Maximizing Philanthropy’s Impact for a Sustainable Future

Tuesday, May 7 

Conference Program (PDF)

This year’s CEGN conference is a clear departure from past conference offerings. With our sights firmly set on increasing philanthropy’s impact in advancing a sustainable future for Canada, the conference will provide real-time pragmatic opportunities for collaboration on key environmental issues, as well as skill-building offerings that support the drive for impact. These conversations and others will take place against a backdrop of the core questions of: “What might we do differently to increase our impact? How might we work together differently to increase our impact?” With support from our facilitator, Monica Pohlmann, of Reos Partners, as well as the compelling insights of plenary speakers including Darcy Winslow and Charles Eisenstein, the conference offers a rich journey for participants. Our aspiration is that it will also lay the groundwork for transformative change in our collective work. Additional details on the conference program will be added as they are confirmed.

10 a.m. – 4 p.m.  Pre-conference Field Trip Option: This field trip will include a visit to the Earth Rangers Centre, as well as the Kortright Centre for Conservation. Participants will learn about cutting-edge sustainable building technologies installed at Earth Rangers Centre and will also have an opportunity to meet Earth Rangers’ Animal Ambassadors and live species that inspire visitors to take environmental action every day. Julia Langer, CEO of The Atmospheric Fund, will provide a special presentation on leading energy-efficient buildings and sustainability initiatives in the Greater Toronto Area that have been supported by foundation and government investments. The field trip will conclude with a hike to the Kortright Centre for a guided tour of the Archetype Sustainable House and live bee Apiary. Pre-registration is required.
9 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Annual Meeting of the Low Carbon Funders’ Group (Room 30).For further information, contact Burkhard Mausberg at

Noon Registration Starts: Grand Room Foyer. Registration Desk will be open throughout the conference.
4 – 6 p.m.

Conference Opening (Grand Room, Kingbridge Conference Centre). Welcome by Garry Sault, Ojibway Elder, Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation. Welcome and orientation by Conference Chair, Carolyn Scotchmer, TD Friends of the Environment Foundation, and Conference Facilitator, Monica Pohlmann, Reos Partners.

Reimagining Leadership: Moving from Silos to Systems – Keynote remarks by Darcy Winslow, Academy for Systems Change

6 – 7 p.m. Reception: Kingbridge Centre
7 p.m. Progressive Dinner: Connections Dining Room, Kingbridge Centre

Wednesday, May 8

7:30 – 8:25 a.m.

Breakfast with Optional Table Conversations (Connections Dining Room). These conversations are an opportunity to explore issues and initiatives that may not be fully covered in the conference program. No pre-registration required. Confirmed conversations follow. If you have an additional conversation topic, you can post it at the conference on the poster board near registration.

  1. PhiLab is a multi-year SSHRC funded research initiative looking at critical research needs for Canada’s philanthropic community. This is an opportunity to learn more and discuss how the initiative can support funder efforts to advance a sustainable future. Join Jean-Marc Fontan, Université du Québec à Montréal, Manuel Litalien of Nipissing University, and Nicolina Farella, McConnell Foundation.
  2. The need to build public support for strong climate policies in 2019 and beyond is the focus of a funder collaboration led by the Clean Economy Fund and CEGN’s Low Carbon Funders’ Group. Rooted in research by Dr. Louise Comeau, University of New Brunswick; Dr. Erick Lachappelle, University of Montreal; and George Marshall of Climate Outreach, the implementation phase is about to get underway. Come and learn about the initiative and the opportunities for funder engagement. Co-hosted by Beth Hunter, McConnell Foundation; Lorne Johnson, Ivey Foundation; Johanna Leffler, Clean Economy Fund; and Pegi Dover, CEGN’s Low Carbon Funders’ Group.
  3. What are the opportunities and challenges for small foundations as they work to advance a sustainable future? Hosted by Stan Kozak, Gosling Foundation
  4. The Great Lakes are the largest set of lakes on Earth in terms of area and the second largest in terms of water volume, yet funder interest on the Canadian side is weak. How do we increase funder support for this international treasure? Co-hosted by Wendy Cooper, Tides Canada and Burkhard Mausberg, the Manning Group
  5. What is the role for philanthropy in advancing technological solutions to environmental issues? Hosted by Dominique Monchamp, de Gaspé Beaubien Foundation.
8:30 – 8:50 a.m.

