This April, IABC is celebrating Volunteer Month. Here we share the experiences of two members who have taken advantage of the volunteer opportunities IABC offers to enhance professional and personal lives. Catalyst Subcommittee member Joe Bobbey interviewed Michael Blackburn and Sebastian Warren to learn more about the value of their IABC volunteer positions.
Michael Blackburn (He/Him) is the manager of election communications and community engagement for the City of Markham, Ontario, Canada. He’s a member of a team of public service professionals responsible for the 2022 municipal election communications and community engagement strategy, including implementing an integrated public education program that informs and educates voters about exercising their democratic right to vote.
For IABC, he serves as the executive vice president of IABC/Toronto — the largest IABC chapter worldwide. Starting early July, he will be president of IABC/Toronto, as they celebrate their iconic 80th anniversary. He’s also a member of the 2022 World Conference Program Advisory Committee, which is responsible for planning IABC’s first in-person international conference in almost three years.
Sebastian Warren is president and CEO of Nouveau Creative Strategies, LLC, a small boutique services issue management consulting company. He advises clients on how to manage issues, emergencies, disasters and crises. He develops organizational strategy to include talent management and development, efficiency modeling, strategic communication and leadership development.
He currently serves as the Heritage Region Chair and describes his role as having great opportunities to connect with people all over the world, share ideas and best practices and shape the future of the profession and association.
We asked them to share insights into their experiences and advice for others considering volunteer roles with IABC.
How has volunteering with IABC brought value to your professional role?
Michael Blackburn (MB): My volunteer roles with IABC over the past two years have allowed me to unlock exciting leadership opportunities that would not have been available to me at work. Accessing an international network of professionals has allowed me to level up more quickly in my career, hold myself to a higher standard, increase my confidence and provide greater value to my organization.
Sebastian Warren (SW): The professional value I have gained from volunteering with IABC has been enormous. I have met a lot of amazing professionals and shared a lot of knowledge with them. It has helped with my continuing development as a professional.
How has your professional experience brought value to your IABC volunteer role?
MB: My work with the City of Markham over the past nine years has afforded me the opportunity to develop my PR, special event and communication skills. This well-rounded background allows me to put on various hats to support our volunteers and IABC/Toronto board members, to meet the needs of our diverse membership, and pivot when the world throws us curveballs.
SW: My professional experience has brought value to my IABC volunteer role. I have been able to apply a lot of my work knowledge, experience and connections to positions I held at the chapter and regional levels.
What advice do you have for IABC members who are interested in volunteering?
MB: My IABC membership has played a key role in continuing to develop my strategic communication skills and has made me a much stronger leader. The benefits of being a volunteer in this exciting global community are at your fingertips and the magic is yours to unlock. If who I am today could talk to a younger me, he’d say, “Get involved sooner, friend. You’re missing out!”
SW: Any volunteer position will have its challenges, but I would encourage any IABC member to find an opportunity to volunteer within the association at the chapter, regional or international level. You will meet great people from around the world and be part of something bigger than yourself. You will have the opportunity to be a global thought leader through the association. There is great value in knowing that we stand stronger together as a community of global professional communicators.
On behalf of the IABC IEB and staff, thank you to all of our volunteer leaders. Want to get involved? Learn more about IABC’s committees and task forces, and check out opportunities in your local chapter and region.
Joe Bobbey, Featuring Michael Blackburn and Sebastian Warren
Joe Bobbey is a member of the IABC Trend Watch Committee and Catalyst Subcommittee, and board member of the Greater Cincinnati chapter. He recently retired as a change management consultant.