This month’s featured Purppl Partner is Diana Frost, CEO/Founder at Colouring it Forward. Take a quick 10 to get to know this social enterprise leader!
Colouring it Forward collaborates with Indigenous Artists and elders to produce authentic books, cards and journals to tell the other side of the story of Indigenous people — of hope and of a different future. Colouring It Forward is more than a colouring book, it’s a gathering place for people to share their own stories and their Native Canadian art, and to build a community. They are a 100% Indigenous social enterprise and makes donations from its sales to Indigenous social projects.
Colouring It Forward includes a not-for-profit organization called CIF Reconciliation Society. CIF Reconciliation Society works in collaboration with organizations such as IndigeSTEAM, Stardale Women’s Group, and more to deliver art-based workshops and events that provide education on Indigenous ways of knowing and promote healing and reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. They organize an annual Orange Shirt Day Walk and Event called Pokaiks the Children.
Colouring it Forward is working together with Purppl in 2023 on their impact and strategic decision-making, plus building repeatable, sustainable revenue.
1. Where do you consider home?
My home is in the traditional territories of Treaty 7 signatories, in Calgary. I’m originally from Sherbooke, Quebec, and moved here in 2003 for a job.
2. What is your favourite part of your role within your organization?
There are many things I love about having my own business. I love having the freedom to plan my day as I like, and to design new books and products with Indigenous artists and elders. I also love learning from the elders when I sit with them to gather stories and teachings to share.
3. What drew you to social impact work like this?
Growing up, I never learned anything about Indigenous culture because my mother had been in a residential school for most of her childhood and didn’t have any of that knowledge. I decided to develop colouring books with elders’ teachings to help people to connect with Indigenous art and culture. I organize orange shirt day events in honour of my mother and 2 uncles and to help people to become aware of what happened and the issues that still persist so that we may all build a better future together.
4. If you were a politician, which policy would you change tomorrow?
I would increase funding for economic development and access to the same quality of education, health and other services on reserves
5. Who in your own community do you admire and why?
I admire Chief Clarence Louie from the Osoyoos Band for being able to lead his reserve with a focus on economic development and cultural pride. The result is a reserve where there are more jobs than people, where there are many businesses that thrive, and where the children can hope for a good future.
6. What one thing do you wish people NOT currently working in the social impact space knew about it, or would do differently?
The impacts of the residential school system continue to impact us even today but they are seldom recognized as a result of PTSD. One of the worst results from the Indian Act is that it separated Indigenous people from the rest of the population and so the fact that people on reserves live with substandard education, housing, healthcare, water and other services is not commonly known. Because of this alienation, there are a lot of stereotypes, fear and distrust between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people which makes building relationships and making improvements difficult.
7. How do you measure the success of your initiatives?
Two years ago, we had 400 people attend our Orange Shirt Day event. Last year, we had 6000 people walk with us on that day. When I started working with artists there were no Indigenous murals in Calgary, very little Indigenous products in stores and definitely no Indigenous colouring books. Today there are more and more Indigenous markets, murals and products available. There is a growing interest from companies and organizations to get educated and to partner with Indigenous people on projects.
8. What systemic issue(s) are you working on? How are you getting to the root causes of those issues?
We are working on reconciliation through the arts through the sale of products made with artworks and elders’ wisdom, as well as the organization of art exhibits on the theme of truth and reconciliation, and orange shirt day events. Our art exhibits share the artist’s view of the subject and also propose reconcliActions to hopefully inspire viewers to take action. Our Orange Shirt Day event brings together people from all backgrounds to share, walk together and heal together, to learn about current issues and have conversations with community representatives and organizations.
9. How do you generate revenue to keep your efforts sustainable?
I run a business where I sell products which provide me with an income and from which I make donations for Indigenous social projects including my annual orange shirt day event. My social enterprise also includes a not-for-profit organization which is funded by grants, sponsorships and donations.
10. What are your top challenges right now as a leader?
Having enough time to run the business and also the not-for-profit organization. Making enough sales to be able to cover my living costs is sometimes a challenge as well. Having enough cashflow to continue expanding the business is also a challenge.