Co-lead Peter Andrée and research assistant Christina Muehlberger, Community Food Security hub
Carleton researchers, in partnership with other post-secondary institutions and a host of community-based organizations across the country, are looking for real solutions to poverty, violence against women and other consequential issues of economic hardship and shrinking social services that marginalize people in our communities.
Ted Jackson, a public policy professor at Carleton University and principal investigator of a new program called Community First: Impacts of Community Engagement (CFICE), says it’s essential and timely that we keep our eye on the prize of prosperous, fair and clean communities.
“It’s not about sound bites or photo ops, but rather about long-term relationships and trust that will result in real gains for people on the street and in their homes.”
The CFICE program, which launched this fall, will enable academics to work with non-profits for the betterment of communities, under a $2.5 million partnership grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) over seven years.
By linking the campus to community-based resources … communities will be enhanced by these emerging partnerships.
Think of the brain power active at Carleton every day and what it would mean if just 10 per cent more of that were channelled towards directly addressing the most pressing issues of our time.
The joint engagement of campus and community will bring community-based projects under the critical eye of academic policy analysis, with an aim to maximize value for non-profit organizations.
Aware of severe inequality in the country and the challenges many face in the wake of the shifting global economy, the principals involved in the multi-community, multi-issue CFICE initiative hope to find new ways for non-profits to access expert academic resources.
“It is universities’ responsibility,” notes Jackson, “to be useful to citizens as they cope with new social conditions. We cannot afford to stand back and be apart from the communities in which we operate.”
The project, administered by the Carleton Centre for Community Innovation (3Ci) and the Canadian Alliance for Community Service Learning (CACSL), will move ahead in two phases. Over the next four years, four self-managing “hubs” will carry out research:
Poverty Reduction, co-led by the Vibrant Communities network in New Brunswick, Ontario, Alberta and the North;
Community Food Security, jointly co-led by Food Secure Canada in Nova Scotia, Ontario and British Columbia and the Canadian Association of Food Studies;
Community Environmental Sustainability, co-led by the Trent Centre for Community-Based Education in eastern Ontario; and
Violence Against Women, co-led by the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies in Ontario and British Columbia.
The CFICE approach … must be embraced in a world with fragile and finite resources.
Each hub will be co-directed by a representative of the community partner organization and Carleton.
Liz Weaver, vice-president of Tamarack, which works to reduce poverty in several Canadian cities, and co-lead of the Poverty Hub, speaks to the “power and potential” of the CFICE project to assist low-income communities.
“Campuses are places of dialogue, research and resources. However, to effectively access these resources, community partners need to know the appropriate access points and they need to make their case,” Weaver notes.
“On issues such as poverty, marginalized populations in a community are often the subject of academic and student-based research but rarely do they see the benefit of this research from a policy or systems change perspective. By linking the campus to community-based resources, the policy agenda will be strengthened and, hopefully, communities will be enhanced by these emerging partnerships.”
Prof. Karen Schwartz, director of Carleton’s Centre for Research in Health: Science, Technology and Policy, and academic co-lead with Weaver, adds, “We hope to develop best practices for how to engage in such a partnership to reduce poverty . . . that can apply to all Canadian communities.”
Knowledge gathered during the research period will provide guidance for effective partnerships between researchers and the community.
During the project’s second phase between 2016 and 2019, the Knowledge Mobilization Hub, animated by CACSL, will focus on policy change.
“Think of the brain power active at Carleton every day and what it would mean if just 10 per cent more of that were channelled towards directly addressing the most pressing issues of our time,” suggests academic co-lead of the Community Food Security Hub, political science professor Peter Andrée, who says Canada’s food system needs some serious attention.
“In a way, CFICE is trying to put into place the building blocks for that transformation.”
The CFICE approach to leveraging resources, adds Todd Barr, executive director of Trent Centre for Community-Based Education in Peterborough and co-lead of the Community Environmental Sustainability Hub, is one “that must be embraced in a world with fragile and finite resources.”
His academic co-lead Patricia Ballamingie, a geography and environmental studies professor at Carleton, points to the academic “position of privilege” for effecting positive change and believes Carleton, through the CFICE program, will be able to demonstrate its relevance to some of our most pernicious problems.
Photography by: Luther Caverly