Sunday, June 21, 2009

Popular Education Workshop on Immigrants and Precarious Employment

This popular education manual for workshops on precarious employment contains a dozen basic activities plus a handful more in the appendices. You can use some of the activities as workshops unto themselves (e.g. jobology, precarious work wheel) or use them in combination to support workshops of between three and six hours. Produced for the Immigrants and Precarious Employment Project, which:
examines the opportunities and challenges faced by immigrants in the new, knowledge-based economy. We interviewed 300 workers from Latin American and the Caribbean who arrived in the GTA between 1990 and 2004. In our research, we asked:
  • How are newcomers affected by broader trends towards precarious employment? · What strategies do they implement on the job and as families in order to meet these challenges?
  • What patterns of contact (or lack of contact) with social institutions and community organizations mediate immigrants’ early settlement process?
Public Outreach and Education

Our Public Outreach Project is designed to draw on the research project findings to generate and distribute knowledge of immigrant employment trajectories and early settlement strategies beyond academia. Our two main products will be:

  • A policy report based on our findings
  • A popular education manual on immigrants and precarious work for frontline workers at immigrant service agencies (Produced with the consulting support of The Catalyst Centre).

There are two files: The complete manual at 168 pages (3MB) and the 30-page Participant Kit (700K - and which you will find in the complete manual as Appendix A.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Community Mapping on the Move!

A community mapping workshop at PARC (the Parkdale Activity Recreation Centre on Queen St.) was a great success this week. With 40 people attending from both the neighbourhood and across the city and including members of the PARC community, we spent two and a half hours talking about food, our experience of getting it and doing some community mapping together. You can read the proceedings of the workshop as well see pictures of some of the maps produced by downloading the newsletter here (it's a 2MB PDF).

This is part of the West End Food Co-op's Community Food Mapping Project taking place this summer in the Parkdale/High Park neighbourhood in Toronto. A second workshop will take place on Thursday June 25th followed by community outreach work and a concluding workshop in September. You can download the flyer for the next workshop here (a 360K PDF) as well as an information kit about the project here (a 2MB PDF).

There has been a steadily growing interest in community mapping as a community development and popular education tool in Toronto (see previous post). And the Toronto Star's environment reporter Catherine Porter was there covering the event and she wrote an excellent article which you can read here. (the photo, above, accompanies the article by Toronto Star photographer Adrien Vezcan).

Monday, June 08, 2009

Popular Education Bookshelf - 4: Community Mapping

Community mapping is a practice that seems to be growing by leaps and bounds. This 'zine, featured here (it's a 4 meg PDF), is the project of a graduate student at York University. Hannah Lewis is in the process of researching community mapping practices in Canada and she has turned up an amazing diversity of practices and theory. Research from which i am learning a great deal.

In 1986 i learned about the Ah Hah! Seminar, a popular education method developed by GATT-Fly, a Toronto-based, ecumenical, economic justice group. Ah Hah! drawing is a method of representing the experiences of workshop participants by developing a large picture on the wall. Like all popular education methods it is a means of democratic dialogue, analysis, and action planning. I have always loved this method and practiced it for many years. But i kept coming up against the same problem: for the method required that the participants share a common class identity, i.e. they were all workers for the industry (e.g. fishing, forestry), or they were all people on social assistance or poor, and so on. Whenever the group was mixed (i.e. so-called middle class, upper middle class and poor and/or workers) it proved almost impossible to agree on where various economic actors belonged in terms of where to put them in the picture. The complexities of the mix of economic locations (i.e. class) proved too great to be represented with Ah Hah! drawing. Now, that was in the late 80s and ealry 90s before neoliberalism had really started to reshape the Canadian economy in earnest. I wonder what things would look like now? Here's a couple of articles from that time about the Ah Hah Seminar:
And here's a couple of pictures i stumbled on of Dennis Howlett (one of the creators of the Ah Hah seminar) leading an anti-poverty workshop:
As i've learned about community mapping i have come to see Ah Hah drawing as one method of a large set of participatory mapping processes. Thanks in large part to Hannah i now know dozens of examples of community mapping (a surprising number in British Columbia) and we are now part of a couple of projects here in Toronto applying community mapping to the situation of food security in various neighbourhoods.

As Hannah writes in her 'zine: "Maps are powerful. Maps have interests or an argument to make. Maps are socially constructed." There exists, not surprisingly, a massive literature on mapping. But i would risk the educated guess that it is a literature largely devoted to understanding how to wield this tool in the interests of the powerful. But, while community mapping is still a young practice, a significant aspect of the practice is the challenging of dominant power relationships. Some community mapping uses the new technologies of GIS (geographic information systems) and GoogleMapping - technologies that require a fair amount of training. Though not to exclude popular use of such technologies, my interest in community mapping is as a popular education tool - one that is committed to resisting oppression, promoting critical thinking, building solidarity amongst the powerful, developing popular knowledge. Here's a couple of sites devoted to community mapping:
A closely-related practice, if somewhat different, is asset mapping, most strongly represented by the work of Asset Based Community Development in Chicago. This practice has also been picked up and developed by the Coady International Institute at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia. And here's an excellent article by Alison Mathie and Gord Cunningham (also available as a PDF here). Finally, here's a description of asset mapping from a youth conference site: Capable City.

Sunday, June 07, 2009


I remember this video from 2000 and i was enchanted then by the choreography and mildly, self-mocking dancing by the band members. I'm delighted to see it show up on YouTube. This is one of my favourite pop songs, second only to my favourite pop song of all time (a carefully guarded secret).