150 Profiles: Guy Rodgers

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: Guy Rex Rodgers

Current role in the sector: Founder and Executive Director of ELAN (English Language Arts Network), which represents English-speaking artists in Quebec.

Years working and/or volunteering in the non-profit sector: 30 years.

What was your first job in the sector or a defining moment?
After graduating from the National Theatre School of Canada I was invited to join the board of Playwrights’ Workshop Montreal. Volunteering immediately appealed to me for a number of reasons. I enjoyed spending time with other board members and it was added value that time spent developing friendships also made tangible contributions to the larger community. Over the past three decades I have served on many boards and have founded several organizations (Quebec Drama Federation, Quebec Writers’ Federation, ELAN). As an Executive Director, I use my volunteer experience to create board environments that are stimulating and rewarding.

Describe your desk/workspace.
My personal workspace is designed for creativity and focus: no windows and a good sound system. An ancient oak desk which previously belonged to the founder of Montreal’s International Jazz Festival is surrounded by two walls of bookshelves, and a well-stuffed leather chair for meditation. The wall behind the desk is covered with photos, charts, notes, and musical instruments.

My desk at ELAN is in a convivial, fluid open space with six work stations. Abundant natural light pours in through floor to ceiling windows that provide a splendid seventh floor view of bustling Ste-Catherine Street and the historic St-James church.

What are you reading or following that has expanded your understanding of the non-profit sector?
My priority has always been people and communities. I am fascinated by the conditions that empower human beings to work productively together and I’m inspired by many traditions: trade unions, service organizations, and churches that practice social justice. The greatest challenge in any human environment is launching new ideas. Machiavelli’s The Prince is always a helpful reminder that few things are more difficult than implementing change. Those who benefitted most from the old system will fiercely resist the new, while the support of those who may benefit from the new system is intermittent and conditional. Change requires vision and perseverance.

What do you think our sector needs to be thinking about?
People. It is easy to allow funders and resources to dictate what we can do, and how. We frequently need to remind ourselves why we chose this sector and who we originally wanted to help. If who and why remain front of mind, then what we do and how we do it will remain relevant. In the short term, we are restricted by public policy and available funding. In the longer term we need to be educators and reformers who shift public policy and redefine program guidelines to put human needs ahead of bureaucratic efficiency.

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


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