Julia Coburn

Knowledge Democracy and the Canadian Academy: 2018 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences

By Budd L Hall and Rajesh Tandon

The faces of Canadian scholarship are changing. I have just returned from the annual Canadian gathering of academics working in the fields of the humanities and social sciences. The gathering known as ‘The Congress’ brings together academics from across Canada and from over 70 disciplinary associations ranging from Environmental Studies, Society for Church History, International Development, Non-Profit and Social Economy, Adult Education, Higher Education, Indigenous Education and more. Each year between 7-10,000 scholars participate in the event that takes place over 10 days. And each year the event is hosted by a different university. This year, the Congress was held at the University of Regina in the Province of Saskatchewan.

There are two observations that we can draw from the 2018 Congress: 1) the strong presence of Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) presentations, and 2) a dramatic increase in books, papers and special events related to Indigenous Studies of all varieties and dimensions. Some examples of the first observation are: ‘Collaboration and Community Engagement: The Six Seasons of the Asiniskow Ithinkwak Roundtable” from the University of Winnipeg; “Collaboration and Community in Open Social Scholarship” with Susan Brown from Guelph University; “Becoming a Public Scholar: Community Engagement and the Future of the Humanities”, Western University; “On-Board with Community-Explore Regina’s Diverse Community-Based Research sites”, University of Regina.

Examples of Indigenous contributions included: Education: “The Key to Reconciliation” with First Nations’ National Chief Perry Bellegarde; “The Role of Scholarly Associations in Advancing Reconciliation”, Federation of the Humanities and Social Sciences; “Decolonizing Support to Indigenous Research and Research Training: International Perspectives” Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council; “Bringing Back the Buffalo”, an artistic event with First Nations artist, Joely BigEagle-Kequahtooway. To further underscore the strong presence of Indigenous themes, I spoke with the publisher of the University of British Colombia Press and asked her how many books they had in the catalogue dealing with Indigenous studies? “Hundreds”, she replied, “We have been adding new titles every week”.

Our UNESCO Chair was present as co-organisers along with Community Based Research Canada (CBRC) and the Canadian Association for the Study of Adult Education of a pre-conference workshop on “The Promise and Perils of Community-Based Research”. Walter Lepore from the Victoria office of the UNESCO Chair reported on our Knowledge for Change (K4C) Global Consortium on Training in Community-Based Research.

Ten years ago we would have seen a scattering of Indigenous contributions and a small number of events with a focus on co-construction of knowledge and community engagement. A distinctive flavour of scholarship is emerging in Canada that includes a growing awareness and respect for indigenous ways of knowing and a similar acknowledgement of the place of CBPR. The Canadian academic community is responding to challenges of the times.

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CBRC Board Members at the UNESCO Knowledge for Change Consortium

On December 14th, 2017 two key activities occurred in Ottawa: 1) a Conversation on the potential of community based research for the addressing the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 2)the launch of the Knowledge for Change International Consortium for Training in Community Based Research. The event with these activities was co-hosted by the Canadian Commission for UNESCO and the University of Victoria in cooperation with Community Based Research Canada.

The two activities had five main goals:

  1. To draw attention to the potential community based, community engaged, Indigenous centred research for addressing the UN SDGs. There is no mention of the value of this type of bottom-up action research which links academic and civil society capacities in the official UN documents. The references to research in the official documents are to the role of Science and technology but with out attention to the engagement dimension.
  2. To give visibility to the growth of the discourse and practice of CBR in Canada, including the leading role that Indigenous approaches to research have played over the past 20-25 years
  3. To give visibility to the potential of co-constructed knowledge and action in the international communities
  4. To provide information on the types of global investments that could build the capacity of CBR to address UN SDGs
  5. To draw attention to the shortage of learning opportunities/locations/programmes for learning how to do CBR

The panel included national leaders in community-based research, including three CBRC Board Members:

  • Joanna Ochocka, Executive Director of the Centre for Community Based Research and Board Member of Community Based Research Canada
  • Sandrina de Finney, Associate Professor, Child and Youth Care, University of Victoria
  • Martin Taylor, Chair of the Board of Community Based Research Canada
  • Florence Piron, Department de information et de Communication, Universite de Laval
  • Budd Hall, Co-Chair, UNESCO Chair in CBR and Social Responsibility in Higher Education, University of Victoria and Board Member of Community Based Research Canada
  • Rajesh Tandon, Co-Chair UNESCO Chair in CBR and Social Responsibility in Higher Education, PRIA, India

To learn more about this event, please read about it on Dr. Rajesh Tandon’s blog here.

