The Spur Change national conference is a signature event to bring together Canadian small and medium organizations (SMOs), educators, and youth in the international cooperation sector. Organized annually over the course of our 5-year programming window, the conferences have been rooted in peer-knowledge sharing and have each focused on a different action area of Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP) with the United Nations’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a cross-cutting theme.

To answer participants’ call for a space for deep, relationship-based exploration and peer knowledge sharing, this year, the 2023 annual conference was held as seven separate, smaller regional events. Each event, or “Spur Spark,” had its own main themes, programming and feel, but centered around the theme of People and Planet, in line with FIAP Action area 4: Environment and climate action. 

The first three Spur Sparks were SMO and educator-led in May and June 2023. After a call for applications through February and March of this year, 3 events took place, led by Change for Children (CFC) and the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) in Alberta, Manitoba Social Sciences Teachers’ Association (MSSTA) in Manitoba, and Katalizo in Quebec. 

The four remaining  Spur Sparks were led with Spur Change implementing partners in later summer and fall 2023: three provincial and regional councils for international cooperation, including the British Columbia Council for International Cooperation (BCCIC), the Ontario Council for International Cooperation (OCIC), and the Northern Council for International Cooperation (NCGC), hosted regional gatherings, while the ICN’s Fund for Innovation and Transformation (FIT) hosted a national gathering in Ottawa highlighting SMO innovation.

Through this series of regional events, we aimed to spark conversations from coast to coast to coast. In total, the 7 regional events gathered 166 participants (of which 72 were from SMOs and 41 were educators) to come together and engage on environmental issues, climate justice, and more. Learn more about each of the events below.  

Acknowledging the land

With these events happening from coast to coast to coast, Spur Change, as a program housed by the Alberta Council for Global Cooperation (ACGC) on Treaty 6 Territory, in ᐊᒥᐢᑿᒌᐚᐢᑲᐦᐃᑲᐣ otherwise known as Edmonton, would like to recognize the diverse territories and lands upon which these events took place. We acknowledge the diverse Indigenous Peoples whose ancestors’ footsteps have marked this land for centuries and continue to do so through their histories, languages, ceremonies, and cultures.

We remind ourselves that, whether we are treaty people or on unceded lands, we all have roles to play in righting the historical wrongs that have taken place and are ongoing. Indigenous people’s connection to the land teaches us about our inherent responsibility to protect and respect the Earth and to recognize that we are all connected to each other. 

Photos and testimonials

Event overview

A Climate of Change in Education

Date & location: Red Deer, AB | May 6, 2023 

Organizer: Change for Children (CFC) and the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA)

As part of CFC preparing a group of Alberta-based teachers to go to Nicaragua to teach in partnership with the ATA, their Spur Sparks event equipped teachers for a cross-cultural exchange of ideas and understanding what to expect as international visitors. Through online engagement with local educators in the Bosawas region of Nicaragua during the event, good practices and learnings for integrating Indigenous Knowledge into climate change education in the classroom were also shared. Want to see some of the lesson plans worked on during this event? Check them out here. Learn more about the 2023 CFC and ATA teacher tours here.

Teachers Talking to Teachers

Date & locationWinnipeg, MB | May 30, 2023

Organizer: Manitoba Social Sciences Teachers’ Assocation (MSSTA)

MSSTA, in partnership with the Manitoba Council for International Cooperation (MCIC), for their Spur Spark event offered an opportunity for teachers in and around Winnipeg to take some time and talk about how they are engaging their students and their school communities in global citizenship, the people and the planet. With guest speaker Dr. Marc Kuly from the University of Winnipeg, the event was a launching point for dialogue in the learning community on how to better engage students in global citizenship through the social sciences. Learn more about MSSTA and keep up to date with upcoming events in Winnipeg here.

Activer les intersections

Date & locationMontreal, QC and online | June 8, 2023 

Organizer: Katalizo

Katalizo’s hybrid event for the Spur Sparks series began with a meeting of the Réseau mondiale des intersections (RÉMI) followed by collaborative activities between SMOs and youth on the intersections of social and environmental issues. With participants joining in-person in Montreal and partners from France, Morocco, and The Democratic Republic of the Congo, the event was an opportunity for knowledge sharing from a variety of perspectives focused on brainstorming actionable solutions to the intersecting issues at hand and realizing hopes for the future. Learn more about Katalizo and get engaged here.

Take Back the Alphonso Mango

Date & locationHaines Junction, YK | September 22-24, 2023

Organizer: The Northern Council for Global Cooperation (NCGC) 

For their Spur Spark event, NCGC brought together passionate teachers from the Social Studies Educators Network of Canada (SSENC) from coast to coast to coast to critically examine their teaching practices through a decolonial lens. The impact of this event was magnified by its ability to bring together educators with diverse backgrounds, experiences and perspectives. The content of the workshops and the setting in which they were given facilitated deep internal reflection and fostered human connection, encouraging participants to critically think about ways to help students better understand the complexity of history so they can better navigate the world through empathy and open-mindedness. Learn more about NCGC’s work here.

