Today’s International Symposium on knowledge Democracy: Decolonizing the University through Community Partnerships held at the University of Victoria was a great opportunity for anyone to be exposed to international examples of Community-Based Research (CBR) and learn about the benefits that CBR can create for unprivileged communities.
While I listened to discussions on Transforming the Economy, Revitalizing the Languages of the Earth and Global Environmental Challenges and Partnerships, I began to understand that these individuals, the ‘change makers’ as I would call them, share similar character traits of humility, helpfulness, love, compassion, and genuinely care about the betterment of humanity, they do not just talk about it, they do it.
It became apparent throughout the day it that we need a continued focus on leadership around the world to provide solutions and create mutuality between communities, researchers and society at large, a world with reciprocity. While these are tenable goals, there are growing challenges that knowledge democracy continues to experience, particularly the source of funding and the commodification of knowledge.
CBR at its core is about learning with a community through the research process and empowering their lives. While this sounds good, and it is good, there are still problems with partnerships between community organizations and post-secondary institutions. As it was highlighted by Dr. Margo L. Matwychuk who is an associate professor in the department of Anthropology at the UVIC, mentioned that Gold Corp., a mining company with a poor environmental record, donated $500,000 to the UVIC business school, raising questions around the Universities relationship with a company that has a questionable social record and how this University is focused on departments that produce perceived marketable skill sets. Finally the conference highlighted how todays universities are moving away from publicly funded knowledge creation to commodified privatized knowledge, contributing to a growing issue that needs further observation and vigilance.
I am a fourth year student at the University of Victoria pursuing a degree in Geography with a focus in Urban Geography and a passion for Urban Planning. I was recently exposed to Community Based Research and the concept of Knowledge Democracy and believe them to be great areas of research to better understand the structure in which post-secondary education functions and how we as students and researchers have an important role to play in conjunction with communities and their development.