Research Projects

The Canadian Philanthropy Partnership Research Network (PhiLab) received funding from the SSHRC under the name “Evaluation of the role and actions of Canadian grantmaking foundations in response to social inequalities and environmental challenges.”

The PhiLab Network supports three types of research along 5 research axes:

  1. Canadian National Sectoral research conducted by partnership research teams, supported by PhiLab’s administrative team. Some research projects are led by the Indigenous Research Cluster. The supervisors of National-level research are the PhiLab-SSHRC co-directors: Peter R. Elson and Jean-Marc Fontan. These research projects cover, amongst other subjects: Responsible finance practices; portraits on grantmaking philanthropy; the social impacts of grantmaking philanthropic action; the environmental impacts of grantmaking philanthropic action; the philanthropy / First Nations connection through a postcolonial and decolonization perspective.
  2. Regional Research is conducted by partnership-oriented research teams, supported by their Regional Hub (4 Regional Hubs: Western, Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic). PhiLab also supports their affiiate international research units (4 international units: France, USA, Latin America, Africa). These research projects mostly focus on landscaping of regional and sectoral philanthropy.
  3. Theoretical Research focuses on comparative studies and analyses that help foster a systemic and theoretical understanding of philanthropy. Theoretical research is supported by PhiLab’s administrative team. Each project has a theoretical aim: Historical analysis, typologies, central concepts, systemic or comparative analyses.

 

Axis 1: Reflections on Philanthropic Theory
Common Capital? Collaboration between philanthropic foundations and Bâtiment 7

Quebec Hub

Project Supervisor: Sylvain A. Lefèvre

Main Partner: Jacques Bordeleau (Béati)

Team members: David Grant-Poitras

Project Description: Self-directed by Collectif 7 à nous, Bâtiment 7 is a collective property, located in Pointe Saint-Charles in Montreal. It hosts several services, all adapted to the neighbourhood’s realities in an inclusive perspective, based on the sharing and pooling of resources. A hotspot for services, artistic, cultural, social and political activities, they now have a solidarity-based grocery store, brewery, foundry, woodworking shop, car and bike mechanic workshops, a space for local youth and a health center. More developments are to come in order to offer workspaces and services to the local population while guaranteeing access to all, and a focus on marginalized and impoverished individuals. B7 aims at fostering a space for experimentation and learning to promote autonomy and interdependence. They do so under a horizontal democratic and inclusive management system and positions themselves as in solidarity and committed to other fights for social justice and collective reappropriation of neighbourhoods and cities. How to wrap our heads around the fact that an initiative like Bâtiment 7, who explicitly position themselves with the “collective” and influenced by an anarchist philosophy, would seek support from private foundations? This research project seeks to shed light on the necessary conditions for this type of collaboration to be possible from a social, economic and political standpoint, as well as its challenges.

Impact of operational funding

Ontario Hub

Project Supervisor: Susan Phillips

Partners: United Way of Greater Toronto

Project Description: This proposal is a collaboration of the United Way of Greater Toronto, PhiLab and the research team of the SSHRC Insight Grant on Financing Charities (Susan Phillips, PI) with the aim of studying the effects of sustained operational funding on human service charities over a fifteen-year period. The core research team would be: Susan Phillips and Nathan Grasse, Carleton University; Jesse Lecy, Arizona State University; Julia Carboni, Syracuse University; and Iryna Khovrenkov, University of Regina. Our request to the PhiLab partnership grant is for funds for a Ph.D. student to assist in data analysis from mid-June to mid-December 2019, with the funds to be held by Susan Phillips at Carleton University. This project examines the effects of sustained operational funding on human service nonprofits over a fifteen-year period relative to comparable organizations that lacked such support as a component of their grants.

Impact investing/ finance responsable

National Research

Project Supervisor : Marguerite Mendell

Team Members : Nancy Pole et David Grant-Poitras

The impacts of grantmaking philanthropy

National Research

Project Supervisor : Marie Bouchard

Team Members Nancy Pole

Partners : Tiess

Philanthropy and Regulatory Questions

National Research

Project Supervisor : Kathryn Chan

Axis 2 : Innovative philanthropic research methods
Professional Co-development group: An educational approach and research method

Quebec Hub

Project Supervisor: Nathalie Lafranchise

Team members: Maxime Paquet, Wendy Reid, Amélie Bruneau-David.

