The federal government’s COVID-related youth service initiative through the WE charity, proposed, and then quickly abandoned, this summer has been a hot topic among political watchers and many Canadians. Beyond the politics of the key players, the controversy offers an opportunity to reflect on some questions that I think are important for the charitable sector as a whole, and those of us working in international volunteer cooperation in particular.
keeping the development sector accountable
Issues of transparency around engagement with policy-makers, stakeholders, and citizens, not the least of which includes accountability to public funders and private donors are bread and butter issues for charities.
For those of us in the development sector, it also reminds us of the importance of fundamental program delivery tenets, e.g. Southern led; and a vision of global citizenship where different actors bring a diversity of skills to the table, but where equality is the value that rises above all.
Many of the stories arising from the controversy are giving us pause. The greatest risks are to our shared work and purpose. A loss of public confidence leading to apathy – or worse – would be damaging to the entire sector. Crossroads is seeking to build a movement of global citizens, champions of gender equality, fighters for fairness and a better world.
canadians need to trust their charities
This work is challenging enough without an added layer of public cynicism or a misunderstanding of what we are trying to achieve and how we go about it. In fact, we work hard at it. This is what we have tried to do when we shared information regarding the Blackbaud data breach and the Black Lives Matter movement, and made our own commitment to action.
For me, the relationship we have with our members, donors, volunteers, funders, and supporters is dependent on trust.
A Forum Research poll from 2017 indicated Canadians’ confidence in charities was high, at nearly 75%. Yet many were unclear on how money was spent. In an era where it can be difficult to obtain or assess accurate information, and avenues for misinformation are rampant, we maintain trust by being transparent, clear, responsive, and willing to change.
international cooperation to face covid-19
Crossroads recently finalized our new, seven-year strategic plan. It lays out clearly and ambitiously where Crossroads intends to go and how it plans to get there. In addition to laying out strategies and targets for measuring and achieving success in furthering gender equality, reducing poverty, and engaging Canadians in active global citizenship, we are also spelling out what we need from you and what you can expect of us in terms of fiduciary responsibility and industry-leading board governance.
In the meantime, the spirit of international cooperation is needed now more than ever. It is only through cooperation globally that we can keep our homes safe from COVID-19 and rebuild local economies: stopping the spread of the disease through collective effort, eradicating the virus through shared science, and stitching intertwined economies back together.
We cannot be distracted, dissuaded, or discouraged. Our Southern partners are counting on us. Canadians of all ages and from all backgrounds who wish to serve are counting on us. Vulnerable women, girls, boys, and their communities are counting on us. The fall is coming. There is much work to do. Let’s continue to do it together.