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Wood Buffalo Youth Share Their Visions for Resilient Communities in a New RbD Lab Report

Pictured above: The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo Mayor and Council pose with (center) Brina Cardinal, Mariam Arain and Dr. Tamara Plush from the RbD Lab at RRU for the launch of the Youth Vision and Voice in Wood Buffalo report November 27, 2018.

 

Youth in the Wood Buffalo region have innovative ideas for rebuilding the region back even better after the 2016 Horse River wildfire disaster (aka the Fort McMurray wildfire). In the Youth Vision & Voice in Wood Buffalo report produced by the ResiliencebyDesign Lab at RRU, youth aged 14-24 share their experiences, concerns, and visions for creating vibrant, resilient communities. Read and download the report at https://resiliencebydesign.com/youthvoiceswb/.

The youth ideas cover areas important to them such as transportation, health and wellbeing, volunteerism, activities, and education. The report also promotes key community actions that can support youth, such as engaging them in activities that reduce their risk to future disasters, strengthening youth-adult partnership opportunities, and ensuring activities are inclusive for Wood Buffalo’s diverse youth population across the region.

Mariam Arain, age 15, from Fort McMurray and Brina Cardinal, age 17, from the Chipewyan Prairie Dene First Nation in Janvier launched Youth Vision and Voice at the Regional Municipality Wood Buffalo Council meeting November 27 in Fort McMurray. Wood Buffalo Mayor Don Scott responded to the youth presentation with recognition and encouragement:  “Thank you for being community champions and champions of this region. I couldn’t be more impressed. I am a huge advocate of getting youth involved in this community and making their voices heard. What you are saying perfectly aligns with what I see for getting youth involved in the future.” The RbD Lab produced the report as part of the Canadian Red Cross funded project Youth Voices Rising: Recovery and Resilience in Wood Buffalo.

The report findings are based on interviews with youth, and a social media campaign youth named “#YouthVoicesWB,” which ran Sept-Oct 2017 and involved multiple social profits, schools, and youth centres across the Wood Buffalo region. The campaign asked youth to answer one question: “What would you do to make your community better?” More than 350 youth responded through photography, poetry, original songs, painting, sticky notes, and other creative means. The youth interviews and social media campaign not only revealed key priority areas for youth in the region, it also provided insight into how adults can better connect youth to decision-making, and why youth engagement is vital for Wood Buffalo’s post-disaster future.

The process of sharing their voice also proved empowering for Wood Buffalo youth and inspired creative paths to move ideas forward. For example, Aishwarya Gurumurthy, a 19-year-old youth from Fort McMurray, worked with the RbD Lab on the project as a Research Assistant, and also created a collage on transportation in answer to the campaign question. She described her experience as collaborative and powerful:

“Seeing that I have taken a step in the right direction and working towards the goal of making a concrete change in the community helped me with my recovery. These experiences made me feel more connected, and my bond with the community grew stronger,” Aishwarya said. “I felt more valuable after having my voice heard, and being recognized for my views, beliefs, and opinions. It is the sense of satisfaction that I have contributed to making my community better that helped me in the wildfire recovery and rebuilding process.”

 

To read or download the report, visit: https://resiliencebydesign.com/youthvoiceswb/

For questions: Dr. Tamara Plush, tamara.plush@resiliencebydesign.ca or Dr. Robin Cox, robin.cox@resiliencebydesign.ca.

 

Learn more about the ResiliencebyDesign Lab

Watch the video below, produced by Lab member Tiffany Hill, to learn more about the RbD Lab and our creative process! If this sparks your interest, don’t forget to visit the ResiliencebyDesign Lab’s Exhibit running in the Royal Roads University Library until June, 2018.

Tiffany Hill Presents at ADEC Conference

Tiffany Hill, MA student in the College of Interdisciplinary Studies and Graduate Research Assistant of the ResiliencebyDesign (RbD) Lab (www.commons.royalroads.ca/resiliencebydesign), recently presented at the Association of Death Education and Counselling (ADEC) conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. ADEC is the premiere educational, interdisciplinary meeting for professionals working in the field of death, dying, and bereavement (www.adec.org).

While Tiffany holds her roles as student and researcher when describing herself she prefers storyteller, sister, and owner of big feelings and many tattoos. These elements of her identity greatly influence her research, which she spoke about at ADEC over the April 25th weekend in her presentation titled, “Exploring Childhood Sibling Bereavement Through Arts-Based Methods.”

