Philab Network

Who are we?

The Canadian network of partnership-oriented research on philanthropy (PhiLab), previously called the Montreal Research Laboratory on Canadian philanthropy, was thought up in 2014 as part of the conception of a funding request by the SSHRC partnership development project called “Social innovation, social change, and Canadian Grantmaking Foundations”. From its beginning, the Network was a place for research, information exchange and mobilization of Canadian foundations’ knowledge. Research conducted in partnership allows for the co-production of new knowledge dedicated to a diversity of actors: government representatives, university researchers, representatives of the philanthropic sector and their affiliate organizations or partners.

The project’s headquarters are located in downtown Montreal, on the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) campus.

The Network brings together researchers, decision-makers and members of the philanthropic community from around the world in order to share information, resources, and ideas.


PhiLab’s research partnership stance

Created in 2014, in the wake of partnership funding obtained by the National Research Council Canada (NRCC), the Network continues to conduct both action research and fundamental research activities on themes, questions, and issues related to the history and development of philanthropy in Canada, with comparisons to foreign philanthropy.

The stance adopted in conducting PhiLab’s activities is inspired by theoretical input from the first thinkers of the United States pragmatic approach and methodological developments proposed by the ATD Fourth World organization.

From pragmatism, we retain the idea that the reflection on and production of knowledge cannot be disassociated from the action and that action relies on the mobilization of reflection capacities and existing knowledge. According to this perspective, the stage of society’s development requires a close connection between “thought and action”.

Concretely, for the research world, this stance requires a close proximity with what John Dewey (1938) deems as the “public” of social inquiry. Just as concretely, for the world of action, this stance implies a committed and engaging exchange between the field actors and members of the scientific community. The product of this meeting – John Commons (1934) speaks of this combination in terms of social transactions – allows for the combining of and coproduction of knowledge and the combination of practices all the while paying a particular attention to power dynamics and their necessary termination. The idea is to work in the inclusivity of perspectives, points of view and interests without them being trivialized or overshadowed.

Does this mean that every research or action in the field must imply the presence of researchers and actors? Not necessarily. Science, for example, has a particular mission, which includes the development of fundamental research, of research “with…”, as well as applied research. This mission thus asks the scientific community to have different workspaces with one, that of fundamental research, being mainly occupied by university researchers, to whom can be associated, on occasion, non-university researchers.

We devised PhiLab as a place where the scientific mission is utilized, as much in its fundamental, collaborative (with…) and applied dimensions. You will find on PhiLab’s website contributions from:

  • researchers on issues of fundamental research;
  • actors of the philanthropic sector (memoirs, position pieces) on issues that move them;
  • and co-constructed contributions, thanks to a process of action research, collaborative research or of partnership-oriented research.