Redefining Philanthropy: Djaka Blais-Amare

Djaka Blais-Amare is the Director, Grants and Racial Equity Strategy with Calgary Foundation. In this role, Djaka guides the Calgary Foundation through an ongoing journey towards a Racial Equity Culture. The Calgary Foundation’s racial equity journey closely intersects and builds on their Reconciliation Journey. Djaka works collaboratively with the Grants Team to deliver a broad range of grantmaking activities, including, supporting community partners through the process of developing project concepts and proposals for the Community Grants Program. She also fosters partnerships with community stakeholders and other funders and assists organizations with capacity building advice.

Fellowship Work at the Centre
Over the course of this fellowship with the Centre, Djaka will explore the following questions focused on philanthropy in a Canadian context:

  • How might community foundations play a leading role in depolarizing our communities?
    Given the polarized environments we are seeing globally, Djaka would like to explore how we can use philanthropy and technology to foster a greater sense of belonging and prevent the breakdown of social contracts in our communities. How can we bring people together who strongly disagree? How can these efforts link to our reconciliation with Indigenous communities' and racial equity journeys? What can be a realistic role for community foundations given our resources? Djaka believes there are several processes that community foundations can undertake to reduce polarization and build social cohesion. These could include playing a convening role at the grassroots level, facilitating conversations between individuals and groups who tend not to intersect, or supporting initiatives that build debating skills, empathy and the ability to listen to someone with whom we disagree.
  • How might we incorporate different cultural knowledge of philanthropy into traditional philanthropy practiced in Canada?
    Through conversations with different cultural communities, Djaka will explore different cultural understandings and practices of philanthropy. In particular, what is the history of Black philanthropy in Canada and how is it practiced today? How might we transform what we value to better align with the true definition of philanthropy (time, talent, treasure), moving beyond a myopic focus on financial gifts?
  • How do we move racial equity forward within community foundations?
    Philanthropic organizations need to actively work to shift their perception of racialized communities as purely recipients of charity to active contributors, knowledge keepers and philanthropists. Given the unique context of community foundations within philanthropy, how might we ensure all stakeholders, including donors and granting partners, are involved in the journey? How might we foster authentic relationship-building between philanthropic organizations and racialized communities? How might we shift power dynamics and remove oppressive structures within philanthropic organizations and in relation to communities? As community leaders, how can community foundations use their platforms to showcase marginalized perspectives and voices?

Over the three years at the Centre, Djaka will propose to collaborate with various stakeholders from the community foundations movement and other philanthropic organizations, students, non-profit and charitable organizations and thought leaders to hold a series of community conversations on the themes mentioned above. She would like to leverage the resources provided through the fellowship to pilot initiatives identified through the conversations in partnership with community foundations and other philanthropic organizations. The process will centre the voices of Black, Indigenous, and other racialized individuals and use the Centre’s platform to elevate more marginalized voices.