"What you do makes a difference and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make." - Dr. Jane Goodall
When Dr. Jane Goodall first started her research on wild chimpanzees in 1960, she was only 26 years old. Seventeen years later in 1977, she founded the Jane Goodall Institute, which has a presence in over 30 countries around the world today. In 1994 the Canadian chapter opened and is currently located in Toronto. The Canadian office is the second largest of the organization with 15 employees. Through its community-centered conservation, the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada is working to improve the lives of local people in Africa while also saving wildlife.
“It started off, and still is to a great degree, a chimpanzee-focused charity, but the work that we do in Canada and the work that we support is also very human-focused,” says Andria Teather, CEO of The Jane Goodall Institute of Canada (JGI Canada). “We believe that unless we look after populations of people, chimpanzees don't stand a chance of survival. So, our work is all-encompassing with people, animals, and the environment. They're all connected. And, right now, we know that more than ever. In Canada we’re supporting young people through the Roots & Shoots program, mobilizing an entire generation of young citizens with the knowledge and skills to become compassionate leaders and make positive change happen in their own backyards.”
Children working on the Roots & Shoots "Friends of the Watershed" project. Photo by Hanna Smit
While they may be based in Toronto, the JGI Canada team spends a lot of time travelling. “Our programs team is often on the road. The fundraising team and I travel to Africa with donors usually once a year. We also travel across Canada for various programs, and of course, when Jane is in the country, I travel with her along with other team members for her speaking engagements,” says Teather.
It takes a coordinated, engaged team to be able to collaborate with so many programs and so much travel. “The team we’ve put together at JGI Canada is truly incredible,” says Teather. “When I started, there were six of us, now we’re up to 15. And even though that's a relatively small team, I would say we pack a pretty powerful punch.”
Much of the work that the team at JGI Canada does is to educate people about the importance of respecting and living harmoniously with our natural world. This message has never been as clear as it is right now, in the midst of a global health crisis.
“We are so dependent on this planet, and I think what this pandemic has done is shone a light on the reasons why we need to look after nature, the reasons why we can't exploit it,” says Teather. “Whether that's cutting forests down or eating wild animals, it upsets that balance of what this world gives us.”
She adds that while inhabitants in developed countries may not always see or feel the impact of not caring for the planet, awareness is growing, and positive change can come from these challenges. “It has been a wake-up call that in times like this, there are people that really struggle. And so, I'm hoping that this has changed people's mindsets about who needs to be supported going forward.”
Women from the "Delivering Healthy Futures" project in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo by Bella Lam
As the pandemic consumed the media and public’s attention, Teather’s team worried that support for their projects would take a backseat in people's minds. But as Teather points out, "Conservation can't stop at times like these.”
The JGI Canada team has been working remotely since the beginning of March due to the pandemic, which has led them to rethink the way they operate. “I am a big believer in staying positive. This has forced us to change the way we do business,” says Teather. “But how do you tell a really compelling story when you are stuck on technology and don't have a chance to meet with people? It changes the dynamic of how you present the information.”
Andria Teather and Jane Goodall. Photo by the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada
In the absence of being able to collaborate in person, the team has boosted their cadence of online meetings and calls from once a month to every week. “We've got to stay connected. We have such a powerful team, and we don’t want people to feel disconnected from each other,” says Teather.
However, because of the team’s experience with frequent travel and working while on the road across Canada or in Africa, they were particularly well positioned to adapt to the shift to remote work. “This group has been so incredibly productive. Everybody is connected and there’s no doubt that they're all very engaged with their work,” says Teather.
When Teather started at JGI Canada in 2013, she was shocked to still be receiving paper cheques. She recounts, “I hadn’t received a cheque in about 25 years.”
When she joined the organization, the team was still fairly small. However, as JGI Canada increased its footprint and started to receive larger grants for its work, Teather realized it was time to make a change. “As a small organization doing really important work, we didn't have the capacity to process our own payroll. I needed to review the full payroll every two weeks and I realized I did not have the time for that,” says Teather.
There were also other potential issues that went along with manually processing payroll, such as concerns about accuracy and compliance.
JGI Canada decided to partner with Ceridian in 2014, and implemented Powerpay. Since implementing the system, the organization has saved a significant amount of time processing payroll.
Powerpay has also helped Teather be more proactive in solving payroll issues, and provides an easier, more accessible view of the data. “When I'm on Powerpay and am about to submit payroll, the system prompts me to verify the data. I am able to review everything, which is now much easier than it used to be before partnering with Ceridian.”
The JGI Canada team also appreciates that they can access their payroll information from anywhere – which is now particularly helpful given that they are all working remotely. “We haven't got people asking for forms, for payroll history, or documents anymore,” says Teather.
When other small to medium sized organizations consider whether to implement a payroll solution like Powerpay, Teather recommends they do an analysis of the hours and the dollars spent doing payroll manually. “For us this decision definitely made sense. And in the long run, I think it also sends a message to the staff that we care, that ‘We're going to have this in your account on payday,’” she explains. “It’s a combination of all of these things, employee benefits as well as employer benefits, that shows Powerpay makes complete sense even for smaller organizations.”
While organizations are starting to settle into the new normal for what seems like the foreseeable future, Teather acknowledges there will still be challenges ahead.
But she is optimistic about JGI Canada’s strategy and focused vision. “This situation has forced us to look at how we virtually manage and oversee so many projects. On the fundraising side, we've developed a whole menu of online events,” she says. “It's not just about animals, it's not just about people, it's not just about the environment, we're working across all three of those. That's the way forward for us.”
Photo by Michael Neugebauer