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Funding Systems Change

We welcomed two funders in the provincial food security space to last month’s Community of Practice conversation on systems change. 

Before jumping into the funding + systems change exploration, CoP participant, Melissa Hemphill, Food Security Coordinator at Community Connections Revelstoke spoke to a policy + systems change initiative at the recent Union of BC Municipalities convention. Melissa worked with representatives from her local government to put forward a resolution asking UBCM to frame household food insecurity as an income-based problem and advocate to provincial and federal governments for evidence-based income policy solutions to food insecurity. And success, it passed!


David Hendrickson

One of our funder guests, David Hendrickson of the Real Estate Foundation of BC applauded this systems change work: 

Going forward with UBCM resolutions is really a great idea of how to leverage systems change. When civil society gets together and forms a declaration for organizations to sign off on and then present to local government, they’ve been able to elevate an issue to the provincial government.

David shared the example where transportation non-profits created a declaration that 170 different organizations signed off on. This got the support from local governments and then the province. “And lo and behold that resulted in the BC governments Active Transportation Strategy which we’re now starting to implement.”  

So when we asked the CoP what the conversation they most wanted to have with our special guests last week; David Hendrickson from the Real Estate Foundation of BC and Rudi Wallace from the Victoria Foundation, it was no surprise that funding staff positions – investing in people who hold the relationships that lead to these kinds of systems change, was a key theme. 


Rudi Wallace with BC’s Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham Government grants and donations allow Mustard Seed to purchase food distribution centre


We want to talk about what and who gets funded to do work: 

Some key pieces of the conversation…

  • Funders like to fund infrastructure not people. As one of our members said, “We need ongoing coordinator funding that will continue beyond what initial investment/project funding can cover.” It can be especially hard to fund leaders positions and capacity building for leaders in organizations like the ED as well as regional learning exchanges between communities.
Community of Practice Gathering 2017

Community of Practice Gathering 2017

  • The challenges of demonstrating impact and getting funding in rural and remote communities without local funders or community foundations. It’s getting harder to fund programs that directly feed people through a charitable model. Some of this is due to consensus on evidence that income based solutions are necessary. However, in the absence of income-based solutions and especially in smaller and remote communities, that can’t demonstrate impact with big numbers (maybe a few hundred a week as opposed to a few hundred a day in Vancouver) these programs and the people they serve are jeopardized.    


We really, REALLY, want to talk about how stuff gets funded:

Our conversation last June with Rudi Wallace and Constanza from Vancouver Coastal Health highlighted some promising trends in the foundation world. (Here at the Gateway, we regularly follow Non-Profit AF’s great work on these themes.) Some of these included:


  • And on the topic of multi-year grants…let’s remember that climate change, equity issues and other wicked problems we’re working on can’t and aren’t being tackled in an annual project cycle. 


  • Funders are acting as conveners, bringing together various groups they fund for learning and sharing. Interior Health was named as a regional health authority who does this.



SO we talked and shared some promising funding practices that contribute to our ability to lead systems change. Here’s to more like this: 

Systems change not climate change

Systems Change

  • REFBC offers multi-year funding and has supported peer learning; this has worked particularly well in facilitating visits among Indigenous communities. They also take board and staff on road trips to communities to see the work firsthand. 



  • In collaboration with Horner Foundation, Rudi shared that the Victoria Foundation has committed $100,000 annually for 5 years to multi-year, unrestricted operational funding for Indigenous Food Sovereignty initiatives on the South Island. The funders intend to play a supporting role while decisions are made and led by Indigenous community, elders and knowledge holders and Rudi says their inspiration is that “the application process can look like a cup of coffee and a conversation and reporting can look like a feast, celebrating accomplishments together.”