By Graeme Falkowsky, Central City Foundation board member
When I stepped away from my career in investment banking, I saw my opportunity to get involved in new and exciting ways.
During more than 20 years in corporate finance, I logged long days, working with some of the largest and most successful corporations in Canada. Most recently, I helped Deloitte build a mining-focused corporate finance business throughout the Americas, traveling often—primarily to Brazil, Chile and Colombia.
With that background, I knew I was in a fortunate position: I called Vancouver home, one of the best cities in the world, and had the flexibility to pursue any and all new challenges and opportunities.
But a busy person is a busy person. I realized this was my chance to have a different kind of impact, an impact which brought both challenge and meaning.
I set out to find volunteer opportunities that excited me. I wanted to work on issues that affect our city, and to help build community – community defined in the broadest sense of the term.
Central City Foundation has that broad mandate. We don’t focus solely on poverty or housing or addiction or one of the other myriad issues faced by people in need or transition in our city. Instead, Central City Foundation strives to build community, understanding how all of these issues intertwine and inform each other.
On my first day as a board member, president and CEO Jennifer Johnstone took me on a walk around Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Not only did I learn a lot about the history of the neighbourhood, but I began to develop a more nuanced understanding of the challenges faced by our neighbours. There’s still much work to be done.
As a board member, I draw on my experience advising managers, corporate boards and business leaders to help the Foundation make strategic decisions, from managing the Foundation’s endowment to choosing community groups to partner with through practical grants. My contribution centres around planning, strategy, and moving the foundation’s mandate forward with disciplined decision-making and a sense of urgency.
I’ve seen firsthand how Central City Foundation’s social purpose real estate model works, with investments providing a financial return while also benefiting the community.
This fascinating not-for-profit model is currently underutilized in the broader sector, in my opinion.
I’ve also become involved in the community in other interesting ways. I’m very active in my Shaughnessy neighbourhood, where my neighbours and I are trying to ensure that the heritage qualities of our homes are preserved in a way that works for everyone, and I volunteer on the board of Ballet BC, where I’m constantly astounded by the athleticism of the dancers. I’ve also done some work in amateur sport, sponsoring young athletes with incredible potential. Helping someone strive to reach their fullest potential is a thrill for me.
Most of all, I want to get involved at the ground floor: in my mind, targeted and impactful involvement is needed for lasting change.
This is what Central City Foundation does best.