For Rachelle Dallaire, leading a nearly 30-year-old non-profit aimed at strengthening Indigenous welfare across B.C. was once cloaked in an annual uncertainty.
The hustles of constant fundraising, door-knocking, applying for grants, and negotiating contracts were the unavoidable facts of life for her steadfast team to maintain a consistent budget for training social workers and caregivers for Indigenous children and families, and for teaching people to blend Indigenous perspectives into their lives.
Since 1994, the Indigenous Perspectives Society (IPS) – which began as the small but mighty Caring for First Nations Children Society – has been delivering culturally sensitive training, research and policy support to Indigenous Child and Family Serving agencies, and the provincial and federal governments.
“Community partners did their very best to support us, but they also had their own challenges and organizational needs, so had limited capacity,” said Rachelle, the executive director of the IPS, based in Greater Victoria.
Though, nearly a decade ago, Rachelle realized a decision had to be made – one that many non-profits are faced with in an often tightly resourced social change sector. If the IPS’s services were to expand to meet a soaring demand for culturally relevant social workers, her team would need to focus on other ways to make revenue.
The path forward was to become a social enterprise, and to use commercial strategies for profound social change.
Creating a Financial Toolkit for Success
Rachelle consulted Thriving Non-Profits, a social sector leadership training program aimed at helping non-profits diversify their revenue streams. Her team learned about creating a business department, hiring a financial coach and a communications worker, and developing pricing plans and marketing materials, among other things.
Then the Society underwent a full rebrand, it expanded its cultural training programs, and the results, Rachelle says, were dramatic.
What began as a small organization with crucial expertise in Indigenous welfare policy and practice is now building upon this success as a fully accredited enterprise. It now has an extension of training and consulting services for people from all walks of life who want to create a just and equitable society for Indigenous peoples.
Through a mix of class lectures and group-work, the IPS offers tailored Indigenous perspectives training in many facets, from working in restorative justice, to best practices in leadership and governance, to working in children and family services. Today it’s consulted by all levels of government, by nonprofits, companies, individuals, and other entities across the province.
Social Enterprising for Underserved Communities
Rachelle says these services have become necessities for a country grappling with a deep colonial legacy of cultural erasure and genocide. She says the IPS also respects and celebrates the differing customs of all Nations.
Given her experience, she highly recommends social enterprise strategies for other non-profits and charities struggling to find resources, especially those groups that support traditionally underserved communities like First Nations, the Inuit, and the Métis.
“The biggest opportunity for us has been self-determination,” Rachelle explained. “We get to provide our services our way for our people. We have the ability to expend the revenue in ways that we decide is best for our organization. It’s been such a liberating experience.”
Many people who’ve taken the IPS’s training say they’ve grown as individuals.
Shawna Adams from the Pacific Centre Family Services Association said she was “so grateful” for her cultural perspectives course.
“It has helped me to appreciate the importance of not carrying the guilt of the past but appreciating the opportunity to learn more [in order to] reduce barriers for our local communities.”
Likewise, Shelley Jorde from the South Vancouver Neighbourhood House said she greatly appreciated being able to complete the training modules at her own pace, allowing her time to reflect on what she was learning.
“This experience has made me want to become a better ally and to continue my personal journey towards Truth and Reconciliation. I would wholeheartedly recommend [it],” she said.
Reconciliation and a Pathway for the Future
Dallaire says she’s inspired when she hears positive feedback on all of her team’s hard work.
“Every time we deliver one of our services, we participate in shaping the world to be inclusive and equitable,” she said. “It has often been said that our national history is not our fault, but we are responsible for participating in creating change that will create social inheritance.”
This year, the IPS received a Community Grant from the Victoria Foundation to support a brand new full-day course called “Coming In: Peer Allyship with Two Spirit and Indigenous LGBTQI* Youth.” Open to people aged 14 to 25, the course delves into the intergenerational impacts of colonialism on diverse youth, and ways that people can become meaningful allies.
On the heels of financial autonomy, Rachelle sees a clear path ahead for the IPS; one that involves working toward becoming an accredited Indigenous post-secondary institution.
“I envision a space where our peoples can obtain full degrees and diplomas that are recognized credentials in mainstream society,” she said proudly.
With confidence, hope, and a crucial mission, Rachelle says the Indigenous Perspectives Society will continue to spread its wisdom and knowledge to help shape a just society, one course at a time, now and for generations to come.