November 16, 2018
Guest Blog

Tools for Community Engagement: Some Gems from the 2018 PFC Conference

Juniper Glass

Legitimacy – foundations’ “social license to operate” – was a hot topic at the 2018 PFC conference. How can foundations respond to the call to demonstrate their legitimacy? One avenue is to deepen community engagement and invest in community-led solutions.

But how? Here are some of the most inspiring and practical resources I have found, which I put together for the PFC conference session I moderated on “Philanthropy as Civic Engagement”:

  • Civic Engagement Primer by PACE Funders (Philanthropy for Active Citizen Engagement)
  • Four Traditions of Philanthropy by Elizabeth Lynn and Susan Wisely
  • Public Participation Spectrum by the international association for public participation (IAP2)
  • Power Moves Philanthropy, an incredible “self-assessment toolkit to determine how well you are building, sharing and wielding power and identify ways to transform your programs and operations for lasting, equitable impact,” by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.
  • My presentation with highlights from the above resources and reflection questions for foundations

Some Canadian private and public foundations are doing their best to share power and be more effective by moving further along the Public Participation Spectrum. They are listening to and acting with communities that have lived experience of the challenges they seek to solve. During the session, panelists Jenn Miller, Vi Ngyuen and Janine Manning shared some of their work. We learned about:

  • Atkinson Foundation’s Decent Work Fund, which gets behind community organizers who are building the decent work movement in Ontario and mobilizing folks living at the economic margins.
  • what Vancouver Foundation learned by hosting youth engagement initiatives alongside youth that had lived experience of the foster care and refugee and immigrant systems. Now that experience has evolved into a new program, LEVEL, which aims to create more opportunities for Indigenous, immigrant, and refugee young leaders throughout BC.
  • Laidlaw Foundation’s Indigenous Strategy. In addition to investing in initiatives led by youth through the Indigenous Futures Fund, Laidlaw Foundation has committed to a long-term process of learning and listening with its Indigenous Advisory circle and community partners.  

Wherever your foundation is starting, there is always another step that could be taken to deepen community engagement and power sharing. As we heard from panelists, the path is rich with connection, strengthened relationships, meaning and more impact as a foundation takes its place as a collaborative actor supporting community-led change.

Related Posts

  • Reflections from An Aussie Guest
    This guest blog post from Sarah Davies, President of Philanthropy Australia, examines how the 2018 PFC Conference extended her thinking and understanding of philanthropy in Canada, identified where the opportunities are to learn from the Canadian experience and how Australia might act on them.


  • My post-PFC conference reading list
    This guest blog from Jillian Witt highlights her reading list coming out of the PFC Conference in 2018 in Toronto.


  • Connect. Create. Change: Six Take-Aways From the PFC 2018 Conference
    PFC President, Hilary Pearson shares her PFC philanthropy conference take-aways, focusing on the themes of collaboration, connection, and inclusion that emerged.


Showing 2 comments
  • Nicole Gagliardi

    The Community Foundation of Greater Peterborough piloted an innovative approach to community engagement in 2017, ‘Vital Conversations’. With our partners, the Atkinson Foundation, we have created to share our story, insights and tools. It is a timely resource of particular interest to funders.

  • Juniper Glass

    Nicole, is fabulous! Thanks to CFGP and Atkinson for this contribution to the field.

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