How can we turn reconciliation into action?

Top learnings from the latest season of Benevity's Speaking of Purpose podcast


I like to think about season two of the Speaking of Purpose podcast as part of an ongoing reconciliation journey — for both Benevity and myself — and I hope by sharing what I’ve learned, you will feel like you’ve had a little help on your journey, too.

One thing I didn’t mention during the series is a concept a wise man named Tim Fox shared with me. Tim is the Vice President of Indigenous Relations & Equity Strategy with the Calgary Foundation. The concept is "knowledge mobilization". At its simplest, it means: once you learn something, you should pass it along.

So let’s do that. Let’s take a quick look back at what we learned and how we can turn it into action.

Ep.1: Truth Before Reconciliation

Featuring: Melissa K. Nelson, Ph.D., Indigenous Scholar, Professor of Sustainability, and Leader at The Cultural Conservancy.

In episode one, Melissa unpacked how our tragic history continues to affect Indigenous Peoples and the land we all live on today.

The first step toward reconciliation

As individuals, we have the responsibility to learn about the history of Indigenous Peoples — their rights, their struggles and their resiliency. Here are four ways you can start (or advance) your reconciliation journey:

  1. Learn about the land where you live, work and play, and about the original people who stewarded the land — and find out how to acknowledge the land in a meaningful way.

  2. Read Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report and the 94 Calls to Action. Here's a good resource from Reconciliation Education.

  3. Set up a recurring donation to an Indigenous Nation or organization in your community after you’ve learned about their history or impact. 

  4. Consider paying a voluntary tax — like the Shuumi tax — with land acknowledgments, especially for company gatherings.


Ep.2: Why Some Indigenous Leaders Don't Trust Corporations 

Featuring: Rukka Sombolinggi, Secretary General of AMAN (Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara/Alliance of Indigenous Peoples of the Archipelago).

In episode two, Rukka revealed the present-day experiences of people in Indigenous communities across the Indonesian archipelago, and the conflicts they have with organizations. We learned that building trust is key to creating and strengthening bonds between Indigenous communities and companies. And, it will take all of us to drive the change required for a better future.

As a consumer you have a lot of power.

You can learn more about where your products come from and how the communities where the resources are extracted for those products are treated. Then, you can make more informed buying decisions by purchasing from companies whose values align with yours. It’s a simple, yet powerful way to hold companies accountable.

Ep.3: The Blind Spot in Philanthropy 

Featuring: Lourdes Inga, Executive Director of International Funders for Indigenous Peoples.

Next, Lourdes Inga revealed a "blind spot" in philanthropy. As in, the discrepancy in funds going toward Indigenous Peoples considering the proportion of the global population that they make up.

The power of self-determination

In episode three we also discussed Indigenous People’s self-determination and how it is integral to the positive shifts we’ve seen in Indigenous philanthropy. Here are three ideas you can take into your personal or company giving practices:

  1. Support Indigenous-led organizations
    Lourdes brought us into the world of Indigenous-led philanthropy and how it is a shining hope for meaningful change. We also can’t forget the many examples she shared of how women are the most fierce protectors of Indigenous land, culture and ways of knowing.

  2. Acknowledge the power dynamics
    Philanthropy inherently contains harmful power dynamics with the communities we are trying to serve. By creating horizontal relationships and supporting organizations where Indigenous Peoples are able to practice self-determination, we can rebalance power and make our giving more impactful.

  3. Start by changing the way you give
    Next time you want to support an Indigenous cause, consider who is deciding how the funds will be used, or how you can make it easier for Indigenous causes to apply for grants if you’re working in that space. 
    We also need to shift our expectations around giving, and acknowledge that long-term meaningful change will take sustained action and support.


Ep.4: How Lush Became an Ally to Indigenous Peoples

Featuring: Tricia Stevens, Former Charitable Giving and Ethical Campaigns Manager, Lush Cosmetics North America.

Lastly, we heard from Tricia Stevens. We learned that it takes courage to step into uncomfortable places, but with the right intent and humility, companies can build trust between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

Lush provided us a roadmap, and showcased how top-down support, grassroots change, and the willingness to take risks are all essential to driving the change we want to see. 

How do we get there?

The shift needs to happen across all levels: personal, program and company. But to drive truly meaningful change, we as individuals must educate ourselves first. Try reading books by Indigenous authors and support Indigenous publishers and bookstores. Does your workplace have an Indigenous Employee Resource Group you can get involved with or learn from? If you work in social impact, try reaching out to organizations that partner with Indigenous communities and learn how your company can do something similar. And don't forget: once you learn something — try to pass it on.  

Reconciliation requires action

This podcast season was short, but rich. Thank you for journeying with us. We created this season of the podcast as a resource to support companies and individuals to embark on (or continue) your own reconciliation journeys. We hope you find it helpful, and that it provides you with a spark of inspiration to find your purpose and your way of leaving the world better than you found it.

Speaking of Purpose is recorded on the traditional territories of the people of the Treaty 7 region in Southern Alberta, which includes the Blackfoot Confederacy, and the Tsuut’ina and Stoney Nakoda First Nations. The City of Calgary is also home to Métis Nation of Alberta, Region III. Benevity’s headquarters is situated on land across from the Bow River which has shaped this land and its people for generations.

The podcast was created by the passionate team here at Benevity. Subscribe or follow Speaking of Purpose wherever you listen to podcasts. If you enjoy our show, please consider sharing it with a co-worker or friend to pass on the knowledge. 


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Author: Sona Khosla, Chief Impact Officer, Benevity
At the helm of Benevity Impact Labs, a social incubator and resource hub, Sona and her team bring cutting-edge data, research, insights and best practices to help organizations and individuals maximize their impact and authentically live their purpose. Sona also hosts Benevity’s podcast, Speaking of Purpose, where she and her guests discuss topics such as building purpose-driven brands and cultures, authentic employee and customer engagement, corporate giving trends and diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.