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CBRC Secretariat is now at the Centre for Community Based Research

As of October 1, 2017, the Centre for Community Based Research (CCBR) is the Secretariat for Community-Based Research Canada (CBRC). This means that CBRC’s offices are now CCBR’s offices!

The Centre for Community Based Research (CCBR) is a non-profit organization located in Waterloo, Ontario and affiliated with St. Paul’s University College at the University of Waterloo. Established in 1982, CCBR’s mission is to use research and innovation to develop commuities that are responsive and supportive, especially for those with limited access to power and opportunity. A pioneer in community-based research, CCBR has worked closely and collaboratively with various communities to conduct over 400 projects on a range of social justice issues, such as newcomer resettlement and integration, mental health and well-being, as well as homelessness and poverty. CCBR also played a key role in the formation of the Community Research Ethics Office. CCBR offers services in community-based research practice (e.g., applied research, proposal development, knowledge mobilization), learning (e.g., academic education, community training) quality (e.g., assessing excellence), and connecting (e.g., international engagement, communities of practice).

For more information about CCBR or CBRC, please contact CCBR’s Dr. Sara Kafashan, Coordinator of the CBRC Secretariat.

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Is there a Canadian Approach to Knowledge Democracy?

Photo above: Elder Margaret George of the Squamish First Nation (left) and President Andrew Petter of Simon Fraser University (right) at the C2UExpo 2017 Opening on May 2, 2017.

Reflections on C2UExpo 2017 by Dr. Budd Hall (UNESCO Co-Chair in Community Based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education)
The C2UExpo (Community Campus University Exposition) is ending today, May 5th, 2017. It is the 7th of these Canadian organised spaces where knowledge workers in communities, colleges and universities come together to share their excitement, challenges hopes and dreams. This unique space of knowledge democracy time after time allows the partners of co-creation to come together as equals in the epistemological power game with the common vision of using their diverse knowledges and skills towards making a difference in their communities. Community Based Research Canada (CBRC) is the national network that supports the movement between meetings, which facilitates the process of site selection and assures some elements of a common vision. Having now had the experience of six previous CUExpos (the original naming of this gathering was the work of Dr. Jim Randall, former Dean of Social Science at the University of Saskatchewan where the first CUExpo was held in 2003), I wonder if a Canadian approach to knowledge democracy is beginning to emerge? Perhaps I am only naming the vision I want?

An Emerging Vision
Let me remind readers that our UNESCO Chair works within a framework of knowledge democracy. Knowledge democracy is about recognising the remarkable diversity of knowledge systems (beyond the Western Canon). In addition it refers to representing knowledge in creative and diverse ways (including the arts), in understanding the critical role of knowledge in action for social justice and in making all knowledge products available free of charge to all. I mention this as ‘engagement’ goes beyond the relationship with knowledge creation to include teaching and learning and other types of partnerships and collaborative mutual activities. The Canadian flavour of knowledge democracy that I suggest includes an Indigenous grounding, a spirit of inclusivity of stakeholders, a generous engagement with the arts and the primacy of diversity. How did these themes play out in C2UExpo 2017?

The opening of the conference involved a combination of a Squamish blanketing ceremony, a practice used in Coast Salish Indigenous communities to ‘stand-up’ and recognise individuals who have made or are making important contributions to the community. Squamish Speaker Elroy Baker led the ceremony. Three young Indigenous women and men were blanketed before the room of 500-600 participants: Khelsilem, founder of the Squamish language adult emersion language program, Ryan McMahon, a comedian and story teller, Ginger Gosnell-Myers, head of Aboriginal Affairs at the City of Vancouver. They were asked, at the opening of this conference about knowledge co-creation to share their thoughts about the challenges of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s for our work. Even 10 years ago, either a prominent academic, a public intellectual or a political-civic figure, would have opened an interdisciplinary and multi-sectoral conference about knowledge involving academics and community partners. Simon Fraser University chose to ground the entire conference in a message of recognition of the role of knowledge in past injustices and the centrality of Indigenous ways of knowing to our moving forward.

Continue reading Dr. Hall’s reflection here.

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CBRC Board of Directors in Ottawa

CBRC had an Annual General Meeting and a Board meeting on December 13th, 2017 at Carleton University, Ottawa hosted by the Faculty of Public Affairs. Thirteen board members attended this meeting. During these meetings, four new CBRC Board Members were appointed: Stephen Dooley, Ken Carter, Catherine Graham, and Michele Peterson-Badali. The CBRC Board also discussed strategic and program planning for 2018.

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