Charting the Conference Journey (Grand Room). Carolyn Scotchmer, TD Friends of the Environment and Conference Chair and Monica Pohlmann, Reos Partners and Conference Facilitator

8:50 – 10 a.m.

The Living Earth – Re-storying Climate: Keynote remarks by Charles Eisenstein

10 – 10:15 a.m. Break
10:15 – 11:30 a.m.

Member Snapshots: Navigating the Highs and Lows on the Impact Journey

  • Pat Letizia, Alberta Ecotrust Foundation
  • Stan Kozak, The Gosling Foundation
  • Elizabeth McCallion, The Peter Gilgan Foundation
  • Valerie Lemieux, The Catherine Donnelly Foundation
11:30 a.m. – 12:25 p.m. Interactive Session: What Might We Do Differently to Increase Our Impact?
12:25 – 12:30 p.m.  Set Up for Post-lunch Paired Walk
12:30 – 1:30 p.m. Lunch and the Role for the Network in Increasing Impact (Grand Room) CEGN’s AGM will be held during lunch with voting by the key contact of each member or designated proxy. All are welcome.
1:30 – 2 p.m. Paired Walk
2 – 2:10 p.m. Debrief from Paired Walk
2:10 – 4:40 p.m.

Concurrent Sessions: These are deep dives into issues and topics of concern with a focus on what we might be doing differently to increase impact. Choose the session that resonates best and join the discussion.


 A. The Foundation Community and the Pathway to Target 1 Initiative: Checking in on Progress to Date and Exploring Indigenous Capacity Needs (Room 30)

In 2018, the federal government announced an investment of $1.3 billion in conservation, an amount that includes a $500 million leveraged Nature Fund to support Indigenous, provincial and territorial governments in establishing protected and conservation areas. These federal funds will be matched at varying levels from other sources, with foundations as prominent partners stepping up with matching commitments. A co-ordinated effort of the foundation community, through the National Target One Funders Collaborative and a strong partnership with the federal government, is helping support to maximize philanthropic support for this effort.

This session will put a spotlight on the huge shift towards Indigenous-led conservation that the Nature Fund can support as well as provide a check-in on progress to date on the Target goal of conserving at least 17% of Canada as protected and conservation areas by the end of 2020. Questions to be discussed during the session include:

  • What are the broader potential benefits (reconciliation, social, economic, cultural), beyond conservation, that make this shift so compelling?
  • What can we learn from the experiences of indigenous-led conservation in other countries such as Australia and successful examples in Canada?
  • What can philanthropy do more of and less of to support this shift and ensure it is well-anchored across Canada? and
  • What conservation progress has been made to date under the Nature Fund and what can we expect in the coming 2-3 years?

The session leads are: Cathy Wilkinson, Senior Advisor to IBCC, and Lorne Johnson, Schad Foundation. Resource people include Valerie Courtois, Indigenous Leadership Initiative. This session is sponsored by the Schad Foundation.


B. Tackling Climate with a Transition Lens (Room 21)

The philanthropic focus on climate policy has been intense in recent years, especially since the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. In Canada, funders, NGOs and other partners have worked intrepidly to advance the implementation of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change and to secure acceptance for the policy changes that are needed if the country is to meet its international climate commitments. While that work is essential, environmental funders are increasingly looking at how philanthropy can play a role in advancing a transition to a low carbon future that is good for people, planet and place. What are the work force needs? What are the policy avenues? How are the thorny issues of climate, ecological degradation and inequality enmeshed and how do we build common cause with funders outside of the environmental community?

This session is led by Beth Hunter, McConnell Foundation, and Valerie Lemieux, Catherine Donnelly Foundation, co-chairs of CEGN’s Low Carbon Funders’ Group. Resource people include: Colette Murphy, Atkinson Foundation; Jen Lash, New Venture Fund; and Natalie Irwin, Efficiency Canada. This session is sponsored by Greenchip Financial.


C. Investing for a Sustainable Future (Grand Room)

Funders are increasingly focused on using their foundation’s endowment investments as a means to advance the organization’s mission and to ensure strong financial returns. This session will take advantage of a range of financial experts to provide the opportunity for interactive small group discussions on key issues and questions relevant to the goal of investing for a sustainable future. A World Café format will be used to allow participants to benefit from hearing multiple perspectives from the experts and other conference participants. Topics for discussion include the following: How can we invest in the transition to a low carbon future? How can we invest in resiliency so that communities are better prepared for severe weather? How do we integrate our mission with our investment beliefs to expand our impact? What are the biggest challenges for transitioning to responsible investment that we should be aware of and where is the future heading? The session will also provide an overview of Foundation Investing 2.0, a new learning initiative developed for members of CEGN, Philanthropic Foundations of Canada, Community Foundations of Canada, and the Circle for Philanthropy and Aboriginal Peoples in Canada by SHARE and Rally Assets.

