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Message from the Executive Director – Summer Updates

Posted: June 2nd, 2016 at 04:06pm

Message from the Executive Director – Summer Updates
New home, renewed commitment

Warm weather is finally here! As the skies get brighter each day, so does our resolve to have a productive, dynamic summer. In March, the Board of Directors emerged from a planning retreat with a clear reaffirmation of our mission: Investing in innovative ideas, convening interested parties, and sharing our learning and advocating for change in support of young people being healthy, creative, and fully engaged citizens. The Board also directed us to deepen our focus on youth. Emboldened by this confirmation of our mission and focus, we look forward to keeping busy as bees through the upcoming sunny months.

Foundation House has been our new home for three months now. The move was seamless, and our transition into the new shared space has been smooth: At this point, we feel very much at home in our new space. Working alongside like-minded, creative nonprofit organizations provides us with unique collaboration and cross-learning opportunities, and as we approach the summer, we feel energized by the possibilities our shared-space journey creates.

Last summer, we signed the Philanthropic Community’s Declaration of Action in support of the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Moving forward, we will be acting upon our commitment as a signatory, starting on June 16, when we attend the Foundations Partnering for Reconciliation Summit to be hosted by the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario at Queen’s Park. We fully agree with the Lieutenant Governor’s recognition that “a defining issue of our age is the urgency of re-imagining a mutually respectful and collaborative relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples.” At this summit, we will present the Declaration of Action Fund that was recently approved by our Board as evidence of our commitment to reconciliation and invite other foundations to contribute to the fund.

We have long been concerned with issues and challenges experienced by youth in remanded custody. The Board has instructed us to pursue this concern further, working to identify policy and procedural barriers for youth in remand to access programs and services, and the best ways to make measurable changes in these areas. To this end, we are partnering with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association to provide us with baseline information on the realities of youth in remanded custody in Ontario today. In addition, we will convene a panel of experts to advise us on effective responses and ways in which we can have a meaningful impact in this area. We hope to complete the background research and convene the committee by the fall.

Youth violence and high school dropout rates have adversely impacted many communities in Ontario, and one of them is the Somali-Canadian community. Starting this summer, we will work closely with individuals and communities to draw attention to the shocking levels of violence and low graduation rates among young Somali-Canadians in Ontario. To begin with, we are investing in a research project that will explore the causes of youth violence in this community and propose solutions. The project will build on previous studies such as The 360 Project, a joint report on the discrimination Somali-Canadians face by Ryerson University and the Urban Alliance on Race Relations[1].

But that’s not all! We have a busy summer planned. In addition to the outlined ventures, we will be on the road, visiting with initiatives we have invested in and projects we have supported in London, Hamilton, and the Greater Toronto Area. We will also launch a new summer PopUP grant focusing on engaging young people with public spaces through outdoor festivals and neighborhood and street parties. On June 22nd, at the Annual General Meeting, we will be electing a new board with a broad range of expertise to guide our efforts in supporting young people in Ontario towards bright, successful futures. And by the end of June, we will have the implementation plan ready for Mission-Related Investments.

The Youth Collective Impact team is also on the road, rolling out information sessions about the program across Ontario, with stops in Thunder Bay, Niagara, Toronto, Guelph, and Durham. Youth CI is now in its third year and expects to support more groups to create meaningful large-scale change for youth in communities across the province. We value the partnership with the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation’s Innoweave platform and the support of the Ministry of Children.

Summers are short in Toronto. Summer is also the season for graduation and convocation. Thousands of young people will be priming with pride holding degrees in one hand and aspirations in the other looking for opportunities and purpose.  On June 9, I will deliver a convocation speech at Ryerson focusing on the convergence of philanthropy and community. We believe that philanthropic institutions like Laidlaw can and need to play an active role in supporting young people’s successful transition from college to the workplace. We look forward to making the most of the summer season and carrying our energy into the fall to work towards enhancing the wellbeing of young people across Ontario and invest in their ability to find the opportunity and purpose they seek.

[1] http://www.ryerson.ca/content/dam/diversity/reports/UARR_2015.pdf

 

Jehad Aliweiwi
Executive Director, Laidlaw Foundation

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