A Spirit of Kindness, Compassion and Active Listening in the Non-Profit Sector in the Time of COVID-19
by Sinethemba Dlamini, News Anchor, National Broadcaster, Kingdom of Eswatini
The conversation on the ‘Changing Context for Public Engagement and Global Citizenship Education’ came at a time when I, as a journalist, was trying to find innovative ways on how to effectively do my job under the challenges presented by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has brought about changes to everyday life but this does not in any way make the work that we do less significant. As people working in community development, especially in the non-profit sector, our audiences rely on us more today than they did in the past. My biggest take away from my participation as moderator for the webinar is this: despite what is happening in the world, and regardless of one’s gender, race, social status, affiliation, sexual orientation and other socio-demographic factors, people’s biggest need is to be heard and I cannot emphasize that enough. That for me was the common thread from the presentations made by all the panelists. In order to do the work that we do effectively, we need to listen. We need to have compassion and more importantly, we need to understand that our needs are as diverse as the stars in the sky and kindness an open mind, teachable spirit, and working towards equality remains the most important currency.
Feminist Reflection on Online Public Engagement and Global Citizenship in a Pandemic Era
by Sydney Piggot, Director of Programs and Projects, YWCA Canada
Taking part in the Inter-Council Network’s recent discussion on public engagement and global citizenship education reinforced to me how interconnected we are, despite being at home for weeks on end. Panelists and participants joined us from across Canada and around the world to talk about what it means to do this work during a paradigm shift caused not only by the coronavirus pandemic, but also by the rise in awareness of the injustices that so many communities are facing right now. Whether it is state violence against Black and Indigenous people, gender-based violence, or lack of access to Internet and technology, there is no doubt that people have woken up to the realities of those who are made vulnerable. In this context, public engagement and global citizenship education becomes even more important, but how do we make sure that the spaces we create are inclusive, accessible, and centre the voices of those most affected by these inequities?
Having this opportunity to share my ideas and learn from the incredible panelists who joined me was so valuable in answering this question. Each person’s perspective and experiences made our collective solutions richer. The three key messages I left participant with are
Give credit where credit is due. Social movements do not grow overnight. As educators and advocates, it is important to know our roots and acknowledge them. By building upon the incredible work of those who came before us and those who work alongside us, we make these movements stronger.
Ask yourself: Who is not able to be here? As we shift more and more to online spaces to conduct our work, we must make an effort to understand how the spaces are inaccessible or unsafe for many. The digital world is a mirror of the physical world and replicates the same systems of oppression that exclude so many communities. We need to continue to address these inequities–like poverty, racism, colourism, transphobia, homophobia, ableism, etc.–as much online as we do in person.
Take the time to educate yourself first. Our environment is changing quickly and what we may have accepted as “normal” a few months ago is no longer our reality. Before we attempt to educate others, we need to educate ourselves by listening to the experiences of those most impacted by injustice. We need to make a concerted effort to address needs as they are presented to us by those with lived experience, and not based on our assumptions about what works best.
I’m looking forward to seeing these solutions in practice and continuing to learn how to do public engagement and global citizenship education better.
A Southern Perspective on the Changing Context of Public Engagement
by Joel Simpson, Executive Director, Co-Founder, Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD)
A Southern perspective is a unique approach to examine the challenges of a developing country such as Guyana. The challenges include: the availability of affordable technology, infrastructure exacerbated gaps in access to these technologies, especially for rural and indigenous communities, together with high rates of youth unemployment and poverty had already been challenges in our context. Considering all of this, marginalized communities, especially LGBTQ+ Communities and other vulnerable groups are already facing multiple intersectional challenges.
SASOD Guyana recently conducted a cross-sectional quantitative survey in an effort to understand the impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the LGBTQ+ people. With 265 respondents, 70% reported to have lost their job or have had their hours reduced. Concerns about food insecurity have become the focus of our relief efforts during the pandemic – a shift from psychological counselling being one of our more accessed services prior to the pandemic. We also found that most people’s main source of information about the COVID-10 pandemic, and information in general, was social media.
With these in mind, the changing contexts of our new environment and the new normal present some pros and cons for us here in Guyana. Although there is a reduced cost for the host of virtual engagements, in Guyana’s context, limited internet penetration, especially in rural communities mean that there is very little engagement from these communities, limiting participation to a largely urban-based constituency. Limited internet penetration may also impact attendance to these virtual engagements since we have noticed less attendance at our virtual events, which is contrary to the trends we have noticed in more developed countries.
Our take-away from this is that while we adapt to this new environment, addressing the massive gaps in access to technology needs to be a priority for engagement with Southern communities. We hope to do a pilot project to provide hardware, such as tablets on loan, and additional resources, to our beneficiaries will help to narrowing this gap. Additionally, the cost savings from hosting virtual engagements frees up resources that can be redirected to community relief efforts during and after the pandemic.
