Funders’ Forum (part 1)

Last week, I attended a forum highlighting grant opportunities for organizations based in Saskatoon. Speakers from seven funding agencies provided an overview of their respective grant programs, with time afterwards for questions to the group and general networking. Although I imagine that this idea of bringing funders and non-profit organizations together is not new, it was the first time that I had attended such an event: as someone new to the city, it was a great opportunity not just to learn about the opportunities that existed but also to meet with representatives from non-profits in the audience.

Before provide some information about the grants available, two take-aways from the event to share:

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My Approach

Strong Roots Consulting has recently passed its two-month birthday, with my first post on this site going live on July 11. I’m quite pleased with the progress made during that short time – helping a local nonprofit group with a grant application, making a number of new connections, writing blog posts on a semi-regular basis and further developing my ideas for this new endeavour – and I look forward to what will come in the weeks and months ahead.

On that note, I’ve been thinking about creating a “My Approach” page, as suggested by a commenter on a previous post. I started by crafting some guiding principles and ideas – honesty, supportiveness, open communication, relationship-building – but that approach felt too abstract and risked falling into corporatese. I may follow those principles and embody those attributes, but do I need to explicitly state them? Which approach is better: saying that I believe in sharing knowledge and communicating openly, or demonstrating through regular channels (like this blog) that I walk the talk? As with many dichotomies, there are useful elements in both positions. Relying on my actions to showcase my style can be limiting, particularly as a newcomer to Saskatoon with few local projects to date under my belt. As well, coming up with what I do in a nutshell would be extremely useful for the infamous “elevator speech”; 30 seconds is way too short to share an illustrative experience.

Looking for inspiration, I turned again to my friend and colleague Natalie Brown of Common Thread and her excellent website. Under “About Us”, there is both a vision statement about what her organization hopes to accomplish, and then three simple words to describe what they do: Facilitate. Research. Act. Three words, all verbs, with a natural flow from planning to learning to action and back again. After briefly lamenting that she already grabbed three words that would describe my work well, I took a step back and thought about how I’ve been working with people and organizations during the past two months and previously in Ontario. Through this reflective process and some conversations with good friends, I came up with the following three actions that I believe demonstrate my own approach to working with local organizations:

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Getting to Maybe – Stand Still

The second chapter of Getting to Maybe, somewhat confusingly sharing the title of the book itself, focuses on how social innovators get started. For many, there is a sense of calling or having reached a personal tipping point. There’s a realization that some aspect of the current reality is not merely a problem, but that it is inherently unfair, wrong, injust; a lack of action is no longer an option. Fortunately, by speaking out and taking small steps to change the situation, these change agents often find that they are not alone. Not only do they find allies, but the system itself that previously appeared to be fixed and unyielding suddenly seems ripe for change. The dichotomy between the heroic individual who single-handedly changes everything and historic inevitability breaks down: “[social innovators’] responses both epitomized and provoked a new pattern of interactions”.

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