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!

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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!