I can’t remember a time when work initiatives and personal values crossed paths as meaningfully as they are for me now. In creating spaces and opportunities for newcomers to bring their strengths to their new roles in Canada, and with a belief that now is the time to listen more carefully to quieter voices speaking truths, I find myself at a crossroads that is rewarding, hopeful and humbling. Here I am working with immigrant women leaders. They are bringing their experiences, courage, optimism and skills to Learning Journeys, a 2-year multi-stage research project that I am leading in partnership with Tarana Sultan, Women’s Leadership Coordinator at Pacific Immigrant Resources Society.
Learning Journeys: Pathways for and with Immigrant Women is a social innovation project designed to support increased social and economic participation opportunities for immigrant and refugee women. It is a learning process that intends to surface some of the underlying issues that prevent more meaningful participation including family context, language, recognition of contributions and belonging. The process may consider the role of volunteerism, mentorship, communities of practice and innovative training methods as ladders to meaningful economic participation. The systemic lack of integration within the broader support system of immigrant and refugee women is also addressed.
We are hosting two information sessions for immigrant women particpants (one in Vancouver; one in Surrey) to launch this opportunity to dig into their needs, challenges, strengths and goals, and start to explore how settlement, community and employment programs can support the outcomes of belonging, social connection and full economic participation in immigrant and refugee women.
In this first stage of the research, ten women will be selected for Ethnographic Research and fifteen women will establish an Immigrant Women’s Advisory Committee, a capacity-building initative to ensure that immigrant women’s experiences, voices and strengths are brought to – and remain at – planning tables, design processes and feedback mechanisms.
Guided by Appreciative Inquiry, we opened last Thursday’s session at Collingwood Neighbourhood House by asking women to reflect on the strengths they bring to their families, communities and workplaces. By way of introducing themselves, the voices of the women filled the room: I bring my drive to the table; I bring support to the table; I bring attention to detail; I bring resilience; I bring my problem-solving skills to the table; I bring my listening skills; I bring my inner strength … and the power to continue my work.
And so begins our journey together. Follow us on Facebook.