Witnessing Care: Innovating for Caregivers at SIX 2014

Last week, the annual SIX Summer School was held in North America for the first time, bringing together leading social innovation thinkerspractitioners, grassroots activists, and policy makers from over 20 countries to explore: How can we increase our impact? Shifting cultures, changing systems and preparing for surprise

SIX Vancouver 2014 was a three-day journey into culture shift and the spirit and humanity of social innovationDay 1 and 2  were curated to dive deep into our spirit and our sector experiences, while Day 3 prepared us to surface with fresh perspectives and consider: how can we ‘grow change’ in society and nurture the conditions for social innovation?

To capture the depth and collective wisdom of this journey, six Witnesses were chosen to reflect on and give testimony to the powerful undercurrents of SIX Vancouver: power & love, empathy, generations, courage, beauty, and empowerment. Honouring the oral tradition of the Musqueam People, our hosts on Day 2, each Witness — or Listener — was responsible for listening for and witnessing the truth of his or her theme. 

In two poignant blog posts this week, a seventh witness surfaced: Donna Thomson — an author, activist, and mother — witnessed and listened for care during the Summer School and testifies to care in her writings on SIX:

June 1: Innovating for Caregivers at The SIX Vancouver Summer School

Innovating for Caregivers at The SIX Vancouver Summer School

Innovating for Caregivers at The SIX Vancouver Summer School

The place of care in social change was a theme that ran through every discussion and workshop and we were nudged to think about care through the cultural lens of Canada’s First Nations…” In her first post, Donna reflects on the paradox of ‘real life’ versus ‘real work’ that emerged on Day 2: care is often seen as part of ‘real life,’ but not ‘real work’ — and as a result, can be edged out of our ‘real lives.’ Driven by the fear of our own vulnerability, we might dismiss the vulnerability of others, devalue care, and forget that love and care are both the impetus and guides for social innovation. Read on.

They cannot scare me with their empty spaces
Between stars – on stars where no human race is.
I have it in me so much nearer home
To scare myself with my own desert places.

— Robert Frost

(cited by Frances Westley, Opening Address, May 28, SIX Vancouver)

June 4: Powerful Lessons Learned

Innovating for Caregivers at the SIX Summer School - Powerful Lessons Learned

Innovating for Caregivers at the SIX Summer School – Powerful Lessons Learned

I learned that we must forge a movement to place power in the language of caregiving…” In her second post, Donna draws on the experiences of leading change lab and solutions lab practitioners, who led a session on “Experimenting with Enemies and Strangers.” The session leaders focused on the immeasurable potential and value of collectively co-creating new social realities and solutions — a process that requires balancing love with power, or as Donna shares, empowering the language of care with strength against silence or dismissal.  In her reflection, Donna calls on caregivers to use the fire of love to light a powerful torch for collective creation, nurtured through care. Read on

A Bold Goal for Children in the North End of Winnipeg

Do an Internet search of the ‘North End of Winnipeg’ and you will see ‘poverty’ and ‘violence’ come up the quickest and the most often.

North End To someone who is not familiar with the North End, or doesn’t frequent this community, it can mistakenly come across as a hotbed of crime and broken families – a place you either avoid altogether or drive through to get elsewhere, with your windows up and your car doors locked.

Those of us who live and work here, however, know it as a community unlike any other – full of culture, spirit, and generosity. That’s why we’re here and that’s why we love this community.

The North End portrayed in the media is merely an illusion, one that has been created through the glamourization of negative events.

DL-022In actuality, it is a neighbourhood where you can walk down the street during the daytime and be greeted by a “hello!” from passersby. You’ll inevitably run into someone you know who’s a friend of your friend from that thing you were at that one time. When you frequent a restaurant or a shop in the North End, the owner will remember your name and if you wander into a resource centre, you’ll often be greeted with a warm cup of coffee.

This is not to say that the North End is without flaws — like any other neighbourhood, it has its challenges. A look at the statistics around the North End — also known as Point Douglas — will tell you that this neighbourhood is among the most impoverished in Canada. You’ll also see that 40% of kids who are born in Point Douglas are not academically or socially school-ready by the age of 5.

What you won’t see emphasized, however, is that along with the 40% of kids that are not school-ready, there is another 60% who are school-ready and are going on to achieve success in school and throughout their lives. 

The Winnipeg Boldness Project

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This is where The Winnipeg Boldness Project will focus: not only on the challenges facing the North End, but on the ongoing successes. What are the things already happening in the neighbourhood that are creating the conditions for some kids to succeed and how can we replicate them in a large way?

Through a one-year Boldness ‘Collaboratory’ process, the project intends to pinpoint just that.

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The Winnipeg Boldness Project is embarking upon a research process that will mobilize the community narratives and knowledge base that already exist within this unique neighbourhood. We are certain that a community-based solution to the challenges around Early Childhood Development (ECD) can be uncovered.

The Winnipeg Boldness Project is taking the time to live the questions and truly understand what the answers are in a deep and meaningful way.

What’s crystal clear to us is that this is a community that has been consulted to the extreme and that much of the information and knowledge we’re looking for has already been collected. Our job now is fourfold:

  1. Take that raw data and distill it into key ideas that we believe should be at the core of this powerful paradigm.
  2. Create a strength-based narrative that properly conveys a message of the community, for the community.
  3. Explore these ideas to develop several theories around change and then rapidly test (prototype) these theories to determine their validity and efficacy.
  4. Develop and implement an intervention strategy, based on the findings, to ultimately achieve our Bold Goal: to dramatically transform the well-being of young children in Point Douglas.

When I use the word transformation, let me be perfectly clear that this is not meant to imply that the North End in any way needs to be “fixed.” This neighbourhood is loved in a strong and unwavering way and certainly does not need to adjust to the system, but rather the system needs to adapt to it and support its residents.

DL-093With this mindset, we anticipate the rate of school-ready kids at the age of five in Point Douglas will jump from 60% to 80% by the year 2020. Some might say this is a lofty goal that’s near impossible. We say that with the right amount of boldness anything is possible and we know that the North End has the knowledge and the heart to drive this change.