• A Call for an Alberta Citizens' Assembly
    By: David Swann

    Strengthening Democracy in Alberta

    As a concerned Albertan I have issued a call to all major political parties in Alberta to commit to creating a Citizens’ Assembly on key issues that reflect the public interest. My goal is to make public, before the next election (likely May/2023) the position of each political party in relation to creating a Citizens’ Assembly and thereby make this a basis for voter decisions.

    Whether deliberating on electoral reform or tax policy, affordable childcare or climate change, a Citizens’ Assembly provides a strong direction to government from a diverse group of non-partisan citizens. In many jurisdictions around the world it has strengthened democracy by providing accountability to elected representatives and more confidence that the public interest is heard.

    If you and/or your organization support this call (see the full text below) to the Parties to commit to establishing a Citizens’ Assembly, please write to me and this appeal will have more influence on the Parties to respond. And please pass this along to other groups and individuals you think might support this call.

    Many thanks for considering this important tool for strengthening our democracy.


    David Swann

    [email protected]



  • Let's Talk About Advocacy
    By: Kiran Gurm and Kirsten Boda 


    In the nonprofit sector, the terms advocacy and lobbying are often interpreted synonymously due to potential overlap and lack of understanding, creating uncertainty for both charities and nonprofits alike. However, because organizations inherently act as advocates for the individuals, families, and communities they support, as well as the issues they exist to address, advocacy is central to who they are. Thus, whether they realize it or not, most organizations are already engaged in some form of advocacy. This blog provides an overview of lobbying versus advocacy in the context of Alberta to support organizations to engage openly and actively in advocacy. 

    Confusion around lobbying and advocacy arises due to fear over engaging in the political process, uncertainty in funding relationships, and the desire for an organization to keep government partners ‘on their good side’. We often hear from those working in the sector that once the word advocacy enters into a mission statement, theory of change, or organizational strategy alarm bells will sound with the potential for negative implications down the road. This blog, by Alexa Briggs of CCVO and Liz Sutherland of ONN, discusses the impact of regulations and policies that create an advocacy chill among nonprofits. 

    It is important for organizations to know that advocacy is a broad term that is not clearly defined. There are a host of activities that are considered advocacy but not lobbying. For example, preparing and submitting a bid or grant application can be considered advocacy. Almost all nonprofits and charities engage in advocacy daily, as they promote awareness of a cause or the ability to address issues and change public opinions or perceptions. We are all change-makers, and therefore advocacy is part of the DNA of who we are and what we do. Specifically for registered charities, according to the Canada Revenue Agency, as long as an organization’s advocacy activities further their charitable purpose, there is no limit on their activities. This advocacy spectrum created by the Ontario Nonprofit Network provides a useful overview of different advocacy activities ranging from general advocacy such as joining a coalition or network to direct lobbying such as organizing a lobbying day. Further, CCVO has created an Everyday Advocacy Guide for nonprofits. 

    Simply put, advocacy is an umbrella under which lobbying falls. This means that while not all advocacy is lobbying, all lobbying is advocacy. Lobbying entails complex laws and regulation that differs from one jurisdiction to the next, is highly regulated by legislation, and guided by a code of conduct. Applying for a grant becomes lobbying if an organization were to meet with a public office holder outside the application process in an attempt to influence their decision. It is also important to note that your organization can communicate with a public officer holder about your organization, however, the communication transitions into lobbying once there is an official “ask” being made. 

  • #BreakTheBias in Alberta: My Reflections on International Women’s Day
    by Alexa Briggs


    International Women’s Day is always an important day for me to reflect on how far we’ve come for women’s equality worldwide and how much further we still have to go. This year’s IWD theme is #BreakTheBias. Given that we just had a budget drop here in Alberta, this post will turn attention to some of the inherent bias on display in undervaluing the potential contributions of the nonprofit sector in the care economy, primarily composed of women, to not only our social and environmental wellbeing, but also to our economic wellbeing.  

    The care economy encompasses both paid and unpaid work that “includes care for children, the elderly, and the disabled, health care, education, and as well, leisure and other personal services, all of which contribute to nurturing and supporting present and future populations”.[i] We agree with our colleagues at the Ontario Nonprofit Network that this definition can be broadly understood to include the work of the nonprofit sector that is focused on the health, vibrancy and resilience of communities.[ii]  Based on this definition, the nonprofit sector is arguably a core part of the care economy. Recent data shows that women, immigrant, and visible minority employees hold the highest number of jobs in the nonprofit sector; that data also shows that men are paid more in average annual salaries and hourly wages than women.[iii] 

  • Investment in Community Prosperity is Needed in Alberta Now
    by Karen Ball


    Investments that benefit the economy and those that benefit the community are not interchangeable - they are both required to create a prosperous province. Many of our greatest social challenges such as addiction, racism, and issues related to mental health cannot be solved by simply “getting Albertans back to work”. For Alberta’s economy to recover we must invest in both community recovery and economic recovery. They are interdependent, reinforce each other, and the strength of each relies on both being equally valued. 

    As I read through this year’s 2022 budget and business plans, I am struck by a substantial shift in language from 2021 – a shift in community-facing Ministries from centring community towards centring the economy. Let me give you a few notable examples from the Ministry of Community and Social Services which added participation in the workforce into its mandate which now reads: “The Ministry of Community and Social Services provides a social safety net to support Albertans’ participation and inclusion in their communities and Alberta’s workforce through the delivery of high-quality social programs”. Also newly included are a couple of statements that shift the benefit from Albertans to the economy. Statements such as “A continued focus on helping unemployed Albertans and people with disabilities or other barriers to employment find meaningful work will benefit the economy while making Community and Social Services programs more sustainable.” And “While the pandemic has created several challenges for the economy, through collaboration with our partners, we will make opportunities available for more Albertans to participate in Alberta’s recovery”. Although the language of “ensuring families and communities will recover, grow and thrive” remains within the mandate statement, this new mandate introduces the economy as another priority area for this Ministry to help grow and thrive, under what can be best described as a hold-the-line maintenance budget. 