Supervised by Dr. Cheryl Heykoop, Tiffany’s Master’s thesis work, “An Autoethnography on Sibling Bereavement: Navigating the Complexities of Dying, Death, and Grief,” aims to explore her lived experiences of the dying and death of her brother, Theodore, and her grief in the recent six months following his death. Further, she will be reflecting on her use of creative arts-based methods to help cultivate an understanding of grief as a process to be honored rather than a problem to mitigate. This exploration will inform policies and practices to support siblings who are bereaved.

As Frankl (2006) who when describing suffering, states; “for what then matters is to bear witness to the uniquely human potential at its best, which is to transform a personal tragedy into a triumph, to turn one’s predicament into a human achievement” (p. 112). Therefore, the impetus to conduct this specific research comes form the confidence that by understanding her own grief, Tiffany may offer support and insights to those who have or will experience grief or loss in their lifetime.

Heart of the Storm

Embers

Tiffany’s journey has been greatly influenced by creative arts-based methods, as highlighted in her two paintings, done after her brother’s death, titled, “Heart of the Storm” and “Embers”. These methods have the potential to support grieving processes, which Tiffany discussed at the ADEC conference. She explains that children who have experienced the death of a sibling need support. Of the limited existing research on sibling bereavement, most is largely focused on emotional, behavioural, and social signs of grief and conducted using interviews supplemented with external observations. Tiffany has recognized these patterns and believes there may be value in identifying the limitations of generalizing or categorizing these reactions to grief. In her talk at ADEC, she discussed how creative arts-based methods have the potential to encourage children to express themselves and result in more ethical and accurate research. The talk included influences and narratives from her own experience in grief and preliminary findings of her Master’s thesis.

As Tiffany shows through her experience and research, grief is a complex journey and expressing this through art-based means can provide an important outlet. A quote that greatly influences her work captures this process well;

“Grief, I’ve learned is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go” (Anderson, n.d.).

To learn more about Tiffany’s work or her role in the RbD Lab, visit the RbD Library Showcase located in the Royal Roads Library, running until June 8th.

ResiliencebyDesign Open House

The Lab is excited to announce our Open House event and you are warmly invited to attend!

The ResiliencebyDesign Lab’s Open House event at the Royal Roads University Library will run on April 17th, from 11:30am to 2:30pm, with opening remarks at 12:15pm. We will be showcasing the Lab’s work in areas of climate change, youth resilience and transformative learning through active displays, including a gallery walk through. The Lab’s work includes projects working with youth in crisis in communities from Wood Buffalo, Alberta to Cambridge Bay, Nunavut.

Faculty, staff, students, and the public are welcome. There will be snacks provided. We look forward to seeing you there!

If you cannot attend the Open House event, you can visit the exhibition at any time the library is open from April 16th to May 31st.

Theory of Change Workshop

Mid-February, the ResiliencebyDesign Research Lab ran a one and a half day Theory of Change Workshop at Royal Roads University to launch their new project, Youth-Centric Social Innovation: Gen Z and Climate Change. The session brought together a diverse group of youth and adult movers, shakers, change makers, and innovators who are invested in imagining what enlivening, inspiring, and transformative engagement and learning with youth might look like. Participants collectively explored the vision for the project, and discussed strategies, processes and activities that would support youth engagement in Climate Change Adaptation (CCA). Desired changes (outcomes) for the project were identified and captured using the Theory of Change framework, and the project team will take these away for refinement and further development of a Theory of Change model for the project. The team intends to keep workshop participants informed about the research process as it unfolds, and hopes that many will choose to stay engaged as knowledge mobilizers, influencers, advisors, and active partners.

Elder Shirley Alphonse from the T’Sou-ke    Nation welcomes participants.

The workshop was opened on February 22nd with a welcome and prayer from Elder Shirley Alphonse from the T’Sou-ke Nation. Participants then began getting to know each other with an an affiliation exercise, where they gathered in designated areas of the room according to criteria they most identify with (i.e. the primary context you work and play in – youth engagement/ climate change/ transformative learning/technology and innovation), and had a conversation with others who identify similarly. Afterwards, pairs engaged in dyad conversations about why youth engagement and transformative learning are important, and what inspires them to contribute. The group then reconvened in a circle and introduced their partner and shared highlights from their conversations.

Following this, Robin Cox the Director of the RbD Lab and Cheryl Heykoop, an Assistant Professor in School of Leadership Studies at Royal Roads University and RbD Lab member, gave an overview of the ResiliencebyDesign Lab approach. Then Brian Belcher, Canada Research Chair in Sustainability Research Effectiveness, introduced the Theory of Change process and outcome mapping framework, which will be used to design the project.