Partners: PhiLab, CISSS de Laval, CISSS du Bas-Saint-Laurent, CISSS de l’Abitibi-Témiscamingue, CISSS de l’Outaouais, CIUSSS Capitale-Nationale, Fédération Québécoise des médecins omnipraticiens, Clinique Pure, Confédération des syndicats nationaux, Fédération Québécoise des coopératives scolaires, Associations des administratrices et des administrateurs de recherche universitaire du Québec, Revenu Canada, Transport Canada, HEC Montréal, Polytechnique Montréal, Coach Évolution, Association Québécoise de Codéveloppement Professionnel, Mentorat Québec. Fonds de recherche participant : Deux subventions obtenues par le CRSH, dans le cadre du concours Développement de partenariat. (2013-2016; 2017-2020)

Project Description: The research team has been studying, since 2013, the optimization of individual and organizational impacts of professional co-development groups (PCG). The PCG is an educational approach comprising of small groups and an animator. It is based on a seven-step structure focused on interactions as well as individual and collective brainstorming, with the aim of facilitating learning and improving practices. When the group’s objectives are aligned with the organization’s strategic plan or that of one of their services, a PCG can support a change, transformation or innovation. PCG allows to dig deeper into situations by questioning them and benefiting from collective intelligence. The proposed method, along with the learning perspective adopted by PCG contributes to the production of new knowledge within the group. PCG is thus also a way of advancing knowledge on a particular subject, such as philanthropy, or more specifically, on its issues and methods for example. Our research will first focus on defining PCGs, articulating its structure and highlighting its conditions for success. Second, we will present the results of our research on the knowledge and competences being developed in our participating groups.

Axis 3 : Sectoral or regional portraits of philanthropy
Professional portraits and practices in philanthropic management in Quebec

Quebec Hub

Project Supervisor: Caroline Bergeron

Team Member: Diane Alalouf-Hall

Partners: APGP et FEP UdeM

Description:

This project falls under PhiLab’s second research axis which seeks to understand and explain the relational processes that exist between the actors of the philanthropic sector. Our project targets a specific category of actors: that of professionals who work in philanthropic development and fundraising within nonprofit organizations and registered charities. Key professionals in supporting both the mission and programs of organizations, these philanthropic funding experts form a group that advocates for the recognition of their professional expertise in a context of low resources and of incomprehension of their needs.

This project aims at better understanding the professional practices and strategies of experts working in philanthropic development and fundraising in the nonprofit and charitable sector. More specifically, the project aims to discover the profiles of philanthropic management professionals.

Preliminary results of the research project “Philanthropic management professionals” Caroline Bergeron and Diane Alalouf-Hall (May 2019) (In French only)

Presentation at AQOCI, February 13 2020, Have we really grasped women’s potential in the philanthropic sector?, Diane Alalouf-Hall 

How do public image and organizational communication determine the philanthropic practices of tourism organizations?

Quebec Hub

Project Supervisor: Élisabeth Robinot

Team member: David Zaragoza-Sanchez

Partner: Fondation Tourisme Jeunesse

Project Description:

The global objective of this research project is to continue developing knowledge of philanthropic practices in the tourism industry. We will do so by assigning special importance to the public image dimension of the industry as well as organizational communication related to the impact of social and environmental critiques of the tourism industry. The current project stems from the results and questions that arose from a first phase of research, also funded by PhiLab, of which the results are still being prepared. This first phase allowed us to identify that public image and communications were influencing factors of philanthropic practices. The project we are now proposing will allow us to produce supporting content (a literature review) for a second SSHRC funding request in the Fall of 2020.

This phase is divided in two phases:

  • Phase (1) supported by PhiLab will allow for the preparation of a literature review
  • Phase (2) supported by the Youth Travel Foundation will focus on help accessing the research terrain as well as the validation and dissemination of knowledge.

The benefits of this research project are two-fold. On the one hand, the research will fill an academic void, as research on philanthropy are rare in the tourism literature. On the other hand, from a practical standpoint, our contribution aims to improve the efficiency of corporate philanthropic strategies in communications.

Exploratory study on operational costs of Canadian grantmaking foundations in Quebec

Quebec Hub

Project Supervisor: Jean-Marc Fontan

Team Member: Antoine Gervais

Partner: Fondation Béati

Project Description:

This study is the output of a collaboration between PhiLab’s Quebec Hub and the Béati Foundation. The research project is under the supervision of Jean-Marc Fontan (UQAM, Sociology) and Jacques Bordeleau (Béati Foundation). The purpose of the project is to evaluate the weight of operational costs on a foundation’s global budget.

