We humbly acknowledge that the land on which we gather is the unceded, unsurrendered territory of the Syilx (Okanagan) People. In an age of global capitalism, climate change and extractive economic models, we have a responsibility and an opportunity to collaborate, learn, and reconcile with Indigenous people about regenerative economic models.
IndigenEYEZ has a long and successful practice of facilitation and teaching using traditional Indigenous principles and land-based learnings to inspire well-being among First Nations people and to transform communities.
IndigenEYEZ was stretched to deliver meaningful support to many people and needed to focus on a sustainable way to consistently facilitate impact. A way forward needed to include focus and sustainability. They decided on a refined model (their RESPECT program) to support Indigenous youth, and the multi-generational effects of colonization both on and off reserve.
Further, IndigenEYEZ reflected on their expertise in facilitation and launched workshops about reconciliation and equity for businesses and social purpose organizations. At a time of increased awareness about racism and privilege, IndigenEYEZ will help organizations build capacity to establish cross-cultural relationships. These workshops help to cover IndigenEYEZ’s operational costs, enabling continued delivery of the RESPECT program and their important focus on Indigenous youth.
Impact and Sustainability
Like many social enterprise and social purpose organizations (SPOs), IndigenEYEZ had to constantly balance their focus on impact through program delivery while somehow making it sustainable. IndigenEYEZ needed to explore how to have a greater impact on the youth of today via the school system, while also ensuring sustainability.
There are many challenges to overcome in the classroom when having to deal with the multi-generational impact of colonization on Indigenous children, both on and off reserves. Current government required Indigenous programs only provide teachers with instructional content, not the strategies and practices to create safety and cultural understanding in the classroom. A very different approach would be required to sustainably deliver a program within the schools and achieve the impact desired for the youths.
IndigenEYEZ delivered several different programs as well as meeting the expectations of many one-time specific requests. These special requests were beneficial but distracted IndigenEYEZ from developing and growing their key programs.
“At the start, I had this idea but wasn’t convinced that a program with the schools was the right direction for IndigenEYEZ. In working with Purppl to explore the idea, the value and impact of the program was strongly and clearly identified.”
IndigenEYEZ started and operated like many charities in their first few years. Their revenue and sustainability was a careful balance of grants, donations, and significant volunteer contributions from key staff and stakeholders. They depended on funding to support delivery of their services as their client base had limited ability to pay. A couple of years ago one of their significant funders advised that they would be phasing out their funding support.
Something had to change.
The Hard Work
IndigenEYEZ and Purppl are working together on Purppl’s Resilience and Recovery Program. IndigenEYEZ’s participation is subsidized by United Way SIBC and other community partners. The hard work began on making some tough decisions about what and how programs were delivered, how the organization communicated, and the revenue model.
Focus & Decision Making
Recognizing that IndigenEYEZ received many requests for one time or customized programs, there was a need to identify and focus on their core programs and to enable consistent decision making. Together, a decision matrix was developed and validated using current and previous decisions made.
Impact was a priority, so together a focused strategy was developed that targeted a core number of students over three of their prime learning years as well as ways of creating a supportive environment throughout the entire school. A profile for the ideal teacher and ideal school for the pilot was also developed.
The process to identify program availability and registration for programs required a lot of administrative intervention and conflicts were often escalated to the Program Director for resolution. The need to streamline these processes and directly manage their program scheduling and delivery was identified and addressed by clarifying their list of core programs, acknowledging the need for a Program Manager, and identifying website changes.
Youth, Impact and Program Delivery
IndigenEYEZ and Purppl worked together to define a pilot strategy to move away from their past service delivery model, and to implement a program in schools. The RESPECT program, which targets late primary and early middle school grades, was refined to:
- directly impact 20-30 students for three years as they move through grades 4 to 6
- involve the whole school in specific events and learnings creating a safer environment for everyone, and
- educate and support 2-3 teachers per school in learning and delivering the program’s content and practices using union sponsored Education Days.
Purppl and IndigenEYEZ identified an opportunity to differentiate IndigenEYEZ from other indigenous programs by focusing on their inclusive teaching practices. Work began to refine program descriptions and promotional materials.
IndigenEYEZ programs needed structure, consistency and greater visibility in various communications channels. Prioritizing their core programs and addressing administrative requirements enabled IndigenEYEZ to clearly identify communications changes. Significant effort was spent to succinctly describe each of the programs, along with other common program information such as event size, key learnings from the program, etc.
Building Diverse Revenue to Improve Sustainability
The development and rollout of the RESPECT program required an exploration of new ways to ensure financial sustainability for IndigenEYEZ.
Together, criteria was developed to ensure funding needs were met while capitalizing on the strengths of the organization. Several criteria were developed and considered, such as:
- leverage existing expertise
- require minimal time and effort
- generate enough revenue to adequately fund the RESPECT program
- have a measurable (and meaningful) impact.
A workshop and long term program for businesses and social purpose organizations to learn about Indigenous engagement was developed. Pricing models were also developed to ensure contribution to the ongoing operations of IndigenEYEZ.
This new program called HERON, was developed to broaden their impact and address funding challenges. This program brings IndigenEYEZ’s ReconciliACTION teachings to businesses and social purpose organizations. The focus of the program is on awareness and interactions with First Nations people. It program provides a new meaningful revenue stream to fund the cost of the RESPECT program.
IndigenEYEZ and Purppl worked together to identify, prioritize and communicate their key programs. This allowed IndigenEYEZ to focus on their core programs, without distraction. It resulted in reduced administrative effort, more consistent program delivery, and simplified communications.
“Very quickly, we were able to confirm that this was exactly the right direction for us. All that has followed has been an amazing process. Purppl is able to capture the essence of what we do and provide succinct ways of communicating it. They provide firm guidance as well as focus and inspiration to gain clarity in supporting my passion. It’s been an awesome energizing experience!”
After nearly a year of work some outcomes are developing:
- Significant clarity and synergy regarding their focus across their six core program areas.
- Improved ability to select projects that are consistent with their new focus through the application of a tailored decision matrix.
- Confirmed pilot of the RESPECT program with the School Board in collaboration with UBC
- Refined curriculum and content for programs
- Rebranding underway to expand their reach for the RESPECT and HERON programs
- Increased understanding of required administrative processes and the need for a Program Manager
- Improved communication materials that clarify program focus, who benefits, and benefits of participation
- A public pilot of the HERON program is scheduled for the fall, cohosted by IndigenEYEZ and Purppl. This is a new revenue stream for IndigenEYEZ.
- IndigenEYEZ sold their first private HERON program, as an internal learning workshop on cultural inclusion and race equity. This is a new revenue stream for IndigenEYEZ.
Systemic challenges like reconciliation, colonization, and equity require collaboration from many. Our work and commitment to making a meaningful impact together continues.
“Lim limpt (thank you!)”
IndigenEYEZ is about transforming communities. Their mission is to inspire an intergenerational legacy of well-being among First Nations people in BC and beyond.
They blend land-based learning with the arts and best practices in community-building. Their approach—the Creative Empowerment Model—is being used around the world.