Guest Post: My experience as a Junior Research Chair grantee

JP ChaputIt’s hard to believe my 5 years with the Lawson Foundation as a Junior Research Chair grantee came to an end in August 2015! Time flies, but looking back at this unique and exciting journey reminds me how much I was able to accomplish in such a short period of time. When I decided to apply for this position in 2010, I was in the middle of my postdoctoral training at the University of Copenhagen (Denmark). I flew from Copenhagen to Ottawa for the interview, and was so excited when I was offered the job! I started my position in September 2010 with the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group (HALO) at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute, and since the very beginning I have strived to push the boundaries of our knowledge in hopes of making a difference in the lives of children and their families.

Junior Research Chairs Program: Increasing Canadian Capacity for Pediatric Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research.

This grant, jointly funded by the Lawson Foundation and the CHEO Foundation, supported a training program for young researchers interested in prevention to eventually reduce and reverse the trends in unhealthy living behaviours that precipitate childhood obesity and premature cardio-metabolic disease. This investment in research and leadership capacity focused on increasing the prevalence of healthy behaviours in all children to keep healthy kids healthy, to mitigate the inactivity and obesity crisis, and to help shift the public’s current focus on obesity to an interest in health promotion.

For a young scientist like myself, the ability to dedicate 100% of my time to research has been incredibly rewarding. This privilege has allowed me to develop a very strong and competitive research program including professional activities, student training, and international collaborations. Over the past 5 years, I published more than 100 peer-reviewed manuscripts, gave over 100 lectures around the world, won several research awards, supervised 9 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, and secured sufficient funds for my team. Such a high level of productivity would not have been possible with a typical tenure-track position. More details can be found on my profile on the HALO website and its annual reports.

In my opinion, the 5 most impactful publications as a Junior Research Chair grantee are:

  1. Gribbon A, McNeil J, Jay O, Tremblay MS, Chaput JP. Active video games and energy balance in male adolescents: a randomized crossover trial. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2015; 101: 1126-1134.
  2. Chaput JP, Leduc G, Boyer C, Bélanger P, LeBlanc AG, Borghese MM, Tremblay MS. Electronic screens in children’s bedrooms and adiposity, physical activity and sleep: do the number and type of electronic devices matter? Canadian Journal of Public Health 2014; 105: e273-e279.
  3. Chaput JP. Sleep patterns, diet quality and energy balance. Physiology & Behavior 2014; 134: 86-91.
  4. Chaput JP, Leduc G, Boyer C, Bélanger P, LeBlanc AG, Borghese MM, Tremblay MS. Objectively measured physical activity, sedentary time and sleep duration: independent and combined associations with adiposity in Canadian children. Nutrition and Diabetes 2014; 4: e117.
  5. Chaput JP, LeBlanc AG, McFarlane A, Colley RC, Thivel D, Biddle SJH, Maddison R, Leatherdale ST, Tremblay MS. Active Healthy Kids Canada’s Position on Active Video Games for Children and Youth. Paediatrics & Child Health 2013; 18: 529-532.

The 3 most prestigious research awards I received are:

  1. Roger Broughton Young Investigator Award, 2015 Canadian Sleep Society Conference, Toronto, Canada. This award is in recognition for significant early career contributions to the field of sleep research in Canada.
  2. International Journal of Obesity New Faculty Award, 2014 International Congress on Obesity, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This award recognizes exceptional research in population health based on innovation, quality of science, research design, and quality of writing. It is awarded every 4 years by World Obesity.
  3. 2011 Sport Information Resource Centre (SIRC) Research Award. This award recognizes outstanding sport research in Canada and acknowledges how sport research benefits the Canadian sporting community.

