The day preceeding the CUExpo’2015 saw a series of pre-conference workshops being held at Algonquin College, Ottawa. The UNESCO Chair team (Dr Budd Hall & Ms. Wafa Singh) attended two of the workshops during the day. The morning workshop was facilitated by Dr Martin Taylor, Professor Emeritus, University of Victoria. The title of the workshop was “Are we making a difference? Understanding and Advancing Impact, Policy Engagement and Funding for Community based Research and Campus Community Engagement in Canada and globally”. The workshop provided an opportunity to the participants to take a critical and a creative look at the impacts of community campus research collaboration as part of higher education’s role in public engagement. It also focused on how we can collectively improve societal well-being and institutional transformation.
The first half of the workshop saw presenters sharing impact frameworks and tools, and how it is measured; specific programs/policies and the funding needed to increase the impact and action at all levels in the society. Dr Leslie Brown, Director, ISICUE, University of Victoria shared the impact assessment frameworks applied by UVic in different programs/interventions. She also spoke about stimulating innovation in engaged practice and developing institutional cultures that support it. Dr Jennifer Chambers from the Research Councils, UK spoke about the importance of impact assessment in research funding in the UK through tools such as the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE)/ Researcher Development Framework (RDF). Dr Budd Hall, Co-Chair, UNESCO Chair shared some of the policy underpinnings that emerged from the findings of the 5th GUNi Report on Higher Education titled ‘Knowledge, Engagement & Higher Education: Contributing to Social Change. Ms. Wafa Singh from PRIA, India presented the policy perspective in the form of the newly launched University Grants Commission Scheme in India on fostering community engagement. She also spoke about the instrumental role, PRIA and the UNESCO Chair has played in the operationalization of the scheme.
Dr Ted Jackson, Senior Research Fellow at the Carleton Centre for Community Innovation shared the policy perspectives from the Canadian point of view and articulated visual models on how to bring about a positive change. The funding perspective was touched on by Bill Schapfer from Imagine Canada, who shared the funding scenario at his institution. Eric Bastein from the SSHRC outlined the different funding windows operational for supporting social sciences and humanities research, while Sarah Viehbeck of the CIHR focused on the role played by her institutions in light of the work under the theme of community based research and the funding available for the same.
The second half of the workshop saw dedicated group discussions targeted at ways in which plicy change could be brought about and how the funding can be increased. Several suggestions that emerged from the group activity included giving visibility to key contextual issues, like the problem of mental health in Canada, importance of cross-cultural/multicultural understanding, emphasis to be given to indigenous/aboriginal research, area of social economy, in particular, the research which has the potential to lead to policy change or the creation of new structures/legislations. As regards the suggestions on funding, some that came forth were the need to keep supporting SSHRC, and having in place diversity of funding opportunities like the charities/philanthropic foundations etc.
The afternoon workshop was the Engaged Practice Learning Workshop, coordinated by CBRC Canada and the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement, and facilitated by Dr Maeve Lydon from University of Victoria, and Ceri Davies from the University of Brighton, UK. The workshop started with a session on ‘stories from places’, which saw six resource persons sharing their stories on engaged practice and community based research. Essentially, the resource persons shared stories the places they came from, and the kind of spaces they were most passionate about creating for facilitation of engaged practice in the future. The resource persons included Pamela Ouart from the National Association of Frienship Centres, Wafa Singh from the Participatory Research in Asia, David Wolff from the Community University Partnership Program, Kim Aumann from the Community Partnership Network/NCCPE, Joanna Ochocka from CBRC, Canada and John Elliott from WSANEC Nation. This was followed by small group discussions on methods/approaches and tools for communication for promoting engaged practice, and the ideas were pictorially represented on walls, chart papers.
The second part of the workshop saw a session on creativity and connections, which focused on creative methods informing our research craft, methods to teach creative research and creative ways to inform policy. Among the excellent suggestions that cropped up from among the audience regarding informing research craft included digital storytelling. As regards teaching creative methods, some suggestions that came forward were the use of participatory videos/theatre, photo voice, street performance, community arts etc. For informing policy, suggestions like inclusion in the curriculum, knowledge mobilization, social media was put forth.
Further, the session saw sharing of experiences for engagement by Sandy Oliver from Research for All and Kim Aumann, who represented the community partners from the UK. The workshop winded by with a beautiful poem recited by Dr Budd Hall, on the importance of local knowledge and social change.