B.C.'s queer resource centre Qmunity announced on March 16 that executive director Dara Parker will be leaving the non-profit organization.
Parker became Qmunity's executive director in May 2012, taking over from Jennifer Breakspear. Parker's last day will be March 30.
Parker has accepted a position as executive director of Social Venture Partners Vancouver. SVP helps children, youth, and environmental non-profit organizations with funding, volunteers, technology, board governance, marketing, expertise, and more by connecting them with philanthropists.
She is also currently a candidate for a position on the Vancity board of directors.
Over her four years at the organization, Parker boosted private and public funding by 61 percent, increased staff, and augmented client outreach. Also during her time, Qmunity received the inaugural City of Vancouver Award of Excellence for Diversity and Inclusion in 2014. She also helped secured a $10-million partnership with the City of Vancouver for a new community centre, and conducted a community consultation, reached over 750 people.
Qmunity board chair Morgan Camley said by phone that while it will be hard to see Parker go, the organizations sees themselves as an "incubator of talent" and recognizes that they "can't keep someone as talented as Dara forever". Consequently, Camley said the board is viewing this as an opportunity to reinvigorate the organization. The board has implemented a transition committee and launched a search for a replacement with an executive search firm.
While Parker said by phone that she won't be working overtly in LGBT rights in her new position, she said she will continue to bring a feminist, queer lens to all of her work.
"I want to continue to be a queer voice in a 'mainstream' space," she said. "I actually think that there's potentially even more room to have an impact simply by showing up because I do deeply believe that we need diversity in all kinds of leadership in all of our sectors. We need diverse leadership in order to make the change happen."
She added that she will continue to challenge gender assumptions and be a "staunch ally" to transgender people.
She admitted that she will miss talking about gender identity and sexual orientation (one of her favourite topics), and is sorry that she won't be able to see the organization through to the new facility, for which a site has yet to be secured.
Speaking highly of her staff, she said she's most proud of the organization's accomplishments and collective efforts, including being a facilitator and a voice for the community.
What she said she will value the most from her experiences at Qmunity is what she has learned from everyone she interacted with, including challenging her own assumptions and learning how challenging it is to run a non-profit organization. Over her four years, she said she learned that the centre doesn't necessarily have to do everything but could be "a catalyst and a springboard to help advance the really important work that's happening and help connect people".
Due to diverse community needs, ranging from sexual health to food security to trans underemployment, she said one of the conclusions they came to is that "taking an intersectional approach to the work is the future of queer and trans rights".
At the same time, she said that a recurring theme was conveying "why this work still matters" and that "the fight isn't over" when it comes to LGBT rights.
"The enormous privilege that comes with living in Vancouver, Canada, and being a queer person is that people perceive that it's sort of done, and the reality is that a lot of the legal battles have been fought and won," she said. "[Yet] there are still policy issues at play and certainly for trans folk there's a lot more work we need to do…. What Qmunity was focused on is the really deep cultural shifting work of translating those legal equalities into lived equalities, and sometimes that work is sometimes less tangible."