Tag Archives: Leadership

DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION SURVEY

The following survey was created for Sunnybrook Foundation to use in conjunction with its ‘People and Culture’ Survey that was deployed in winter 2018. The following survey is to understand the makeup of the Foundation – including visible and invisible minorities. The goal is to share the results of this survey at a future staff meeting and to inform the formation of a Diversity & Inclusion Committee.

PART A: Diversity and Inclusion Demographic Profile Survey

The following survey is to help us create a profile of our current workforce by collecting demographic information on your ethnic and cultural backgrounds, religious or spiritual affiliations and sexual orientation. The demographic information and the questions on diversity and inclusion will provide further insight on our current workface and will assist with developing diversity plans that promote inclusiveness and recognize the unique perspectives and contributions of all our staff. The feedback will assist in maintaining a workplace that is healthy, safe and inclusive for all.

These questions are personal to each individual, however we kindly as that you be honest in your responses so that we may recognize our strengths, areas of development, and to discover initiatives that will direct a human equity strategy. Responses are strictly confidential and anonymous. You may skip any questions you prefer not to answer.

The survey should take no longer than 5 minutes to complete.

1. Gender

  1. Female/Woman
  2. Male/Man
  3. Trans-identified
  4. Genderqueer/Gender nonconforming
  5. Other gender identity
  6. Prefer not to disclose

2. Please select from the following list the categories that best describe your racial and/or cultural group(s):

  1. White
  2. Chinese
  3. South Asian (East Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, etc.)
  4. Black
  5. Filipino
  6. Latin American
  7. Southeast Asian (Vietnamese, Cambodian, etc.)
  8. Arab
  9. West Asian (Iranian, Afghan, etc.)
  10. Japanese
  11. Korean
  12. Indigenous (First Nations, Metis, or Inuit)
  13. Other
  14. Do Not Know
  15. Prefer not to disclose

3. What is your sexual orientation?

  1. Bisexual
  2. Gay
  3. Heterosexual
  4. Lesbian
  5. Queer
  6. Two-spirit
  7. Other
  8. Do not know
  9. Prefer not to disclose

4. What is your religious or spiritual affiliation?

  1. No religion (including Agnostic, Atheist)
  2. Roman Catholic
  3. Ukrainian Catholic
  4. United Church
  5. Anglican (Church of England, Episcopalian)
  6. Baptist
  7. Lutheran
  8. Pentecostal
  9. Presbyterian
  10. Mennonite
  11. Jehovah’s Witnesses
  12. Greek Orthodox
  13. Jewish
  14. Islam (Muslim)
  15. Buddhist
  16. Hindu
  17. Sikh
  18. Do not know
  19. Prefer not to disclose
  20. Other
  21. Please specify

5. Do you consider yourself to be a person with a disability?

  1. Yes
  2. No

PART B: Diversity and Inclusion Culture Survey

The Foundation aims to understand, assess and further enhance organizational culture. One of the key strategic initiatives is to promote and foster a culture of diversity and inclusion. This will enable us to continue to attract and retain talent and ensure we have an inclusive environment that inspire people to excel, innovate and grow. In order to understand where we are at and where we need to go, we are requesting your feedback and perceptions about our current state of diversity and inclusion.

The survey should take no longer than 10 minutes to complete.

1. Please state your department.

  1. Events
  2. Major Gifts
  3. Gift Processing
  4. Finance
  5. Marketing & Communications
  6. Community Giving (Monthly, Annual, Leadership)
  7. Stewardship

2. Please select your role (or the one that best describes the nature of your responsibilities).

  1. Associate/Co-ordinator
  2. Officer
  3. Manager
  4. Director
  5. AVP/VP
  6. Executive Office

3. The Foundation shows respect for a diverse range of opinions, ideas and people.

  1. Strongly disagree
  2. Disagree
  3. Neutral
  4. Agree
  5. Strongly agree

4. The Foundation is committed to providing all employees with equal opportunities in the workplace.

  1. Strongly disagree
  2. Disagree
  3. Neutral
  4. Agree
  5. Strongly agree

5. I believe the Foundation recognizes the contribution of all employees who excel at their jobs, regardless of their backgrounds.

