Sense of place and the potential to build a stronger philanthropic network in Newfoundland and Labrador

Par Brady Reid , Coordonnateur Hub Atlantique
26 février 2020
Sense of Place and Philanthropy in Newfoundland and Labrador

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

Newfoundland and Labrador joined Canada as its tenth province in 1949. As Canada’s youngest province, many of the older generation in NL still have memories of Newfoundland before Confederation: my grandparents tell me stories of their childhood in the Dominion of Newfoundland before it joined with Canada! This sentiment of “othering” themselves from the mainland country has contributed to a unique sense of place for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians (Manning, 2017). As a complicated and meaning-filled term, sense of place encompasses many aspects of socio-cultural attachment of people to place. This editorial defines sense of place, explores the prevalence of sense of place within Newfoundland and Labrador, and questions whether sense of place can facilitate a more engaged philanthropic landscape.

The definition of a place has been characterized as a wide-reaching inclusive term that holds an array of connotation and meaning. Cross (2015) attempts to succinctly define place as “space that has been imbued with meaning through personal, group, and cultural processes” (p. 494). In essence, Cross (2015) positions place as more than simply a geographical location found on a map. Place includes inhabitants who, subsequently, attribute meaning back to the place they inhabit. Similarly, Long and Perkins (2007) highlight that social processes are “inextricably bound to the places in which they are enacted” (p. 564). Therefore, aspects of the social are directly informed and perpetuated within a “place.” Finally, Shamai (1991) attributes place as part of a larger whole, not simply an object or location. Place is not a location, instead it is experienced through meaningful events and memories made. Shamai (1991) asserts that a person is somehow linked with place, whereby “the person gives the place its meaning, but in return received the place’s meaning” (p. 355). Sense of Place and Philanthropy in Newfoundland and Labrador

In order to develop place-attachment, Shamai (1991) argues that “long and deep experience of a place, and preferably involvement in the place” (p. 348) is necessary. This excerpt is particularly interesting because it highlights the notion of involvement in a place. While other scholars posit that self-identity and meaning are attributed to a particular place through experience, Shamai (1991) dives deeper into the notion of attachment. A sense of place becomes stronger with involvement in a place and, as such, it can be inferred that the reverse is true, with an increase in involvement resulting from a stronger sense of place. This final notion of involvement is relevant when considering the implications that sense of place may have on a community with regards to development and decision-making as more meaningful participation may occur among stakeholders.

Newfoundland and Labrador Sense of Place and Philanthropy          

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are known as having a “legendary” sense of place to their communities (Beckley, Stedman, Wallace and Ambard, 2007). Brinklow (2013) states “usually the residents on the island are thought to be peripheral and are looked down upon by continental mainlanders” (p. 50). The notion of being “othered” to the rest of the country could be one factor leading to NL boasting an extremely unique and strong sense of place. While reasons behind this heightened sense of place are unknown, it is indisputable that NL offers a unique opportunity to understand, measure and potentially harness sense of place (Beckley et al., 2007; Gregory, 2006; Norman and Power, 2016). For example, Gregory (2006) states that while most people who live on the Island are descendants of Irish and English immigrants, “nowadays, they [Newfoundlanders] view themselves as Newfoundlanders first and foremost” (p. 1). In their study, Gregory (2006) attempts to understand when the change from old (European) to new (Newfoundland) identity happened in a given community. Gregory (2006) used song texts in Newfoundland to gauge this change.

Several studies have also shown that sense of place permeates through many intersectional aspects of life and society in Newfoundland and Labrador with unique experiences for women and youth in the province.

In Marshall and Foster (2002), the authors explore the role that place played in the migration of thirty-five Newfoundland families in 1999-2000 to New Brunswick. This article explores the migration experience for these families and highlighted several hesitations upon moving. For example, one teenage girl stated that she was not interested in joining in youth culture in her new community in New Brunswick while an older gentleman scoffed at the hunting in New Brunswick and compared it to hunting at home. The cultural understandings that these people grew up understanding in Newfoundland reinforced, as Marshall and Foster (2002) posit, the families’ hesitations to assimilate or participate in new activities in New Brunswick. Even away from home, people’s cultural ties to Newfoundland as their place of origin remain strong.

Jackson et al. (2007) note that “much of the literature on attachment to place centers on adults, perhaps because adults have had more time to develop this attachment; however, our research suggests that youth, too, have a strong attachment to place that is central to their feelings of wellness and perception of identity” (p. 85). In broad terms, Jackson et al. (2007) explain that it is important to include all ages when considering sense of place, as it is seen in NL, sense of place and its role in identity begins to develop at an early age and is passed on from previous generations.

Norman and Power (2016) conducted research in a small town on the southwest coast of Newfoundland and highlighted that “many of the young women described wanting to leave for more populated areas, but even then few spoke about wanting to leave the island of Newfoundland” (p. 53). This excerpt demonstrates that despite often difficult living conditions, few people from rural areas on the island wish to out-migrate, there is some attachment to place that exists that pulls them to stay on the island. How exactly can researchers or practitioners measure sense of place in Newfoundland and Labrador to facilitate deeper engagement within the philanthropic landscape?

Porter (2015) and Eledi, Minnes, and Vodden (2017) connect the concept of sense of place to community development, particularly to the notion of social mobility and engagement and awareness of policy or programming. Indeed, Barrett and Gibson (2014) note in their examination of community foundations in Atlantic Canada that “no community foundation expressed their community/region had a high awareness of their organization” (p. 35). Like Eledi et al. (2017), a lack of awareness surrounding the policies and programs within the philanthropic sector persists in Atlantic Canada, and perhaps shifting the conversation to focus on sense of place can effectively navigate this gap between community and community foundation.

This editorial is part of our special edition on Philanthropy and Sense of Place.

What role does sense of place play in your own community or for your foundation? We would love to hear your thoughts and feedback! Write to us at

Newfoundland and Labrador Sense of Place and Philanthropy   



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