150 Profiles: Ajeev Bhatia

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: Ajeev Bhatia

Current role in the sector: Program Animator, Laidlaw Foundation

Years working and/or volunteering in the nonprofit sector: Eight years.

What was your first job in the sector or a defining moment?
A defining moment for me is in my somewhat mischievous past. At the ripe age of 15, my manager at the time, Jaime Elliott-Ngugi from the East Scarborough Storefront pulled me into her office and very candidly told me that I have great leadership potential and a hopeful future, but I’d have to straighten out first if I really wanted to get ahead. I’d never heard that from my parents, teachers, or any other adult, so naturally I thought she was lying! It turned out she saw more in me than I saw in myself.

Describe your desk/workspace.
My desk is boring, but my workspace is rambunctiously awesome! Laidlaw is located in Foundation House, a space where three foundations and several non-profits room together. Although Laidlaw is a small team, I’m surrounded by as many as 60 people in the sector at times working in this space. There aren’t really any individual offices, so Laidlaw’s corner of Foundation House is populated with my eclectic colleagues who I can swivel over to at any time and pick their brains. It truly is a collaborative workspace and we aren’t tired of each other yet so it’s a win, win!

What are you reading or following that has expanded your understanding of the non-profit sector? 
Twitter can get very noisy, so I create a list on my Twitter account and add organizations and individuals who I would like to stay in contact with. My list for the non-profit sector includes other funders, thought leaders, policy wonks, and awesome community-based organizations and grassroots groups along with community rockstars who are movers and shakers.

I also keep up-to-date with the Stanford Social Innovation Review, and the Ontario Nonprofit Network mailing list which provides key updates on policy changes relevant to the sector and high calibre opportunities to participate.

What do you think our sector needs to be thinking about?
Just like the common disconnect between policy and practice, philanthropy and its impact can hit speed bumps. The common denominator here is leadership through lived experience.  If philanthropy is not effectively informed by those who are living the day-to-day challenges it seeks to address, chances are that the proposed solutions will render ineffective. For most people this may sound like simple math, but my question then becomes, how come philanthropy does not reflect the stakeholders it chooses to serve? And how are we changing practices to be more intentional and authentically put those closest to the issues in positions of decision making? I am very proud to be part of an organization such as Laidlaw, where this is an intentional practice on how we exercise inclusion.

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


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