Vancouver Foundation is prioritizing justice over charity in 2021. Here’s why.

Dara Parker, vice president of grants and community initiatives, writes about how the foundation is changing its processes to centre equity-denied groups

Why It Matters

As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary.”

I was drawn to join Vancouver Foundation in 2019 because of its bold choice to invest in systems change. Having spent 20 years working in the non-profit sector, I understood that we needed to address root causes to achieve the change we hoped to see in the world, and that funders needed to support this work. I also recognized that this was inherently risky and would require philanthropists to shift their expectations of measurable outputs in short time-periods (e.g. number of meals/children/trees served). I was impressed that Vancouver Foundation was doing just that. 

However systems are ‘sticky’ as noted in this report, and good intentions do not always lead us where we want to go. bell hooks says, “The heart of justice is truth telling.” Vancouver Founda

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