Fort McMurray Talent Showcase Champions Youth Voice

As part of the RbD Lab “Youth Voices Rising” (YVR) project, the District Recording Studio, 91,1 The Bridge and the YouthVoicesWB campaign recently presented a youth talent showcase in Fort McMurray, Alberta. The event included 10 youth performers, a talk by RbD Lab Research Assistants Maike and Aishwarya, a presentation from 3 Things Wood Buffalo, and a visit by the Mayor Don Scott and Councillor Jeff Peddle. The event wrapped up the month-long, #YouthVoicesWB social media campaign and action research project that championed young people creatively answering the question: What would you do to make your community better? See the amazing performances—and the Mayor’s and Councillor’s talks—on the Shaw TV YouTube Site: www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLARu0rgVPBmwEI5AmSxEpc8FDfkwdqDrU.

Maike, a local Research Assistant, wrote a blog to share her impressions of the fun and inspiring evening:

Pizza, Hipster-Lounge Atmosphere, Talented Youth and Mayor Don Scott

By Maike-Alexandra Schmieding, RbD Lab Research Assistant, Youth Voices Rising

On Nov 10th, at 6.30pm, around 75 youth gathered at the Kingstreet Theatre at Composite High School to perform their songs, poems and stories. The youth had the chance to perform their art through a cooperation of the YouthVoicesWB campaign, the District Recording Studio and 91.1 The Bridge.

I was blown away by the talent and professionalism of the youth performing. Being 16, and sometimes even younger, going on that stage takes courage. And the youth rocked it. The atmosphere was amazing. I felt like I stepped into a hip New York underground lounge. The youth had great messages, too, for making their community better, especially as the area recovers from the 2016 wildfire disaster. For example, Shekinah, age 15, sang a song called “Recovery” with the lyrics: “There’s something about this town that nobody sees. No matter what tries to bring you down, you can’t be beat.  And the fire that burnt down all your hopes and dreams. You came back twice as strong ready to take on anything… If I could do something to make this place any better. I would bring back the people that stuck together. Our hearts stayed strong we’ll carry on forever. It’s all a part of our recovery.”

Wow – what a beautiful message! And what a great venue too. I want to give a special shout out to the people from the District Recording Studio and 91.1 The Bridge at this point for their amazing work for setting up the stage, and to the Kingstreet Theatre at Composite High School for hosting the event!

Besides all the great youth performers, one of my personal highlights of the night was newly elected RMWB Mayor Don Scott and Councillor Jeff Peddle joining us and listening to young people. Throughout the whole event (and the YouthVoicesWB social media campaign) we asked youth: “What would you do to make your community better?” The answers ranged from wanting a Costco to needing support with bullying, to problems with local transportation and more. In our talk about the YouthVoicesWB campaign, I specifically mentioned the challenges of transportation for youth on stage. Councillor Jeff Peddle approached us right afterwards and showed me his phone. He had messaged a person responsible for transportation in the Municipality to explore the issue further to help local youth!

Our excitement became even greater when Mayor Don Scott spoke to the youth on stage about the transportation problem. As well, he said one of the most inspirational things I have heard until this day (which must mean something, because I’m a teacher, and we really like saying inspirational things!): “Prove them wrong.” Mr. Scott advised the youth to never let anybody tear them down, and to prove people wrong whenever they said that they cannot do “it”—whatever “it” is.

It was also an exceptionally special moment for us when he announced that he would display the Justin Slade Youth Foundation YouthVoicesWB sticky note wall for youth feedback and the amazing art installation of angel wings from the Art Foundry. (Here I am with the wings at the event.) Don Scott said he plans to put them in his office to show everybody the great ideas youth have for the Wood Buffalo region, and to encourage more input by youth. What a great way for youth voices to be shared with the support of the Mayor.

As a new Research Assistant with the Youth Voices Rising project, I loved to hear everybody’s stories and to connect with all the youth. There are some amazing kids out there, and together, we can take the world. In the words of Mayor Don Scott to the youth: “PROVE THEM WRONG!”

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RbD Lab launches #YouthVoicesWB

The YouthVoicesWB campaign launched September 29 in the Wood Buffalo region of Alberta, Calgary. The campaign encourages youth to share their ideas of how to make their community better as a means to strengthen their resilience during the wildfire recovery and rebuilding efforts after the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire.

The campaign is part of the RbD Lab “Youth Voices Rising: Recovery and Resilience in Wood Buffalo” action research project, funded by the Canadian Red Cross. The campaign timing aligns with the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo general elections so local decision makers can hear ideas from youth, which supports young people to have a stronger role in the conversation and policy decisions affecting them.

“Young people may be reluctant to share their views in a formal setting,” says RbD researcher Dr. Tamara Plush. “Creative art, as seen in the campaign, not only serves as a catalyst for understanding and amplifying youth concerns, but the narratives can evoke powerful emotional reactions which may be the spark needed for action.”

 Youth aged 14 to 24 living in the Wood Buffalo region can participate via the @YouthVoicesWB Facebook, Instagram or YouTube using art, photos, video, song, poetry, theatre, dance or other creative media or by joining the online conversation. Already, youth are engaging with original songs, photography, poetry, talks, art installations, drawings, via sticky note walls, etc. For example, in her song Hey Hey Hey, Hannah recently sang: “I want streets with cafes and places that bind. Music and arts, and curious minds… I want waterfront not development… I want opportunities for you and me; changes that I want to see. Hey hey hey listen to me. I’m not silent. I’m just not being heard… Things can be better here, I’m sure… Things will be better here, I’m sure…”

The campaign highlights the importance of youths’ perspective on disaster recovery and rebuilding and supports ongoing conversations and actions.