  1. Strongly disagree
  2. Disagree
  3. Neutral
  4. Agree
  5. Strongly agree

6. My personal characteristics do not influence performance decisions.

  1. Strongly disagree
  2. Disagree
  3. Neutral
  4. Agree
  5. Strongly agree

7. My personal characteristics do not influence pay decisions.

  1. Strongly disagree
  2. Disagree
  3. Neutral
  4. Agree
  5. Strongly agree

8. I believe that personal characteristics do not hinder or help an individual’s career progression or development opportunities.

  1. Strongly disagree
  2. Disagree
  3. Neutral
  4. Agree
  5. Strongly agree

9. Ethnic and cultural preferences of staff are accommodated through time off for religious observances/holiday

  1. Yes
  2. No

10. The Foundation provides the flexibility needed for work-life balance.

  1. Strongly disagree
  2. Disagree
  3. Neutral
  4. Agree
  5. Strongly agree

11. The Foundation has family-friendly policies in place.

  1. Strongly disagree
  2. Disagree
  3. Neutral
  4. Agree
  5. Strongly agree

12. There are well-developed mechanisms to handle an employee complaint about harassment and discrimination.

  1. Strongly disagree
  2. Disagree
  3. Neutral
  4. Agree
  5. Strongly agree

13. If the Foundation could make one change to strengthen diversity and inclusion within the organization, what would you suggest?

FIVE THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN SETTING UP A DIVERSITY & INCLUSION COMMITTEE

The following key points are important to consider when setting up a Diversity & Inclusion Committee. Diversity is a reality in all of our work and bring unique perspectives to our organization.

1. Visible and invisible diversity

Representation on the committee, beyond identifying based on gender, race/ethnicity, and age is important. Consider employing a survey to allow individuals to self-identify to understand the true landscape and demographic of your organization. Representation includes, but is not limited to:

  • Gender
  • Indigeneity
  • Ethnicity/Race
  • Age
  • Power and position (social/administrative/economic/other)
  • Disability
  • Sexuality

2. Representation – avoid tokenism

Consider a range of professional experiences and life experiences – invitations, grounded in respect for both professional knowledge and life experience, are less likely to be felt as token representation. Invite participants with both diversity knowledge and identity-linked perspective that relate to the goals of the committee rather than just their identity.

3. Create a safe space for contribution

A strong introduction to allow everyone to share their own perspectives and lived experiences, as well ground rules to participation is important to ensure a safe space has been created. Employees with ‘less power’ might fear repercussions for not agreeing with a majority perspective. It is therefore important to consider and attended to the group dynamics. When setting up the committee, it is also important to consider and assess any participation-related needs and/or access barriers.

4. Voting – an unpressured decision-making tool

Consensus can be challenging when everyone has diverse experiences and perspectives. Whenever appropriate, voting by secret ballot can allow participants to influence the direction of the group without having to publicly stating their opinion or views on a topic.

5. Leadership – include a decision maker at the table

To ensure that the ideas and goals of the committee can move forward in a meaningful way and within the bounds of the organization, include an individual that is a ‘decision maker’. They are your ally at the leadership level that can advocate and move forward the mandate of the D&I committee.

Acknowledging Traditional Territory

First peoples have existed for thousands of years prior to the arrival of Europeans settlers. It has been their custom to acknowledge each other’s traditional territory, and this protocol still exist today. It is important to recognize that Frist Nations, Métis and Inuit have unique relationships with Canada. They hold sovereignty over their traditional territory and are diverse groups with their own histories and culture.

For example, my mother was born in Shoal Lake #4, whose territory extends between the Province of Ontario and Province of Manitoba. Shoal Lake #40 is part of Treaty 3 and of Ojibway heritage. It has been over 100 years since Canada expropriated Shoal Lake #40 reserve land and the City of Winnipeg built the aqueduct which displaced the community to a man-made island. It has been over 20 years since Shoal Lake #40 has been on a boil-water advisory. The boil water order was issued by Health Canada and it requires all community members to boil the water before consumption. When I speak at schools in Winnipeg to raise awareness, many students don’t realize the significate burdens that Shoal Lake #40 carries in providing Winnipeg with fresh water. In recent memory, nine people have died crossing the water or thin ice to access homes. Thankfully, after many years of advocacy and resiliency, in June 2019 Shoal Lake #40 will open their all-seasons road. This road will save lives and restore an economic future for the community.

