Hello! Thanks for stopping by. I thought my first blog post should be a quick explanation of why things are changing around here.
As 2020 wore on, my peppy little change-the-world brand was fitting less and less. It felt inadequate. Maybe even inauthentic? I was feeling less peppy, and more pissed off. A CBC podcast I listen to sometimes was calling 2020 "Year K," because some people were actually benefitting from the pandemic, while others were absolutely bearing the brunt of the shutdowns and the health risks - there was a split. A divide. We were not all in this together.
And I watched/participated in the charitable sector's response. Most charities have always been about band-aid solutions - focused on addressing symptoms more than root causes. But I found this more and more frustrating in 2020.
I also saw some charities interpreting COVID-19 precautions and guidelines in ways that absolutely stripped program participants of their human rights - people with nowhere else to go being forced to swap dignity and privacy for shelter and food. Infantilized.
I watched how all levels of government (and organizations) were making or newly enforcing policies that had disproportionately negative impacts on people who are unhoused and racialized neighbourhoods. And people who use drugs, well, the death totals for opioid overdoses outpaced COVID deaths all year in many parts of the country as the drug supply became more deadly and harm reduction services were more scarce.
The end of one year and the beginning of the next is always a time of reflection for me, maybe particularly because my birthday falls around the same time. So this year, having come through 2020, and also as my 40th birthday approached, I knew I had to make a shift in my own approach to this work and I knew there were others feeling it, too - a desire to lead a shift toward a justice approach to our work.
Frankly, if you worked through 2020 with people who have been marginalized and you aren't ready to move upstream and fight for more just policies, I'm not sure why you're in this line of work.
It's time to move some of our energy and resources toward fighting the policies and systems that marginalized these folks in the first place, and continue to hold them down.
While we're at it, let's also interrogate our own programs and make sure that we are taking a rights-based approach ourselves, and never inadvertently asking the people we support to swap one human right for another when accessing our services.
Let's also check and make sure our hiring and compensation practices within our own organizations don't perpetuate the problem - more on that soon.
Poverty is rooted in policy choices. So is homelessness, and food insecurity, and a hundred other big hairy problems that charities are supposed to be solving but can't.
Maybe it is my years in advocacy communications, but I think communications lies at the heart of this shift. We can challenge the narratives that prop up these systems of power imbalances. Let's ask uncomfortable questions. Let's hold each other accountable.
I'm hoping this site will be a space for us to collaborate, and I have a few ideas to contribute - some alternate narratives, to help us change the story and challenge the status quo together, whether it be in staff meetings, board meetings, or meetings with our elected policymakers.
So that's what I'll be serving up here moving forward - rants, riffs, and alternate narratives to help us, as John Lewis famously said, "make good trouble."
I'm Jennifer. I am an advocacy and communications strategist working with multiple charities and nonprofits. And I want to disrupt our sector for good.