The main objective of the Junior Research Chair program was to develop leaders of tomorrow in pediatric healthy active living and obesity prevention. The fertile research environment at HALO helped me to network and collaborate with well-accomplished leaders in the field to stimulate my creativity and critical thinking. Among my key accomplishments, I have made novel contributions demonstrating that lack of sleep is stressful for the human body and should be avoided for good health. I have also reported for the first time in the literature that getting more sleep can protect against weight gain, and provided new evidence that adequate sleep is important in the treatment of obesity. Even the Canadian Obesity Network (the largest obesity organization in the world) now includes “sleep” as part of their practitioner tool – the 5As of Obesity Management.

During the past 5 years, I have also learned that research doesn’t end by simply publishing in academic journals. Publishing scientific papers alone will not result in meaningful changes in the lives of children if our discoveries are not translated to the general public. As it stands, scientific publications are not accessible for the average Canadian and therefore, I have dedicated a large part of my work to knowledge translation activities, including media interviews, youth outreach activities, blogs and social media. Good science doesn’t matter if it doesn’t ultimately impact the lives of people.

Overall, I feel very privileged to have had this unique and amazing experience over the past 5 years and wish that other Junior Research Chair programs will become available for young investigators in the future. This position allowed me to become a sought-after candidate and I received many job offers. I made a decision to stay in Ottawa with the HALO group (5 year extension to my contract funded going forward by the CHEO Research Institute) because I feel I am well positioned to have an impact and make a difference. And I am happy here!

To continue the conversation, feel free to reach out to me, follow me on Twitter (@DrJPChaput), and check out all the research activity on the HALO website.

Merci!!!

Jean-Philippe Chaput
jpchaput@cheo.on.ca

Guest Post: My experience as a Junior Research Chair grantee

For Youth By Youth: the Lawson Foundation’s 5th Gen accelerates action on youth mental health

Amanda-MayerWe are pleased to be sharing news about the Lawson Foundation’s newly funded micro-grants for youth mental health and just as excited about the level of engagement and leadership from the 5th generation of Lawson family members on this initiative.

As mentioned in an earlier post, 5G Fund: Accelerate is an initiative that was designed and led by the fifth generation from start to finish! The group of millennials collectively decided to focus a small fund on youth mental health and use micro-grants as a means to accelerate or kick-start a number of projects across the country.

This initiative has proven to be successful on a few fronts. For the Foundation, succession planning is always on our radar, and we are constantly thinking about engaging new directors and members. So over the course of the last year, we have recruited so called ‘fifth gens’ who identified that they were interested in getting involved with the Foundation. This has allowed us to get to better know the new generation of philanthropists, to get them excited about the work of the Foundation, and to teach them about our grantmaking.

This engagement has led to a successful micro-granting initiative – providing funding for a range of youth mental health initiatives in communities across Canada.
5G Fund Accelerate_Facebook
In addition to that, we have also captured some important lessons about engaging with young philanthropists. In the spirit of sharing what we’ve learned, here are a few insights:

  • If you want to engage with millennials, you need to provide an environment where they can get involved (hands-on) and where they can see their impact in a relatively quick fashion. You also need to ensure the cause/mission/area of focus is of interest to them.
  • You need to be flexible on many fronts. Younger generations have demanding and busy lives and like everyone have limited time.
  • You need to adapt to their world of technology. We have 5th Gen members all over the world, so to keep connected we engage virtually (Facebook) with them…and we don’t host conference calls!
  • To keep the ball rolling, it has been helpful to have a dedicated staff person (that’s me!) to help support the work of the 5th Gen.
  • Mentoring is important. Keep providing learning opportunities, such as philanthropic professional development, so that they continue to acquire the knowledge they need to make informed decisions. They are really keen and providing mentorship opportunities will help them thrive personally and professionally.
  • In order to get buy-in, don’t dictate what they should be doing and how. Rather, get their input and let them be creative. They can do amazing things, and this initiative is proof of that.

