Atkinson Field Notes

Learning in Action

Reflections, presentations and speeches by Atkinson’s Chief Executive Officer Colette Murphy and the rest of the Atkinson team.

Greetings from Point Petre!
12 May 21
Together with our collaborators, we brought forward a bold proposal on Indigenous reconciliation and economic advancement to the TMX Group. It’s a move that is expected to “ripple” through capital markets in North America. Read more >
6 May 21
Documentaries take us into each other’s lives and workplaces, to learn and inspire action. Here is what Nora Cole, Atkinson’s Manager of Policy and Communications, is taking away about work today from her Hot Docs queue so far. Read more >
1 May 21
This pandemic continues to distort our sense of time. Scientists call it “temporal disintegration”. A feeling of living in the moment, day to day, unmoored from the past and unable to imagine the future. But also a feeling of living large, emboldened to act with moral purpose in the here and now. Read more >
22 Jan 21
Stay home is a simple message but not a simple choice. Without paid sick days, the decision to go to work sick or not be able to pay bills is one forced on far too many workers in Canada every day. Read more >
18 Dec 20
“The reckoning might be now.” In Colette's year-end letter, she thanks the people who are leading the way in this movement moment. Read more >
29 Oct 20
I’m pleased to be here with you on the traditional territories of many nations – Anishnabek, Mississaugas of the Credit and Haudenosaunee Confederacy – and home to many First Nations, Métis and Inuit people today. It’s an honour to be in conversation with Ruth, Paulette, Peter, Paul and André — all of whom inspire me to risk more for racial justice. Read more >
13 Jul 20
Essential workers and their families continue to bear the brunt of COVID-19 for little more than our gratitude. It should be no surprise that these workers are mostly Black, Indigenous and people of colour. Read more >
30 Jun 20
When I heard about the gig worker wins in California, I thought again about what makes us stay and fight in the face of injustice, instead of packing up and leaving town for warmer and more hospitable places. Read more >
11 Jun 20
With the support of Shareholder Association for Research and Education (SHARE), Atkinson's Executive Director Colette Murphy filed a Restaurant Brands International (RBI) shareholder proposal on decent work practices at the company's annual general meeting on June 10, 2020. Read more >
10 Jun 20
When I first joined the Atkinson Foundation in 2019, I wrote a field note entitled “I am where I need to be”. I’ve learned a lot from this small but mighty team on the importance of understanding how narrative plays such an intricate role in our lives and how it shapes the world we’re in. Read more >
22 May 20
Two tomatoes. Alongside onions, garlic, ginger and a handful of spices. That makes the base of most of my mom’s recipes. This has taken on new relevance for me because, like so many of us, I have been cooking at home more than ever before in the last two months. Read more >
20 May 20
ICYMI, in celebration of the one-year anniversary of the drive to unionize Foodora’s delivery workers, the corporation announced it’s exiting the Canadian market and has declared bankruptcy with $4.7 million in debt. Read more >
22 Apr 20
I really appreciate this invitation from the Canadian Capital Stewardship Network to participate in this conversation. What we have in common is a commitment to investing workers’ capital in ways that uphold their rights  and the interests of their families and their communities. Read more >
16 Apr 20
In this first month of the crisis, we’ve been seeing organizers in lower-income communities do what they do best: amplifying the voices of people most affected by this crisis, and keeping them connected to each other. Read more >
9 Apr 20
I took this picture on a quick solo run through my neighbourhood a few days ago. Since the scope of the crisis became known, we’ve been moving at a lightning pace — powering through every emotion from surprise and excitement to anger and fear. But this sign slowed me down and helped me catch my breath. Read more >
27 Mar 20
As we settle into life under public health orders in light of COVID-19, I’ve spent a lot of time on the phone these past two weeks. And walking. And on the phone while walking. Read more >
21 Feb 20
Twenty years of shareholder research and education. Twenty years of building an organization known world-wide as SHARE, an acronym that communicates a timeless and urgent mission with uncommon simplicity. Twenty years of doing one’s duty -- demonstrating what prudence, loyalty and care look like when investing in a sustainable, inclusive and productive economy. Read more >
20 Feb 20
I’m in Vancouver today to attend the SHARE Investor Summit with my co-worker Jenn Miller. Atkinson has been a SHARE supporter from the start -- 20 years ago. It continues to be a priority to use our investor and shareholder power to help maximize public and private return on investments. Read more >
20 Feb 20
