Tamarack Institute | September Edition, 2020
Each month, Engage! features new stories, tools, and resources designed to equip you for community change. In this edition, we're excited to feature stories and resources that explore the role of learning as we pursue equity, inclusion, and systems change, as well as practical ideas for moving from response to recovery. This month, our banner is made up of images from two of our Youth Photo Contest winners, EJ Weston and Mika Soetaert.
As an outcome of the global pandemic declared in March 2020, we are bearing witness to seam-tearing changes to our socio-economic, health and political systems. All of this change comes the opportunity to re-design, re-create and re-focus how we want these systems to function, and how we as changemakers can participate in this process.
As practitioners of community change through our various practice areas an essential first step is to critically reflect on how we self-educate, and integrate reconciliatory approaches into our own practice. At the Tamarack Institute, we decided to do just that by engaging an internal process of critical reflection, and a series of talks with experts from the field to deepen our knowledge, skills and experiences around anti-racism, diversity, equity and inclusion.
Our first thought leader Suzanne Methot, was a special guest speaker for the Tamarack webinar entitled Creating a Culture of Equity and Reconciliation. She is also the author of the non-fiction book Legacy: Trauma, Story, and Indigenous Healing (ECW Press, 2019). The richness of this conversation with Suzanne was so illuminating that we wanted to share it with our network, in the hopes that it will also provide insights useful in your work.
In Conversation with Suzanne Methot
Where do we start? Can you share any advice you typically give to organizations once they’ve committed to a learning journey and to make meaningful change?
The first thing that always occurs to me when I’m supporting others through this process is that it’s imperative that we allow ourselves to be learners. Especially in the work environment, where we always think we have to be the experts. We have to own our expertise, but we need to also be learners. We need to allow ourselves to step back as the expert and engage in a process where you’re learning alongside your colleagues, clients, or participants. Stepping into the role of learner also means engaging in peer to peer education – helping each other in the journey. We need to ensure that certain things are present in the relationship:
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As cities respond and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an opportunity to build back better—to center recovery efforts on improving the outcomes for our most vulnerable citizens, our civic life, and our planet.
These 10 Ideas were co-created by thought leaders and staff, and form part of a larger guide showcasing ideas, stories and resources for engaging the whole community through COVID-19 to work together for collective impact.
The full guide 10: A Collective Impact Guide for a Community-Based COVID-19 Recovery will be released later in the Fall.
1. Don’t let this crisis go to waste!
This pandemic shook the foundations of society. In environments that are traditionally slow-moving and bureaucratic, we have proven that we have the capacity for action, that immediate responses are possible, and that we can quickly pilot promising ideas and pivot our work to respond to community needs.
2. Harness this opportunity for a Just Recovery
Let’s do more than recover. We can address the deep disparities of equity and race, end poverty, combat climate change, and address loneliness and isolation. Let’s be aspirational rather than return to the status quo that did not work for most people and our environment. Use this momentum to ensure diverse representation—centering the voices of lived experience including Black, Indigenous, People of Colour, and Youth—in the conversations that are had and when rebuilding our cities’ structures.
3. Take a learning approach to adapt and respond to emergent change
The COVID-19 pandemic is proving to be a long emergency. In emergent situations we need to learn as we go. We need to take in information from our global community to learn from what is happening ‘out there’ and combine that with our shared local knowledge of what is needed ‘right here’. Once we have responded, we need to turn and learn from our actions—what happened, what else is needed, what should we do differently? Working in emergence might be a new skill set that needs to be developed.
4. Engage your community in dialogue to reflect and learn
Spend time talking with your community to learn about how they have been personally impacted during the pandemic. Hearing personal stories connects us to issues and to each other in a way that is more meaningful than data alone. Engaging in dialogue allows for reflection, learning, relationship-building, connection, solidarity, and mutual support. Create space for community members to offer insights and solutions.
