Interview with Steve Ellis, Program Lead, Northern Canada, Tides Canada

Originally posted in Canadian Environmental Grantmakers’ Network (CEGN)’s E-News May 2016. Tides Canada’s Steve Ellis, Program Lead, Northern Canada, recently chatted with CEGN about the NWT On the Land Collaborative Fund. The On The Land collaborative was created to promote and support on the land initiatives in the NWT by providing more efficient, effective, and centralized access to funding and other resources.

Steve EllisEditor: I have been hearing about the NWT On the Land Collaborative Fund. Can you share with us what this work is about and how it is unfolding?

Steve: The impetus for the collaboration came from the fact that there are a number of ‘on the land’ local initiatives underway in the NWT, many funded by governments, but also by corporations and small charities. These initiatives focus on diverse topics and issues, including cultural revitalization; outdoor experiential education; mental health and addictions, family wellness, and healing; youth engagement and capacity building; and environmental research, monitoring, and stewardship, but the interconnections among these issues weren’t being captured and the funding needs often weren’t being met.

In November 2014, Tides Canada hosted a meeting of 75 individuals involved in funding initiatives in the NWT to explore how to provide easier access to funding and other resources for northern nonprofit initiatives, including ways to develop a one window approach to jointly receive, review and learn from applications.

Editor: Who are the funders currently involved with On the Land Collaborative Fund?

Steve: The Fund is hosted by Tides Canada and made up of partners including the Government of the Northwest Territories, The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, PEW Indigenous Leadership Initiative, Dominion Diamond Ekati Corporation, and TNC Canada. Community Advisors from across the NWT are also key partners, as are the projects being funded by the collaborative, and the model is based in mutual respect and trusting relationships.

Editor: I understand the pilot for the collaboration was launched earlier this year. Can you speak to the scope and some of the work that is now underway as a result of this collaborative approach?

Steve: The Fund got underway with close to $400,000 to support grants in 2016. The application format was deliberately open-ended, with the requirement that the focus of an initiative be on the community, rather than on an individual. We received applications from Indigenous governments; schools; the YMCA; correctional facilities; and mental health facilities. We realize that the philanthropic dollars are still relatively small given the needs, so we looked for ideas where the funds could be a catalyst for others to get involved. For 2016, the Fund is supporting 35 initiatives across the territory. Projects range from $1000 to $35,000.

Editor: What are your aspirations for the Fund?

Steve: We really want to flip the metrics. Grantees can spend an inordinate amount of time navigating different applications and reporting procedures. By offering one window, applicants can send one proposal to all funders and, if successful, one report. As a result, a larger amount of time can be spent delivering the programs and applicants no longer need to try to morph their programs to fit different criteria. Funder collaboratives allow different parties to pool their resources and share information—creating better outcomes, efficiencies, and more opportunities for shared learning. Tides Canada has successfully led funder collaboratives in other regions across the country and we are proud to be the home for this new initiative.

Editor: Thanks for shining a light on this new funder collaborative. We know from CEGN’s past overview of environmental grantmaking that Northern Canada receives very little environmental philanthropy. The On Land Collaborative holds the promise for not only coordinating but boosting overall philanthropy in the region.

If you would like to learn more about On the Land, contact Steve Ellis at:

FLOW: advancing sustainable water management in Canada

The Forum for Leadership on Water (FLOW) is an independent think tank focused on water policy issues in Canada and a project on Tides Canada’s shared platform. We interviewed Project Director Tony Maas to learn more about the project and its work on public policy.