“When it affects us, it should involve us,” says Pamela, a 16-year-old campaign participant. “We’re the future generation. We’re going to be here making the decisions next. How are you going to make our world better for us and our children and their children if you don’t give us the opportunity?”

YouthVoicesWB runs until Oct. 27, 2017.

(Article credit to Royal Roads University and the RbD Lab)

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Building a resilient Calgary

The RbD team and youth involved in the Alberta Resilient Communities (ARC) research project participated as exhibitors in the Mayor’s Environment Expo. The annual event, hosted by the City of Calgary, was held for three days in June at the Calgary Municipality Building, gathering over 5000 students, families, and community members to celebrate environmental education.

ARC Youth Participants
Kennedy, Deborah, Marcus, & Ozzy

RbD and ARC hosted multiple interactive booths showcasing youth-driven resilience initiatives. These projects focus on creative ways local youth are contributing to establish more resilient communities.

The RbD team also organized a booth asking participating youth and children to identify people, places, and activities that support their personal resilience, and the ways they contribute to the resilience and sustainability of their communities and families. As a result, the structure is displayed outside of the City’s Office of Resilience in Calgary.

Resilient Calgary Structure
Kennedy, Tiffany, Robin, Marcus, Rhyan, Deborah, & Ozzy

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Dr. Cox calls for a culture of resilience

Dr. Robin Cox, Director of the RbD Lab, was one of ten featured speakers participating in the Resilient Calgary event, May 16th, sponsored by Mount Royal University’s Centre for Community Disaster Research. Cox’s talk, Engaging Youth to Create a Culture of Resilience, focused on exploring the potential for drawing on the passion, energy, creativity, and intelligence of young people to address the complex problems of escalating disaster risks and climate change. Cox challenged the audience to consider how current decision and policy-making models and processes and structures are inadequate to address the rapidly escalating risks. Both too conservative and too siloed, these structures continue to be reliant on habitual thinking and processes that do not reflect the non-linear and emergent issues of wicked problems. Cox argued for an increased focus on cultivating a culture of resilience based in multi- and trans-disciplinary thinking and flexible, collaborative perspectives. She suggested that creative, innovative and collaborative mindsets are needed to shift the status quo and re-imagine solutions to these complex problems.

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RbD Lab awarded SSHRC Insight Grant

The ResiliencebyDesign Research Innovation Lab was recently awarded a three-year SSHRC Insight grant to conduct a research project entitled, “Enhancing Community Resilience: Youth engagement in disaster risk reduction and climate adaptation.”

The project will work with post-Millennial youth – Gen Z – using a Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) approach. The research process will integrate learning and research, integrating disaster resilience leadership curriculum and youth-driven and youth-friendly methodologies (e.g., arts-based, collective storytelling, creative social mapping, appreciative inquiry) to explore the complex landscape of disasters and climate change. The research will both investigate and advocate for youth-led solutions to the complex challenges they face. The project will engage youth from the Greater Victoria region in a youth-centric social innovation lab methodology designed by RbD as a transformative learning process. The goals of the project include: 1) facilitating mutual learning and knowledge exchange among youth, researchers, disaster and climate change practitioners and policy makers; 2) providing meaningful research, mentorship, and learning opportunities for youth; and 3) generating youth-designed and youth-driven strategies to increase the engagement of youth in disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation in their families, communities, and careers.

The project launches this fall under the leadership of Dr. Robin Cox as the principal investigator. Dr. Cheryl Heykoop, Dr. Leila Scannell and Dr. Crystal Tremblay will work with Cox as co-investigators. Dr. Cox and Dr. Heykoop are both faculty members at RRU.

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Hill speaks out as DRR change agent

At the Fifth Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) in the Americas in early March, Tiffany Hill, a researcher in the RRU ResiliencebyDesign (RbD) Research Innovation Lab, highlighted the importance of youth having a voice in DRR decision-making. Watch her interview with Public Safety Canada about “How to be a DRR Change Agent.”

As Tiffany explains, “I think we already know it’s important to involve young people in this platform, in disaster risk reduction. They are passionate, interested and can come up with creative and innovative solutions to complex problems. And whether we like it (or not), young people have an investment in reducing the risks and impacts of disasters because we’re living in it. So here’s an opportunity: Meaningfully engage young people in the conversations and decisions in how to address these risks.”

Tiffany attended the Platform alongside RbD Lab Director Dr. Robin Cox, Professor & Program Head of the Disaster and Emergency Management Program in the School of Humanitarian Studies, and Research Assistant Kennedy Hill. Tiffany is currently working in the RbD Lab on the Alberta Resilient Communities research project and pursuing a Masters of Arts in the Interdisciplinary Studies program at Royal Roads University.

Be sure to also watch Tiffany’s video in the UNISDR Youth Video Challenge.

 

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RbD opens new lab space at RRU

The ResiliencebyDesign Research Innovation Lab has a new home! It recently moved into a new Lab space to accommodate its growing team of Royal Roads University researchers, postdoctoral fellows, students, and affiliates. The new Lab space, located in the Millward Annex on the RRU campus, offers a dynamic hub for research project collaboration, planning, and staging creative arts activities, and coordinating long-distance learning events.

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