The next steps for us include circling back to the 5th Gen to get their feedback and input on the past year and see if there is room for improvement and in efforts to keep them engaged, see if they want to continue micro-granting or if they want to mix things up a bit and try something else. They will also be finishing the current granting cycle by taking part in the monitoring and oversight function required to ensure good granting. Grantees have been asked to report back in 6 months time by answering three questions (being such small grants, we didn’t want to create extra work for our grantees, and so we decided on a short reporting back mechanism). When the reports from the micro-grants come in at the end of June, each committee member will follow up with a grantee to review the reporting and talk about what the micro-grants allowed the grantee to achieve.

So the engagement with the 5th Gen continues at the Lawson Foundation. It is amazing what a smart bunch of sharp young minds can do when they are truly engaged. I encourage all family foundations to make genuine efforts to engage the next generation of philanthropists and start reaping the rewards now – as some of them will be sitting where you are right now before you know it.

For Youth By Youth: the Lawson Foundation’s 5th Gen accelerates action on youth mental health

Foundation House in the making

Marcel_HeadshotAfter some 18 months of conversations, deliberations, validation of ideas and most importantly testing of our sanity, Foundation House has just opened its doors at the corner of St. Clair and Yonge Street (Toronto). Given the buzz and interest, and as one of three partners along with Bruce Lawson (The Counselling Foundation of Canada) and Jehad Aliweiwi (Laidlaw Foundation), I thought I would take some time to highlight, from my perspective, the what, the how and the why of this collaborative project.

Logo-FoundationHouse-01The what So what is all the fuss about?  Well, let me take you back to where it all started. It was in Banff, back in May of 2014, at a meeting organized by Philanthropic Foundations Canada (PFC) that a few of us started thinking about the virtues of sharing space vs being on our own. Over the months the conversation evolved from a simple idea of having a collective roof over our heads to the concept of Foundation House – a hub for philanthropic collaboration, learning and sharing.

In the beginning, there were 5 foundations taking part in the conversation but that eventually came down to three partners: the Counselling, Laidlaw and Lawson Foundations.

And joining us is a stellar group of organizations:  the Canadian Education and Research Institute for Counselling (CERIC), the Ontario Nonprofit Network (ONN) and the Canadian Environmental Grantmakers’ Network (CEGN). And Philanthropic Foundations Canada (PFC), Community Foundations of Canada (CFC), The Circle on Philanthropy and Aboriginal Peoples in Canada, and GrantBook will also have a presence at Foundation House. All in all, we will be about 45 in the new space. Great people who will share great ideas!

From the outset, we have worked hard, and will continue to work hard, at making this a welcoming space for all, from staff to family members, grantees and partners. Jehad at the Laidlaw Foundation continuously reminds us of the need to ensure that our grantees and partners feel comfortable and welcomed when they visit us. As foundations we need to be approachable and collaborative and this is informing how we are thinking about our space. It is very much integral to our philosophy.

The how…..Once we had decided that there was something here and that it was worth investing some time on this, we got away for a full day to figure out our goals and objectives, the kind of culture we wanted to see in this new shared space, possible locations, etc. We actually came up with a vision statement that continues to inspire us.

This process was all about ensuring that we were all talking about the same thing and that we all had the same understanding of what this venture would be all about.

We also realized that if we were to do this, there would be a huge amount of time required on our part (and of course patience, determination and resolve). As Bruce Lawson is fond of saying, and rightly so: this kind of thing is not for the faint of heart! So with our eyes wide open (well as much as that was possible in those early stages!), we decided to jump.

The next step included finding a realtor in Toronto who understood what we were trying to accomplish and who could help us source out the ideal space to make it happen. We decided to go with Colliers, given their genuine interest in the nonprofit sector and our project. (They actually featured an article about Foundation House, and it is worthy of a read: here). With their help, we found a place to call home for Foundation House.

It's official! Meet the #FdnHouse partners! @MarcelLauziere @BruceGLawson and @aliweiWay (Dec. 2015)
It’s official! Meet the #FdnHouse partners! @MarcelLauziere @BruceGLawson and @aliweiWay (Dec. 2015)

The moment we walked into the space, we could already envision Foundation House. It had lots of windows and great light, it had the open concept we were looking for and an amazing kitchen where we could imagine lots of collaboration between staff and guests taking place! And so after quite a few weeks of renovations, our conceptualization of Foundation House actually became a reality in December of 2015.

