150 Profiles: Jacob Zimmer

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: Jacob Zimmer

Current role in the sector: Theatre maker, process designer, Artistic Director of a small nonprofit theatre, Nakai Theatre in the Yukon Territory.

Years working and/or volunteering in the non-profit sector: 19 years.

What was your first job in the sector or a defining moment?
At 16 I got a summer job as a playwright with Mermaid Theatre in Nova Scotia for their youth program with playwright Christopher Heide. Chris treated us teenagers with respect and curiosity. At the end of the summer I was less sure about the quality of my poetry, and absolutely sure I wanted to stay in theatre. Theatre provided a way to work together with people and for people. The power of humans connecting in a room – whether that’s in creation, rehearsal, performance or a conference – has always been deeply important to me.

Describe your desk/workspace.
It depends on the minute. Often it’s where ever I put my laptop. Right now, I’m in the “Reading Room” at Nakai Theatre’s office in downtown Whitehorse. Out the window I look at the Yukon River going by. There’s a white board and flip chart for when I need to stand up to think better. The desks are clear at the moment, but can also be under a collection of scripts, plasticine, Post-it notes and puppet models. My favourite workspace is the studio. An empty room, a nice floor, windows and curious, engaged collaborators.

What are you reading or following that has expanded your understanding of the non-profit sector?
Nobl Collective is an organization design company whose website and public Slack channel continues to inspire and surface different ways for working and thriving.

As we continue to find the mindsets and actions that decolonize our organizations and structures, I find myself returning to “Wise Practices in Indigenous Community Economic Development” PDF, an article by Brian Calliou from Indigenous Leadership and Management at Banff Center. There is also a symposium reference with toolkit.

What do you think our sector needs to be thinking about?
We need to celebrate success without only supporting the biggest and most well-known organizations. In our work towards justice and reconciliation in Canada, charities and philanthropists need to support grassroots and local initiatives that might have smaller numbers but deeper, more specific impact. The “winner takes all” reality of most funding and donations that goes to the biggest and loudest is a trend that can reproduce choices that ignore or harm local efforts.

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


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