“I wasn’t a failed DJ. I was pre-successful.” This is just one of the flashes of brilliance that made me a true fan of The Good Place, a wildly funny, philosophical sitcom about life, death, good, evil, redemption and frozen yogurt that premiered in 2016. The series finale aired late last month. Read more >
20 Aug 19
I’m Colette Murphy -- the Executive Director of the Atkinson Foundation -- and on behalf of everyone here this evening, I’d like to thank Principal Fortier, Brian, Hassan, and Minister Duclos for joining our “people’s celebration” of the ILO’s centenary. It is good to be here with you  -- in Centre-Sud, a neighbourhood with deep activist roots not unlike the places many of us call home. Read more >
3 Jul 19
Is it possible to have a competitive economy that is also fair? This question was on my mind when I moderated a panel on economic democracy at the Progress Summit earlier this year. Economist Rocío Martínez-Sampere, sociologist Julia Posca and workers’ rights organizer Deena Ladd joined me for what turned out to be an inspiring economic myth-busting session. Read more >
30 Apr 19
Growing up, my dad, older brother and sister were amateur astronomers. As the youngest at the time, I naturally wanted to be in on the exploration. Summer holidays at the planetarium. Summer nights with the telescope, star maps, and naming constellations. What fascinated me most was that the night sky, the heavens, were shared -- around the globe and through time -- and I had a lot of questions. Read more >
25 Apr 19
I turned 30 last year. As my birthday approached, my loved ones gently asked  “and how are you feeling about it?” Any important date - a birthday, an anniversary, a milestone - is a moment to ask hard existential and practical questions. Read more >
1 Apr 19
This weekend we learned Donna Wood died a couple of weeks ago in Victoria, British Columbia after a long illness. Donna was a private person about her health, but a fiercely public person when it came to the health of Canadian society. That’s why only a few of us had any idea that the paper we published together on Employment Insurance at the end of January would be one of her last. Read more >
18 Mar 19
When I am asked how I first became interested in social justice, I share my memory of being 10 years old and tagging along with my parents to community meetings. Born and raised in Montréal to Afro-Peruvian parents with little family in Canada, I went where they went; to someone’s living room or community centre. Read more >
21 Jan 19
I’ve been thinking about the merits of good insurance ever since the tornado touched down in the Ottawa area in September. Those who paid higher premiums are in a dramatically different position than others today, but everyone benefited from the community rallying to support victims and to avert a disaster that could have been much worse. Read more >
17 Jan 19
Last fall, I was extremely lucky to have the opportunity to hear Gloria Steinem speak. In a panel discussion, she was asked about the challenge of right wing populism and the threat to social justice. Read more >
19 Dec 18
Almost four years ago, I became a member at Karma Co-op Food Store—a small, historic food co-op in Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood. The co-op began as a cost-effective way for the residents of the area to access high-quality, local, fair-trade, organic produce and health products in the early 70s, back when such things weren’t readily available at your local grocery store. Read more >
3 Dec 18
With the support of the Atkinson Foundation, Meg Ronson and I published a new paper called The Co-operative Opportunity: A Strategy for Small Business Succession in Ontario this fall. Our research pursued signs of massive generational change in this sector. Read more >
2 Nov 18
It takes courage, patience, resilience and determination to start a new life as a stranger in a new country. I cannot talk about my journey to and within Canada without mentioning Bethlehem United Shelter. Read more >
11 Sep 18
In my first year of journalism school I was given an assignment to write about a great moment in Canadian journalism. I submitted an essay on how Joseph Atkinson paved the way for socially responsible journalism with the creation of what is known today as the Toronto Star. Read more >
13 May 18
I’m thrilled to share the news that Armine Yalnizyan, one of Canada’s leading economists, has accepted a two-year fellowship with the Atkinson Foundation, aimed at policy innovation for inclusive economic growth in an era of rapid technological change. Read more >
27 Mar 18
Recently, I was looking up whether a couple of the TV shows I like were going to return for another season. To my dismay, one of my favourites was characterized as being “on the bubble” - a new phrase for me. I learned it’s showbiz-speak for being on the cusp of cancellation or renewal. The show’s future rests in powerful hands. This seemingly innocuous term struck a surprising and deep chord. Read more >
22 Mar 18
