Canada 150 Profiles: Ikem Peter Opara

As part of our celebration of Canada’s 150th, 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.

 Profile picture of Ikem Opara

Name: Ikem Peter Opara

Current role in the sector: Strategy Lead, Connected People at Ontario Trillium Foundation

Years working and/or volunteering in the non-profit sector: 17 years

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

This is more of an era than a moment, but my three years of working with local and international partners through Canada World Youth was a defining period in my life and career. I had front row seats to the formative stages of the lives of about 60 young people from across Canada, Cuba, Kenya and Tanzania as they began their journey as global citizens. Working in seven communities, across three countries and three continents over three years had a significant impact on my concept of belonging and community engagement. The added layer of being a black, male, international development worker from Nigeria who was the Canadian representative was a constant lesson on the intersectional nature of identities and how those shape the way the world sees us all.

Describe your desk/workspace.

My workspace is the right combination of chaos and collage for my work style. There are the expected combination of photos of my lovely family and business cards of many of the interesting people I have met in recent weeks. I have a framed close-up photo of a fire that was given to me by one of my neighbours from my time living in Meaford, Ontario. The many conversations we had sitting around that fire reminded me that the opportunity for community is always around the corner and in the places and people you least expect to find it.

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

Since there are so many to choose from that I think the best thing would be for me to share five of the tabs that are currently open on my web browser. That should give some idea of what I’m reading these days, outside of granting related materials:

The Ways: Waadookodaading Ojibwe Language Immersion Project

Nonprofit With Balls

Cities of Migration

Digital Impact 

More Than One Story

What matters to you that you think our sector needs to be thinking about?

I think that the lines that previously separated our sector from the private and other sectors are blurring and rightly so. With our growing focus on impact, there are new relationships to be built, access to and use of data and narrative become more important and our societies are more than ever having to grapple with the notion of pluralism. Our sector must therefore get better at consistently and honestly asking and answering the question: “Who is not at the decision making table and why?” That is what keeps me up at night, with the exception of my lovely twin daughters.

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

Ikem Peter Opara is Strategy Lead, Connected People at Ontario Trillium Foundation.

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