Q+A with Dr. Robert Thirsk

Posted by: Nicole Mezzarobba Ford

We are pleased to welcome Dr. Robert Thirsk to the LIFT board of directors. Robert is a physician, engineer and former astronaut. He brings a wealth of knowledge to LIFT and our efforts to support health, education, skills training and employment across Canada. Read a short Q+A with Robert below.

What excites you about being on the Board of Directors for LIFT?
I am intrigued by LIFT Philanthropy Partners’ novel use of a venture philanthropy model to support social purpose organizations.  By utilizing some of the methods of venture capitalists, LIFT provides organizations with a valuable combination of skills, expertise and resources to improve their operations and measurement practices.  It holds great promise in Canada.  This is innovative and exciting! Many Canadians are still unfamiliar with this concept of venture philanthropy.  As a board member, I look forward to telling the story of LIFT and being part of its evolution.

What do you see LIFT accomplishing over the next five years?
LIFT has an impressive record.  It has helped several not-for-profit organizations become sustainable and more effective at delivering social impact.  Without LIFT’s help, these organizations would not be serving anywhere near the number of beneficiaries they do today. Over the next five years, I foresee LIFT extending its reach by serving more people, more effectively.  In addition to the organizations that it already supports, LIFT will invest in two or three other not-for-profit organizations each year.  To financially sustain this model, LIFT will deepen its relationships with investors (businesses, individuals and foundations) and engage the federal and provincial governments.  It will further diversify its partner network of business experts.  I envision LIFT establishing itself as a leader driving social change in Canada.

Where do you think LIFT can have the most impact in improving social and economic outcomes in Canada?
LIFT invests in organizations that make a positive impact on the health, skills development, education and employment of Canadians.  These areas have also been my passions.  In fact, my early dream of a career in space would not have been possible without good health, a solid education and access to skills training. However, I am concerned about the numerous health and educational disparities that exist between Aboriginal populations and the general Canadian population.  First Nations, Inuit and Métis people should have the same level of health and the same educational opportunities as non-Aboriginal Canadians.  LIFT could make a significant impact by identifying suitable not-for-profit Aboriginal organizations and bolstering their operational capacities to reduce these inequities.


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