150 Profiles: Peter R. Elson

As we mark the 150th anniversary of confederation, The Philanthropist is profiling Canadians from across the non-profit sector and putting a face to 150 individuals who work or volunteer in Canada’s social sector.

Name:  Peter R. Elson, PhD

Profession (current role in the sector): Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Community Prosperity, Mount Royal University and Adjunct Assistant Professor, School of Public Administration, University of Victoria

Years working and/or volunteering in the non-profit sector:

Years volunteering: 40

Years working: 29

Can you describe a defining moment in your career working/volunteering in the non-profit sector?

Yes – Participating in York University’s Voluntary Sector and Arts Management Certificate Program in 1990-91 for executive directors, led by Vic Murray. This course opened my eyes as an executive director to the broader history, landscape and depth of research associated with the non-profit sector-at-large. It ignited my curiosity about non-profit research that has never abated.

Describe your desk/workspace. 

In front of me is a framed picture of an abandoned building that community members came together to support and renovate to become the Sorauren Park Field House in Sorauren Park, Toronto, presented by the Roncesvalles-MacDonnell Resident’s Association on the completion of my five years as chair. To my right is a large window overlooking a small niche of the beautiful University of Victoria Campus and above this window a Medicine Wheel with sweet grass braids and an eagle feather presented by close Indigenous friends. Behind me are books, papers and several research and writing projects in progress. To my left is an informal meeting space and the latest Inuit calendar from Cape Dorset.

What are you reading or following that has expanded your understanding of the non-profit sector?

To keep in touch with developments in the non-profit sector I attend the annual ANSER (Association for Nonprofit and Social Economy Research) conference; read the Ontario Nonprofit Network and Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organizations newsletters and the monthly social economy research briefings in the ECO-SOC INFO bulletin from CIRIEC-Canada; and subscribe to listservs including Voluntary Sector Studies Network and International Society for Third Sector Research.

For you as a past author with the journal, please share with us your reflections, reaction, thoughts about what has changed and/or stayed the same since writing the following article:

A Short History of Voluntary Sector-Government Relations in Canada, 2007

The most substantial and significant change in my view, since I wrote this article ten years ago, is the evolution and maturation of the non-profit sector at the provincial level; as reflected in building a collective relationship and voice within the non-profit sector and between the non-profit sector and their corresponding provincial governments. The proximity of provincial interests to the core work of non-profits makes this evolving relationship valuable to all, including the citizens served by non-profits.

The greatest challenge the non-profit sector faces, indeed one we all face, is our own responsibility to engage in meaningful reconciliation with Indigenous people in Canada.

Do you know someone we should profile as part of this series? Email us at philanthropistprofiles@gmail.com

Peter R Elson, PhD is Senior Research Fellow in the Institute for Community Prosperity, Mount Royal University and Adjunct Assistant Professor, School of Public Administration, University of Victoria. He is Co-lead of the Montreal Research Laboratory on Canadian Philanthropy (LaboMTL). His latest edited book is Funding Policies and the Nonprofit Sector in Western Canada (University of Toronto Press).