Participants reflecting on the the future of youth engagement and what transformative learning means to them.

Later that day, participants were asked to reflect on what the future of youth engagement and transformative learning means to them, and choose an image (from a selection of visual cards laid out in the adjoining room) that represented the future they were envisioning. In breakout  groups they had conversations about the images, and created posters that reflected this future. Each table then described their vision to the larger group with poster presentations.

                 Visual map of the participant’s overnight reflections.

Day two of the workshop commenced with a moment of silence for Tina Fontaine and her family, in recognition of the not guilty verdict delivered the previous day in her murder trial. Elder Shirley Alphonse then welcomed participants and shared a prayer that was filled with appreciation for the connection between the land and people. Participants were then invited to share their overnight reflections by creating a story at their table, inspired by Story Cubes. A gallery walk of the graphic recordings followed, which prompted a meaningful discussion about the importance of emphasizing ancestral knowledge and communicating with youth on their own terms when designing project activities.

Next, Brian presented the emerging Theory of Change for the project, with potential project outcomes in the model under Sphere of Control (the operational environment), Sphere of Influence (people the project works with and through) or Sphere of Interest (social, economic and environmental benefits). He also outlined the emerging impact pathways for the project:

Brian Belcher presents on the emerging theory of change.

  • Direct Engagement;
  • Research/Learning from Experience;
  • Policy/Engagement/Influence;
  • Education

 

With the information about the emerging Theory of Change for the project in mind, participants broke out into groups, based on the impact pathways, to discuss what types of activities the project can do, who we should involve, and what knowledge and relationships can be fostered through the project.

In closing the workshop Robin invited participants to write an action they are committed to taking on a postcard, which will be mailed to them in a few months as a way of connecting them back to the inspiration they felt in the session. Robin discussed the steps to follow the workshop, then the group gathered together in a circle. Tossing a ball of yarn from person to person, a web was created as everyone shared their parting thoughts, and appreciation for the significant connection and learning that had taken place in their time together.

                                            Remarks shared in the closing circle.

The RbD Lab worked with Get the Picture and specifically, Visual Map Maker/Graphic Recorder Lisa Edward to create the powerful visual maps throughout the workshop. Get The Picture is a leading visual facilitation and recording consultancy that partners with organizations around the world to help them visualize and launch into their desired futures. The rich, engaging communication experiences Get The Picture provides result in highly productive dialogue, shared understanding, alignment and high-quality decisions. Learn more about them here: http://getthepicture.ca/

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!”

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)

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

RbD supports youth consultation on Canada’s Emergency Management strategy

The RbD was instrumental in supporting Public Safety Canada’s (PSC) recent consultation with youth  on the  development of a new, comprehensive EM strategy for Canada. The virtual consultation was held July 6th and engaged youth around questions concerning how to help shape strategies to support a culture of disaster preparedness and resilience, and improve disaster mitigation and response.

The consultation is one of a number of consultations with stakeholders that include emergency managers, government representatives, Indigenous Peoples, first responders, and critical infrastructure owners and operators. The decision to develop a new EM strategy responds to a recognized shift in Canada’s disaster risk profile, characterized by the increasing frequency, magnitude and cost of disasters. The initiative acknowledges the need for greater involvement and investment in emergency management in ways that increase our shared ability to understand and assess these risks in order to strengthen Canada’s collective capacity to better prevent/mitigate against, prepare for, respond to, and recover from emergencies.

Public Safety Canada reached out to Dr. Cox and the RbD lab to help identify and engage youth from across Canada in a virtual focus group. Over 20 young people from across the country agreed to be involved. Participating young people offered insights from on a range of questions that focused on how to support greater collaboration among different sectors of Canadian society; ideas for improving risk communication; and suggestions for initiatives that would improve the capacity of individuals, families, communities and organizations to reduce risks and increase resilience.Youth who could not participate will have an opportunity to contribute through their written responses to questions p0sed.

“This kind of consultation with youth is all too rare,” says Cox, adding that “it provides another great example of young people’s commitment to contributing to Canada’s disaster resilience and the valuable expertise and perspectives they bring to this topic.”

The feedback from participating youth will be added to the information gathered from other stakeholders and will inform PSC’s development of the new strategy which they hope to share with the Canadian public in the spring of 2018.

 

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.