How to establish if a philanthropic foundation is well-managed? Is it by using the donations it receives in an “optimal and responsible” way, in order to accomplish its mission and bring the public the greatest “tangible advantage”? Often, the media will use financial ratios to judge the management or performance of an organization, the first one being operational costs: what percentage of my donations goes to paying wages, rent or other administrative costs? The media refer to these numbers periodically during investigations of the philanthropic sector, using them to identify model or delinquent organizations, depending on their interpretation of said ratio. In general, the lower the ratio (under 35% usually), more an organization will be considered well-managed, and the opposite if it is high. But what about the facts? What exactly do we mean by operational or administrative costs? Are there foundation-specific characteristics (type, size, mission, etc.) that affect this ratio, and how?

Philanthropic support for Canadian journalism: A road map

Ontario Hub

Project Supervisor: April Lindgren

Project Description:  Philanthropy and the media in Ontario.

Rural Philanthropy: Mapping patterns of charitable giving in NL and the Atlantic Region

Atlantic Hub

Project Supervisor: Kelly Vodden

Team members: Leith Deacon, Darren Sheppard (Indian Bay Ecosystem Corporation), Miranda Ivany

Partners: Indian Bay Ecosystem Corporation (IBEC)

Project Description: The objective of this proposal is to contribute to knowledge generation in the philanthropic landscape of rural Newfoundland and Labrador (NL). We seek to map existing patterns of giving in NL and the Atlantic region, as well as to understand how the underlying cultural and historical contexts of these regions influence individual’s perceptions of the environmental sector and the potential implications it may have for philanthropic opportunities in this sector as a whole. More specifically, we will employ a case-study approach to examine the nature of philanthropic giving in the environmental sector to determine the potential for and the suitability of obtaining a charitable designation for small ENGOs in NL as a means of entering into the philanthropic ecosystem. Results will be used to enable the Indian Bay Ecosystem Corporation (IBEC) to make an informed decision about their charitable status and the implications on their organization’s long-term sustainability. Further, this case study will be used to explore the nascent nature of philanthropic giving in the environmental sector in both NL, and in Atlantic Canada  as a whole by providing a curated set of examples and explanations which help provide an understanding of the unique challenges and barriers (and perhaps opportunities) that exist for small rural ENGOs in NL and Atlantic Canada. Knowledge gained from the IBEC experience will be documented and widely shared within both the ENGO community in NL and Atlantic Canada more broadly through the PhiLab Atlantic Hub to help ENGOs that are going through, or may go through, a similar decision-making process in the future. Given the currently limited nature of philanthropic giving within the province, this project and the understanding to be gained is expected to be particularly important.

Indigenous Philanthropy

Indigenous Research Hub

Project Supervisor : Peter R. Elson

Team member : Juniper Glass

Partner: The Circle on Philanthropy and Aboriginal Peoples in Canada

The Carnegie Foundation and Canadian Higher Education

Centre Régional de l’Ouest

Project supervisorDavid Peacock, Western Hub researcher, Community Service-Learning Director, University of Alberta

Team members: Professor Matthew Johnson, Ph.D., Director, Carnegie Foundation

Partner: The Carnegie Foundation

Project Description: The purpose of this research project is to work collaboratively with the Carnegie Foundation for Teaching and Learning to research in more detail the extent of its investments in Canadian higher education (including rationales, funding, partners and legacy).  Such knowledge may assist putting into historical perspective the current Community Engagement Classification project, and situate this work within a longer-term trajectory of American influence and capacity building for the sector.

This knowledge may in turn be of use to the PhiLab as it examines more broadly the role of foundations more generally within Canada, and the work they have undertaken in co-creating the communities and political economies that have come to define the Canadian state and its nations.

United Ways Alberta and Manitoba and Emergency Management

Western Hub

Project Supervisor : Lynn Gidluck, Coordinator, Community Research Unit, University of Regina

Team members: Robyn Edwards-Bentz, CEO of the United Way of Regina and Brendan Anderson.

Partners:

  • United Ways in Alberta and Manitoba;
  • Red Cross Canada, BC and Alberta;
  • Municipal and provincial natural disaster preparation teams.

The purpose of this research project is to determine the extent to which 211 data can play a role in identifying trends of previous disaster responses to help in shaping the response of future disasters; whether United Ways, through their support of 211, can help build up sector capacity, lead to greater collaboration, coordination and connections by linking community organizations together prior to disaster striking; and if there is potential for integration of 211 with provincial emergency management agencies.

There is also a national research aspect.