5. Support and Mobilize Citizen Action
As we create plans for building civic life through COVID-19, consider ways that we might harness community activity. How can we create space for community members to share their ideas and time? How can we support citizen action? So often when planning from a central place—like city government—we are trying to “do for” the citizens of a community. Instead, consider strategies that “do with” citizens, or better yet, create spaces and encourage ideas from neighbourhoods so that they are empowered to “do on their own”.
We can have a central plan that is implemented in a decentralized way. By supporting and mobilizing citizen action we build social capital and human capacity which are valued assets both during a pandemic and in pursuit of a sustainable city.
6. Re-imagine and diversify how we communicate
Take stock of all of the new ways we connect with each other and how quickly these changes happened: Workplaces became remote, community members are using social media and community platforms to mobilize, family and friends are connecting through virtual meetups, and services that were purely offered in-person are now online.
7. Build on the shifting worldviews
Build on the shifting worldviews that the pandemic has created and consider the policy changes that were quickly implemented during COVID-19. Advocate for making these “pilot” changes permanent. How might we debrief the people of our community to understand the changing mindsets that arose during the pandemic? How do we hold on to the empathy that was shared and the ensuing policies that evoked shared responsibility?
8. Take a strength-based and human-centered approach
Build upon your community’s assets. Consider the notion of radical localism in order to build a circular economy that addresses interconnected issues such as poverty and climate change. Think of neighbourhoods as local circular economies—sourcing what we can at a neighbourhood level, supporting local businesses, employing local people. Radical localism is also about solving local problems with local solutions, empowering those closest to the issues to share their knowledge and work together to leverage community assets.
9. Reinforce collaboration over competition. Embrace a collective impact approach.
Collective Impact uses the support of a backbone infrastructure to help many people to work together toward a common agenda. This approach is used to address complex and stubborn community issues by enabling large-scale systems change. With a common agenda comes a shared measurement of those things we really want to see changed. Through mutually reinforcing activities and continuous communication, communities can work together aligning government, business, charities and the needs of citizen action groups toward a collective outcome.
10. Consider the Citizen role Preparing for Future Emergencies
During the COVID-19 crisis we seldom relied on institutions or formal systems to support us where we lived. They were on standby in case of an acute crisis to offer shelter, food, or care, but for the majority of people it was neighbours and family members that went grocery shopping for those in need. Friends united to combat loneliness, to help people make sense of what was going on, and to encourage each other to stay true. It was a sense of citizenship (with good advice from the institutional experts) that kept people at home.
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The pandemic has affected our jobs, families, and communities. We now see organizations and groups looking for the right way to move into the recovery phase of the pandemic. Since these are unprecedented times there are no templates or formulas on how we can work through recovery. I have come across three publications that outline a path to recovery in which community is put at the center.
The first is the article, We’ve Done it Following Floods, Fires and Earthquakes, But Can Society Recover from COVID?, which emphasizes the need for disaster recovery agencies to switch from top-down management to supporting individuals, groups and communities and help them identify, prioritize and implement their recovery process. The article outlines five principles that should underpin a post-disaster recovery so that it focuses on community engagement:
The second is an article written by Jonathan Massimi on the Asset Based Community Recovery Framework. This framework was created to help community learn from what has happened during COVID and move forward in a better way. In this article, Jonathan outlines that in order to recover from a pandemic or disaster, we need to build social capital in our communities. The asset-based renewal framework draws upon what has been disrupted in our communities, what has emerged and what has been revealed by recognizing gifts, fostering connections, and telling stories.
The three phases are:
This framework is different because it is a bottom-up approach. It allows individuals, associations, organizations/non-profits, businesses and municipalities to think about what role people and communities play in moving forward.
And lastly, a report from New Zealand’s Inspiring Communities called Shaping the Future, Enabling Community-Led Change. This report outlines their pandemic recovery process, and reflections on what worked, what matters and what is next. They found that having clear messaging and expectations, a strong sense of shared purpose, empowering people to work differently and adequately resourcing were key to having a strong locally led responses. The report outlined the things that went well during the crisis:
New Zealand is now looking to carry forward the things that worked well during the crisis and embed them into ‘their business as usual’ so that they can be more effective when responding to future challenges.