Acknowledging Indigenous peoples’ territory is a small way of showing respect and recognition of Indigenous people. I encourage philanthropic organizations to reach out to Indigenous people in a respectfully way by including Elders and knowledge keepers to understand the traditional territory where their offices are located and work together in developing proper acknowledgements.

For example, the Association of Fundraising Professionals Manitoba Chapter at Winnipeg events acknowledges the Treaty one traditional territory of the Anishinaabe, Cree, Dene, Dakota and Oji-Cree nations and the homeland of the Métis. My sincere hope is that we can move beyond acknowledgments and together find meaningful ways to support the Truth and Reconciliation calls to action.

Sharon Redsky is AFP Inclusive Giving Fellow and development coordinator with Dakota Ojibway Child and Family Services.

Navigating subtle meaning of words and feelings

Sitting around the table discussing the meaning of words, their power and how important it was to analyze the context of when and where such words were used was a favourite of my bonding times with my mother when I was growing up. She would share the content of her classes with me, while she was a university professor in my hometown in Ecuador.

Growing up with an acute awareness of the power and meaning of words turned me into a conscious communicator and from an early age, an assertive person. I also learned early on the real meaning of the words chosen by people when they were trying to assert power.

At the same time, that awareness made me shy to share what I really thought in many circumstances, fearing to hurt someone else’s feelings.

I remember being brought into the midst of a conflict between my high school friends to solve their misunderstandings; nothing that a little bit of context, word review and meaning, and acknowledgment of feelings would not solve.

Fast forward to my first newcomer/migrant experience and such knowledge had to be quickly put to use. When I would hear an offensive word directed to me or other racialized persons, I repeated to myself “Isabel, remember the context, and you are new to this context. Keep learning, keep calm, continue to be assertive and move on”; resilience was the end game.

It was not only about the words, but it was also the feeling of uneasiness to which I could not attach a word or meaning. I still had to learn so much about bias and discrimination, and in a different language; English.

Bringing that experience to the fundraising profession is another story. As a street fundraiser, while I studied in Madrid in the early 2000s, I thought I had rejection and bias figured out. When you do street fundraising, you know that rejection can be blunt, but add the layers of your skin, your accent and the context of sub-urban Madrid in my case. Hitting my targets was hard, but I did it! What other proof was needed that I could handle rejection?

That proof was not enough when in England after getting down to the final two candidates for that amazing entry-level position at the high-tech company or the management fundraising position at my dream NFP; over and over and over again, the feeling of uneasiness brought me back to square one and made me feel as though I did not belong.

Or the time when in a major donor steering meeting, as tasks and responsibilities were distributed to deploy the major giving strategy, the director lists them all including that I will be limited to clearing tables and washing dishes in a joking manner.

How about the awkward time spent in a networking event where I actively engaged with people, when I aimed to present myself as a strategic leader, accomplished professional and was looking to identify opportunities for collaboration, but instead could not get past explaining to others about my ‘background.’

It felt like there was little I could do to change those situations I would come across in those exchanges, but internally I was changing, and I was burning out.

It has taken many years for me to attach meaning to the words and feelings that bias and discrimination use to present themselves. And mostly it has been possible because I have opened up and found allies and spaces like the AFP Inclusion and Diversity fellowship where I have engaged with people open to discuss and embrace those uncomfortable feelings.

This fellowship has not only been a catalyst to further attach meaning to feelings and words, but an opportunity to also assess my moving and relative privilege, an exercise all of us should undertake as we navigate diverse communities and societies.

As a fundraising professional, I write and speak to build connections and empathy that call for action towards the causes I serve, but most importantly I communicate to move us closer to transformative change.

With this piece I hope as a newcomer to the fundraising profession or as a veteran in it, you felt connected, especially if you have gone through similar life experiences. Please speak up and share them safely; your story can change others’ stories and help them avoid burn-out.

