Social Innovation Researchers Connect at Second Community Research Café
Last week, researchers from community agencies across Peel joined Sheridan faculty and students for a morning of knowledge-sharing, networking, and discussing partnership opportunities at the second annual Community Research Café. The event was hosted again this year by the Region of Peel, the Peel Child & Youth Initiative (PCYI), and Sheridan’s Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences with support from Sheridan Undergraduate Research.
The focus of the day was on forging new connections and exploring partnership opportunities, particularly for research initiatives that impact Peel.
The morning began with a presentation from Gurpreet Malhotra, Executive Director at India Rainbow Community Services, which provides culturally-appropriate community and health services across Peel region. Mr. Malhotra discussed important considerations to weigh when embarking on a partnership with a community organization, such as accounting for opportunity costs, and differences in capacity, pace, and interests. Mr. Malhotra also highlighted many benefits of collaboration among academia and community agencies. He described India Rainbow’s ongoing partnership with the Sheridan Elder Research Centre, as part of a project aimed at better understanding social isolation in elderly immigrants.
In his comments, Mr. Malhotra captured the spirit of partnership and innovation that infused the event: “The willingness to trust one another, to reach across the table and form a partnership, is truly one of our community’s greatest strengths.”
Following Mr. Malhotra’s presentation, Graham Clyne, Executive Director of the Peel Children and Youth Initiative, took guests through several of PCYI’s recent major research initiatives. He highlighted key findings from projects including their Building Healthy Child Development study, and a study that resulted in several new proposed strategies for recreation and after-school programs.
Andrea Dort of the Region of Peel’s Peel Data Centre shared an overview of Peel’s Open Data Portal with attendees, highlighting its potential as a research platform and how facilitating access to data sets can lead to meaningful community solutions.
Pat Spadafora, Director of Sheridan’s Centre for Elder Research, gave attendees tips on how community organizations can best partner with academic institutions, drawing on the Centre’s extensive experience conducting applied research projects with external partners. Like Mr. Malhotra, she emphasized the importance of recognizing the different rhythm of research at an academic institution, being mindful of semester-based timelines, and described how academic/community partnerships can open doors to significant research funding opportunities. Sheridan’s Centre for Elder Research is currently working with a variety of community partners on projects aimed at enhancing the quality of life for older adults and their families.
Ample networking time was provided for attendees to view research posters from both community organizations and Sheridan faculty and students, and identify potential avenues for partnership. Information Exchange Hubs around the room also allowed participants to have more in depth conversations with community and academic experts on a variety of topics: ethics and community-based research; evidence-informed decision making and evaluation; hearing the client voice and qualitative research; and open data in Peel.
Following networking, participants were guided through an interactive exercise by Dr. Kirsten Madsen, professor at Sheridan’s Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences and Chair of the Sheridan Research Ethics Board. Dr. Madsen encouraged attendees at each table to discuss their views on partnership, their research goals and questions, and what each of their organizations could bring to a potential partnership. Answers were collected via automatic polling, revealing the top insights for research and partnership goals among attendees. These findings will be used to help inform next year’s Community Research Café.
Pictured above: Faculty, students, and community researchers attend the 2nd Annual Community Research Café at Sheridan’s Davis Campus on April 15th.