150 Profiles: Kiri Bird

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: Kiri Bird

Current role in the sector: Manager, Local Economic Development Lab, an initiative of Ecotrust Canada and RADIUS SFU

What was your first job in the sector or a defining moment?
From 2012-2013 in the Sacred Valley of Peru, I founded an immersive cultural tourism program, brokering relationships between Indigenous artisans and diverse tourist groups through innovative programming. The work was adventurous, challenging and dynamic, and required me to respectfully and tactfully manage relationships in multiple languages in a cross-cultural context. It was defining because I had an opportunity to build a program from the ground up, employing my creative and strategic skill set. Because of the groundwork I led on this program and systems I initiated, direct sales of textiles in Indigenous communities increased more than tenfold the following year, creating hundreds of opportunities for experiential learning and economic exchange.

Describe your desk/workspace.
Empty! I am mostly away from my desk, in meetings offsite and in the Downtown Eastside community. On my desk I keep some items bought from local social enterprises and entrepreneurs, and pictures of past Local Economic Development Lab graduate student project coordinators.

What are you reading or following that has expanded your understanding of the non-profit sector?
I read an interview from the LEAP Dialogues in the Stanford Social Innovation Review last fall that caught my attention, which discussed the opportunity for design thinking to enhance the human-centered design (HCD) work that non-profits do intuitively well, but aren’t always approaching with rigour. Many of the non-profits that I engage with, in particular those practicing asset based community development, recognize HCD in their own work and are wary of the new and perhaps alienating language of the design world. I think the value of HCD in non-profits is to get systematic about data collection and in building accountability structures to quickly review, analyze, and iterate programs based on real evidence.

What do you think our sector needs to be thinking about?
Right now I’m thinking about the different roles required in creating systems change, and how we can, as a sector start to see ourselves as part of a larger stage of actors. Recognizing that today’s issues and challenges are too great for any one organization or solution—I’m interested in how we can hold and foster the tandem capacities of humility, to know when we aren’t the best person or organization for a particular job, and boldness, to step up and step into a leading role when we are.

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


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