A Resilient Society is Inclusive, Sustainable and Innovative.
That pretty well sums up the fruits of the JW McConnell Family Foundation's journey over the last fifteen years. Fifteen years of learning, risk taking and jettisoning assumptions. A period in which the foundation shifted from funding buildings to supporting the adaptive capacity of people; from helping Canadians cope with change to actively intervening and guiding it; from certainty about their assumptions to openness – constantly learning, adapting and co-creating with their grantees.
In a World of Unpredicable Change what Canada Needs Most is Resilience, is the latest in a series of publications about Social Innovation from McConnell. Authored by Tim Brodhead it makes explicit the 'why' and 'how' of their unique grantmaking.
Resilience is a revelation on many fronts. It covers all the best about Canada that seldom shows up in mainstream news or political discussion. You will be impressed by the range of social, health, educational and ecological innovations. The initiatives profiled are re-defining how we take care of each other and our environment. I doubt there is a Canadian who has not been touched by one of these efforts.
They include many of the groups I've profiled previously: SportMatters Group; Vibrant Communities; PLAN; Tyze; Canadian Caregivers Coalition; Taking It Global; Vital Signs; Free the Children; the Social Finance Task Force; SIG; and change labs. Others include, GreenStreet; Canadian Boreal Initiative; Youth Fuson; Engineers Without Borders; Hostels to Homes; Equitas; Ma Rue Vert; Canada Helps; Local Food Plus; People's Food Policy; Canadian Environmental Grantmakers; Free the Childen; Youth Fusion; Community Service Learning; ArtsSmarts; Canadian Index of Well-Being and Allies.
This document reveals a foundation in resilience mode itself – combining adjustment and continuity. To quote from the report: A resilient system is one that remains healthy and successful while responding to shocks or disturbances. in other words, without losing its essential qualities, it adapts. This goes beyond simply coping, or “bouncing back” to a prior state; it involves learning and integrating new and old in a fresh synthesis.
The foundation wanted to make its grantmaking approach more transparent and explicit. It has done something much more. By revealing what we have, Tim Brodhead and the McConnell Foundation has shown us what we can become.
A smaller role for government inevitably places demands on business and the voluntary or community sector. The widespread response at first was to turn to the private sector, lowering taxes and cutting regulation to allow it to create more wealth and even take over some functions from government. Since 2008, however, it has become apparent that the private sector cannot be relied upon to always pursue the public good, and so more attention is being directed to the contribution that can be made by individuals, families, and communities. In terms of building supportive, inclusive, and socially cohesive communities, the pendulum is swinging back from relying on formal systems, professionals, and institutions toward a renewed appreciation of the capacities of people, mutual support, asset-based approaches, and local resourcefulness. As always, we need to be careful that this swing does not become exaggerated, but perhaps we are moving toward a new balance between formal institutions and informal systems of help and caring where the relationship is one of mutual support rather than competition.