Andrea Moffat, Ivey Foundation, will be the session lead. Experts who will participate include: Shannon Rohan, SHARE; Andrea Nemtin, Rally Assets; Chris Viani, NEI Investments; Aaron Bennett, Jarislowsky Fraser; and John Cook, Greenchip Financial. This session is sponsored by NEI Investments.


D. From Local Streams to Canada’s Great Basins: Securing Healthy Fresh Waters in Canada (Room 23)

Water and health… water and climate change… water and reconciliation. Fresh water is a natural connector and integrator. Watersheds connect land, ecosystems and people. What issues and strategies lend themselves to making progress on freshwater health in Canada? Where are the opportunities to capture the public imagination? How do we scale up our impact as funders? Our working assumption is that funders can have meaningful impact on root causes and find systemic solutions by working together. This session will build on existing collaborative efforts and profile emerging opportunities to support funders in identifying key areas of common interest and the infrastructure and services that can support multi-scale collaboration.

Session leads are Tim Morris, Our Living Waters, and James Littley, Okanagan Basin Water Board. This session is sponsored by the Real Estate Foundation of B.C.

4:40 p.m. Check In and Reflections on the Day (Grand Room)
5 p.m. Adjourn for the Day
6 – 9:30 p.m. Reception and Conference Dinner at the McMichael Gallery: Departure will be by bus from the front of the Conference Centre at 6 p.m.

Thursday, May 9

7:30 – 8:25 a.m.

Breakfast with Optional Table Conversations (Connections Dining Room). As with the previous day, these conversations are an opportunity to explore issues and initiatives that may not be fully covered in the conference. No pre-registration required. Confirmed conversations follow. If you have an additional conversation topic, you can post it at the conference on the poster board near registration.

  1. Given how the political winds are blowing in Canada, should the funding community be doing anything differently? How do we ensure that we are building community capacity and social consensus for collective action – particularly in the area of climate action? Hosted by Joanna Kerr, Tides Canada, and Edward McDonnell, Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation.
  2. What is the landscape of national organizations working to advance sustainability? Who is doing what and how? Hosted by Stan Kozak, The Gosling Foundation
  3. Fostering an Aesthetic: Beauty, Wilderness and the Preservation of the World. Hosted by Jamie Laidlaw, Laidlaw Foundation
  4. Through our air, water, food, personal care products, and cleaning and gardening supplies, toxic chemicals and pesticides are entering our homes and the environment – severely impacting human health and the environment. Despite links to serious health issues like cancer and asthma, Canada’s legislative policies have fallen behind many other countries in regulating and banning toxic chemicals and harmful pesticides. Join a group of funders who have been participating in a collaboration with four leading NGOs over the past two years to hear about how the collaborative has been addressing this issue and share ideas on priorities for the collaborative in the future. Hosted by Wendy Cooper, Tides Canada, and Niamh Leonard, McConnell Foundation.
  5. How can foundations use their endowments to advance climate solutions? Join this conversation with Shannon Rohan, SHARE, and Andrea Nemtin, Rally Assets. Shannon and Andrea will also update participants on Foundation Investing 2.0, a new initiative to help build the capacity of foundations to undertake responsible and impact investing. This learning program is a joint effort by CEGN, Philanthropic Foundations of Canada, Community Foundations of Canada and the Circle on Philanthropy and Aboriginal Peoples in Canada.
8:30 – 8:45 a.m.

Opening and Check-in (Grand Room)

8:45 – 10 a.m.

Plenary Presentation: Is there a Secret Sauce for Effective Funder Collaboration? Our session leader is Darcy Riddell, the Catherine Donnelly Foundation and the McConnell Foundation. Funders are increasingly collaborating as a strategy to increase their impact. Recent research by Bridgespan provides insight into when and how funder collaborations can add value, ways to improve effectiveness, and some common pitfalls. The session will provide a first-hand look at key findings that will appear in the Stanford Social Innovation Review later this year.