If my experience seems ‘alien’ to you, but still you believe you are and can be an ally for inclusion, I invite you to exercise respectful curiosity and to step into the uncomfortable zone to explore the relativity of privilege.

I cannot promise you will find all the answers to your curiosity, but you will move out of fear towards a sacred space of acknowledgement of your own and others’ dignity. And along the way, you will make the fundraising profession a safer space where all of us who journey through it can belong.

AFP Fellowship Mentorship Experience

I joined the 2018 AFP Fellowship program to increase my knowledge in fundraising and for the mentorship opportunity. I was fortunate to be mentored by Joan Blight, who has over 30 years of experience. Over the past 7 months, Joan and I met several times and I am grateful for her guidance. We decided to share our mentorship experience by answering the questions below.

What was the reason you agreed to participate as a mentee/mentor for the 2018 AFP Fellowship?

Sharon: For me, the mentorship was the most appealing part of the program for my professional development. I was excited to learn that Joan Blight would be my mentor. She is a well respected professional/fundraiser/leader and has the strategic and corporate experience that I hoped to learn.

Joan: I seek to learn more about Indigenous culture and what we can learn from one another about philanthropy. The Indigenous population is under represented in the field of fund development, so I welcomed the opportunity to mentor Sharon, the only Indigenous fellow in this program.

What has the experience taught you as a mentee/mentor?

Sharon: Through this positive mentorship experience I learned how valuable good governance is for organizations in achieving their fundraising goals. A good example of this, is having the board and leadership clearly committed and engaged. With Joan’s wealth of knowledge and insight, I felt that I could have used many more months to spend time learning from her.

Joan: There is a real difference between mentoring and directing. Sometimes it is a very fine line. If a suggestion I offered was not accepted, I learned to leave it alone.

How can diversity and inclusion be encouraged in the sector?

Sharon: I believe we can learn so much by including diverse perspectives and voices into the work of the philanthropic sector. Mentorship is an important way in developing valuable connections. In this fellowship, I have met many talented fellows who are working for the advancement of diversity and inclusion. I would like to see the more opportunities for mentorship and leadership development.

Joan: I think we need to listen and learn from Indigenous people and new Canadians. Are they interested in this sector? What is their passion? Are Indigenous individuals interested in working in Indigenous-led organizations? non-Indigenous-led organizations? What about new Canadians? What is important to them in the workplace?

Ways of encouraging diversity and inclusion:

  • through formalized means such as presentations to organizations’ senior management and engaging human resource personnel
  • through “shared learning” presentations to professional associations such as AFP
  • through mentorship opportunities such as this one
  • through networking with colleagues

Sharon Redsky is First Nation member of Shoal Lake #40 and development coordinator with Dakota Ojibway Child and Family Services.

What does Truth and Reconciliation mean in the philanthropic sector?

As a relatively new member of the Association of Professional Fundraisers, I wanted to gain better insights on how the philanthropic sector understands Truth and Reconciliation. It was through a small questionnaire that I set to do so, and I am grateful to all the participants who completed it and shared their responses with me. This blog presents two of my project’s key findings.

Philanthropic sector has a role

I was pleased to learn that all respondents to the questionnaire felt that the philanthropic sector does have a role in contributing to the work of reconciliation. When asked if they felt satisfied with the philanthropic sectors current action, many felt that more action is required. They also identified the need for additional education and awareness. However, an important step is learning the truth of Canada’s role in the creation of residential schools and a deeper understanding of the long term impact this has on Indigenous people and communities across the country. It is my hope that individuals and organizations will make this kind of education a priority. Many resources are accessible from the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, Reconciliation Canada and the Circle on Philanthropy and Aboriginal Peoples in Canada.

