FNMI Summit Blog : Day 1


by Joey Flowers, The Circle on Philanthropy and Aboriginal Peoples in Canada

Day 1 of the Ashoka Changemakers conference set the tone for what promises to be an exciting exchange of ideas related to “Inspiring approaches to First Nations, Metis and Inuit Learning.”  The winners of the Ashoka Changemakers competition were announced just a few weeks ago, and this week, they are in Gatineau to show off their innovative programs, celebrate the successes they’ve created in their communities, to connect with other groups, and to use those connections to create new potential partnerships between First Nations, Metis, and Inuit communities as well as with philanthropic groups.

Marc Lalonde of Tsleil-Waututh Child and Family Development is on hand to receive a grant award to further develop an Aboriginal Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale, informed by the Aboriginal Head Start six guiding components of culture and language, education, health promotion, nutrition, social support, and parental and family involvement. Lalonde noted that the grant is much more valuable than the money it will receive to hire a consultant for this project. The prestige associated with receiving a grant through the Changemakers contest generated publicity and interest from academia in collaborating with the work of Tsleil-Waututh Child and Family Development.

Erin Freeland Ballantyne of the Dechinta Bush University is in Gatineau to accept a grant of $5,000 to sponsor a student to attend the land-based post-secondary education program that takes place in the North West Territories. The award goes beyond simply granting money to Dechinta for a scholarship; it also gives an opportunity for Freeland Ballantyne to seek out potential partnerships with other groups who may be conducting complementary projects. The application process and the award have given new networking opportunities to Dechinta.  

The conference is not only for groups who are here to receive awards for their proposals. It has also drawn like-minded groups who are interested in learning about the projects featured at the conference so that they can bring ideas back to their own communities. For example, Allan Vicaire of McGill University’s Aboriginal Sustainability Project is here in order to learn about new projects so that he might think of ways of implementing ideas with McGill University. In doing so, students across the whole university will have access to learning more about collaborating with and learning more about Aboriginal communities.

Similarly, Jennifer Martino of the One Laptop Per Child Canada project led by the Belinda Stronach Foundation indicated that she is here to seek out new potential partnerships to be made between Aboriginal communities across Canada and the OLPC project. Already operating in 13 communities in 7 provinces and 2 territories, the OLPC project has plenty of room to grow in Metis, First Nations, and Inuit communities.  

The evening concluded with a session moderated by Elisa Levi of the Circle on Philanthropy and Aboriginal Peoples in Canada who led a discussion by Marilyn Struthers of the Trillium Foundation, Stephen Huddart of the McConnell Foundation, and Shari Austin of the RBC Foundation, who gave conference attendees an idea of what philanthropic groups in the quasi-government, private, and corporate sectors are looking for in terms of what sorts of groups and projects they are looking to sponsor.

Day 2 has a jam-packed agenda, including awards ceremonies. Follow the action on twitter by searching #fnmisummit and by checking back at this blog.