Adriana Beemans

Poste occupé:
Inclusive Local Economies Program Director
Metcalf Foundation
Type de formation (1):
Formation universitaire (Maitrise)
Programme de formation (1):
Masters in Political Science
Types de professionnel-le:
Professionnels-les dans les OBNL et OBE
Secteurs d'organisation:
Art et culture, Avancement de l’éducation, Environnement et développement durable
Types d'organisation:
Fondations privées

Can you present yourself?

I am the Inclusive Local Economies Program Director at the Metcalf Foundation. My program is focused on improving the economic livelihoods of low-income people in Toronto. I bring 20 years of experience in community development, leadership development, capacity building, program innovation and design.

What brought you to work in the philanthropic sector?

Since a young age, I have focused on social and economic justice. My experiences in community development both overseas and in Canada led me to want to focus on system-level issues to create sustainable changes in the lives of those who are marginalized and oppressed. Philanthropy, specifically the Metcalf Foundation, enables me to straddle this relationship between policy and practice and work on systems change through partnerships and collaboration with the non-profit partners.

Can you define and explain what your activity and/or position consists of within your organization?

My program is focused on improving the economic livelihoods of low-income people, as program director. I manage our granting program, the Opportunities Fund, reviewing and assessing applications, and working with our granting partners to advance the strategic directions of our work; I advance research and public policy analysis through Metcalf’s Innovation fellowships; and I manage, design and facilitate a capacity building program, the Toronto Sector Skills Academy, to support workforce leaders advance systems change to improving economic outcomes for low income people.

What is your professional education? Is it relevant in the context of your philanthropic involvement? Why?

I have a Masters in Political Science and an undergraduate degree in International Development. Yes, it has been relevant, as it has provided me with a strong background in public policy, research & evaluation, systems change, critical inquiry, and the challenges of connecting policy and practice.

Talk to us briefly about your professional background?

I began my career working overseas for a few years with the Aga Khan Foundation Pakistan and UN-Habitat Afghanistan, working with local partnerships to improve their communities. My strength was asking good questions, and helping partners explore their local knowledge and partnerships to craft strategies and processes to deepen their impact. Returning to Canada, I began working with Toronto Community Housing, first as a community services coordinator and soon after managing its newly created Social Investment Fund, a grant-making program that supported community to lead initiatives to improve the social determinants of health in their neighbourhoods. After 5 years I moved to the community based sector, as Director of Programs & Services of Working Women Community Centre, and led a team that designed and implemented a range of successful community development initiatives. After five years in this role, I moved in my current position at the Metcalf Foundation.

What are the challenges and issues related to your position in philanthropy?

Poverty reduction and equitable economic development are complex issues. It requires working across silos and systems, building meaningful and action-oriented partnerships, investing in leadership and communities that have a direct understanding of the issues, connecting policy and practice for meaningful change, and remembering that these are not abstract issues, but choices that impact real people, real lives, and can reinforce real inequity. With limited dollars and specific program objectives and Foundation mission, there are many good ideas and important initiatives that fall outside our strategic areas of focus.

How would you define philanthropy today? How does this definition influence your working methods?

Philanthropy to me, is leveraging private wealth to advance the public good. It is a privileged space and opportunity, so to me it means that I need to ensure that I am grounded in the communities I work with to ensure I understand their priorities and visions, that I share the power I hold with the non-profits and leaders I work with, and that I encourage and support innovation and risk through grant-making to tackle systemic issues.

What advice would you give to someone who wishes to pursue a career in your profession/activity?

I don’t think philanthropy has a linear pathway, and every foundation is unique and different. The skills sets that are valued, from my perspective, are systems thinking, critical inquiry, strong communication and research analysis, and being able to build relationships and manage partnerships. A commitment to continuous learning, social justice & equity framework, and deep listening that leads to action are the capabilities that I have relied on the most over my career.

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