Impact Investing and the recognition of Indigenous voices

Most participants identified as impact investing and the recognition of Indigenous voices as an areas where the philanthropic sector could make the biggest impact. Building on this, is the rise of Indigenous led organizations across the country who are responsive to community needs and provide cultural appropriate services. There is a great opportunity to bridge the work of Indigenous led organizations with the philanthropic impact investment efforts. A good example is the Winnipeg Foundation, who distributing 1.3 million in reconciliation grants to 20 projects that are Indigenous led and some that demonstrated authentic engagement with the Indigenous community. In addition to foundations, many individuals contribute in meaningful ways, one such person is Jennifer Roblin. I met Jennifer while working at a non-for-profit and was inspired by her genuine generosity. Her contributions are not only financial, but she invests her time and energy collecting and distributing winter clothing for Indigenous children and youth living in Winnipeg. While these are just a couple of examples, there are many other ways to contribute to reconciliation, I compiled some in a list in my project’s full report. The report can be found at http://www.afpinclusivegiving.ca/resource/philanthropic-sector-truth-reconciliation/

Reflecting on this project has renewed my efforts in building relationships between the philanthropic sector and Indigenous led organizations to elevate the work of reconciliation.

Sharon Redsky is First Nation member of Shoal Lake #40 and development coordinator with Dakota Ojibway Child and Family Services.

Respectful Curiosity

One of the most beautiful approaches to conflict resolution that I have heard recently came from a podcast that I listened to, where the host, Whitney Johnson, interviewed Dr. Donna Hicks on the topic of disruption. (https://whitneyjohnson.com/donna-hicks/).

In this exchange, Dr. Hicks shared stories of her experience exploring the concept of how at the core of major conflicts lay a deep sense of lost dignity. Dr. Hicks is a Harvard professor and has studied and led mediation initiatives for some of the most relevant modern strife and wars around the world in the past decades and uses these experiences particularly around recognition and protection of all parties’ dignity to build cultures of trust in organizations today.

This expert talked about the acknowledgment of lost dignity as a first step to build trust towards peace and reconciliation and how ‘we are all guardians of dignity, and we owe it to ourselves, others, and the greater good to educate ourselves in the inherent value and worth of everyone around us in order to flourish.’

During my reflection on the idea of lost dignity, I was also reading and exploring the concept of ‘respectful curiosity’, a phrase that I coined in a conversation with a colleague around the topic of how diverse communities bear a high burden when speaking out to discrimination and injustice. How they seem to be penalized and how important it was that people sitting on the fence of understanding these issues – including me on many occasions – should exercise the practice of ‘respectful curiosity.’

I am still developing this concept but as I listened to that podcast, the idea of honouring my own dignity and that of others, the fullness of what I feel ‘respectful’ meant finally came into place.

In the social profit sector, we all seek to redress injustices, undo systemic wrongs and ultimately honour the dignity of those who we serve.

My journey to understanding the deep-rooted displays of racial, gender and socioeconomic injustices in the Canadian context has just started, and the only way I felt I could begin to learn has been through curiosity.

Yes, reading, listening to podcasts and lectures can help but, how can you feel moved to act and speak up and stand up to injustice when you witness it if you have not connected with people with those lived experiences?

And how can we connect with others when our structures seem so homogenous that the systems we are immersed in, are not conducive to connect with others with diverse lived experiences. There is so much that individuals can, and would do, for example setting up collaborative teams that reflect the diversity of participants to tackle organizational challenges, if this is an individual driving change in one department without structural support and acknowledgement in the ample sphere of the organization this practice will not be permanent. Therefore it is paramount that structures shift to build spaces for diverse connections.

Diversity, inclusion and access to power in our sector will require individual actions and systemic transformation. So as an individual I call you to move to a space of no fear through respectful curiosity and to step up your actions for inclusion because you have the power to change the system.

So be curious and ask the tough questions. What can we do to make our team diverse?. How can we bring in our beneficiaries into our decision-making process and truly represent them?. Do managers/leaders have the skills to manage talent that is unlike them? Why is this person not at this table? How can we all learn about addressing and including other’s life experiences without judgement? What did we learn from a diversity and inclusion initiative that died out?

Through this questioning, you will be bearing the burden with your colleagues from small minorities and as you do this, you will not only be guarding their dignity but yours too.

Ready, Set, Go: Empowered Employee Engagement in Fundraising

As 2018 came to an end, resolutions swirling around my head, I began considering how to align my work and personal goals for the year ahead. Knowing that my focus in 2019 would be on a balanced lifestyle where exercise was part of daily life, I decided to ask for advice from a marathon-running colleague on ideas… her response was brilliant, “We should form a team and enter a race!” And so began our undertaking.