Ethical Space & the Two-Eyed Seeing Approach: Centering Indigenous Perspectives in Public Engagement in a Pandemic Era
by Shaelyn Wabegijig, Project Coordinator, Advancing the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 Agenda & Office and Outreach Coordinator, Kawartha World Issues Centre (KWIC)
I am immensely honoured and grateful to have taken part in the webinar discussion about online public engagement and global citizenship education with diverse communities. Thank you to the ICN team who are amazing to work with, the eloquent moderator, and the brilliant speakers who taught me so much.
This timely topic is much needed in today’s rapidly changing context. The range of sub-topics discussed by the panelists fully addressed this broad topic in an open and honest discussion that I will always carry with me. I revere their work and their ability to share their wisdom to ignite change in a society that continues to marginalize and silence groups of people.
As the last speaker, I followed suit in firstly sharing my positionality. For me, this includes my white privilege, my BAH in Indigenous Studies and Philosophy, working for 3 years in the non-profit sector, advocating for social and environmental justice, my Algonquin family’s experience in residential schools, living on a reservation, among many other relationships and experiences that shape my perspective.
When discussing the engagement of Indigenous communities in Canada, I first acknowledged how diverse the term ‘Indigenous’ is. It refers to the people who are inseparable from a place. No Indigenous person’s perspectives or experiences are the same, and they are intersectional (term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw).
I also acknowledged the engagement in question is coming from Western society trying to make space for Indigenous worldviews. Most often, organization processes are dominated by Western society, and Indigenous engagement is excluded from main programs or activities.
Being equipped to engage multiple perspectives allows for meaningful engagement. The term Ethical Space was coined by the Indigenous philosopher, Willie Ermine, from Sturgeon Lake First Nation. The ethical space of engagement is a framework that examines the diversity and positioning of Indigenous peoples and Western society.
Collaboration between Western and Indigenous worldviews is best described in Mi’kmaw Elder, Albert Marshall’s, Etuaptmumk – Two Eyed Seeing approach. This approach generally means utilizing the strengths of both worldviews together.
Identifying challenges and accommodating these needs is key to engaging Indigenous peoples. Some challenges include:
- Under capacity – Indigenous leaders are in high demand;
- Underfunded communities – Ex. Access to affordable food, housing, potable water. This leads to crisis mode;
- Crisis mode – Being focused on survival. Ex. Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples, addictions, suicide, etc.;
- Isolated communities – less access to resources necessary for engagement.
Although engagement can be challenging, Indigenous pedagogy has much to offer all sectors of society. Indigenous peoples’ cultures and languages are timeless, based on the Natural Law of the land. Making space for Indigenous paradigms opens new paths to live with each other and the natural world.
If you’re looking to engage Indigenous communities, here is my advice:
- Educate yourself: Research credible sources and listen to Indigenous voices! Participate in training programs and suggest them to your employer. Find the community’s protocols online and/or contact them. It’s ok not to know, as long as you approach learning with openness, respect, honesty and humility.
- Building relationships: Invest in spending time with Indigenous peoples. The better relationships you have, the more you will understand them.
- Awareness of context: Meaningfully collaborate with Indigenous peoples to co-develop programs and activities that are culturally appropriate.
Thank you, chi miigwetch for reading!
Enhancing Online Youth Engagement in a Pandemic Era
by Lesley Tetteh, Youth Advocate, Ontario Council for International Cooperation, Youth Policy-Maker’s Hub
It was an honour being a part of this year’s ICN webinar. Participating as a panelist was an opportunity for connecting as I sat alongside intelligent and very accomplished individuals. Sydney, Joel, and Shaelyn are all outstanding people whom I hope to continue to learn from. Sinethemba was an excellent moderator; her ability to reflect on our insights allowed me to better connect ideas I shared with the solutions presented by the others. My objective in presenting to everyone was to make the experience personal. In making this personal I sought to make public engagement as a young person more essential to people who continue to seek ways to be involved. More importantly, participating in this panel for me was an opportunity for learning. My fellow panelists all shared insights that connected with each other in which I was able to reflect on, motivating me to become more diverse in my work and leadership.
In times of Covid-19 it is especially important to remain engaged. Although the pandemic presents the limitations in staying involved, organizations like the ICN work diligently to ensure that people continue to participate within their capacity. As shared on the panel, I believe it is especially important for young people to remain present in capacity building, public engagement and global citizenship within our means to do so. While there is still much uncertainty initiated by this pandemic, the voices of young people are critical in key discussions surrounding awareness, education and action, while prioritizing the importance of self-care, self-safety, and self-identity among our cohort. As young people, we hold a large amount of space on the planet and will be leading the way we move as a global unit. To have everyone involved – from the grassroots to the executive level – in encouraging youth engagement is one of the first and most important action steps in rebuilding a world post Covid-19.
I look forward to maintaining a connection with everyone who was present during this special afternoon. I am grateful to everyone involved in making this engagement possible.