MacEwan University students have partnered with the City of Edmonton's Recover project to apply their research methods to a public hearing about anti-racism.

Students work with the City of Edmonton to support anti-racism recommendations

March 31, 2021 | Society

In Fall 2020, MacEwan University faculty member Dr. Jennifer Long and her students began work in partnership with Recover, the City of Edmonton's urban wellness project, which led to creating accessible materials for the Community Safety and Well-Being Task Force. As part of an anthropology research methods course, the students' assignment was to compile and organize data that came out of the City Council non-statutory public hearing on the Edmonton Police Commission set up in response to 2020's Black Lives Matter protests.

With facilitation from Careers & Experience and the Social Innovation Institute, Dr. Long's class worked with the data out of the public hearings to make public-facing documents for Edmontonians and the Community Safety and Well-Being Task Force.

The task force was established to create actionable, anti-racist recommendations for Edmonton City Council.

The students reviewed eight days' worth of public hearings with over 160 speakers, as well as listened to guest speakers who provided different perspectives about policing in Edmonton.

"Their willingness to share their experiences, their knowledge and their thoughts — along with all the individuals who took the time to participate in the public hearings — brought this project to life," says Dr. Long. "I'm very thankful for Edmontonians' willingness to share their experiences, which at times, required them to recount and relive their trauma."

Dr. Long says the goal of the course was to give students the opportunity to practice research and data analysis techniques on behalf of a community partner, and to participate in a meaningful, local project — one that taught them about community safety and systemic racism in Canada.

"Having the opportunity to apply research methods to a real-world project made me feel like I was aiding in the process of meaningful change," says Aysha Kadour, a fourth-year Bachelor of Arts student. "These projects felt far weightier and purposeful than typical assignments."

Community-engaged learning provides a unique opportunity for students to work on real-world projects — as well as make an impact beyond the classroom.

"Creating avenues for our students to work directly in the community helps to forge strong connections, a deeper level of understanding and an appreciation for the complexity of some challenges we collectively face," says Heather Braid, academic lead for MacEwan's Social Innovation Institute.

For the past three years, Braid explains, the Social Innovation Institute has partnered with Recover to provide strategic leadership and facilitate meaningful post-secondary involvement to achieve urban wellness in Edmonton. Though students have seen first hand the impact of their work, there is always more that can be done to improve the wellness of the community.

"There is always room to grow and improve," says Kadour. "In creating panels and open discussions that include the voices of our community members, we are able to address those needs and allow for individuals to bring in new ideas that help stimulate healthier environments and create safer spaces within our community."

The Community Safety and Well-Being Task Force has deeper roots to MacEwan as well. Dr. Annette Trimbee, MacEwan University's president and vice-chancellor, is the chair of the task force (which also includes Irfan Chaudhry, MacEwan's director of the Office of Human Rights, Diversity and Equity, and Laila Bellony, a MacEwan social work student). Dr. Trimbee says the task force very much appreciated receiving the report, and adds that seeing MacEwan University students involved in such work is inspiring.

"As I have said before, change requires action and action should be approached with academic rigour – evidence, discussion and debate," says Dr. Trimbee. "Our students' work with Recover is an example of capturing diverse perspectives and ensuring all voices are heard. Their partnership reinforces the importance of involving all members of our community in sharing their lived experiences."

View the students' public-facing website for the Community Safety and Well-Being Task Force.



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