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.

2017-05-09