The FIT Innovation Forum

Date & locationOttawa, ON | September 26-28, 2023

OrganizerThe Fund for Innovation and Transformation (FIT)

FIT hosted their Innovation Forum in Ottawa as part of the Spur Sparks series. The event brought together SMOs who received FIT funding over the past four years to share their experiences, their lessons learned, and their impacts advancing gender equality through innovative programming solutions. In addition to peer-sharing sessions, workshops on scaling and communicating impact were also held as part of the event. SMOs from across the country were able to attend as well as a few international partners from Mali and Nicaragua, to name a few. Wondering which SMOs have received FIT funding and were able to make it? Find all the info on FIT’s website here.

Wasan Regional Retreat

Date & locationWasan Island, ON | October 16-19, 2023

Organizer: The Ontario Council for International Cooperation (OCIC)

Bringing together SMOs and youth from Ontario, Quebec, and Atlantic Canada, OCIC with support from the Association québécoise des organismes de coopération internationale (AQOCI) and the Atlantic Council for International Cooperation (ACIC) organized the retreat on Wasan Island as an opportunity to deepen collective awareness, understanding, and action towards the UN International Decade for Action on Water and the UN 2023 Water Conference in addition to FIAP Action Area 4: Environment and climate action. Wasan saw presentations by participants on their experiences with water protection and climate conservation as well as many deep participant-led conversations on these issues. The event brought the knowledge sharing of community-led initiatives and calls for action, globally and locally. Find out more about the outcomes of this year’s Wasan retreat here.

Climate Justice Convergence

Date & locationMaple Ridge, BC | November 8-10, 2023

Organizer: The British Columbia Council for International Cooperation (BCCIC)

BCCIC’s Spur Spark event brought together participants from the West Coast, Prairies, and the North under the notion of a Convergence (i.e. of ideas, approaches, and perspectives). Adopting an intersectional lens, the event convened participants from a diversity of perspectives and backgrounds to spark dynamic conversations, which participants noted as essential and deeply impactful. Participants included SMOs; Indigenous, climate justice, and youth activists; as well as academics committed to climate action and climate justice. Through workshops and introspective approaches, participants were directed to ask themselves important questions surrounding allyship, solidarity, and the role of climate justice advocates in the Global North. The tools and lessons learned seek to aid participants in their solidarity actions and mutual fight for climate justice worldwide. Learn more about BCCIC's work here.

On behalf of Spur Change, we thank everyone who attended and engaged with the Spur Sparks series and profoundly thank the organizations and teams for their collaboration and work in delivering this amazing series of events. Each Spur Spark event was different, and each managed to spark discussion and knowledge sharing in their own way. Looking forward, we are excited by the future collaboration and work these discussions, ressources, and tools will lead to for people and the planet. 

Find out more about Spur Change’s past conferences: 

Below, you`ll find more information on the Spur Sparks selection process. 

The Spur Change annual national conference is a signature event to bring together Canadian small and medium organizations (SMOs) and educators in the Canadian international cooperation sector. 

To answer participants’ call for a space for deep, relationship-based exploration and peer knowledge sharing, this year, the 2023 annual conference will be held as eight separate, smaller regional events.

Four of these SMO and/or educator gatherings will be SMO and educator-led in May and June 2023. These events, led by SMOs, educators, or combined groups of the two, should be focused on peer-knowledge sharing. Peer-knowledge sharing can take many forms, but centers around creating spaces where we learn from other practitioners in our field with the understanding that everyone can contribute and learn from each other. For the selected event leads, up to $5000 towards a peer-knowledge sharing event will be offered via a subcontractor relationship. Find more details below.

These four SMO and educator led events can be based in either Alberta, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Québec, or Saskatchewan.

  • This application is for up to $5000 to offset costs of staffing and program delivery (can be combined with other funding).
  • A subcontractor relationship and scope of work will be established for each event.
  • Event must be delivered between May 1 and June 30, 2023.
  • Coordination and support from the Spur team includes communications elements, basic monitoring and evaluation, and financial processes. Event support may be determined on a case by case basis.

  • Submission must be received between February 15 and March 15 2023. Submission deadline is 8pm ET | 5pm PT on March 15, 2023.
  • Any format is accepted– for audio visual, 1- 5 minutes in length / for written, 1-5 pages.
  • Applications must include a simple budget.
  • Consortia are allowed, teams of multiple people allowed (please note that SMO & educator & youth combined groups will be prioritized).
  • Existing events permitted, and combining with existing funds permitted.
  • Events are expected to include a minimum of 25 attendees.
  • Results will be announced in early April, 2023.

The submission must:

  • Demonstrate audience knowledge.
  • Demonstrate an engaging way to explore the theme of People and Planet through a peer-knowledge sharing event.
  • Demonstrate similar event type delivery experience.
  • Demonstrate a thoughtful approach to inclusion and accessibility.
  • Include a simple budget (example provided in budget section and outlined in the FAQs).
  • Applicants must be either SMOs, educators, or a combined team. Ideal teams will include youth (under 35).
  • Event leads must be based in Alberta, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Québec, or Saskatchewan. Events must also take place in these regions.
Inter-Council Network-Réseau de coordination des conseils