RSS Feed

Canadian Environmental Grantmakers Network Conference

Report from Canadian Environmental Grantmakers Network Conference, 15 to 17 May 2018

Catherine Brown. CEO Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation and AEGN board member

The Canadian Environmental Grantmakers Network Conference was an inspiring event  held in a very inspiring setting – the Kinnear Centre for Innovation and Creativity at the Banff Centre.  I have selected a few highlights to share with other AEGN members.

Connecting technology such as AI, blockchain and mobile apps with the solving of environmental problems is an emerging area of interest for some forward-thinking foundations. The WWF Canada watershed project (funded by the Gordon Foundation) and the Acquhacking program (initiated and funded by the de Gaspe Beaubien Foundation) were presented in detail. It was exciting to consider the potential to scale of environmental projects through technology.

Thsaving from extinction of the bison (buffalo) through the Yellowstone to Yukon Y2Y conservation corridor initiative is a decades long project that has been supported by government, community and philanthropy. Long term supporters have included The Calgary Foundation, Vancouver Foundation, Wilburforce Foundation, Woodcock Foundation and Banff Canmore Community Foundation.  The return of bison to Banff National Park is seen as critical from a biodiversity perspective and is also significant from a cultural integrity perspective for local Indigenous nations. The achievements are amazing – including bison being airlifted into Banff National Park by helicopter from Yellowstone National Park. Next year, the bison will roam free in Banff National Park. A quote from the Y2Y website: Today, Y2Y is recognized as one of the planet’s leading mountain conservation initiatives.

The Indigenous nations in Canada are extremely active in renewable energy projects (wind, hydro and solar). Between them they own more than $17 billion in renewable energy assets. Ownership of renewable energy assets is regarded by the indigenous nations as providing opportunities for the democratisation of energy as well as many social, economic and environmental benefits.  The wonderful presentations by Indigenous leaders were powerful and thought provoking.

I was fortunate to take part in a panel on Sustainable Communities with the McConnell Foundation and F20. Future Cities Canada is a major program being led by the McConnell Foundation, Evergreen Foundation and Community Foundations of Canada with many participating partners. An extract from their website explains the program: “Future Cities Canada is a collaborative platform that harnesses the momentum for change already in progress in cities. It brings together people, ideas, platforms and innovations from across sectors to address two of the most pressing issues of our time: inequality and climate change and their consequential challenges facing cities.”

Collaboration is widely accepted as being critical to tackling complex environmental problems. Several excellent presentations dealt with ‘stretch’ collaboration – or working with people you don’t agree with, as articulated by Adam Kahane of Reos Partners (global negotiator), and evaluation approaches suitable to collaborative systems change initiatives. One example of collaboration was the recently announced grant of $102 million from the Manitoba Provincial Government for biodiversity conservation, which will be administered by the Winnipeg Foundation in partnership with the Winnipeg Heritage Conservation Association and the Manitoba Habitat Heritage Corporation. The fund is paid for by carbon-tax revenue. Partnerships between government and philanthropy are clearly growing in Canada.

So, some strong themes of innovation and collaboration and a lot of inspiration to bring back to Australia to share with other environmental Grantmakers.