The Pulse: March 18, 2022

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  • 7°C: Sunny. Becoming a mix of sun and cloud in the afternoon. Wind becoming southwest 20 km/h gusting to 40 in the afternoon. High 7. Wind chill minus 6 in the morning. UV index 3 or moderate. (forecast)
  • 967: There are 967 Albertans in hospital with COVID-19, including 67 in intensive care. Alberta reported six new deaths on March 17. (details)
  • 6-1: The Oilers (34-23-4) defeated the Buffalo Sabres (20-33-8) for a fourth straight win. (details)

A portrait of Martin Garber-Conrad

Departing head of community foundation reflects on 17 years of innovation

By Karen Unland and A. Jade Munsie

As Martin Garber-Conrad prepares to retire as CEO of the Edmonton Community Foundation, he's confident the philanthropic innovation that started under his leadership will carry on into the future.

"There's still going to be lots of neat things that Edmonton Community Foundation can do even after I'm gone," he said on Episode 8 of Bloom, Taproot's podcast about innovation in Edmonton. "And, you know, I'll be keeping my eye on it and wishing them well."

The ECF is Canada's fourth-largest community grant foundation, assembling and administering capital from philanthropists and reinvesting the returns into the community. During Garber-Conrad's 17 years at the helm, the organization's assets grew to more than $700 million. That has allowed it to grant about $30 million per year.

That base of capital has also allowed the ECF to put that money to work in innovative ways. It has created new organizations to do good in the community, rolled out pandemic aid in quick and targeted ways, and found new ways to tell the foundation's stories.

Among the innovations highlighted by ECF board chair Zahra Somani when she announced Garber-Conrad's retirement in February were the Edmonton and Area Land Trust, which conserves natural areas; the Edmonton Community Development Company, which develops residential and commercial property in neighbourhoods that struggle to attract investment; and the Social Enterprise Fund, which loans money to social enterprises.

"Our mainstream work is making money with our assets, and then using those proceeds to make grants. But we also began to think that perhaps there was more that we could do with the assets themselves, in addition to the granting," he said of the genesis of the Social Enterprise Fund. "We knew that there were at least some charities and certainly some nonprofits and some social enterprises that would benefit from having debt financing ... but who would not be eligible to get loans from a bank."

The SEF has invested more than $75 million into more than 80 projects, more than $20 million of which has been paid back.

"The neat thing about social financing is that we can use the money again and again," Garber-Conrad said. "When we make a grant, the money does good in the community, but it's gone. When we make a loan, the money does good, and then when it's paid back, it can be loaned out again."

Jane Bisbee, executive director of the Social Enterprise Fund, highlighted Garber-Conrad's role in the creation of the fund in a publication celebrating its 10th anniversary. "Without his wise counsel, and the imagination to see beyond the accepted way of doing things, none of this would have been possible," she wrote.

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By Mack Male

  • The Urban Development Institute (UDI) has announced its members are "rallying around downtown vibrancy" with the approval of its new strategic plan. "With many Edmontonians returning-to-work, one immediate call-to-action is for our members to come downtown – to show their support for downtown businesses, shops, and restaurants," said board chair Susan Keating. The focus on downtown is one of six strategic priorities identified in the plan, all aimed at increasing investment and jobs in the Edmonton metro region.
  • Between January and October last year, 1,372 Albertans died of drug poisoning, making it the deadliest year on record. Postmedia reporter Anna Junker has started a three-part series on the toxic drugs crisis in Edmonton.
  • While Mayor Amarjeet Sohi is still waiting for the province to respond to Edmonton's request for funding to make a bid to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup, Vancouver Mayor Kenney Stewart announced his city will spend up to $5 million to support its bid. "We will continue to explore and continue to try to convince the province that this is good for the city, this is good for Alberta," Sohi told CTV News. "This provides us an opportunity to a global platform to showcase what Edmonton has to offer."
  • The Edmonton Police Service's early intervention unit referred more than 1,300 critical incidents to member support last year. The unit flags issues that could impact an officer's wellness, including fatal collisions, severe assaults, homicides, offences involving children, and office-involved shootings.
  • Three people have been killed by Edmonton police officers so far this year. Police Chief Dale McFee told the Edmonton Police Commission that there's no pattern to the deaths. "It's not fair to look at pattern unless there's two that are linked to each other," he said. "But it is always fair to review operational review of each incident, review training standards." EPS shot and killed six people from 2016 to 2020, according to CTV News.
  • Lynx Air, a new Calgary-based budget airline, announced that starting July 28 it will operate seven flights per week between Edmonton and Toronto.
Paper sculptures of mushrooms lit from within

Weekend agenda: March 18-20, 2022

By Karen Unland

This weekend's calendar includes celebrations of visual art, both mobile and stationary, as well as music spanning the ages and a Star Wars role-playing game stream to raise money for Ukraine:

Photo: Mushrooms are the theme of this year's GLOW, a lantern parade through central Edmonton to welcome the spring equinox. (CO*LAB/Facebook)