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Reflections from our reconciliation journey

28 September 2023
Prosper Canada’s Reconciliation Commitment requires that we continuously reflect on and evolve how we work with Indigenous communities across Canada.   

While it can be uncomfortable to look critically at our own work, taking the time to reflect on our past experiences and to distill what they have to tell us about what works and where and how we can improve is one of the best ways we can ensure that we are honoring our commitment.  

This has meant listening to and applying feedback from our Indigenous and community partners, refining our understanding of reconciliation and what this requires of us, and looking at where we have been able to meet our goals and where we have encountered challenges that invite us to find out why and to adapt our work accordingly.  

The new insights and approaches that have resulted are bearing fruit in the form of more meaningful, collaborative and considered partnerships and what we hope are stronger and more long-lasting relationships. As part of our efforts, we are paying particular attention to strengthening Prosper Canada’s past approach in the following ways:   

  • Taking more time to build a foundation of trust with the Indigenous communities we engage with 
  • Fostering longer term relationships that are not time-bound by specific projects 
  • Understanding that communities rarely have excess local capacity to devote to financial help services 
  • Investing more fully in community processes to identify their priorities and co-develop tailored programs and resources that meet these needs. 
Reflecting on what we have heard from our partners and learned along the way, we have also identified some critical success factors in this work: 

  • Adopting a conducive mindset. Successful relationships require a respectful, open and collaborative mindset – e.g., How can we help? What would you like to see happen? How would you like us to work with you? 
  • Proceeding in phases. The necessary time, attention and resources need to be invested in 4 distinct collaboration phases: trust building; partnership development; co-designing financial empowerment interventions and service delivery; and ongoing service delivery, capacity building and expansion ​where there is interest. 
  • Leveraging established relationships. Trust takes time to establish between non-Indigenous partners and Indigenous communities. Our initiatives have benefited greatly from 10+ years of prior relationship building by our Ontario and Manitoba Financial Empowerment Champion (FEC) partner organizations. 
  • Identifying committed community contacts. Connection and capacity building with a community member who can help champion financial empowerment efforts and/or support financial empowerment service delivery partners is critical to sustaining a program. Community contacts facilitate trust building with their community members and leadership and often make introductions to other communities.  
  • Using flexible service models. Indigenous community contacts often have little or no available capacity to deliver financial help services themselves. They consistently express a strong preference to have services and support provided by a trusted and reliable FEC partner but tailored for their community. Interventions and delivery approaches need to be co-developed with communities, according to the needs, priorities and values expressed by their members​. 
  • Combining funding sources to sustain this work​. Financial empowerment service delivery organizations typically draw on multiple funding sources to enable them to develop relationships with more Indigenous communities and to sustain these beyond the life of any single project. Successful relationships with Indigenous communities need to be sustained – they cannot be turned on and off according to the availability of project funding.  ​ 
This work is also highly resource intensive​ – the phases noted above take time and collaboration, often in person. Sustaining and expanding services also requires a long-term commitment to communities that exceeds any one project. Consequently, it’s critical to ensure that financial empowerment service delivery partners can sustain the relationships​ they have established with Indigenous communities. This requires adequate funding for them and for Indigenous community partners to enable effective capacity building and sustained service delivery​. 

Prosper Canada is currently mobilizing resources to sustain existing partnerships and build new ones to reach 6,000+ rural and urban Indigenous individuals with financial empowerment supports and to explore further ways to scale up culturally appropriate financial help services for Indigenous communities across Canada.​ 

We recognize that expanding this work is a long-term commitment to participating communities, relies heavily on the trust our financial empowerment service delivery partners have built with Indigenous communities over time, and is resource intensive, so we do not proceed lightly but in the recognition that this is necessary to advance our commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples in Canada.​  

We also expect and acknowledge that, despite our best efforts, we will still have much to learn as we move forward.  And while challenges are inevitable, if we take the time to distill and attend to what they have to tell us, we are confident these will continue to help us learn, grow, and advance our reconciliation goals.