Mastercard Foundation’s EleV program

By Jennifer Brennan and Dorcas Babet Kwofie

Mastercard Foundation launched the EleV program to support Indigenous youth on their educational journeys and on their searches for meaningful work aligned with their aspirations. Our role is to partner with these youth, relying on them to lead the way in transforming education, employment and entrepreneurship systems, so that these systems embrace and value Indigenous youth, cultures and languages.

EleV program

In 2019, EleV was approved for an expansion, with a new, bold goal of enabling 30,000 Indigenous youth to complete their education, to access economic opportunities and to drive meaningful change in their communities by 2030.

From the outset, our relationships are based on co-creation. This means that Indigenous youth and communities are in control of their own futures by leading vision, decision-making and implementation. And it means that each partnership is unique, responding to the specific priorities and realities of the youth and communities within the region where the partnership is focused.

Mastercard Foundation seeks to build trusting and reciprocal relationships with partners, believing that systems change requires a commitment to learning and flexibility. Through learning, new pathways are illuminated by our partners. Flexibility allows for adjustments that best align with the needs and vision of our partners and Indigenous youth.

Ulnooweg Foundation partners with Mastercard Foundation

“The partnership process is convenient, equal and transparent,” says Jasmine Seeley, Partnership and Outreach Coordinator with Ulnooweg Foundation. “It provides the opportunity to be on the ground in the communities, to better understand their root issues — and building from there is incredible.”

In 2020, working with government, the private sector and Indigenous communities, the Mastercard Foundation entered a five-year partnership with the Ulnooweg Indigenous Communities Foundation, one of Canada’s first Indigenous community foundations. Ulnooweg’s mission is to be a leader both in nation-rebuilding among Indigenous communities of the Atlantic region and in strengthening relationships with philanthropic and other sectors. Ulnooweg aims to create new sustainable funds, pursue additional investment opportunities aligned with Indigenous vision for growth and self-sufficiency, and increase public understanding of the role of philanthropy in and by Indigenous communities.

Our partnership focuses on strengthening the capacity of Ulnooweg, so that it can be sustainable and can collaboratively lead transformation in areas of youth leadership, post-secondary education and training, employment and entrepreneurship, and language and culture. We do this by using youth-led and Indigenous-led processes.

Billie Julian

Billie Julian

“Unlike other, colonial styles of engagement, where you feel heard but not listened to, with Mastercard Foundation, you are listened to,” says Billie Julian, Youth Engagement Officer at Ulnooweg Foundation. “One unique thing that this partnership provides is that it decolonizes processes, and it allows us the space to speak our mind, do things that feel right with us, and define our work and relationship with our communities”.

The values of the Mastercard Foundation lead every aspect of our work: humility, listening, kindness and respect, co-creation, and impact. We’re guided by values specific to our work with Indigenous youth, communities and Nations – values that are founded on supporting Indigenous self-determination, affirmation of languages and cultures, equity, and inclusion, and addressing systemic barriers to progress and transformation. Living these values is central to our work.

In reflecting on our path so far, we humbly offer some reflections for others:

  • Take the care and time to build meaningful, reciprocal, and trust-based relationships.
  • Be prepared, and understand the context, while recognizing the wisdom and expertise that resides within Indigenous communities.
  • Become a deeply reflective practitioner and always ask yourself (and your organization) why you do things a certain way.
  • Embrace change, be open to critique, and minimize the burden you put on partners to satisfy your organization’s internal needs.

We must recognize and welcome the diversity of Indigenous peoples, cultures, circumstances and priorities. We must recognize that for too long so-called solutions have been imposed on Indigenous peoples. The real solutions reside with Indigenous youth, communities, and Nations. They must always lead the way.

Jennifer BrennanJennifer Brennan is the Head of Canada Programs at Mastercard Foundation, leading a team and programs across Canada in multiple sectors with Indigenous youth and their communities. As part of the Foundation’s Senior Leadership team with a focus on Africa, she supports global efforts aimed at youth-led transformation in education and meaningful livelihoods.

Dorcas Babet KwofieDorcas Babet Kwofie is a graduate intern with the Canada Programs at Mastercard Foundation. She assists the team with research and strengthening partnerships with organizations across Canada.

You can find Mastercard Foundation on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and YouTube. The EleV program is active on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.

Artwork in banner is courtesy of Ulnooweg Foundation.

Friday, December 17, 2021 in , ,
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