150 Profiles: Allan Northcott

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: Allan Northcott

Current role in the sector:
President, Max Bell Foundation; Board Member, Imagine Canada; Board Member, Philanthropic Foundations Canada

Years working and/or volunteering in the non-profit sector: In one way or another, more than 30 years.

What was your first job in the sector or a defining moment?
There have been quite a few. I was recently telling someone about a day, several years ago, when Dr. Gabor Maté gave a couple of colleagues and me and a tour of Insite in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. It struck me then, as it often does, that there are truly amazing people in this sector working with remarkable grace and courage on incredible challenges.

Describe your desk/workspace.
It looks like a tornado went through a file room. To the untrained eye, it’s a terrible mess. It somehow works for me.

What are you reading or following that has expanded your understanding of the non-profit sector?
I think a lot of the problems our sector tackles these days require us to work well with other sectors, so I’ve been trying to better understand how government and business operate. Lately I’ve been spending time with: Harvard Business ReviewCanadian Government Executive, and when I want to get my geek on I go to Arts and Letters Daily.

What do you think our sector needs to be thinking about?
Many people and organizations have devoted considerable time and energy to the issue of public policy advocacy over the past couple of years. The CRA guidance on political activities has been a particular focus, both for the sector and for the current federal government. Predictions make me awfully nervous, but as of April 2017, I’m optimistic we’ll see positive changes to the “political activities” regime in the foreseeable future.

At a more general level, I believe there’s growing momentum among Canadian charities and nonprofits to work more effectively with governments as partners in the pursuit of public benefit.

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


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