And now the why…Foundations often talk to their grantees of the need for better collaboration, for sharing of resources, for partnerships….all in the name of better outcomes and impact. I certainly agree with this, as I know Bruce and Jehad do, and one of the main reasons we are embarking on this adventure is for those same reasons. We believe in this for our grantees as well as for us, and we want to walk the talk!

No doubt this whole thing started off as a discussion about a place to live (i.e., it was about a roof over our heads), but it has grown into so much more.

It’s about learning from each other and sharing (not only our physical resources but also our ideas, approaches, successes and failures). It will be a place to convene and hopefully stimulate philanthropic conversations about how we can improve the work we do. Having the funder umbrella organizations (CFC, PFC, CEGN, the Circle) in with us will create great opportunities to foster and broaden those discussions and to create a true philanthropic hub. And having organizations like CERIC, ONN,  and GrantBook with us will also help keep us grounded in the real world!

A few final reflections

There is still a lot to do over the next few months as we get settled and learn to work in this collaborative space. We will be working on our organizational culture to ensure that it aligns with each organization and the individuals that make up Foundation House. We know that if this is going to work for the long term, we need to invest time in getting to know each other and setting a tone and philosophy that will work for all of us.

Because we think our experience can be helpful to others, we will be chronicling our process to share the Foundation House story and our learnings. Hopefully, this will be helpful to others who may be thinking about similar opportunities.

In closing, I have to say that working on this project with my colleagues Bruce Lawson and Jehad Aliweiwi has been one the highlights for me.

If you happen to be in the neighbourhood in Toronto, please drop by! We are at 2 St. Clair Avenue East (corner of Yonge), suite 300. Au plaisir!

IMG_0038  IMG_0039

Related Foundation House articles:

Foundation House: Seeking Premises that Promote Collaboration, Community and Opportunity (Colliers, December 2015)

Laidlaw Foundation arrival last piece in new Foundation House project (YongeStreetMedia, January 2016)

Foundation House in the making

An Outdoor Play Strategy Emerges!

Outdoor+Play+Strategy[version française]

It’s a great pleasure to be announcing the Lawson Foundation’s Outdoor Play Strategy and sharing the news about the newly funded projects!

The Foundation believes children’s outdoor play merits a substantial investment in projects that will help us better understand how to support Canadian communities to increase children’s opportunities for outdoor play. So we developed our Outdoor Play Strategy and launched a one-time Canada-wide funding call for proposals to catalyze work at the community level. To date we have committed $2.7 million to this Strategy that will run until 2018.

Selecting the projects was challenging as 263 organizations submitted letters of intent. Of those submissions, 27 organizations were invited to submit a full proposal. In the end, 12 of those proposals were funded, two other previously approved projects fit the Strategy, and an evaluation was commissioned to capture the learning.

Our sense of the landscape from the funding call was that there was strong interest in exploring unstructured outdoor play, but not a great deal of work already underway. Ultimately we chose to begin our Strategy with a group of early adopters from diverse sectors with existing expertise. Also of note, most of the funded projects have strong community connections and will achieve both short and long term impact on the ground with children. Finally, in selecting projects we intentionally sought a diversity of approaches to creating opportunities for outdoor play. It was a highly competitive process so thanks to all those who applied!

We are thrilled to share with you the work of these unique projects and invite you to take the time to learn more about them here.
Outdoor Play Bars As the work unfolds, the Social Research and Demonstration Corporation (SRDC) will be leading a developmental evaluation to capture the learning. We expect that as the Strategy and the projects unfold, we will have a compelling story to share about tools and approaches that will break down barriers and enable children’s outdoor play across the country. Our hope is that this work will help decision makers, practitioners and parents create stimulating environments and opportunities for outdoor play, and hopefully, encourage further investment from public and private funders to scale the successful models.

