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: Rudayna Bahubeshi
Current role in the sector: Communications Manager at Inspirit Foundation
Years working and/or volunteering in the non-profit sector: I started volunteering formally in the non-profit sector when I was 15.
What was your first job in the sector or a defining moment?
I think I’ve long understood the difference between meaning well and working responsibly in the non-profit sector, but it really crystallized for me when I was about twenty. There’s a sense for a lot of folks, especially when we’re young, that volunteering and meaning well is tantamount to good work—even when we’re working with more vulnerable populations. But the way we, as organizations, engage people, especially those with deep lived experience of inequitable systems, deserves as much attention as the outcomes of our work. Casual racism and other forms of violence that can occur when we don’t take the time to educate ourselves before doing this work can actually result in worse outcomes for communities than if we never engaged them at all.
Describe your desk/workspace.
My workspace is open concept and sunny. It’s located in Artscape Youngplace, which is a renovated old school that’s been turned into office spaces, primarily for non-profits and arts organizations. My desk is covered in notes and has more coffee rings than I’d like to admit.
What are you reading or following that has expanded your understanding of the non-profit sector?
My reading is focused on learning from organizations advancing reconciliation and addressing Islamophobia, anti-Black racism, and discrimination more broadly. I come across readings and resources most frequently on Twitter looking to organizations such as 4Rs, Urban Alliance on Race Relations, National Council of Canadian Muslims, Black Lives Matter, Idle No More, Canadian Roots Exchange, and various advocates and activists.
What do you think our sector needs to be thinking about?
Given that my work and interests are deeply tied to equity and inclusion, I think it is most important for us to be thinking about the power dynamics and risks (in addition to potential) for funding. By this, I mean we must recognize the resources foundations have are largely the product of a historically inequitable economic system. And in a sector that skews heavily older, white, and middle-class, the individuals that have decision-making power on what gets funded often don’t have lived experience of the issues they’re looking to address. Without this intimate knowledge, there is a higher risk of funding organizations that don’t necessarily have the right tools or understanding to serve the communities they intend to.
Moments like Canada 150 are particularly important for foundations and non-profits to consider their engagement of historically marginalized populations. In this case, considering how we take the opportunity to learn from and use our resources to build meaningful relationships with Indigenous communities is particularly important. As funders, we must be deeply mindful of the history and current realities of this country, which have benefited from the oppression of Indigenous peoples. Rather than celebrating, which can perpetuate further exclusion through the erasure of histories and present experiences, we must strive to understand how we can lower barriers and leverage our resources to build a future that is more equitable for everyone.
Do you know someone we should profile as part of this series? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org