By Bill Mintram, Director of Indigenous and Northern Relations, Rideau Hall Foundation

As an Indigenous ally and a signatory of the Philanthropic Community’s Declaration of Action, the RHF has taken steps towards being an Indigenous-informed organization with active learning, action and commitments towards reconciliation. On a practical level this has meant that the RHF’s board, adjudication bodies and advisors include Indigenous representation and leadership, and the objectives of our programming specifically include allyship through partnership, collaboration and support with Indigenous-led and -driven initiatives.

The RHF is striving to share and shift decision-making power along with acknowledging and celebrating Indigenous innovations. This is a process that takes humility and a willingness to listen and learn, followed by concrete actions in the spirit of reciprocity and respect.

Arctic Inspiration Prize

As the behind-the-scenes managing partner for the Arctic Inspiration Prize (AIP), the RHF supports the awarding of about $3-million a year to Northern initiatives that are created by teams and communities to address local needs. Northerners lead all the initiatives, many of which are Indigenous-led. Both qualified and non-qualified donees are eligible for the AIP, so that their ideas can benefit from the seed funding that the AIP provides – and without the range of monitoring and oversight constraints that often accompany more traditional grants or contributions.

In leading up to receiving this prize, the nominations go through an adjudication process that’s representative of all the Arctic regions and overseen by a Northern Trust that also has an Indigenous majority, thanks to the AIP’s Indigenous co-owners (Indigenous development corporations and representative bodies) who put forward the nominations for the regional Trust positions.

A central position of the AIP is “For the North, By the North, with the unconditional support of the South.” The overall structure allows for Indigenous individuals and communities to be involved as ambassadors and nominators, and to have representation on the Trust board and adjudication processes. They also receive direct investment, wherein they retain power and control over the dreaming, planning and delivery of initiatives. Through this structure, accountability for program delivery and success rests in the North and in community – and not with team in the South.

Partnership with Indspire

Carmen, Lynn, Nicole and Arthur’s quote.

More recently, the RHF partnered with Indspire, a national Indigenous organization, to support a new pilot phase within their Teach for Tomorrow initiative. The program provides a seamless approach for students to transition from high school to university by providing college level courses to become certified as Education Assistants, with eventual access to Bachelor of Education and Arts degrees. The RHF is an ally and partner with Indspire, which defines its funding needs and maintains its power in terms of direction and leadership.

Within this work with Indspire and all future partnerships, the RHF acknowledges the importance and need for Indigenous leadership, Indigenous community involvement, and respect for self-determination as foundational requirements for investment in Indigenous-focused initiatives.

The future

Alex learns plumbing.

Humbled by the trust that Indigenous peoples, organizations and communities have placed in the RHF, there’s a clear recognition that our collective journey forward is one that requires both reciprocity and respect. In the spirit of transparency, this journey is one that takes time, effort, flexibility and a willingness to consider transformational changes of an organization at all levels. In this pursuit, many steps have been taken and there are many more yet to take.

Bill Mintram is an MPNL alumnus and Director of Indigenous and Northern Relations with the Rideau Hall Foundation. Photos are courtesy of the Arctic Inspiration Prize, Inspire, and Northern Compass 2019 AIP laureate Rebecca Bisson.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021 in , , ,
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