The Winnipeg Boldness Project will often have visits from university and high school classes wanting to learn more about the project and how we’re utilizing Indigenous research methods. Recently, we were visited by a class from the Masters in Development Practice program at the University of Winnipeg who spent the morning with Gladys and Diane to learn more about the project and the child centred model that we’ve developed. They were asked as a follow up assignment to write short blog posts about their experience and we’ve decided to post them up here to share their opinions and views on the project.
Located in the heart of Point Douglas, The Winnipeg Boldness Project (TWBP) has hit the ground running. With the help of organizations in the area, such as members of Community Led Organizations United Together (a coalition of nine community-driven organizations in Winnipeg), TWBP’s key objective is to provide the tools to allow the inner city to speak out. The voice of the community is what drives, directs, and contributes to healthy development, with specific regards to rearing our young. TWBP understands the importance of building on community abilities, rather than dictating what it lacks. Government agencies often demand to see immediate, tangible progress without consulting those who are affected, however, TWBP aspires to receive first-hand responses on how the community experiences the benefits of community programming in order to maintain long-term social, economic, and environmental prosperity.
The bottom line is that the North End is different than other neighbourhoods in Winnipeg, just as St.Vital is different from Tuxedo Park. There is no cookie-cutter development model that all neighbourhoods must follow. TWBP recognizes that the needs of the community take diverse shapes and forms, which is the perspective of an equity-based focus. Project Director, Diane Roussin, affirmed the staple to community engagement: trust. “You can’t just parachute into a community and expect answers or expect people to respond to you”, she said. Face-to-face interaction is what drives meaningful relationships; therefore, community events, projects, and collaborations are what maximize engagement.
After sitting with both Gladys Rowe and Diane Roussin, and hearing about the compelling strategies to achieving the bold goal (which is to improve the well-being of children and families in Point Douglas), I couldn’t help but feel the fire in the belly intensify. I passionately want Winnipeg to thrive but it takes time and community-driven commitment. I no longer feel shame when I say that Winnipeg is home, as I did ages ago, because I know we can do this. With all of our help, we can make change.
The Winnipeg Boldness project takes its name for good reasons.
In the years I have been involved with community development, I have not seen anything as well-organized and entrenched in community-based development perspective as the Winnipeg Boldness Project. The project originated from an identified need from the community. It has been picked up by an organization that works in conjunction with several other community-based organizations. This is a very logical model that ensures community concerns are at the forefront of any solution or development that is supported through a constant flow of two-way communication centering community voice. Based on this premise projects are commenced and development based on community vision ensues. Simply put, the community creates organizations to help their area develop they way the community wants it to develop. This idea of community development is not the normal case in Development as a whole. Development tends to grapple with funder-driven projects, top down management and “best-intentions” idealism that never look at development problems in Western countries. This, is in my opinion, exactly how development fails.
Using the Boldness Project’s framework, that was developed by the organizational and community nature of many of the organizations involved in Community Led Organizations United Together (CLOUT), I would strongly argue for some larger development agencies to take direction from this model. The grass-roots approach adopted and implemented by projects like CLOUT and the Winnipeg Boldness Project, are exceptional demonstrations of proper needs identification and solutions-based programming.
The Winnipeg Boldness Project itself is has adopted a fearless stance, expressing itself as one-of-a-kind and not shying away from the fact that it may make mistakes. Instead, the project looks forward to what it will learn from whatever inevitable bumps it may hit along the way. There is no manual for this approach to development, but Boldness will be able to make strides to creating best practices for this development. This project will go boldly and unabashedly into a new stage of community based development.
I had the opportunity to visit the Winnipeg Boldness Center as a prerequisite for an Indigenous Research Methods course I am taking this semester in the department of Development Practice (Master’s Program) with a focus on Indigenous development at the University of Winnipeg. I must say, the Winnipeg Boldness Project is a laudable one and the project team were warm and receptive.
Visiting the center provided me the opportunity to gain practical insights into the world of Indigenous research. In the Research Methods class, I had the opportunity to read a book titled; Research is Ceremony by Shawn Wilson which centers on the development of an Indigenous Research Paradigm. He defines it as a set of beliefs that guide our action as researchers and hinged on Indigenous ontology, epistemology, axiology and methodology. Wilson tries to combine dominant research paradigm and indigenous research paradigm.
The research team made every one of us write down what we knew about indigenous research and what we hoped to take out of the seminar. For me, I was interested in the practical aspects of doing Indigenous research, as their methods are unconventional. More so, the fact that there are challenges encountered by Indigenous researchers in regards to ethics.
Although Shawn Wilson had given me a theoretical framework to indigenous research, being part of the seminar at The Winnipeg Boldness Project, the team was able to communicate to me through their own experiences what it is like in doing Indigenous research. They brought out very key lessons, informing us of some things we had to keep in mind when doing Indigenous research or when interacting with members of Indigenous communities. Some of the key insights I left with include respect, reciprocity, relationality, transparency, etc. The list is not exhaustive, but I could relate more with these ideas.
I consider the Winnipeg Boldness Project a bridging organization as it provides a platform for the identification and use of different knowledge systems in conducting research, a medium for Indigenous knowledge, and method of research to find expression in mainstream research.
I had an amazing learning experience as I participated in a field trip to The Winnipeg Boldness Project office. As an international student in the 2014/2015 cohort of the MDP program at the University of Winnipeg, the Indigenous research course allowed me the opportunity to participate in this educational excursion.
Prior to the trip, I had the opportunity to read, summarize, and present a seminar on a book by Margaret Kovach titled: “Indigenous Methodologies: Characteristics, Conversations and Contexts”. The book highlights the relationship between epistemology and research methodology. Indeed, the community driven research executed by The Winnipeg Boldness Project gave in-depth experiential learning that relates to the writings of Margaret Kovach.
I glimpsed the subtle meaning of revitalization of indigenous research frameworks and methodologies. The practical experience of the unique issues and principles involving ethical research in Indigenous communities was a great take-away for me. The framework of Indigenous research methodology that centralizes Indigenous epistemology turned out to be a clear concept. I identified the complexity imbued between Indigenous epistemology and research framework.
The Winnipeg Boldness project is a paradigm of an Indigenous research organisation that demonstrates the need for ceremonies in Indigenous research. From the smudging ceremony demonstrated before the commencement of our discussion, the significance of ceremonies in Indigenous culture emerged and it reciprocates knowing, doing and being. This is the epistemology of Indigenous research. In fact, they proved how Indigenous researches are conducted in a good way, which I read in Margaret’s book by using the ethical method of giving back (e.g. all the participants during the field trip were given tobacco).
In a nutshell, all that I encountered during the trip moved my theoretical knowledge acquired in Margaret Kovach’s book to practical knowledge through real-world demonstration and participation.