This month began with a significant speech made by our new Governor General, David Johnston, in which he signaled his intention to encourage philanthropy and volunteerism as a pillar in the effort he will make during his term in office to achieve his vision of a “Smart and Caring Nation”. This may be the first time that a Governor General has specifically underlined that importance of philanthropic giving to the country, and I expect that we will be hearing more from him in months to come about the difference that philanthropy can make in a community.
The Governor-General told a few stories about giving in his speech. We at PFC also believe that the telling of stories about the work of philanthropy is a key part of our mandate to advocate on behalf of organized philanthropy. And members tell us that they learn much from hearing about the work of their colleagues and fellow PFC members.
In that spirit, we tell three brief stories in this newsletter about ongoing work by our members that we have noted in the past month. We would welcome any other stories that our members would like us to tell on their behalf! On our web site we also feature many great grant stories, which we update regularly. If you haven’t looked at that part of our site in a while, it’s worth a visit.
This month, we have taken the next step in planning the program for our next conference to take place in Toronto in October 2011. A call for session ideas has gone out to members and is posted publicly on our home page. This is the opportunity to tell a great story and to share your learnings about the work you are doing. The conference is by and for our members and their funder partners. We are very eager to have your thoughts and ideas.
In the September newsletter, I mentioned that PFC had made a pre-budget submission to the federal parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance. We have now been invited to appear before the Committee on October 19th. I will be outlining to the Members of Parliament the concerns that we have about barriers to investing more fully in the work of our charitable partners. Some of these barriers are regulatory, and I will describe those to the Committee. Others are related to difficulties in making successful matches between funders and charities. For example, many foundations do not know how to overcome the challenge of finding and assessing the financial capacity of charities to use debt capital for their growth. There are not many intermediaries, due diligence is difficult to do without expertise, and loan candidates are not as easy to find as grantseekers are. For some of the same reasons, foundations do not invest more of their assets in mission-related opportunities because they are not aware of any vehicles, or they do not have the expertise to assess risk.
If you are interested in these issues, I urge you to attend an important funder symposium in Toronto on December 1 that will feature discussions about how funders can work with charities to build financial capacity and the use of more financing instruments such as loans. The symposium is being held in collaboration with Phillips, Hager and North and Social Innovation Generation at MaRS. It will be an excellent learning opportunity about the developing infrastructure for social finance in Canada. I hope to see you there!
This month, we refer you to three interesting and very different stories about how our members are having an impact through their strategies and funding. In all cases, they are actively engaging in and hoping to stimulate more Canadian public debate on key social challenges such as reducing poverty, facilitating immigrant integration, and addressing global inequality through development assistance. While very different in nature, these stories illustrate the difference that can be made by private funders through strategic funding and partnerships.
Eight years ago, the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation and other partners sponsored a fascinating experiment at the local level, Vibrant Communities Canada (VCC), with the goal of reducing poverty in Canadian cities. As the initiative expanded, McConnell and the project co-sponsors such as Tamarack and the Caledon Institute (funded by Maytree) were joined by other funders such as RBC Financial Group, the Hamilton Community Foundation and the Ontario Trillium Foundation as well as the federal government to provide support for the initiative.
Launched in 2002, Vibrant Communities Canada built on learning generated by Opportunities 2000, a millennium campaign to reduce poverty in the Waterloo Region in Ontario to the lowest in Canada. The Vibrant Communities approach, which is being applied in 12 communities across Canada, emphasizes collaboration and consensus building across sectors; comprehensive thinking and action; building community assets; and a commitment to long-term learning and change.
Evaluation has been a key component of the experiment all along. “The Vibrant Communities network is experimenting with a new approach: developmental evaluation. At the local level, this means reflecting on the theory of change underlying a group’s work and upgrading it as required to better achieved desired outcomes, respond to a changing environment, and capture the emerging insights and questions of participants. At the national level, it is about mining the on-the-ground experience of communities for patterns and themes that help users understand the value of this approach to reducing poverty.”
On the VCC site you can find much valuable information about the developmental evaluation approach. Although the members of Vibrant Communities and national sponsors will continue to work in the Vibrant Communities ‘way’ for some time to come, the action-research component of the Vibrant Communities initiative is scheduled to conclude at the end of 2010, and the sponsors have already initiated a final evaluation. A report (and executive summary)from the initial phase of this evaluation of this initiative, Vibrant Communities Canada 2002-2010 Evaluation Report, is now available to download. Final evaluation results will be public in the spring of 2011.