Insights from Network Members: Two funder collaboratives in Canada provide exceptional models as to how focused collaborative efforts are having outsized impacts. We’ll hear from Grant Hogg, Environment and Climate Change Canada, and Peter Kendall, Schad Foundation, about how the federal government and a funders collective of a large number of foundations are working together through the Pathway to Canada Target 1 initiative to conserve at least 17% of Canada as protected and conservation areas by the end of 2020. They are doing so in partnership with provinces and territories, Indigenous communities, NGOS and other constituencies across the country.

We will also hear from Rod Ruff of the Alberta Ecotrust Foundation and Johanna Leffler of the Clean Economy Fund about the Low Carbon Cities Canada initiative whereby funders have pioneered the establishment or strengthening of local climate centres in seven municipalities in partnership with the federal government and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. The initiative draws on the pioneering work of The Atmospheric Fund and is slated to spark other communities beyond the initial cohort to pick up the pace on climate protection.

10 – 10:15 a.m. Break
10:15 – 11:30 a.m.

Concurrent Sessions: These sessions continue the deep dives into additional issues and topics of concern with a focus on what we might be doing differently to increase impact. Choose the session that resonates best and join the discussion.


A. Moving Conservation Across the Tide Line (Room 21)

Ecologically, land and sea are parts of a single living system. Institutionally, land and sea are often separated by rigid policy, management, and jurisdictional divides. What opportunities do funders miss when we treat marine and terrestrial conservation as separate programs? What roles can CEGN play in helping marine and terrestrial funders integrate our collective efforts – for example, through investments in strategic communications and Indigenous stewardship capacity – to leverage faster and more effective progress to Target One and beyond? Our discussion will aim to identify system linkages to advance the goals of CEGN’s new Oceans Collaborative.

Darcy Dobell, CEGN, and Meaghan Calcari Campbell, The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, will lead the session. Resource people include Merv Child, Nanwakolas Council, and Dallas Smith, Nanwakolas Council. This session is sponsored by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.


B. Partnering for Sustainable Communities: Strengthening Private / Community Philanthropy Collaboration (Room 30)

In 1992, the Rio Earth Summit recognized the central role of cross-sector partnerships in advancing sustainable development calling for “the creation of new levels of co-operation among States, key sectors of societies and people” that would work to address the “full range of issues facing urban-rural settlement”. In 2015, this call was renewed through the global adoption of Agenda 2030 and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which positions Goal 17: Partnerships as both essential to meeting these global goals and as well as an area where “Despite advances… more needs to be done to accelerate progress.”

As environmental funders in Canada, partnerships are fast becoming the way to work, with growing recognition that only a robust, equitable and co-operative approach spanning civil society, government and private sector will advance key environmental outcomes and accelerate Canada’s transition to more sustainable cities and communities. Join to explore what it might mean to “partner for sustainable communities” and what practical actions we can take to overcome obstacles and accelerate progress.

Session leads are J.P. Bervoets, Community Foundations of Canada; and Karen Wilkie, Carthy Foundation. This session is sponsored by the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation.


C. Stretch Collaboration: How to Work with People You Don’t Agree With, Like or Trust (Grand Room)

Increasingly, if we want to get things done, we need to collaborate, not only with colleagues and friends but also with opponents. To be able to collaborate in contexts that are complex, conflictual and where we do not have control, we need to stretch beyond what is habitual and comfortable. Based on Adam Kahane’s book, “Collaborating with the Enemy: How to Work with People You Don’t Agree With or Like or Trust” this session will outline the three stretches for collaborating with diverse others.

Session lead is Monica Pohlmann, Reos Partners.


D. Increasing Impact through Systems Thinking (Room 23)

This hands-on session introduces the power of systems thinking for understanding root causes of challenges and how to address them. Participants will learn to apply the Four Levels of System tool to a current challenge and identify next steps that will help them work together differently to increase impact.

Session lead is Mike Kang, Reos Partners.

11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. What Does It Mean to Decolonize Collaboration? Keynote remarks from Melanie Goodchild, Senior Indigenous Research Fellow and Associate, Waterloo Institute for Social Innovation and Resilience
12:30 – 1:30 p.m. Lunch (Grand Room)
1:30 – 3:30 p.m. Converging: So What? Now What? This interactive session will provide the opportunity to converge on the discussions so far on the two focus questions: What might we do differently to increase our impact? How might we work together differently to increase our impact? Participants will be able to propose and choose the topics of most interest to them, all toward clarifying insights and, where applicable, outlining next steps.
3:30 p.m. Adjourn


Registration | Speakers | Program | Pre-conference | Travel & Accommodation






Mountain Equipment Co-op   |   Wilburforce Foundation