Calling Decent Work Activists!

Jenn Miller is the Director of Social Investment with the Atkinson Foundation. You can reach her at

The Atkinson Decent Work Fund is open and ready to hear from you. Since 2014, we have invested over $3 million in organizing communities to protect workers’ rights, create decent work, and share the benefits of public investment and economic growth more equitably.

Over the last four years, we’ve supported projects as small as $10,000 and as large as $135,000 over a six- to eighteen-month period. There has been significant progress in organizing residents and workers to have a voice in how their work and the economy are structured to include or exclude them. The passage of Bill 148, the Fairer Workplaces and Better Jobs Act was the result of a remarkable province-wide campaign that won the most important set of legislative improvements for workers in a generation: commitments to increase minimum wage to $15/hr, better legislative protections for temporary workers, and an improved enforcement regime.

This campaign built and mobilized a powerfully diverse base — from workers in health care, airports and grocery stores to anti-poverty activists and unionized workers, students and faith-based community leaders, early childhood educators and business owners, journalists, economists and academics, as well as philanthropists like us. Our sights are now set, however, on implementation challenges. It will take all of us, pulling together and reaching out to even more people, to make the legislation work for everyone who lives in this province.

Further, last fall, the Government of Ontario laid out its plan to stimulate provincial economic growth with a $190 billion investment in public infrastructure over the next 13 years. Community organizing efforts influenced the decision to tie these investments to community benefits projects and apprenticeships for more jobs and training opportunities for low-income people and places. The promise of billions of dollars through public infrastructure investments is now driving demand for knowledgeable and skilled community benefits organizers in places like Windsor, Hamilton, Ottawa and Rexdale.

This kind of progress creates new opportunities and challenges. The fight for decent work needs new ideas and allies as well as renewed efforts. That’s where the Atkinson Decent Work Fund comes in. It exists to bring promising projects to life and to support their development over time. If you’re part of an organization, coalition or network that has been working on new or better ways to make work and the economy for everyone, we want to hear from you.

We’re interested in projects that strengthen the decent work movement in Ontario. They can focus on developing a strategy or telling engaging stories, experimenting with different community organizing approaches or taking a proven one to a larger scale. We’re open to projects that are about learning from experience or sharing knowledge as well as proposing public policy options to drive change. If your project engages communities and amplifies residents’ and workers’ voices to contribute to the fight for decent work, please write us a letter.

In no more than three pages, tell us your project idea, your vision of decent work and how we can help. The deadline for submissions is Monday, March 5, 2018 by 5:00 pm. If your project is shortlisted, you’ll be invited to submit a more detailed proposal in April. You can expect a final decision in June. For more information about how to apply, check out the grants page on our website and tune into our webinar on Tuesday, February 13, 2018 at 1:00 pm. More detailed guidelines for the Atkinson Decent Work Fund will be posted on our website shortly, but here is a one-pager to get you started.

As Colette Murphy said during our 75th anniversary celebrations last November, “The Atkinson Foundation is proud to be in this good fight with the finest decent work activists in the country … There are fewer and fewer people on the sidelines now. A growing number are doing their share.” Thank you for what you’re doing now and for taking the time to consider what this critical moment is calling you to do next.