I'd like to start with my conclusion. I believe the nonprofit sector is better equipped to handle emergence and disruptions than other sectors. We’re resourceful and centred on people not profit. We know how to engage new realities, adapt, and get organized to take care of each other in all weather conditions. Read more >
23 Feb 18
Thank you for inviting me to pick up the conversation where David Watson left off last night. Like UNISON Scotland, the Atkinson Foundation knows inequality is a political choice and not a natural condition. We look to leaders in every sector like David who have made the choice to get behind the people who are suffering the most from the politics of austerity. Read more >
22 Jan 18
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. Read more >
23 Nov 17
Opening remarks for a panel discussion on "making economies work for everyone" at the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Global Conference of Young Parliamentarians on Friday, November 17, 2017 in Ottawa by Atkinson’s Executive Director Colette Murphy. Read more >
4 Nov 17
We’re here tonight to celebrate the good fight. The fight for a better world. No one can reach the age of 75 without having to think about what makes some fights good and others not. The Atkinson Foundation is no exception. We’ve had our fair share of both. Read more >
4 Nov 17
If you know the history of the Toronto Star, you’ll know Joseph Atkinson expected his reporters to “Get the news first, sew it up, pursue every detail, and play it big.” The fight for decent work benefits from the Star’s passion for investigating, reporting and effecting change in countless ways. One way stands out tonight. News gatherers are fighting for the future of journalism these days. Read more >
4 Nov 17
When my grandfather established the Atkinson Foundation in 1942, he had been a journalist and the publisher of the Toronto Star for over 40 years. There are signs, however, that he might have been an architect at heart. Not only did he envision the Toronto Star’s first home on King Street in the late 1920s Read more >
4 Nov 17
I’d like to start by thanking you for the opportunity to advocate for “humanity above all” in a world that is too often inhumane. In preparation for this night, we set out to learn more about this phrase, this timeless mission that Mr. Atkinson placed at the centre of his life and his foundation. We discovered that it has all the characteristics of what’s called a “meme” Read more >
1 Nov 17
I was a kid who loved the weekend comics but who never quite became a comic book nerd. I discovered Chester Brown's now acclaimed graphic novel on Louis Riel while in university. It was a revelation to me to see such serious information delivered in an entertaining and sensitive way. While the playful illustrations pulled me in Read more >
25 Oct 17
On a unseasonably hot and sunny mid September morning, an Ontario-based group of community leaders travelled to Buffalo, New York. Our mission was to see first hand how organizers are building coalitions to support public policy advocacy for community benefits Read more >
17 Oct 17
In the same year as the Unemployment Insurance Act was passed by the House of Commons, Joseph Atkinson turned 75. The effects of the Great Depression had been so intense that in 1940 federal and provincial governments were finally willing to take bold measures to prevent its repeat and to mitigate the unpredictability of the economy. Read more >
11 Sep 17
A new reporting position has been created at the Toronto Star to increase coverage of issues related to democratic renewal with our help — and we’ve been wondering what Mr. Atkinson would think about this decision. We can imagine the current state of the news industry would keep him up at night. But it would be the news itself Read more >
25 Apr 17
“What about the other 96.5%?” is a question preoccupying many foundations here in Canada and elsewhere. This is the amount of capital that foundations generally do not grant out to their charitable partners each year. Read more >
12 Apr 17
A keynote delivered at the Cities Reducing Poverty Summit on Tuesday, April 4, 2017 in Hamilton by Atkinson’s Colette Murphy. This event was convened by Vibrant Communities Canada and the City of Hamilton, and co-hosted by the Maytree Foundation and the Canadian Federation of Municipalities. Read more >
9 Nov 16
Like most of you, this is my first convocation. I’ve earned two university degrees but I’ve never walked across a stage like this one. Back in 1987, I dreamed about walking the landscape of my textbooks and meeting the people whose lives I studied. Before the ink was dry on my undergraduate diploma Read more >
26 Aug 16
“How many of you work in tech?” It’s International Women’s Day and I’m hosting a panel on women in tech, with … women in tech. As I try to get a sense of who is in the audience, most hands go up. It’s International Women’s Day and I’m hosting a panel on women in tech, with … women in tech. As I try to get a sense of who is in the audience, most hands go up. Read more >
12 Aug 16