There are many more reports and articles about pandemic recovery, but what is very clear is the question of whether we can use traditional disaster models to recover from this pandemic or do we need to adopt a new community method that combines traditional disaster planning with an asset-based community lens.
One thing we know for sure is that recovery from this pandemic may last for years so our models and methods must allow time to be creative and experiment. We need to learn to manage risk rather than attempting to remove it. Recovery is not linear, there is no right or wrong answer, but we need to step forward and allow for mistakes and change. Remember constraints lead to creativity and innovation!
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Lesson 1: Don’t underestimate your ecosystem
The Network’s inception benefitted from a broader context infused with energy and resources for Early Childhood Development. Over time, as Alberta’s landscape changed, the Network’s strategic options became limited by broader resource constraints and uncertainty.
Lesson 2: Culture Matters. A lot.
High-quality networks require a culture that is authentic, transparent, and facilitates distributed leadership. Building this culture requires a proactive investment by those within the network to create a sense of belonging and of responsibility, and to value learning openly and being frank with one another.
Lesson 3: The nature of the funding has to match the nature of the (changing) challenge
The Network couldn’t have been born without the three years of incubation funding that supported exploration and building a strong network approach. Over time, funders expected the Network to fit into more traditional funding buckets and programmatic outcomes. The disconnect between the Network’s funding and the change it was seeking to make became more stark over time.
Lesson 4: A Network approach adds unique value when you’re trying to make systemic change
The Network created value through successfully sharing, linking, aligning, and leveraging elements of the early childhood development system. Its power increased significantly as it gained legitimacy and recognition in the sector.
Lesson 5: Invest in collaborative capacity
The ability to take a collaborative approach to social change depends on a high-performing team that is compensated for their time.
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September 22 | Sold Out - Join the Waitlist
October 20 | Register for the October Workshop
Engaging in participatory community-based assessment and strategic learning practices enriches community relationships and strengthens overall ownership and outcomes. This virtual workshop will provide you with a solid overview of the theory, concepts, approach, and practical steps needed for designing and conducting participatory evaluation.
Join Pamela Teitelbaum and Lisa Attygalle and start reflecting on your own evaluation experience and gain an understanding of participatory evaluation approaches, concepts, and steps to strengthen and support how they design and conduct evaluation into their own community-focused work.
October 29 | Register for the October Workshop
Communities use collaboration to tackle some of their most complex issues, but we often dive into collaboration without truly understanding or embracing the human side of this work. This is even more challenging in a virtual environment.
Join Liz Weaver for an online workshop designed to equip you with simple, practical tools and approaches to building trust in a virtual environment, and effectively engaging diverse community partners.
Online Course | Access course materials anytime and learn at your own pace
Join Tamarack's Lisa Attygalle, Director of Community Engagement, in this new online course designed to build a foundation of knowledge and practice for your community engagement work.
Through video lessons, case studies, readings, and activities, you'll dig into the role of community, who should be engaged, community engagement techniques, how to overcome challenges, and how to evaluate your engagement activities.
This course is available to use at your own pace, but you'll be learning alongside a diverse group of Tamarack Institute learners. Engage in comments and questions on the online platform, and join Lisa for monthly small group coaching to get more personalized feedback and insight.
Date: September 9, 2020
Speakers: Diana Renner and Liz Weaver
Date: September 16, 2020
Speakers: Cormac Russell and Heather Keam
Date: October 14, 2020
Speakers: Catherine Abreu, Natalie Appleyard and Maya Menezes
Date: October 21, 2020
Speakers: John Kania and Liz Weaver
Date: October 28, 2020
Speakers: Corliss Bean, Marika Warner, Bryan Heal and Pamela Teitelbaum