WNDG events have been held in Waterloo Region since 1971 - but have changed quite a bit over the years. This page documents some of these changes to the group over the years.
GLOW Wednesday Night Discussion Group (1971 - 2009)
The WNDG was originally a service offered by one of the many past incarnations of what is now the Glow Centre for Sexual and Gender Diversity at the University of Waterloo. The Glow Centre has had many different organizational structures since being founded on March 8, 1971, but the group is currently a service of the Waterloo Undergraduate Student Association - the body which represents undergraduate students at the University of Waterloo. Not surprisingly, the WNDG was known as the GLOW Wednesday Night Discussion Group (or variations thereof) for much of this time.
As the Glow Centre evolved, so too did the discussion group. The WNDG historically acted as a planning group for community activism, a safe & confidential environment for those seeking peer support and an opportunity for social networking in the Kitchener-Waterloo (and surrounding area) queer community. At all times, the group was based on a community support model, welcoming all University of Waterloo Faculty, Staff and Students (both Undergraduate and Graduate) as well as members of the local community. The potential to hear the experiences and knowledge of individuals representing many different gender identities and sexual orientations, at different stages of life, was one of the strengths of the discussion group.
For the first 30 years, the discussion group was facilitated by a University of Waterloo graduate student, staff member or alumnus. This approach allowed the group to be offered year-round (with the exception of University closures during the holiday season- and the occasional bout of illness) and helped maintain a consistent model of facilitation that participants could rely on. Consistency in the facilitation model and approach is a key element of creating a comfortable environment for all participants.
Changes in Sponsorship of the Wednesday Night Discussion Group in (2009 - 2014)
While the GLOW Wednesday Discussion Group enjoyed much success over the years, there are always opportunities for improvement. In the Fall of 2009, participants in the discussion group began to look at the possibility of expanding group sponsorship beyond the Glow Centre. The expanded sponsorship was considered for a number of reasons:
One:The make-up of the discussion group participants has often extended beyond undergraduate students at the University of Waterloo. As such, it was beneficial to have a sponsorship model for the group that reflected the diversity of participants.
Two:There are many groups and organizations that had been supportive of the discussion group over the years. It would have been nice to find a way to raise the profile of such organizations and their assistance.
Three:As the discussion group had traditionally been facilitated by a non-undergraduate student, it has been able to operate without extensive support from the Glow Centre Executive. This allowed the group to operate year-round, even between terms when there are no active Glow Centre volunteers. It was beneficial to find some way to recognize the independent organization of the discussion groups.
In light of the above, the Glow Centre Executive decided that, as of September 30th, 2009, the GLOW Wednesday Night Discussion Group would operate as a separate entity that would continue to be sponsored by the Glow Centre but could also include sponsorship from other groups and organizations that better represented the make-up of group participants. That is to say, the group was no longer the GLOW Wednesday Night Discussion Group but rather, the Wednesday Night Discussion Group, sponsored by the Glow Centre (and others).
From Wednesday Night Discussion Group to WNDG (2014 - 2019)
Between 2009 and 2013, the demographics of the Wednesday Night Discussion Group started to change. The group started to enjoy more interest from individuals not formally affiliated with the University of Waterloo. In addition, many participants were motivated not by a need for peer support with respect to issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity, but rather, a desire to meet and socialize with a broader cross-section of the queer/rainbow community.
To meet these new community needs, the "Wednesday Night Discussion Group" entered into a renewal process, inviting members of the local community to provide comments and suggestions on how the group could better serve their needs. Specifically, individuals were asked the following questions:
Location:What do you think of the current meeting location? Do you have suggestions for alternative meeting locations? What do you feel are the ideal characteristics of a meeting location for a discussion group?
Frequency: The WNDG currently meets weekly? Is this too frequent? Not frequent enough? What would be your ideal meeting frequency?
Format: hat format would you like to see the discussions follow? Do you prefer structured, facilitated discussions or more free-flowing unstructured discussions? Do you like topics to be set in advance?
Facilitators:What are your ideal characteristics for a group facilitator? Do you have any suggestions for individuals in the local community who may make great facilitators? Do you prefer to have the same facilitators each week or would you prefer guest facilitators each week?
Advertising:What are the best ways of advertising the discussion group in the local community? What specific communities should the group be targeting?
Resources: Implementing any changes to the group will likely involve the need for new volunteers. What suggestions do you have for identifying and recruiting volunteers to support the renewal process?
After extensive consultation, the Wednesday Night Discussion Group decided to rebrand simply as WNDG and accommodate a wider variety of social gatherings to complement its peer support roots. The WNDG started meeting at locations throughout Kitchener-Waterloo (not just at the University of Waterloo) and incorporated Guest Speakers, Dessert Groups, Dinner Groups, and other activities.
WNDG (2019 - Present)
Starting in (approximately) 2015, other community organizations started organizing discussion groups and social events in Waterloo Region that overlapped with the mandate of the WNDG. Attendance at weekly discussions started to drop and a decision was made to move from organizing weekly events to monthly events.
In addition, to better coordinate community resources, the WNDG partnered with the Queer Night Out Waterloo Region MeetUp Group to coordinat its events. The WNDG now uses the MeetUp platform to advertise and coordinate RSVPs for all of its events.