Building the future of workers
A profile on 2011 DiverseCity Fellow Alumna Jenn Miller.
The future of work can bring up sometimes scary images of robots replacing humans everywhere we turn. Concerned with how these changes will impact our cities and communities, organizations across the region are trying to come to terms with how to best prepare ourselves for this future.
But for Jenn Miller, 2011 DiverseCity Fellow, robots and changes to work shouldn’t be our main concern in the future of work—she’d much rather focus on the future of workers. Jenn wants to challenge the notion that all we can do is cope with these coming changes and believes we can instead work towards a shared vision of a people-centred economy that can work for everyone.
Jenn’s journey to building a better economic future through philanthropy began over two decades ago at the Ontario Trillium Foundation, where she started as a program manager. But after 13 years she was ready for a change, and being selected as a DiverseCity Fellow drove her to take her next step.
The experience of working with Fellows from different backgrounds, worldviews, and experiences encouraged her to think about the pressing issues we face and where she might want to go next. This took her to the City of Toronto, where she oversaw investment in community-based initiatives.
Today, Jenn spends her time helping to craft a new economic vision as Director of Social Investment at the Atkinson Foundation – an organization dedicated to social and economic justice in Ontario. In her role, Jenn oversees how the foundation supports projects that strengthen movements for decent work and a fair economy. She also works toward ensuring Atkinson’s endowment generates positive social and environmental outcomes alongside financial returns.
“Something I think about a lot is how we tell a better story about work, workers and the economy,” says Jenn, adding, “How can we paint a picture and raise expectations of a win-win scenario where everyone can share in the economic success and wealth in this country?”
Jenn points out that groups of workers such as people of colour, LGBTQ+ people, Indigenous people, and people with disabilities have had to constantly fight for the space to advocate for their rights and access to economic prosperity. To really build towards a more equitable future, Jenn wants to see the experiences of these workers put first, ensuring that everyone has access to fair and decent work.
“The gap between those who have economic power and those who don’t is growing. We can’t settle at just coping with these changes, we need a new vision for a people and planet-centred economy,” says Jenn.
Having worked in both the non-profit and public sectors, Jenn sees restoring trust in government and making sure government serves those communities that have been historically excluded a big part of building a better future.
Outside of her professional life, Jenn is passionate about building equity through sport. Not only did sport play an important role in her own identity, but it also a key outlet for her 16-year-old son who is an avid hockey player.
As a member of the founding board of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) Launchpad, Jenn works to create inclusion for youth through equitable access to sport. Located in Moss Park, MLSE Launchpad builds healthy communities and helps youth reach their full potential by providing free and accessible programming on powerful life skills that combines sport and youth development activities.
Whatever the next step for Jenn may be, one thing is for sure: she’ll keep fighting for justice, decent work and a vision of an economy that works for everyone.
Want to chat with Jenn about the future of workers or equity in sport? Just send her an email and she’d love to connect!