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Community University Exposition Conference (Ottawa, Canada, Day 5: May 29, 2015)

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The closing day of the Community Exposition Conference started with a series of parallel concurrent sessions on diverse topics under the broader theme of community university engagement. Among the exceptional presentations made at the sessions was the one from Indonesia. It was presented by a team from Islamic State University, Makasar, and the speakers included Nadhir Salahuddin, Irvan Muliyadi, Siti Aisyah Kara, Suhartini, among others. Their presentation was titled ‘A new model of university community engagement for state Islamic universities in India: Lessons from Surabaya and Makasar.

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The presentation outlines the features of the new model as being asset based, addressing multiple issues like democratic governance, gender and environmental concerns, focus on developing active citizens, outreach being integrated into research and teaching, etc. The Indonesian delegation also outlined the new approach to community development being followed by the UINAM Makasar, particularly in Asset Based Community Development, Community Based Research and Service Learning. Under the SILE project, they also presented the structure of institutes for research and community engagement.

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Following the concurrent sessions, the closing keynote of the conference was delivered was Steve Kent, Honorable Deputy Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, Minister of Health and Community Services, and Minister Responsible for the Office of Public Engagement. His address focused on the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Open Government initiative. As Minister Responsible for the Office of Public Engagement, it has been his goal to speak out about the importance of having more governments involved in collaborative planning.

“Even politicians and bureaucrats can create and mobilize knowledge,” says Kent.

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Minister Kent believes that his time in elected office will see the creation of the most open provincial government in Canada. With his action plan he wants to push his colleagues out of their comfort zones and encourage them to work with Newfoundlanders and Labradorians towards a creating a more cooperative and collaborative province. To foster positive relationships with the public, Kent says governments much choose some of the more hot-button issues that citizens are facing and work together with them to solve them. He suggests that all levels of government look to his province for an example of where positive leadership strategies are working.

“Governments need to step up their public involvement track records,” he says.

He sees events like the C2UExpo as an excellent opportunity for community builders to gather with innovative thinkers from across this country and wishes more governments would prioritize participating in this type of national forum. Minister Kent admits that despite his conscious efforts to make government in his province more accessible, not everyone can be pursued to believe that politicians are on their side.

The keynote was followed by a panel discussion, facilitated by Dr Elizabeth Whitmore, Professor Emerita at Carleton’s Arthur Kroeger College. The participants at the panel discussion included Abra Brynne, program manager, Food Secure Canada; Mickey Bennington, Project manager, Toronto Centre for Active Transportation); Kim Pate is the executive director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies (CAEFS); and  Liz Weaver , Vice President of the Tamarack Learning Centre. Alt the panelists talked about the different ways of incorporating community engagement in different walks of Canadian daily life.

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The conference’s closing comments was given by Dr Ted Jackson, Conference Convenor. He acknowledged the support provided by various sponsors and partners and the untiring efforts of the conference team at Carleton University. He said that ‘we have indeed been energized, renewed, stimulated, by the excellent deliberations at the conference, and we now look forward to the CUExpo, 2017 at Simon Fraser University, which I am sure will emerge as even better’. Elder Paul Skanks who performed the sacred smudging ceremony during the inauguration then closed the conference on a note of love and hope for a better future.

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