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Community University Exposition Conference (Ottawa, Canada, Day 4: May 28, 2015)

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Keynotes, theatre performance, plenaries, book launch, site visits & more….

The fourth day proceedings of the CUExpo’2015 began with a stimulating keynote plenary which was delivered by Giovanna Mingarelli, on the importance of Micro actions in shaping the future. An international technology entrepreneur and the CEO and co-founder of PlayMC2, a mobile based app, Ms. Mingarelli is a globally acclaimed expert on gamification of politics, civic engagement and crowdsourcing. The keynote address was titled as ‘Microactions to transform the world’’. She outlined the importance of about harnessing the technological intuition of millennials for positive change. “If we could turn even a fraction of (their) cognitive surplus into social engagement in some capacity, the world would be a very different place,” Mingarelli said of the 1.7 billion 18- to 35-year-olds globally who are more in tune than ever with social media and spend an average of eight billion hours a week gaming. Mobile apps like Mingarelli’s PlayMC2 are designed to inspire this kind of social change. Launched in 68 countries, it allows users to document positive things they do for others during the day, which can “effectively drive change in seconds,” she said.

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Anita Abraham, who travelled from Toronto where she is executive director of a student food security organization called Meal Exchange, said that while small actions are good, citizens need to challenge assumptions that small acts alone will change the world. “Millennials are inheriting some of the greatest intractable problems of our time … We need all sorts of different kinds of leadership, we need different kinds of action on policy, we need our millennials to be stepping up and taking action on those things,” Abraham said.

Following the keynote, was a live theatre performance from the MT space team from Kitchener, who partnered with a research team on the topic of ‘Justice & Faith: Individual spirituality and social responsibility in the Christian reformed church in Canada. The research focused on mobilizing people and knowledge through community based practices. The research team comprised of Allyson Carr from the Centre for Philosophy, Religion and Social Ethics at the Institute for Christian Studies, Joanna Ochocka & Rich Janzen from the Centre of Community Based Research, and Steve van de Hoef from the Christian Reformed Church. The presentation by the research team focused on stimulating conversation about how knowledge and community mobilization can be done in a creative way, use of theatre as a community mobilization tool and the perception of justice. The central idea of the research work was powerfully conveyed by a stimulating and passionate theatre performance, which sent out the message that “There will be a time when the pain of staying the same will be more than the fear of change”.

unesco_day4_2Bouncing off the idea of creating positive change, a roundtable in the afternoon addressed how to improve the positive impact of campus-community research on Canadian communities. Panelists’ solutions included allotting more funding for community projects, better understanding how communities evolve and engaging more students in community organizations so they become future champions, advocates and donors.

Michelle Gauthier, vice-president of Imagine Canada, challenged audience members to re-think the impact they could have if charities thought of themselves as a collective rather than individuals. It’s something that makes sense to Abra Brynne, who works at Food Secure Canada in British Columbia. “There’s still the assumption that the language of academia conveys a superior knowledge to the language of the community,” Brynne said, adding that stronger connections still need to be built between universities and community organizations – something C2UExpo aims to do. The discussion was moderated by Dr Katherine Graham from CBRC Canada.

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The afternoon session of the CUExpo witnessed the much awaited book launch of the UNESCO Chair’s study on Mainstreaming Community University Research Partnerships. Chaired by Dr Luc Mougeot from the IDRC, the panel discussion had spaeakers from different countries who presented their respective country case studies on CURPs as outlined in the book. While Ms. Wafa Singh shared the Indian case, Dr Joanna Ochocka outlined the Canadian story . The Netherlands case was represented by Dr Henk Mulder from the University of Groningen, while Dr Elizabeth Tryon showcased the key features emerging from the US Case study. Dr Budd Hall, Co-chair, UNESCO Chair gave his concluding comments on the book, as he shared that the book will be available online in about a week, and will be downloadable from the UNESCO Chair’s website: http://unescochair-cbrsr.org/unesco/ . The panel discussion garnered a lot of audience attention, who chipped in by way of stimulating comments at the end. Some of them were the need for off campus institutions, and to resolve potential conflict that arises between the university and communities regarding the design of the project and its execution.

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Throughout the day, smaller sessions focused on building those bridges. Participants visited community organizations around the city and saw research projects on display at an engagement fair. The site visit destinations included Sustainable Living Ottawa East (SLOE), The Canadian Mental Health Association of Ottawa, The Centretown Community Health Centre, and the AIDS Committee of Ottawa. CUExpo’2015 also introduced the novel concept of the ‘Living Library’, an innovative method of learning and networking designed to facilitate more intimate dialogue and connection between individuals.

The eventful day ended with a memorable evening, which saw the gathering of ‘Poets for Peace’. Attended by Dr Budd Hall, Dr Leslie Brown, Dr Maeve Lydon, Dr David Wolff, Dr Rubina, Dr Bessa Whitmore, Ms. Wafa Singh, Dr Ted Jackson and many others, the evening saw a gathering of friends who shared some great pieces of poetry on world peace, love and friendships. Dedicated to Dr Martha Farrell, from PRIA, India, the evening had her friends from Canada share the lovely memories they had with her. John Elliott, closed the beautiful evening by saying that ‘We must learn to accept what God has meted out to us, we must set the beautiful soul free, to share the same love it shared with us, at a different place, with different people, in different ways’.

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