Leonard Frank has worked with the Keep Tobacco Sacred Collaboration (KTSC) and has learned how to effectively participate in an Indigenous-led program.
We recently sat down with him to learn his takeaways and tips for other organizations looking to partner with KTSC.
Keep reading to learn about his experience with KTSC and what you can learn from it.
How Leonard Came to Work with Indigenous Communities
Leonard is the Director of Health Integration at Alberta Blue Cross, having joined the healthcare organization in 2019. When he began working with the Keep Tobacco Sacred Collaboration, he had a limited understanding of Indigenous issues and reconciliation.
However, as he learned more in his role, he spearheaded the creation of an Indigenous Development Pathway that encompasses several key areas. One of the primary focuses of his initiative was to enhance the organization's awareness and promote the health and well-being of Indigenous communities.
Alberta Blue Cross operates under a mandate set by the Government of Alberta that emphasizes the development and participation in programs that contribute to the overall well-being of Albertans. However, one of the gaps is the approach to Indigenous Albertans.
Leonard and his team recognized this gap and strived to work closely with Indigenous communities, which aligned perfectly with KTSC. He met Indigenous leaders across Alberta and was guided by Jody Stonehouse, an MLA with the Alberta Legislature.
He quickly embraced the concept of “nothing about us without us” when working with Indigenous communities. Additionally, he’s done plenty of work on tobacco reduction projects in the past, making Keep Tobacco Sacred Collaboration a perfect organization to support.
Finding and Partnering with KTSC
Leonard recognizes that Indigenous communities do not need organizations pretending they understand their challenges and have all the answers. He already knew Elder Treffrey Deerfoot well — a key figure and the guiding Knowledge Keeper with KTSC — and someone who has helped shape Leonard’s involvement in working with the collaborative.
The partnership with KTSC began as purely a sponsorship. Providing funding can go far, but Blue Cross wanted to find more ways to play an active role in helping the organization reach its goals. Success means having the right people involved who can make an impact.
From the beginning, Leonard has sat as a member, learning how they conduct meetings and steer their organization. He appreciates Treffrey’s prayers before meetings, the involvement of Elders and storytellers, and the focus on youth empowerment.
As part of the committee, he was able to contribute ideas based on the experience gained throughout his 25-year career. His primary focus was sponsorship, working closely with stakeholders to create sponsorship frameworks for how they can seek funding.
Additionally, he’s participated in several community events and met with other Indigenous leaders, Elders, and youth. He found it’s not enough to just read about the issues; getting out there and into the communities was essential to understanding the problems with and impact associated with commercial tobacco and vaping use.
Working with KTSC Now
Now, Leonard believes KTSC is on the right path. He’s worked in the field for 25 years and has never sat at a table as diverse as the Keep Tobacco Sacred Collaborations. The organization has government involvement, community support, and sponsors. They have a strong organizational push and continue making progress.
Everyone involved is focused on the issue, and working with KTSC has been a wonderful experience for Leonard. He prioritized a First Nations-led approach from the beginning, offering input when relevant but still remaining in a support role rather than trying to lead the charge.
Tips for Other Organizations
Leonard has learned several lessons with his time working with KTSC and has learned some tips that may help other organizations make the most of their campaigns.
Active Participation Over Passive Support
Providing funds and being aware of an Indigenous community’s challenges and goals isn’t enough. Take an active role in participating in programs like KTSC that strive to make a valuable impact. Once you understand how an organization works and its goals, be an active part of the team working towards those goals.
Find Your Role in the Solution
KTSC offers a clear path for organizations to start making a difference in the community. Follow the lead of the programs similar to them throughout Indigenous communities to start making the right impact, rather than trying to go down your own new path.
Understand your role in the campaign. You can then contribute your financial support and experience in the right way.
Valuable Branding Through Action
Organizations can significantly benefit from the positive impact on brand image by actively participating in meaningful campaigns. Donating isn’t challenging, but lending your expertise, time, and attention to specifically advancing a cause improves your public perception.
Dedicating time and resources to Indigenous communities demonstrates your commitment to social responsibility. You’ll also set an excellent example for your peers, creating a cascade of positive impacts.
Find a Strongly Committed Organization
KTSC is a committed organization with a clear goal to work towards. Leonard has worked in healthcare administration for 25 years and found that participating in the organization’s steering committee was unparalleled in terms of having a strong direction to move forward with making an impact. After all, the many goals and strategies KTSC continues to pursue are based on (and supported by) the voices and teaching of Elders and Knowledge Keepers from communities representing Treaty 6, 7, and 8.
Engaging with KTSC and other Indigenous organizations with clear goals and commitment can be highly beneficial for First Nations and Canada overall. Leonard found it was easy to get behind the organization and become part of the solution.
For other organizations, finding Indigenous organizations with a similarly strong commitment to their cause is a powerful way to make the most of funding and time. Being part of the solution for Indigenous-led organizations is the best way for organizations to make an impact