Study of the Graham Boeckh Foundation

Project Supervisor: Lucie Dumais

Team Members : Jean-Marc Fontan, Tareq Hardan

Partners: PFC

Project Description: This is an exploratory research project led by PhiLab in collaboration with GBF resources. The team intends to produce a research paper focused on: (1) a portrait of the Foundation, from its founding to today. The portrait will present both an analytical and descriptive dimension focused on the Foundation’s activities; (2) A case study on one of the Foundation’s projects: Integrated Youth Services initiative in British-Colombia known as the Foundry model. We aim to define the project’s main characteristics: historic elements; description of the model; and the collaborations that took place between different actors within the project, including the province’s public legislator.

Axis 4 : Philanthropy and Social Justice
Civic engagement in the construction of alternative food supplies: the case of Montreal

Quebec Hub

Project Supervisor: René Audet

Team members: Eliane Brisebois, Katia Scherer

Partners: Système alimentaire montréalais (SAM)

Project Description: The development of alternative food systems illustrates the social and environmental transition happening in the food sector. These systems collectively develop more sustainable economies and food supply chains, meaning they are “economically viable, socially sustainable and ecologically responsible”. This is the case in Montreal, where short-circuit initiatives coordinate through a network covering different territorial levels. These initiatives are breeding grounds for the emergence of social innovation and new forms of organizations and practices (Seyfang, 2006). In fact, these initiatives favour a more active version of political consumption by favouring food citizenship practices that feed, in exchange, the alternative food network in different ways. Given that the practices associated with food citizenship contribute to directing food economies towards principles of justice, sustainability and equity, the role of these practices in the conciliation between food accessibility and environmentally-friendly food systems deserve to be studied. What food citizenship practices exist in Montreal? What relationships exist between these practices and the social and environmental transition? In order to answer these questions, we are looking at the dynamic relationship between food citizenship and short-circuit supply chains. First of all, we hope to better understand how food citizenship manifests itself in people’s lives through individual and collective actions towards the implementation of short-circuits. Second of all, we hope to understand the participation of food citizenship in the social and environmental transformations taking place in Montreal’s food system.

Diversity, equity and inclusion from the ground up

National Research

Project Supervisor: Jean-Marc Fontan

Team Members: Adam Saifer

Partners: Philanthropic Foundations Canada (PFC)

Project Description:

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives are becoming more and more common in the Canadian philanthropic sector. However, existing studies on DEI in the sector have followed a top-down approach by focusing on: 1) Foundation policies and practices as defined by their employees or administrators, or on 2) data collected by foundations regarding their donees. We thus have limited information on the perspectives of donees working on questions of equity regarding the integration of DEI principles by foundations.

As of February 2020, Philanthropic Foundations Canada will be working with PhiLab and the Fondation Chagnon on a research project that aims to fill the knowledge gap. This project, called “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion from the ground up: The experience of donees working towards Equity in the Canadian Philanthropic Sector” will be led by Adam Saifer, Ph.D. in Cultural Studies and Jean-Marc Fontan, Pd.D. in Sociology.

Through in-depth interviews with leaders of Canadian equity-focused organizations who receive philanthropic funds, this project:

  • Will document the difficulties faced by donees, as well as their successes, in implementing a DEI centred framework, by emphasizing their experience with receiving foundation grants, collaborating with foundations and demonstrating results to foundations;
  • Will look into methods adopted by grantees to face, overcome or fight against these obstacles and difficulties;
  • Examine how this first-hand information can help foundations and professionals of the sector to better support equity-focused grantees through novel approaches to elaborate policies, programs and advocacy work.

This project will take place over a twelve-month period and will generate a series of reports, presentations and articles that will all be communicated to PFC members.

 

Axis 5: Philanthropy and Environmental Justice
Foundations and the Transition to a Future Good for People, Planet and Place: Partnership development and initial research

National Research

Project Supervisor: Jean-Marc Fontan

Team Members: René Audet, Juniper Glass, Edouard Morena and Jacqueline Colting-Stol.

Partners: Environment Funders Canada; Philanthropic Foundations Canada (PFC), Ines Chaalala; EDGE Funders Alliance, Arianne Shaffer; McConnell Foundation, Nicolina Farella and Annie Bérubé

Project Description:

 Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives are becoming more and more common in the Canadian philanthropic sector. However, existing studies on DEI in the sector have followed a top-down approach by focusing on: 1) Foundation policies and practices as defined by their employees or administrators, or on 2) data collected by foundations regarding their donees. We thus have limited information on the perspectives of donees working on questions of equity regarding the integration of DEI principles by foundations.

As of February 2020, Philanthropic Foundations Canada will be working with PhiLab and the Fondation Chagnon on a research project that aims to fill the knowledge gap. This project, called “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion from the ground up: The experience of donees working towards Equity in the Canadian Philanthropic Sector” will be led by Adam Saifer, Ph.D. in Cultural Studies and Jean-Marc Fontan, Pd.D. in Sociology.