Interested in staying connected to our work and updates on our Outdoor Play Strategy? Join our mailing list today. We’ll have lots more to share over the next few years.

PreviouChristine-Alden-060915s posts related to Outdoor Play:
Let Kids Decide How Muddy! [July 11, 2015]
The Tally is in…263 Letter of Intent for Active Outdoor Play! [July 22, 2015]

An Outdoor Play Strategy Emerges!

To the fifth generation and beyond: Engaging younger generations in family philanthropy

Amanda-MayerDid you know there are not many longstanding family foundations in Canada? And even fewer with a 5th generation! Well the Lawson Foundation is actually one of them that has 5 generations of family members participating actively in the Foundation’s work! Amazing I know, and I am the lucky one at the Foundation who gets to work closely with the next generation on a brand new micro-grant funding initiative we are calling 5G Fund: Accelerate.

Over the years, the Lawson family and the Foundation have done a great job of engaging up and coming generations. Continuing that tradition and as part of the new strategic direction of the Foundation, it’s a priority to engage the 5th generation in philanthropy and help build their engagement with the Foundation for the long term.

With that in mind, the Foundation reached out to the 5th generation family members, meaning millennials, to see who would be interested in getting involved and to come up with a meaningful, “actionable” way to assist the Foundation. This has evolved into a committee comprised of the 5th generation that will run a granting initiative of their own.

5th Gen CommitteeThe committee met a few times to collectively work on the creation of this new initiative. The first gathering was face-to-face and included Brittany Fritsh, a young leader, who spoke to us about a few youth-led granting initiatives in the Ottawa-area, including one she co-founded. She did a wonderful job showcasing different funding initiatives and spoke to lessons learned along the way. The rest of the gatherings have taken place virtually. Yup, this is the tech savvy generation! A Facebook page has been created and is used as the point of contact for pretty much everything. This is where the logo, guidelines and theme for the first funding call have been vetted by the committee and later approved by the Board of Directors.

5G Fund: Accelerate_Funding OppIn a nutshell, the micro-grants will help accelerate or kick-start ideas that will contribute to the well-being of communities across Canada based on a specific theme determined by the 5th gen. Priority will be given to innovative ideas/projects/initiatives that actively support the leadership of young Canadians, are youth-led or have a positive impact on youth. Initiatives funded through this stream won’t necessarily be connected to the Foundation’s three areas of focus, as each call will be based on a particular theme of interest
to the 5th gen. The Foundation will provide the micro-grant funding opportunity twice a year (exact timing to be determined). Individual 5G Fund logogrants will be in the range of $1,000 to $3,000 and we anticipate funding between eight to ten projects a year. We are so pleased the 5G Fund: Accelerate is finally launched and we can’t wait to see applications start rolling in. I don’t know who is more excited about this call, the 5th gen or me and my Foundation colleagues!

We will continue to post about this funding opportunity, and also about how we are engaging the 5th generation of family members and the learning coming out of this process. So stay tuned for more, and in the meantime, please help us spread the word about this awesome funding opportunity!

To the fifth generation and beyond: Engaging younger generations in family philanthropy

Foundations taking a bold leadership role on the public policy front

Marcel-LauzièreThe Lawson Foundation is a founding member of the Funders Working Group on Early Childhood Development (FWG-ECD), a group of 8 Canadian foundations that regularly come together to talk about the importance of quality early childhood education (ECE) and to look at ways to collaborate. Recently, the working group made the decision to play a stronger collective role on the public policy front. After all, it’s hard to see how we will see meaningful change on the ECE front without trying to influence public policy.

A few months ago, the group came together as we often do, to discuss ECE and how we can work together to push the envelope. At this particular meeting two things helped energize us and create a different context for our discussions.

First, that same day, a group of Québec-based foundations had collectively published an open letter in the Le Devoir urging the Québec Government to be careful about the potential negative impact of recent budgetary decisions on social inequality in the province. This was a first for these foundations. Never in the past, had they come together to speak out with a single voice on a public policy issue. And that really inspired us.

