Transforming the Non-Profit Community in Edmonton

ECVO is working to support Edmonton’s non-profit community as we imagine and develop new non-profit structures and practices: ones that transcend our status quo and bring us closer to a more just future.

A Model
For Change

Recognizing that the systemic injustices made visible by COVID-19 existed long before the pandemic began, the uncertainty that we have experienced over the past months have made authentic change – that is, change that aims to fundamentally alter our social, political and economic systems – seem both possible and urgent. Because of this, ECVO is attempting to transform the non-profit community in Edmonton by mobilizing around four pillars of non-profit action.

Developed by the Miami Workers Center, the four pillars model is intended to demonstrate how four seemingly separate areas of work (service provision, consciousness raising, policy advocacy, and distributive justice) are intertwined, complementary and essential parts of the non-profit community.

Pillar of Service

The goal within the pillar of service is to ensure that programs and activities are not only well funded, but that this funding is used in the best interests of our society and the environment.

Recognizing that there are inadequacies in how our non-profit organizations are currently funded, as well as questions to be asked about the adequacy of some of services, we believe we could strengthen the work in this pillar if we collectively engaged in three activities.

Shift our focus from organizational relief to structural transformation by articulating a 50-to-100-year vision for Edmonton’s non-profit community.

Reframe how we organize and deliver services, while de-centring the organization.
Stand behind the value of the work, while seeking new funding arrangements.

Pillar of Policy

It is within the pillar of policy that the non-profit community can begin to increase awareness about the importance of non-profit services, while also developing the strategies needed to challenge (and hopefully change) the legislative and institutional practices that negatively impact their lives. It is also within this pillar that members of the non-profit community can explore the legislated limits that shape their organizations.

We have outlined four areas of work that could be useful in this pillar.

Develop a system-level framework for advocacy and awareness.
Collectively invest in a mechanism to do the research required for proper advocacy.
Be brave enough to fund advocacy efforts.

Pillar of Consciousness

The goal within the pillar of consciousness is to increase the awareness of both dominant and non-dominant knowledge systems and build the social justice muscle needed to transform the non-profit and, in turn, the broader community. This includes increasing awareness of the physical, cultural, and administrative harms that are the result of over 200 years of Eurocentric policies and practices, and providing opportunities to explore how alternative systems of knowledge might be used to challenge Eurocentric ways of structuring our organizations. It also includes activities that communicate the value of the work of the non-profit community, positioning us as an essential element of our social, political, and economic fabric.

We have outlined four areas of work that could be useful in this pillar.

Build the social justice competencies of the non-profit community.
Value the need for structural change and fund the mechanisms required to generate it.
Introduce new knowledge systems into our decision-making processes.
Collectively position the non-profit community as an essential element of our social, political, and economic fabric.

Pillar of Power

The goal in the pillar of power is to exercise a counter-power by de-stabilizing Eurocentric paradigms and (re)distributing the wealth within the sector. The work within this pillar aims to fundamentally change our non-profit organizations in ways that increase community engagement and autonomy, ensure community accountability, and actively invest in those most directly impacted by interpersonal, institutional, and systemic harms.

We have outlined four possible strategies that might contribute to a (re)distribution of wealth in the non-profit community.

Authentically engage with and remain accountable to the community.
Stop discussing the lack of diversity of our leadership positions and do something about it.
Train and hire those impacted by interpersonal, institutional, and systemic harms.
Address the inequities in workforce practices.

Thinking & Acting Differently

Our ability to invent new futures not only depends on our willingness and capacity to critically examine both our past and present; it also requires that we remain open to the possibility that the world could be very different if other power constellations were in place. It is, therefore, our intention that this document will begin a process of bottom-up mobilization for transformative change.

We therefore invite you to join us as we attempt to build new forms and methods of participation, decision making, leadership, and resource distribution.

It is by altering our everyday processes that we can build new infrastructure and in doing so, construct alternative futures.

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Join writer Vu Le of the popular blog Nonprofit AF for a keynote presentation on Wednesday, November 10, presented in partnership with the Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organizations.



An opportunity to connect with social scientist Hildy Gottlieb on how to ask powerful questions to affect systemic change.



An opportunity to connect with the senator who is leading the way to a stronger future for Canada’s non-profits.

We have a responsibility to mobilize around shared imaginations of transformation, so that we might improve the lives of the human and non-human beings our organizations aim to serve.

Read the full report!

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