Through in-depth interviews with leaders of Canadian equity-focused organizations who receive philanthropic funds, this project:

  • Will document the difficulties faced by donees, as well as their successes, in implementing a DEI centred framework, by emphasizing their experience with receiving foundation grants, collaborating with foundations and demonstrating results to foundations;
  • Will look into methods adopted by grantees to face, overcome or fight against these obstacles and difficulties;
  • Examine how this first-hand information can help foundations and professionals of the sector to better support equity-focused grantees through novel approaches to elaborate policies, programs and advocacy work.

This project will take place over a twelve month period and will generate a series of reports, presentations and articles that will all be communicated to PFC members.

 

Faced with the urgency of climate change and social inequalities, what is the role of grantmaking foundations? The majority of foundations directed by settlers in Canada do not seem preoccupied by the reorientation of their practices and philanthropic investments to support a just transition – in other words, towards a future that is good for people, the planet and place. The Environment Funders Network and other actors of the philanthropic sector ask themselves how foundations can contribute to more rapid and more significant changes in terms of culture and practices. This partnership-forming project will mobilize both existing partners and others to discuss and define a research program around this subject. The activities will include video conferences and a gathering of local and international foundations with EDGE Funders Alliance in Montreal in November 2019. In addition, the project will include an initial gray and academic literature review on the main frameworks of transition, including “just transition”, which could be used to analyze the role of foundations in such a societal transformation. The project will also start collecting information on participation and education activities of Canadian settler-led philanthropy in support of culture and practice change. 

Finally, the project will call upon partners to elaborate a research plan to be presented to PhiLab for funding and support. This first phase is a first step in what will become a multi-phase and multi-actor initiative, as many actors are already active or will have to be mobilized to support a more in-depth change among foundations.

Research Objectives

  • Get Canadian philanthropic networks and foundations to participate in the elaboration of a research program on the role of foundations in a socio-environmental and economic just transition.
  • Produce an analysis that identifies the main frameworks of socio-environmental and economic transition, including “just transition”, that could be used in future research activities and foundation interventions. 
  • Collect initial information on approaches and activities already in place and tested to influence the culture and state of mind of settler-led philanthropic organizations towards a just transition.
  • Elaborate a research plan and project proposal to present to PhiLab.

The role of philanthropic activity in supporting social sustainability in rural Newfoundland

Atlantic Hub

Project Supervisor: Roza Tchoukaleyska

Team Members: Joan Cranston (Bonne Bay Cottage Hospital Heritage Corporation) , Dawn Pittman (Western Regional School of Nursing) et Samantha Young (Étudiante).

Partners: Bonne Bay Cottage Hospital Heritage Corporation

Project Description: This project will examine the role of philanthropic activity in supporting social sustainability in rural Newfoundland. A new health care social enterprise is being established in the town of Port aux Choix and the region of the Great Northern Peninsula. Through this project we will examine the potential of this social enterprise to spur philanthropic giving, create new partnerships with grant making foundations, and identify new models for community-based service provision in rural areas.

Case studies on private foundations contributing to sustainable development goals (SDGs) in Canada in innovative ways

National Research

Project Supervisor: Jean-Marc Fontan

Team Members: Marta Rey-Garcia, and Rosane dal Magro

Partners: UDC, Canadian Environmental Grantmakers’ Network (CEGN)

Project Description: The project aims at understanding why, how and with which results private foundations can contribute to the SDGs in innovative ways. To our knowledge, there are no published studies attempting at empirical verification of the contribution of private foundations to SDGs. The goal of the project is to undertake a multiple case study of three/four private foundations (necessarily endowed; preferably corporate ones, for the sake of future international comparability) that are considered as best practices for their contribution to SDGs in Canada in innovative ways. The main headquarters of the foundation need not be in Canada: an international foundation with local activity in Canada could be included in the study.

The case studies will feedback Prof. Rey-Garcia own research project while at UQAM as a visiting researcher, entitled “Philanthropy oriented towards social innovation: antecedents, enablers and effects”. The latter self-funded research project combines theoretical and empirical research, in order to produce, validate and test the conceptual framework. During her visiting research at UQAM, she will use such conceptual framework to structure the interview questionnaire towards the case studies. After her visiting research at UQAM, Prof. Rey-Garcia’s project will feed back, in its turn, PhiLab future comparative research.

Thus the short-term goal of the project is to pilot a multiple case study (3-4 private foundations and their respective ecosystems). Its long-term goal is to produce comparative study tools that can be used in future collaborative projects between PhiLab and UDC.