Secondly, the increasing talk in the spring of a looming federal election helped us focus on the need to take advantage of this context to voice our concerns about a crucial public policy issue that matters so much to us as a group, namely, ECE.

So inspired and energized by the Québec-based foundations and seeing the current context as the right time to act, we rolled up our sleeves and got to working on drafting an open letter of our own. Getting 8 foundations to agree on messaging, wording and the tone of such a letter was a bit of a challenge, but we got there!

Two simple key messages were agreed upon:

  1. the importance of investing more in quality ECE and
  2. the importance of a strong federal role in partnership with the provinces.

Our letter was addressed to the leaders of the five federal parties. We also asked for meetings with the leaders or their advisors. Following that, we sent the letter to a number of papers across the country to make it public. Our intent was to share our two messages but also to remind Canadians that foundations have something to bring to public policy and that we are willing and able to get involved.

While we hoped for a higher take-up, the open letter was published in dailies in Edmonton, Fredericton and St-John’s. Many of the papers we sent the letter to indicated that they were not interested in publishing a letter signed by multiple authors. While that did not come to us as a big surprise, I still find it unfortunate as the collective authorship of the letter was actually part of our messaging.

However, we adapted and in a continued effort to get the word out more broadly Colette Murphy (Atkinson Foundation) and I signed a complementary op-ed (referring to the collective letter) that got published in the Toronto Star. And of course we shared the letters through our social media.

But we didn’t stop there. We also capitalized on another opportunity to circulate the piece, by ensuring it was in the hands of all the provincial Premiers who were meeting in Newfoundland under the auspices of the Council of the Federation. Through a high-level contact of ours, we found out that ECE was actually on their agenda. So the timing of our open letter was great!

Interestingly, while none of the federal leaders (except Elizabeth May) accepted our invitation to meet, a number of the Premiers (or at least their officials) have connected with us to set up meetings to discuss our letter and our ideas. So we are in the process of setting those up.

I should clarify that nobody on the Funders Working Group has any illusion that our collective letter will change the world or influence the federal election in any major way (although if it does, we will certainly rejoice!). Our intention at the get-go was much more modest. We basically set out to position ourselves as a credible group of foundations that have something to bring to public policy discussions around ECE and a group that wants and should be at the table to influence those conversations whatever the results of the election on October 19.

Foundations in Canada have an important contribution to bring given the many crucial public policy issues facing Canada. The time has come for us to be much more visible and active on this front. If we are truly going to change things, we can’t avoid engaging meaningfully in the world of public policy.

Foundations taking a bold leadership role on the public policy front

The tally is in…263 letters of intent for Active Outdoor Play!

Christine-Alden-060915

Going into this 2015 Active Outdoor Play Funding Opportunity, it was impossible to anticipate the volume of interest it would elicit. But the incredible media uptake and public reaction to the Position Statement on Active Outdoor Play and the 2015 ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth was a clear sign of Canadians’ growing interest in risky play in the outdoors.

Tim Gill

UK thought leader on childhood, Tim Gill, recently proposed, in a thought provoking blog, that a play renaissance is taking place in North America. While inquiry and play-based learning are already spreading across the education system in Canada, we hope Tim’s right – that we are at a tipping point for healthy childhoods that include unstructured and self-directed play and the opportunity to explore risk.

So the Foundation’s focus and timing for this funding opportunity seemed right. But still, would we get a strong or lukewarm response to the call for letters of intent? After all, the promotion period was only 4 weeks long. Well, the deadline has closed and the tally is in… 263 letters of intent were received by the deadline for consideration! We really want to thank our many partners and stakeholders who helped get the word out to promote the announcement across Canada.

But I can’t natter on – our LOI review committee is busy reading and digesting all the great ideas. So stay tuned for more updates. Applicants will be notified of our deliberations in early August!

 

The tally is in…263 letters of intent for Active Outdoor Play!