Last month I travelled to Buffalo for a conference that brought together community organizers, advocates and academics to talk about strategies for a people and planet-centre economy. Buffalo, only two hours south of my home in Toronto, is making an ambitious comeback after a long economic decline. Read more >
7 Jun 16
Today, Jenn Miller and I are attending the Responsible Investing Association (RIA) Conference on behalf of the Atkinson Foundation. The conference has brought together more than 300 investment professionals from Canada and around the world to Toronto. Read more >
9 May 16
At the heart of the internet, if you look closely, people are having a conversation. Whether it’s asking Google a question, on anything and knowing you’ll get a decent answer quickly, or chiming in on a Facebook comments thread around the breaking news story of the day ... Read more >
19 Apr 16
“Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long,” advised Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “but it bends toward justice.” The words of Dr. King mean so much to so many. In my own commitment and work to build a more just world, these words have given me reassurance and perspective. Read more >
6 Apr 16
Black Lives Matter Toronto's camp was disbanded on Monday following a powerful exchange between the Premier and organizers outside Queen's Park. Organizers remain committed to their demands. Read more >
29 Jan 16
On January 26th, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled that the federal government discriminates against First Nation children on reserves by failing to provide the same level of child welfare system as children living elsewhere. This ruling comes nine years after Dr. Cindy Blackstock Read more >
14 Jan 16
Some stories just won't leave you alone. I'll always remember my first foreign assignment as a reporter, covering the Falklands War from Buenos Aires. I can still taste the combination of coal smoke and fear Read more >
20 Nov 15
The Atkinson Foundation’s first foray into the public policy development process was to advocate for its own existence. In 1949, the Ontario legislature passed the Charitable Gifts Act to prohibit charities from owning more than 10% of a business Read more >
20 Oct 15
I’m one of the 26 Torontonians asked to provide advice to the Deputy Mayor and City staff as they assembled the elements of this strategy over the past nine months. I’m also the Executive Director of the Atkinson Foundation, your partner Read more >
28 Jul 15
Anyone who follows the work of the Atkinson Foundation knows it has embarked on an exciting new phase in its 73-year history of advancing Joseph Atkinson’s vision of an equitable society. I’m one of those people, and I’m thrilled to join the Foundation as its Director of Social Investment. Read more >
15 Jun 15
A movement is afoot in Toronto to ensure local communities reap the benefits of major infrastructure and housing projects.  Called “community benefits”, the concept is simple:  leverage dollars already being spent on major infrastructure Read more >
9 Jun 15
Where were you on September 11, 2001? I don’t really remember, but I've grown up with its consequences. Generation 9/11 is the working title for Michelle Shephard’s 2015 - 2016 Atkinson Fellowship in Public Policy series. For a full year, she will research the topic of the Islamic State Read more >
19 Dec 14
RootsCamp is annual two day event for organizers, a project of the New Organizing Institute. It’s a self-proclaimed "unconference" because the agenda and sessions are created by those who attend. It’s a conference by organizers, for organizers, where organizers can … organize. Read more >
3 Oct 14
A few years ago, I worked at the Beehive. There was no honey or bee stings involved, just a playful name for MIT's startup incubator, a place full of activity. Working on a mobile app to track political TV ads at the time, my co-founder Dan and I shared space with other MIT business students Read more >
16 Jun 14
On New Year’s Eve, 1900, newspaper magnate James Scripps wrote a letter containing “a prophecy for Detroit as a Metropolis.” He expected his city to be one of the great urban places of the 20th century. This prophecy came true, but not for the reasons Scripps imagined. He wrote his letter eight years Read more >
13 Jun 14
I am a self-confessed news junkie. Everyday I devour four newspapers and up to 12 blogs. In my downtime I can be found watching TVO's The Agenda or endless hours of the Canadian Parliamentary Affairs Channel. If I'm feeling really hungry I may watch CNN for a scream-fest or two. Read more >
30 Apr 14
McJobs. For years, the fast food industry has been almost synonymous with jobs that are poorly compensated and offer little opportunity for advancement. Recent reports of McDonald’s franchises allegedly abusing Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker program Read more >
2 Apr 14
When Mum graduated from the Technical University of Istanbul three decades ago, she got hired on the spot. After years of living on a tight student budget, finally getting a taste of financial freedom must have been heavenly – think road trips with friends and starting to save up for a first house. Read more >