First, we needed a reason to form the team and a cause to get behind. As our team would be running in Vancouver, we decided that a local project was appropriate, and in looking at the various projects currently underway at Tides Canada we decided to support The Binner’s Project, a project that empowers binners in Vancouver’s downtown eastside through the creation of a circular economy for the local population.

Next we needed a race! Summer time seemed to work best, and we decided to sign up for a race that would take place early in the summer and would welcome participants with different skill levels, so anyone could take part.

With a cause and race, we next needed to empower our future team members in two ways: training and fundraising. The training was easy, we sourced best-practice materials and began having meetups for prospective team members to run together in pursuit of their goals. The hard part was turning those team members into fundraisers and setting personal goals along with personal strategies for raising the funds. I created a brief workshop and action sheet for team members to learn the basics of reaching out to their networks and the importance of asking with confidence through effective storytelling and the momentum of the crowd.

Today, our team is just getting warmed up as we look toward June. Each member of our growing team has the resources that they need in fundraising and physical training to hit the ground running… excuse the pun.

When thinking about how to apply these lessons to your organization, consider how you can make life easy for those who want to join. We often forget when we put our blood, sweat, and tears into projects, that other people are busy with their own projects and sometimes can feel intimidated in taking on something new: the easier we make it, the easier it is for them to say yes. A good checklist for engaged employee giving must include:

  • A cause that is personal to those engaged and being asked to support the campaign
  • A realistic timeline that allows for thoughtful planning, recruitment, fundraising, training, and some extra time just in case!
  • A guide of best practices for the actions you want team members to take on, especially for fundraising related activities
  • A worksheet for team members to check in on, to set goals and assess progress
  • Time to celebrate the victories along the way, on the day itself, and to thank and check in with everyone after the event

Employee engagement is a great way to turn your fellow staff into volunteer fundraisers, and if you can align your fundraising with a personal mission or goal, that’s a true win-win.

Trevor Loke is development manager at Tides Canada Foundation and principal of Trevor Loke Consulting

Ecotourism: A Community-led Model for Success

My work at Tides Canada, the largest intermediary foundation in the country, positions me uniquely in the simultaneous worlds of community and funders. Working with communities to scope out opportunities for impactful philanthropic projects that meet community-sourced needs through community-led solutions is an approach which has demonstrated success in building trust and deep relationships between funders and grantees. Structuring funding mechanisms with strategic partners to see the project through from inception to completion, or to sustain it in perpetuity depending upon the case, only furthers this relationship. Our work as an organization has led to a wide range of initiatives across Canada to form in this community-led way, the latest opportunity being an exciting new foray into ecotourism.

In late 2017, a donor of Tides Canada conceived the idea of using our unique model to build a new collaborative granting program designed to advance ecotourism in Indigenous communities across Canada. The donor committed to fund a significant portion of the work and give to the fund, but first we needed to figure out whether this was a needed opportunity, where the needs existed, how the needs tied to philanthropy, and how such a program could be funded.

Over the next year we began working with communities where our relationships exist, to inquire about work in the ecotourism space. As it turns out, the conversation was incredibly timely for communities in geographies across Canada, particularly on British Columbia’s central and north coast.

After meeting with communities, we took our work to select philanthropists to get their feedback on the next steps to build an impactful program in ecotourism. Their advice was to dive deeper into the work, to build networks where the most viable projects existed, and to invite a broader network of funders and partners to the table to engage in the process of building this new program. We took the advice and ran with it.

In November 2018, we held the Indigenous-led Ecotourism Summit in Port Hardy at BC’s Kwa’lilas Hotel—a successful Indigenous owned and operated tourism business—with invited community and prospective funding partners over two days of facilitated discussions to define the need for the program. The group defined three key areas of need to attract a diverse range of funders that could support the work:

  1. Language, arts, and culture
  2. Skills training
  3. Community economic development

Based upon the above defined areas, Tides Canada held a webinar attended by 30 participants – mostly prospective funders – in December 2018 to discuss the highlighted areas and hear directly from community leaders working in the space about why these areas were critical for the success of these projects.

