Building Community-Based Research Capacity and Action towards Decolonization

Crystal Tremblay (PhD) is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography and Academic Specialist in Community-Engaged Research at University of Victoria (UVic). Since 2018, she has been the co-chair of the Strategic Planning committee and board member for Community-Based Research Canada (CBR Canada). This interview explores how the Salish Sea Hub builds community-university partnerships that contribute to decolonization and local action towards the UN SDGs.

What is the Salish Sea Hub?

The Salish Sea Hub builds capacity in community-based research at UVic and in the local communities. It is one of 13 hubs in the world initiated by the international network Knowledge for Change (K4C), an initiative of the UNESCO Chair in Community Based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education, co-led by Drs Budd Hall (UVic) and Rajesh Tandon (Society for Participatory Research in Asia). The K4C hubs facilitate community and university knowledge co-creation for action addressing the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). The Salish Sea Hub has a particular focus on building community-based research capacity and action towards decolonization, racial and gender equality, and climate action. The hub launched a new Community-Based Participatory Research course at the University of Victoria this fall, partnering with five community organizations where students and community partners co-design and facilitate projects on a range of topics such as addressing systemic racism, developing online resources for the trans and non-binary community, and assessing the impacts of COVID-19 on Elders/seniors in the region.

The Salish Sea Hub was created through relationships that has already been established between the University of Victoria, the Victoria Foundation and Victoria Native Friendship Centre, the three co-founders of the hub. My colleagues and I attended the UNESCO Mentor Training Program (MTP) along with several of our community partners to become certified K4C mentors. Together we co-developed curriculum for a special topics course in Geography, “Community-Based Participatory Research: local action for the UN Sustainable Development Goals.” This course is offered to fourth-year Geography students as well as our community partners, who participate in the weekly on-line courses. We wanted to ensure a rich co-learning environment aimed at building strong relationships with positive on the ground impacts. The course is co-led by Ken Josephson, with the Department of Geography Map Shop and 5 other certified K4C mentors who co-instruct along with their community partners. We are also very fortunate to have an Elders advisory, who also participate in the course and provide guidance to the project teams.

Above Photo 2018: The partners and mentors of the Salish Sea Hub including the Victoria Native Friendship Centre, the Victoria Foundation and the University of Victoria. Taken on the traditional territories of the Songhees, Esquimalt and WSÁNEĆ peoples

Can you describe some of your projects, especially related to decolonization?

We worked with the Intercultural Association to help conduct a survey on systemic racism in Greater Victoria, which gathered over 1,000 responses. There was an identified need to better understand how COVID-19 has been exacerbating incidents of racism, and to better understand how and where people are experiencing racism. The UVic students involved in this partnership did some survey analysis and a new cohort of students will pick up where they left off in the new semester. A key feature of this work is building a relationship with our community partners. Community-based research takes time and some projects will take several years.