ALLIES (Assisting Local Leaders with Immigrant Employment Strategies) is a project jointly funded by Maytree and The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation. ALLIES provides funding, technical expertise and networks to Canadian cities so that they can successfully adapt and implement local ideas for skilled immigrants to find suitable employment.
ALLIES builds on the success of the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council. TRIEC was created in 2003 by Maytree as a multi-stakeholder collaboration comprised of employers, occupational regulatory bodies, post-secondary institutions, assessment service providers, labour, immigrant professional associations, community organizations and all three levels of government.
Together, this group has worked to address an urgent need of the Toronto region — the effective and appropriate inclusion of skilled immigrants into the labour market, while at the same time helping organizations benefit from the talents and skills immigrants can bring with them to Canada.
TRIEC’s success has led to interest from other communities. In 2005 local leaders in the Waterloo Region and in Ottawa created their own immigrant employment networks. In June 2007, Maytree, with support from Citizenship and Immigration Canada and The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation hosted a “Learning Exchange” for communities interested in learning from these models. Close to 140 participants from over 18 communities participated.
As a result of the Learning Exchange Conference, Assisting Local Leaders with Immigrant Employment Strategies or ALLIES was launched in October 2007 with the goal to help create a national movement of locally engaged communities to provide successful employment solutions for skilled immigrants. To date, ALLIES has provided funding to Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, Saskatoon, Edmonton and Vancouver.
The Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation has made a significant contribution to the discussion of the effectiveness of Canada’s foreign aid with the release of four commissioned research papers on Canada’s international assistance program.
Canada commits $5 billion annually to foreign aid. But, says the Foundation, “Canada’s aid spending relative to our national wealth puts us in the bottom third of the major aid donors who are members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Relative to other donors we consider peers and allies, the calibre of Canada’s aid program as a whole has also been judged to be seriously lacking. A May 2010 World Bank study of the quality of foreign aid ranked Canada in 29th place of the 38 donors surveyed.
Why? Why is Canada underperforming and punching well below our weight when it comes to our commitment to foreign aid? And, what changes and reforms are necessary in order to reverse this trend?
These questions guided a Foundation project to “re-imagine” foreign aid and development, led by the foundation’s Senior Fellow, Patrick Johnston. The four papers that have resulted from this project provide a range of perspectives on each of these questions.
Authored by Patrick Johnston and academics at the London School of Economics and Memorial University, the papers suggest that if Canada is to improve the overall performance of its foreign aid program, it must resolve the problems posed by a diffusion of authority and responsibility, the lack of an agreed aid mandate, limited public understanding and fickle financial support. The solution must be built upon shared Canadian values and cross-partisan support, cross-government engagement, an embrace of multilateralism, and sufficient political leadership and public engagement.
In early September, our colleagues in Australia gathered at the biennial conference of Philanthropy Australia in Melbourne. The keynote speech was given by Dr. Susan Raymond of the U.S-based firm, Changing Our World. It is an entertaining and thoughtful look ahead at philanthropy’s path forward. The conference speeches and final report are all accessible now on the PA web site and we highly recommend a read of Susan Raymond’s speech as well as some of the contributions made by other speakers.
PFC welcomed 3 new members during the month of September: the RBC Foundation (Toronto), Trinity Development Foundation (Ottawa) and The Cloverleaf Foundation (Waterloo).
Two PFC members, The MasterCard Foundation and the Belinda Stronach Foundation participated in the recent 2010 Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York. At the meeting, the Mastercard Foundation made two commitments, one for $10.1 million to reach 270,000 young people in rural Ghana and Malawi with secondary education, financial literacy and business skills, and information and communications technology (ICT) training, and one for $15.5 million to advance the educational, financial and entrepreneurial capacity of more than 600,000 Kenyan women and youth. The Belinda Stronach Foundation committed to convening a G(irls) 20 Summit in advance of each G20 Summit for the next five years, to engage and empower girls from all over the world.
Patrick Johnston, former President of the Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation, has launched a new consulting practice, Borealis Advisors, specializing in Board governance and philanthropy. Borealis offers assistance to the Chief Executive and senior volunteers of charitable organizations who want to ensure their Board governance practices adhere to best practices, to individuals and families who are at the early stages of establishing their philanthropic goals and to individuals leading established foundations who want to increase the impact of their grantmaking.
Sheherazade Hirji and Julie White have wound up their 6-year old consulting practice in philanthropy, Hirji+White Consulting. Sheherazade is now Vice President of Client Services with the Tides Canada Foundation, and Julie is spending more time on her own projects and with her family.