Director aims to see Philanthropy informed by data.
In his current role as Director of Programs and Strategic Initiatives with Laidlaw Foundation, Orville Wallace leads grant making strategy and crafts ways to include and consider the needs of grassroots organizations like the ones he once led. He can think of two other people who look like him in a Director-level role within the grant making space in Canada.
After 14 years of working in not-for-profit organizations, even developing his own Initiative with the Youth Justice Network of Toronto, he has been able to spend the latest chapter in his career, leading grant-making work across the province. Wallace prides himself on leading with a social justice framework, bringing his lived and professional experiences with him into the boardrooms he enters.
“Considering the ways power and resources are situated and distributed in this society… I see myself as a broker of colonial wealth,” he said.
“I always wonder why the people in Regent Park can’t have the same opportunities as people in High Park, and why people in Rexdale can’t have the same opportunities as people in Rosedale.”
Bringing with him all those years of frontline experience in grassroots community work, he is expertly positioned to bring in a nuanced perspective, more informed by the challenges and lived realities of the communities that funders and foundations intend to serve.
Wallace stresses the importance of policy within grant-making spaces and its role in ensuring that funders provide true philanthropic support to those organizations on the ground driving real impact. Of equal importance to him is the need to begin to face the data and make decisions informed by it.
“Through analysis of the data we can see disproportionate suffering…How do we now value that data enough for it to prove that we need to make changes with resources?” he asked.
Wallace believes that the over representation of Black and Indigenous communities in many of the colonial Canadian systems like the child-welfare, legal, or health care systems of today, have been very carefully designed and implemented over many generations, with a function of restricting the freedoms and/or wellness of particular groups.
“It is not for black people to fix these [systems], but for the gatekeepers to… we now must work together to ensure better outcomes for these communities,” he said.
Among the challenges in philanthropy, is the lack of trust given to Black-led or serving organizations.
“There is still the idea that Black people are an inherent threat,” he said.
“That same mental model makes its way into philanthropy and so people are afraid to give money to these communities. As a sector, we have to do the work to change our minds about people and trust that there are good people working hard for their community…they deserve resources.”
Wallace believes the solution to many of these challenges is to first acknowledge racism exists in the sector then to build systems of accountability within it. He insists that the systems and industries we know of today, including philanthropy, are not neutral. That there’s work involved in re-orienting mindset, and he feels well prepared to take on the challenge of leading that change.