By Adam Saifer, April 2022.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion [DEI] initiatives have become increasingly prominent within Canadian philanthropy. Moreover, the growth of these initiatives has accelerated in the COVID-19 context, as well as in response to recent calls from civil society for social and racial justice in Canada. Many foundations have directed their attention to principles of DEI within the sector, and how the implementation of DEI principles in the sector can contribute to a fairer and more equitable Canada.
However, research in this area has largely focused on the policies and practices of philanthropic foundations as articulated by staff and directors. As a result, little is known about how social justice organizations who receive grants from foundations experience the implementation of DEI principles at the funder level.
In March 2020, Dr. Adam Saifer launched a research project that sought to address this knowledge gap, drawing on in-depth interviews with leaders of social justice organizations in Toronto and Montreal. The project was supervised by Dr. Jean-Marc Fontan (PhiLab-UQAM) and was conducted in partnership with Philanthropic Foundations Canada (PFC) and the Fondation Lucie et André Chagnon (FLAC).
The current report documents and explores in detail the key themes and issues that emerged from these in-depth conversations with leaders of social justice organizations. These themes extend through a range of domains including language, ethics, power, strategy, measurement, and networks. While, at times, critical of current practices and policies within the sector, the goal of this report—and the larger research project in general—is to help foundations advance in their DEI journey. Such reflection and action is increasingly urgent against the backdrop of social, economic, and ecological crises and injustices. Following this, the report concludes with a series of recommendations for Canadian grantmaking foundations.