Community first: Impacts of community engagement (CFICE)

Dr. Mirella Stroink and myself are northern Ontario co-investigators in a SSHRC funded Partnership Grant 2012-2019 titled  Community first: Impacts of community engagement (CFICE).   We are part of the Community Food Security Hub.

To date we have shared our perspectives on community engagement through a national webinar on February 28, 2013 (see link below) and a paper submitted to the Canadian Food Studies journal with our fellow researchers across Canada. Building Effective Relationships for Community-Engaged Scholarship in Canadian Food Studies  


There are a number of challenges to effective collaboration between academics and civil society organizations in teaching and research, including issues of trust, power, and assumptions about who might be ‘helping’ whom. How can community-engaged scholars best undertake grounded, policy-relevant, food systems teaching and research in ways that support the capacity of, and meaningfully build on, the experiences of the civil society organizations working on these issues in Canada? This paper analyzes four case studies in the context of a research project that brings together members of the Canadian Association for Food Studies and Food Secure Canada. It argues that the answer to the above question lies in establishing respectful relationships, and illustrates what this means in practice by exploring these cases in relation to methodological guidelines extrapolated from the work of Nelson, Stadey and Lyons (2005). These guidelines suggest establishing relationships around a shared vision first, and then together developing mutually-beneficial teaching/research projects. Further, they encourage practitioners to approach campus-community engagement through the framework of contextual fluidity, which includes seeing the relationships and the vision at the heart of the work, and remaining open to shifts and emergent opportunities. Finally, practitioners are advised to adopt community capacity building practices in working with collaborators to realize their shared vision. At a theoretical level, this paper argues for the importance of disaggregating the concept of ‘community’ in any discussion of engaged scholarship, as this term encapsulates a range of actors with different levels of power, access to resources, roles, and diverse relationships with one another.

Community-University engagement in building a resilient regional local food system

Our four presenters will share the  story of how the relationship between the North Superior Workforce Planning Board (NSWPB) and the Food Security Research Network (FSRN) at Lakehead University developed and evolved.

Through a shared vision of a local food system, these organizations have been working together to conduct research that helps to move the local food agenda forward.

Presenters will focus on four key lessons of this ” in-community” perspective on Community-University engagement:

  1.  Relationship formation around shared interests,
  2.  The weaving together of networks,
  3.  Project self-organization,
  4.  “Co-evolution” through mutual influence

Our four presenters:

Madge Richardson is the Executive Director of North Superior Workforce Planning Board (NSWPB).  Madge has been a strong advocate for small communities in Northwestern Ontario and was involved in Schreiber’s Economic Development Committee for 3 years prior to running for Council in 2003.  She served one term as Councillor and in 2006 successfully ran for Mayoral position to become Schreiber’s first female mayor in its 125 history.

Mirella Stroink is a Community and Environmental Psychology Professor with the Food Security Research Network at Lakehead University. Her work links research, education, and community development toward a vision of community resilience.

Steven Bill is the Project & Research Manager with North Superior Workforce Planning Board. He holds a Masters in International and Intercultural Communications and a Bachelors in Theology. Steven is married to Rhonda, owner of A Fine Fit Catering – a catering company featuring local and healthy food options in her menu.

Connie Nelson is a professor of social work and director of the Food Security Research Network (FSRN). Dr. Nelson strives to unite university and community members in the pursuit of service, research, and socio-economic development dedicated to strengthening local food systems.  She is a specialist in community capacity building, regional food system development and community service learning.

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