Jordana Wright speaks at East End United Church

Trust-Based Grant Helps Churches “Activate Space”

We are pleased to present a guest post by Jordana Wright! Jordana is one of the Foundation’s newest Board Members, and is a recipient of one of the first “trust-based” grants from the Foundation.

Forward Thinking & Paying it Forward

Whenever I share that I owe much of my vocation as a tech leader dedicated to helping solve social challenges for communities around the world to the United Church of Canada, many of my peers in tech are curious. How is it an institution perceived as very traditional could propel the creation of new technologies with positive social impacts that have rippled worldwide. Usually when people think of organizations accelerating the development of high social impact technologies, they think of Apple, Google, or even Microsoft, not necessarily the United Church of Canada.

My story is one example of what is possible when a committed and spirit-led community invests in their emerging leaders and new forms of ministry

-Jordana Wright

I’m happy to share this story; I hope it will energize you to see the ripple effects of a single act of generosity! I will continue to pay forward this initial act of generosity – a seed of hope – through the project it has directly funded, as well as my own growing interest in investing in social ventures.

Getting Creative on a Budget

For many years I have worked in community ministry with United Church communities of faith. Many of them were contending with decreasing financial resources and numbers, but an increasing demand to broaden their impact in their community. One way of supporting this mission was to help develop an approach that could radically increase engagement with their local partners and make the most of their available assets, while keeping within a tight budget. Sometimes, the core asset available to help navigate the changing circumstances was a church building; or even two or three.

I sought to bring new and diverse partners from across each region to their doorstep. We created innovative agreements allowing them to join together and form vibrant community hubs in these sometimes underutilized buildings. This included arts groups to activate sanctuary performance venues during off-hours, culinary groups for church kitchens, recreation groups for gymnasiums, and more. This approach served the dual purpose of helping congregations in tangible financial terms, as well as helping local changemakers secure affordable space in increasingly unaffordable cities. 

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Small, but Mighty

It was a win-win and an exciting example of how even the smallest congregation could make a big impact on the lives of those facing inequities within the growing affordability crisis that often displaces important local changemakers from the communities they serve – along with the services and social safety net they offer to the most marginalized community members. Through this work I came to know first-hand that the affordability crisis is one of the biggest and most defining issues of our time, and that it is nearly impossible for anyone to flourish without access to affordable space from which they can dream, rest, act, or build community – whether that is a home or a homebase for a social organization. And through this work I became known for this ministry focused on expanding access to space, or ‘activating space’.

Planting the Seeds

As interest grew in community space building ministry support, I was challenged to create something that could serve communities of faith and local neighbours 24/7. I knew it had to be a tech platform, but as a young ministry professional, there was no way I could afford the cost of hiring the software developers needed to build such an ambitious project. The number of congregations was rising and so were the neighbourhoods that inquired about participating in the space ministry.

So I began the difficult journey of teaching myself computer programming. I applied for a grant from the Foundation to support successfully launching a project of this scale. and started building with feedback from faith leaders and neighbourhood champions from rural and urban settings, with diverse demographics, and all levels of resources. The goal was for the beneficiaries of the platform to include all United Church congregations and neighbourhoods across Canada.

A person and person

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Collaborating to Activate Space

When I first applied, I didn’t realize the grant would also come with a whole team at the Foundation dedicated to listening, sharing, and supporting you along the way. This was a crucial part of the success of this project! With their help, as well as a broad community of faith leaders, and neighbourhood champions, I successfully built a platform that brings together congregations with excess capacity in their buildings and those in need of welcoming, affordable spaces. And not just in Canada, but worldwide!

The platform and ministry, “Activate Space”, is a call to action, helping people find and connect with church spaces in their communities. It’s aggregating a growing list of thousands of existing church rentals from around the web – giving those listings more visibility. It highlights every welcoming church space I have learned of through my work in community ministry, as well as many new spaces along the way. It also provides easy room booking tools for congregations who would like to sign up on the platform. 

Bloom and Grow

Activate Space is still in its early stages and will continue to evolve and grow. Many leaders have generously offered their support in shaping the platform to best serve churches and neighbourhoods. Excitingly, many major organizations have taken notice of this home-grown venture, with interest in partnering and expanding its positive social impact.

Also, through the opportunity to engage with the Foundation and my growing leadership in ministry, I have had the incredible honor of being nominated to serve on the board of directors by the Moderator, the Rt. Rev. Carmen Lansdowne. I am elated to be on the other side of the granting process, helping to fund new ministries with broad reaching impacts and supporting the important role the Foundation plays. It has been amazing to witness the way this seed of hope has bloomed.

You can read more about the principles of trust-based grants and trust-based philanthropy here:


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