Our approach

Our community engagement workshop series is the foundation of our programming. As the prerequisite for all of our programs, it helps you to develop the skills for working with communities. 

We believe that education should transform society for the better, and help to achieve social, economic and environmental justice. This social change orientation informs our approach—from the design of our programs to the kind of communities we partner with, and the way we create, cultivate and care for our relationships with these communities. 

Beyond lectures

We believe in the power of experiential learning—both in and outside of the classroom. Experiential learning fosters active engagement, critical thinking and deep learning connections. In the classroom, we get students moving, creating and discussing, and in the community, we involve students in project-based work and land-based education.

We also believe in centering or sharing Indigenous perspectives and paradigms in our programs. We build relationships with Elders and Knowledge Holders so that we can integrate Indigenous perspectives and approaches into our work in a good way. The ways in which we value and respect Indigenous knowledges and pedagogies help students appreciate different ways of being, doing, teaching and learning.

Beyond service

We work hard to design programming that meets community needs and contributes to the public good. Our work is responsive to the changing world, and we are grateful to be working on local and international initiatives that support community development, youth mentorship, poverty awareness, climate action and Indigenous ways of knowing and being.

Beyond partnerships

We are committed to ethical engagement and community-centred partnerships.

Our commitment to communities goes beyond traditional, institutional understandings of partnership and reciprocity. We prioritize relationships over partnerships. This means that we cultivate and nourish the connections we hold with communities and their members, whether or not we collaborate formally on a project or program. When we are invited to collaborate with communities, we see ourselves as contributors to a community-led vision. We believe in extending the power, privilege and resources of our institution as a concrete way to demonstrate our support.

We also strive to create strong relationships with our students, which often continue throughout their university career and beyond. In order to do our work, we have to be vulnerable and share our own stories of engagement, growth and social change, so that students can work through conflict and failure, critically reflect on their learning and build their own communities. We see ourselves as mentors and facilitators of social change.

Beyond reciprocity

Our approach emphasizes relational accountability and reciprocity. Our programs provide opportunities for students to apply their classroom learning through community-engaged work, grounded in respect and accountability to community as well as centering their knowledge, experience and vision.

We stand and work in solidarity with communities, and we support community-led action that strengthens the communities we work with and contributes to social, economic and environmental justice.

Introduction to community engaged learning: Workshop series

This workshop series is a pre-requisite for all of our programs. 

This introduction to community engaged learning helps you to develop the foundational knowledge, skills and attitudes to engage with community. You will have the opportunity to reflect critically on our roles in social change and as treaty members or guests on Indigenous lands, learn and work ethically in intercultural contexts and plan for social action.

The training is a six- to eight-week workshop series followed by a community placement and debriefing session. 

Workshop series goals

By completing this training, you will develop an anti-oppressive and de-colonial community lens. This will help you to better see, understand, relate to and support community work.

You will:

  • explore your identity, values, beliefs and practices, including your relationship with Indigenous peoples in Canada
  • develop your capacity for critical thinking and reflection
  • develop self-awareness and capacity for working in intercultural contexts
  • engage in experiential learning, both in the classroom and in the community
  • learn from and take action with communities
  • develop knowledge and skills for community work

Workshop series topics

Collective action for social change

You will explore the question, “What is social change?” You will learn about Anishinaabe clan systems, the concept of rotational leadership and will locate yourself in Bill Moyer’s Four Roles in Social Change.

Building intercultural capacity

You will learn about intercultural competence, cultural safety, and Cree and Anishinaabe understandings of “all my relations,” and reflect on the ways your cultural lenses shape the way you understand and relate to others. This self-awareness leads to awareness and sensitivity of the beliefs, values, behaviours and experiences of others, and creates a culturally safe experience for those with whom we interact.

Identity, power and privilege on Indigenous lands

You will learn about the theory of oppression, the concept of intersectionality, and Indigenous peoples' historical and contemporary experiences of colonization in Canada; explore your identity, power and privilege; and reflect on your relationship with Indigenous peoples and your role as a treaty member or guest on Indigenous lands.

Ethical community engagement and visions of “the good life”

You will reflect critically on the ways your identity and culture shape your engagement with community and your vision of “the good life,” and you will also learn about Cree and Anishinaabe understandings of mino-pimātsiwin and mino-bimaadiziwin (the good life).

Project-specific knowledge and skill development

In addition to the four workshops above, you will also receive training specific to your programs. Some examples of additional modules include:

  • Project themes, e.g., youth mentorship, food sovereignty
  • Indigenous perspectives on project themes
  • Facilitation and conflict resolution
  • Community-centered partnerships
  • Project planning and assessment
  • Stages of group development
  • Travel health and safety
  • Risk management