The Bee’s Knees

Meet Dustin Bajer, member of ECF’s Environment and Animal Welfare Sub-Committee

Dustin Bajer had been casually aware of Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF) for years. But when a few of his students received an ECF grant to build a living wall for their high school, a deeper interest was piqued.

“[They] just went off, got a grant, and came back like, ‘By the way, we have some money to do this thing we want to do,’” he recalls with a laugh. “Okay, guess we’re doing it!”

So, when the Foundation later reached out to Bajer, looking for someone with his expertise — a high-school science teacher, master gardener and beekeeper with a penchant for urban agriculture — he said yes.

Bajer’s been a part of ECF’s Environment and Animal Welfare Sub-Committee since 2016. In that role, he helps assess proposals and applications related to his areas of expertise.

Getting to know how the organization works from the inside is “kind of magical,” Bajer says. Being on the sub-committee also gives him insight into all the ways Edmontonians are looking to improve the city around them, and how ECF grants and funds can support their ideas.

“You get a little bit of a front-row seat to the fantastic work that is coming down the pipe,” he says.

It can, of course, be difficult for the sub-committee to settle on which ideas get funded. Bajer notes that having a clear plan and a tangible goal shows that the applicant has thought through all the steps necessary for the project to see success.

“I know that not everything is easy to measure,” Bajer says. “And sometimes the things that we really care about are the hardest things to measure. But if you can have some meaningful measurements in there, it becomes easier for someone reading that grant to say, ‘A-ha, they’ve got a plan how to measure how successful this work is.’”

Still, even the projects that don’t get funded can benefit from ECF’s feedback, he notes, which may help them find funding later on. Bajer sincerely hopes they do: Every proposal he sees is a reminder of all of the ways that Edmontonians are making their city a brighter, smarter, more liveable place.

“Every time we sit down and we look through these applications, it’s a reminder of the phenomenal work that is going on in this city,” he says. “It induces a lot of optimism.”