was CJPAC’s Director of Outreach and Programming from 2013-2015 and now lives in Pittsburgh, PA with her husband, son and dog.