November 10, 2014 From the President

Reflections on the 2014 PFC Conference: Talking and Working Together


It was an energized and engaged group of foundations and grantmakers from across the country that came to Halifax in late October for PFC’s fifth biennial conference. The theme of course was Working Together on the Challenges of a Changing Canada. This frame gave us an opportunity to share many examples of collaborative work and to talk about some very big challenges indeed, tackled with energy by Canadian foundations with community partners, governments and business players.

As I walked through the halls and listened in on many active conversations, here is some of what I heard people talking about:

  • Zita Cobb’s message about new collaborative models for small communities: wrapping natural, cultural, financial and philanthropic capital together to “serve place”
  • Justice Murray Sinclair’s eloquent and moving testimony to the importance of reaching beyond the past to reconciliation within and with Canada’s aboriginal peoples
  • Lester Salamon and Lucy Bernholz opening our eyes to very different forms of moving philanthropic capital, be it money, time, wisdom or data
  • The power of collaboration to open up new possibilities in the fields of youth mental health, the greening of Canada’s cities, the health care needs of an aging population.
  • New tools that grantmakers can use to bring voice and to give voice to communities: civic technology, social documentaries, dialogues and conversations on “possible Canadas”
  • The warmth, informality and creativity of Atlantic Canada, from the Coady Institute to the sustainable fisheries, from the Sobeys and Fred Fountain to Chief Terry Paul and the Atlantic Chiefs, from Pier 21 to the Barra MacNeils.

We are posting many links and presentations on our conference web site to help both participants and those at home learn more about the many topics we discussed. Before the end of the year, PFC will also be posting a conference report on the themes and highlights.

For many, the best aspect of the conference is simply the opportunity to see each other and to gain energy from gathering as a philanthropic “community”. That said, PFC is already looking to the next conferences in Toronto 2015 and Vancouver 2016. We asked for ideas and here is what some of you told us you want to talk about:

  • The ethical role of private philanthropy in society: what are our obligations to go with our privileges?
  • More on understanding what works and what doesn’t work, and sharing it: how can we better evaluate our own evaluations?
  • How do we better use technology to do it? And how do we learn from what doesn’t work?
  • Managing a public profile as a grantmaker: how much and when?
  • Bringing new young voices to the table: where are the millenials in family philanthropy?
  • Working with government: is it possible? Tips for making public policy change.

This is a terrific agenda of questions and you will be seeing it reflected in our learning program for 2015. Above all, we want to use the spaces of our workshops and conferences to help grantmakers learn from each other in very concrete ways. No wheels need to be reinvented in Canadian philanthropy especially not in the digital age! Thanks to everyone for coming to Halifax and for participating in so many great conversations!

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