Reflection: The Winnipeg Boldness Project – Pioneering the Future

In a recently published book Philanthropic Foundations in Canada – Landscapes, Indigenous Perspectives and Pathways to Change, Gladys Rowe and Diane Roussin  in their chapter “Relationship, reciprocity and respect: Reflecting on our journey at The Winnipeg Boldness Project (page 173)” offer an insightful story of the social innovation initiative – The Winnipeg Boldness Project. Established in 2014, this Project emerged from a need to address the challenging issues of early childhood outcomes particularly in the Point Douglas community in Winnipeg, Manitoba. According to the Winnipeg Boldness Project website, 56% of children in the Point Douglas area were entering kindergarten yet unprepared to learn due to complex systemic factors.

The chapter presents a conversation between Galdys Rowe and Diane Roussin, who take the reader on take the reader on a journey navigating the trials and tribulations they had to overcome to attain a measurable level of success.

Both authors emphasize the importance of social innovation and research to develop novel approaches that provide better outcomes for family members and children. They speak to a system that is not only dated but one that had not been addressing the needs of the Point Douglas community. In their chapter, Rowe and Roussin contend that by focusing on value-based decision-making, the unique needs of every individual can be further exemplified which ultimately lends itself to developing more conducive solutions. The authors also discuss how they have tackled complex challenges by incorporating a person-centered design with a focus on “Indigenous ways of knowing, being, feeling and doing” as well as other aspects of Indigenous teachings (pg.174).

However, both authors contend that this was no easy task and that paving the way for future generations didn’t come without its fair share of hard work. In that regard, Rowe and Roussin both speak about their experience with their philanthropic partners and how fostering that relationship was paramount in bolstering innovation. Roussin also speaks to the importance of trust and how trust can facilitate a particular foundation to develop concrete relationships. In order to achieve success, the authors describe how philanthropic partners needed to have a more hands on approach and rely on unique approaches that they may have not been fully accustomed to. The philanthropic partners shared in the responsibility and accountability which gave rise to a novel type of relationship, one that will likely facilitate different ideals and methods of achieving goals for foundations and philanthropic partners across Canada.

Both authors desire that the non-profit sector become less averse to taking risks. They argue that rarely does the non-profit sector offer a straightforward solution with a definitive path without any significant challenges. To navigate the sector, Rowe and Roussin encourage non-profits to collaborate with philanthropic and community partners in order to forge a relationship where their innovative way of operating would be better understood and more valued.

From the onset, Rowe and Roussin both understood that social innovation would be unconventional and would be hard to evaluate in the traditional world of programming and philanthropy. Their approach showcases the importance of innovation and how it will continue to aid the non-profit sector’s outreach and success.


Gladys Rowe is the former research and evaluation manager, and Diane Roussin is the project director of the Winnipeg Boldness Project.

Author: Al Bhanji, Hub Coordinator

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