  • An Anti-Racist Approach To Volunteering
    By Janet Rock of Propellus, The Volunteer Centre of Calgary


    New research recently released by the Volunteer Centre of Calgary tells us something that won’t surprise anyone who has been working on decolonization, or anti-racism. Volunteers who identify as Black, Indigenous, Asian or as a Person of Colour experience barriers as they engage with charities and non-profits.

    Volunteers who participated in the research are board members, one-time volunteers and everyone in between. They volunteer everywhere from small grassroots organizations to large recognizable organizations. There are no exceptions. The barriers are systemic.

    Join CCVO and VolunteerConnector for a virtual panel discussion

    Nonprofit Connections: An Anti-Racist Approach to Volunteering
    April 26 at 1:00 PM 
    Learn more on the CCVO website

    Volunteering has a good reputation. We tell people it’s the way to gain experience and share skills. Volunteering is fundamental to what we value as a pillar of Canadian society, isn't it? It can be all of these things, but let’s face it. It’s also a colonized practice that pre-dates the formation of our country. The concept was born at the same time as volunteering for the military. This association may have thinned over time, but its direct origins in violent white supremacy should be considered when we look to understand the experiences of volunteers today.

    It’s time we listen to the voices of volunteers who tell us that volunteering contributes to their sense of belonging, yet is made more traumatic by organizational practices. This is an opportunity for settlers who work inside of these organizations and systems to change policy, undo racist practices, and decolonize our work. Volunteer Engagement is no exception. In fact, given that 13.5 million Canadians participate in it every year, it should be a priority.

  • Engaging with Calgary City Council Beyond Election Day
    By Kirsten Boda and Lee Stevens


    The 2021 City of Calgary municipal election on October 18th turned-out to be a nail-biter, with former Mayor Naheed Nenshi deciding not to run again after three consecutive terms. It was a competitive and crowded race culminating in 27 individuals on the final ballot. The question of Calgary’s next mayor was not the only news closely watched by Calgarians leading up to election day. With only five out of 14 incumbents deciding to re-run in their wards and two former councillors throwing their hat back in the ring, voters had a lot to learn about the new candidates that would make up City council.

    The final results of the election proved noteworthy, with only three out of five incumbents winning in their ward (Sean Chu, Gian-Carlo Carra, and Peter Demong). Further, while returning incumbent in Ward 14, Peter Demong, won by 15,070 votes capturing 66% of the vote it was a close call in Ward 4 with Sean Chu winning by just 100 votes (about 1%) and Gian-Carlo Carra in Ward 9 by just 161 (about 1%). Newcomer, Raj Dhaliwal also ran a tight race, winning by 378 votes (about 2%) in Ward 5.

    At the end of a long and competitive campaign, Calgary voters made history by electing their first female mayor. Calgary’s new Mayor, Jyoti Gondek, captured approximately 45% of the vote, winning by 15% to second runner-up, Jeromy Farkas.

    While elections are an exciting time that fill feeds with news, controversies, and opinions, the reality is that advocacy extends far beyond election day.

    With the elections in the rear-view mirror, it is time to shift focus towards the future of this newly elected council and what it means for nonprofits as they work to recover from the pandemic. Organizers of The Nonprofit Vote believe nonprofits play a vital role in organizing civic action and educating the public on democratic processes as they understand the issues intimately. One of the objectives of The Nonprofit Vote is to support organizations by providing them with resources that will help them engage and raise issues that are important to them and those they serve.

    This post provides an overview of the platform commitments based on each of the elected council members’ campaigns. While there are many ways to dissect a platform, the list below focuses specifically on how platforms align with the three priority areas of the #nonprofitsvote municipal election campaign: The Enough for All Strategy, mental health and addictions, and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. Nonprofits planning out their advocacy efforts can refer to this list to recall campaign promises made by council members, identify who might be a champion for their organization, and plan their strategies based on this information. These platform commitments were pulled from publicly available information such as campaign websites, candidate surveys, and other news sources.

  • Full Speed Ahead: Mayor Gondek's win pushes the social sector forward
    By Salimah Kassam


    The first time I heard my name coming out of my tv speakers, I freaked out. It’s only happened once. In a slightly strange movie from 2015 called Rock the Kasbah with Bill Murray and a Palestinian actress Leem Lubany, who plays a character named Salima. I don’t think I would have watched the whole movie due to its immature take on life in Afghanistan if it wasn’t just so fun to hear Bill Murray say my name.  

    It’s important to see people who look like you on tv, the big screen and to hear names like your own in news feeds that make positive headlines. It’s important because representation signals safety and safety builds courage and widens dreams.  

    A couple of weeks ago, I was attending an event near the Genesis Centre. I stopped to chat with a Muslim dad and his toddler-aged daughter. We were standing by a campaign sign with Jyoti’s image on it and the young woman exclaimed “I want her!”,  I exclaimed back, “me too!”. I believe on Oct 18th Calgarians made a strong decision based on evidence and merit, and, perhaps inadvertently, they also told every little brown girl in town that she matters and that they can be anything they want, right here in Calgary, Alberta. Hate lives in pockets in Calgary, however, with this win, those pockets shrunk and we got closer to eliminating hate from our communities. It’s time to double down and make serious commitments on defining, auditing and measuring our progress on diversity, inclusion, representation and belonging in all sectors of Calgary.