Dear CAI Grantees, Partners, Friends,
In the past three weeks, millions of people have taken to the streets to protest the killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery in the United States, as well as Regis Korchinski-Paquet, Chantel Moore and Rodney Levi in Canada. We have been reminded that our ‘normal’ in Canada is a state of deep inequity, particularly for Black, Indigenous and racialized people. It’s uncomfortable to acknowledge how we might be participating in and benefitting from systems that unfairly disadvantage others. We’re going to continue to lean into that discomfort with the understanding that the anti-racist work that’s desperately needed today is less about listing all the theories we study, and more about the ongoing internal work of questioning privilege, power, bias and our own behaviours as grant-makers, community members and change makers.
We are a non-profit organization, located on the unceded, traditional and ancestral lands of the Coast Salish Peoples, the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Muasqueam), the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and the sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh). We conduct our work on stolen Indigenous lands and serve community-based organizations across British Columbia. Early this year, with the support of Rain Daniels and Chelsey Branch, CAI began a process of decolonizing our granting processes. While we have made some progress towards understanding racism and normalized bias – and how each of us is complicit in its existence – we have so much more to do. We are continuing our process of internal examination and change.
Over the past few weeks our team has met weekly to explore and share with each other things we are learning – and in particular, things we still need to learn. Based on the work of Deepa Iyer, we have spent time mapping our social change roles during this time of crisis. Deepa suggests we ask ourselves “what are my values, how can I be aligned and in right relationship with them, what are the needs of the communities who anchor me, and what can I offer with my full energy?” We acknowledge that we have made mistakes – that on many occasions we have moved too quickly, without allowing for relationships to unfold at the speed of trust. We are determined to do this work in a way that allows us to bring our fullest selves to the causes and movements that matter to us.
What does this mean in practice?
As individuals, we will continue to focus on how we can shift behaviours to create more equity, especially as it relates to racial inclusion. When we mapped our roles within a social change ecosystem, we learned that collectively we are healers, weavers, builders, experimenters, disrupters, storytellers and caregivers. We learned that for some of us, our focus is on trying to better understand what it means to apply a lens of allyship, both within the workplace and within the broader community of grantees where we provide support and advocacy.
With respect to our granting processes, we have been listening. Between January and March of this year, we participated in an Indigenous funder’s dialogue as a learning opportunity to support broader awareness and action around how typical granting processes may be transformed to more meaningfully engage and address the needs of Indigenous organizations and communities. As a result of that dialogue, we commit to upholding the following in service of transformation:
- Support for meaningful engagement: longer timelines and support for community-informed project planning and relationship building, with a focus on power dynamics and equity.
- Adjustments to the funding process: shift to focus not only on outcomes, indicators and activities, but also on program process, while offering a variety of options other than formal reporting for evaluation.
- Navigation of services and requirements: examples throughout application guides, support for grantees to fill in forms and where possible, training, capacity building and mentoring opportunities.
- Non-Western Knowledge Systems: making space for forms of evidence and expertise that reflect Indigenous ways of knowing and different worldviews that can be explored through open-ended, exploratory processes.
- Increased Indigenous participation and focus: Indigenous representation within the broader CAI governance model, and on project and adjudicator teams, with a focus on cultural safety.
- A funder community of practice: share efforts to improve processes, operate differently and keep everyone accountable.
We are curious, we are ready to listen, and we acknowledge that as funders we have power and privilege that needs to be addressed. We invite those of you who see opportunities for us to do better to reach out. If you would like to ask questions, share thoughts, or propose ways we can change, please contact us at [email protected] and at [email protected]. While the fight for justice is a global one, we know that the work begins in our own hearts, in partnership with the communities we show up for and here at CAI.