When I was 8 years old, I had the opportunity to travel to Northern Ireland and to visit my grandparents for the very first time. The memories of my first few days are still very vivid. From being frisked by the British Army at the Belfast airport to leaving a department store that had received a telephone bomb threat, the violence that was the hallmark of the ‘troubles’ stays with me today.
This is not a commentary about the political situation that has existed for decades in Northern Ireland. Rather, it is a reflection on the kind of society we enjoy in Canada. One very much shaped by charities and nonprofits. One defined by a free and open democracy.
One where every vote makes a difference.
In the coming days, Canadians have the wonderful opportunity to decide who will form the next federal government. Right now, aspiring candidates are busy reaching out to voters hoping to convince them that their party’s vision is the right one or that they are the right person for the job or that their leader should be Prime Minister. In this amazing country, we contemplate our options in a peaceful and thoughtful way.
In this blog, I invite you to consider three things:
1. Community impact NEEDS a place in the election
The charitable and nonprofit sector positively affects the lives of millions of Canadians each and every day. With over two million employees and 13 million volunteers, the connection to community in this country is deep. And, in addition to being a community driver the sector is an economic driver as well with 8.1% of GDP.
Canadians do include economic plans, foreign policy, employment numbers and other items as key considerations when thinking about where to cast their votes. Yet, where is the consideration for issues of community, especially in the big picture sense? When was the last time, that societal good and investment in the sector was used a lens for deciding how to vote? Not the only lens, but one that takes its rightful place alongside other key considerations.
It is time.
2. The people in the networks of organizations care about many causes
Regardless of the mission or cause of an organization, it is first and foremost a collective of caring people.
People who care are not just about one particular cause or issue; they care about and engage with a multitude of others as well. They may be committed to one cause as a volunteer, donor or staff member, but also are the recipients of service of another. Or have witnessed a family member’s interaction with another cause.
Most organizations in this country won’t be active during the election campaign by presenting policy ideas or proposing position statements. Those that are active have been highlighted in the Charity Impact Brief: Federal Election 2015, which documents the contribution of those from the sector who are either putting forth policies for consideration by the parties or promoting civic engagement.
So, here is a whacky idea. What if organizations shared this brief with their networks… even if their cause isn’t included?
I invite you to consider the potential for this country if organizations invited the people in their networks to employ a lens of social good when casting their votes. By sending information (like the Charity Impact Brief) to people in organizations across the sector, millions of Canadians can think about issues and actively seek the positions of those standing for election related to those issues.
It is time for a collective approach.
3. A gift too precious to waste
Canada consistently ranks as one of the best nations in the world in which to live. Time and time again, its cities are in the upper tiers as the most desirable places to be. It may sound cliché, but for many Canadians this country represents the best that the planet has to offer.
The right to vote and help to shape this nation is one of our most precious gifts.
Regardless of political viewpoints or affiliations, having more Canadians involved in the democratic process makes this nation better. I don’t think it is a stretch to see a direct connection between our quality of life and our sector’s ability to engage Canadians. I am encouraged to think that in days the opportunity exists to combine the passion for social good with the ballot box.
It is time to vote.
At Imagine Canada, we will be watching the outcome with keen interest. The results will shape the efforts of this organization and many others in the months and years to come.
Photo credit: CIVIX, a non-partisan, national registered charity building the skills and habits of citizenship among young Canadians.
About the Author
Bruce MacDonald is the President & CEO of Imagine Canada.
Prior to Imagine Canada, Bruce served as CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada for ten years and before that as the organization’s Vice-President of Marketing. Bruce is bilingual, has led major change initiatives and developed long and innovative partnerships with corporations and other charities. Bruce has been active in many organizations, including two YMCAs, the Ontario Senior Games and Kinsmen and Kinette Clubs. He brings passion, knowledge and skill to everything he does. Bruce holds a Bachelor of Commerce in Sports Administration and a Masters in Management in the Voluntary Sector.