Following the webinar, our team at Tides Canada has been hard at work to take the feedback we’ve heard and begin sourcing a recommended pilot project to build a structure around. By testing our assumptions and building a coalition of funders to see the first part this program through, we hope to build a full-scale national program that can deliver exciting new community-led opportunities from coast to coast to coast.

Organizations can gather from this experience, that knowing all of the answers is not possible or necessary for success, instead, handing control to those who will benefit from the work empowers better decision-making, outcomes, and relationships. As fundraisers, we can demonstrate that by bringing community to the decision-making table, we will raise more money from more sustainable partnerships over the long-term while building the reputations of ourselves and our organizations as trusted friends of the communities we help to support.

A Global Approach in the Era of Skepticism

Last year I had the privilege of visiting Europe as part of a delegation of Canadians furthering Transatlantic relations. As part of the delegation, I was the lone representative of civil society amongst a sea of bureaucrats, businesspeople, academics, and politicians, giving unique insight into the conversations taking place on the range of topics that were part of our programme.

Our visit began in Berlin with the awarding of the prestigious Eric M. Warburg award to Canadian Foreign Minister Hon. Chrystia Freeland by German thinktank Atlantik-Brücke for Canada’s role in advancing human rights and multilateralism on the world stage. This too provided unique insight, in seeing Canada’s brand on full display to a European audience.

Young diplomats of Canada meet with Peter Beyer, member of the German Bundestag (CDU) and Coordinator, Transatlantic Relations at the German Foreign Office

Throughout the journey, recurring themes were the focus of discussion, but the topic which held most relevance to my role in philanthropy was this: multilateralism is increasingly under threat and must be proactively advanced if we are to continue a cooperative approach to our affairs on the world stage. If we do not, global institutions will be undermined by populist forces and rule-of-law will be interpreted by the hegemonic superpower of the day. As philanthropic professionals, practitioners of the advancement of the common good of our humanity, we should all be concerned by forces that threaten partnerships and cooperation that bring us together, and wedge us apart in the process.

It was also a reminder that we have many friends in the world. While we see conflict and disagreement with some nations today, in Canada’s case with Saudi Arabia and China most notably, we have also seen new opportunities for cooperation to advance common values and outcomes. Whether our philanthropy is focused on a climate crisis that sees no borders, or on international aid, or on education and the rights of women, or otherwise, we all have a calling to resist turning back the clock on human rights, environmental protection, social services, health care, or the other advancements that we have made together.

Today it is harder than in recent memory to take a message to the wider world, because of our increasingly polarized society. Philanthropists from George Soros to Warren Buffett, who have donated billions of dollars of their own self-made money, are subject to conspiracy theory accusations of political agendas through their philanthropy. Unfortunately, we have reached a point where the very belief in a rules-based order, in democratic process, in decency, have become a political stance rather than the societal custom we have taken for granted.

Even still, we cannot allow the attacks and polarization to take away from our missions toward a better, more inclusive society. The good news is that we have many friends in the world who share our beliefs, and by working together, now more than ever, we can rise to the challenge and continue to push our humanity forward despite the tide of populism.

As our delegation sat around the conference room of the Canadian Embassy, Minister Freeland spoke about the successes that Canada has had. CETA and USMCA on the trade side, lifted visa restrictions and increased opportunities for exchange of professionals and students, and cooperation with our allies around the world to defend institutions like the United Nations, WTO, World Bank, WHO, IMF, and others that are under pressure by the United States government. Her point was that despite these setbacks, Canada remains a player on the global stage, ready to partner with NGOs and businesses and governments to work toward common goals in our common interests.

The experience of being in Germany and having discussions about Canada’s role in the world impacted me significantly. Knowing that the values we stand for – democracy, human rights, universal healthcare, and multiculturalism to name some examples – provides a light for other nations, including those which have experienced the horrors of fascism, to see possibility and opportunity through our pursuit of an open and just society. So many of us not only believe in these values, we depend upon them. The choice now is whether to continue our advancement of humanity, the very meaning of philanthropy, or whether we will be complicit as silent actors as forces of populism push back against our progress.