150 Profiles: Ravi Jain

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: Ravi Jain

Current role in the sector: Founding Artistic Director of Why Not Theatre

Years working and/or volunteering in the non-profit sector: 10 years.

Ravi Jain profile picture

What was your first job in the sector or a defining moment?
When I returned to Toronto I had to start my own theatre company in order to make work. I was surprised at how little opportunity there was for a new person on the scene. It wasn’t an easy task — I had to develop the skills to not only be an artist but also run a small business. Over the past 10 years, the company has gained a significant reputation from audiences, peers and funders and I was able to grow Why Not Theatre to produce and support many artists who, like me 10 years ago, didn’t have any opportunities. The defining moment was in deciding to be a company, I was going to challenge what it meant to be a company and since then I have been creating art and addressing structural challenges in the independent sector.

Describe your desk/workspace.
My workspace is my backpack. I’m always travelling from desk to desk or city to city. Wherever I go, I dump the entire contents of my bag out, make very messy piles, which seem organized to me. I do the work I need to do, reorganize my papers and put them back in my bag. My desk at home seems to be a catch-all for all the things I don’t look at any more!

What are you reading or following that has expanded your understanding of the non-profit sector?
I’m reading a lot about the tech sector and how its success is creating more inequity for people in the world. Our world is changing so quickly, with more services going directly to consumer, changing the way business is done. The performing arts relies on people coming together to spend time for an evening, we need to be thinking about how we are going to engage with the economic divide that will come as well as engaging people in new ways.

What do you think our sector needs to be thinking about?
The arts really needs to address major inequities in our sector. There is a huge financial gap between independent artists and those who work in institutions. This is partly due to the way funding and boards are structured in institutions. The game is set to favour institutions primarily because of their mostly commercial models (the more money you have, the more you can make: Capital 101). The danger is that we run the risk of losing our artistic leaders of the future. They are the ones innovating in art and producing models, attracting new audiences and addressing inequities of opportunities for people of different races, classes, genders and abilities. We need to make a substantial investment in the independent sector as it has some of our best talent and is the most economically unstable.

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

Ravi Jain is founding Artistic Director of Why Not Theatre.