SHIFT supports community initiatives that propose transformative responses to the current health crisis and beyond
Since its creation in 2019, Concordia’s SHIFT Centre for Social Transformation has been developing a network of community and university partners working to respond to community-identified challenges. The centre focuses particularly on problems of systemic injustice, inequity and unsustainability.
When the COVID-19 crisis hit Montreal in March, the SHIFT team decided to pivot from their original funding and support program, the second round of which was about to launch.
“When we started working from home, we quickly realized that continuing with ‘business as usual’ didn’t make sense,” says SHIFT program manager Susan Edey.
“While the pandemic created pressing needs, it also provided opportunities to advance systemic change.”
Given that interventions were needed immediately and community leaders were already scrambling to cope with the situation, SHIFT launched a temporary and accelerated funding program. The program strives to support projects that would help address the immediate crisis but also be socially transformative in the long term.
Using a streamlined application and selection process, a community-led committee met weekly to make funding decisions. Over eight weeks from April to June 2020 , SHIFT contributed a total of $70,000 to 15 projects aimed at responding to the current health crisis and taking advantage of this unprecedented moment of social transformation.
Together, the projects tackle a wide range of social, material and ethical problems. “These projects serve as examples of the innumerable actors in our community who are seizing the moment in this uncertain time,” says Andrea Clarke, senior director of community engagement and social impact at Concordia. “Each of these projects is aiding in our immediate and long-term advancement toward equity, justice, and sustainability. They are helping transform Montreal for the better.”
Responses to systemic challenges
Some of the funded projects respond to issues of equity and justice that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 situation. For example, Kabit-Bisig Laban Covid will connect vulnerable members of the Filipino community disproportionately affected by the situation. Family caregivers, temporary workers and newly arrived immigrants are being given access to information about their rights and available resources.
Other projects seek to use the crisis as an opportunity to rebuild systems and structures, making them stronger and more equitable. Marché commun, for instance, hopes to capitalize on the increased awareness of the essential services provided by delivery drivers. The initiative aims to launch an alternative, socially oriented delivery service that prioritizes the needs of local businesses, delivery workers and consumers.
“I’m very inspired by these initiatives,” says Clarke. “I look forward to exploring other ways that SHIFT and Concordia can continue to support these efforts in the months and years ahead.”
“As we prepare to enter our second full year of operations, the SHIFT team is working hard to profit from our experience this past spring," Edey says. "We are incorporating the lessons we’ve learned into a slate of offerings that we hope are well suited to supporting social transformation efforts through the next stage of this pandemic.
“Since SHIFT’s inception, we have been committed to learning by doing and adapting as we go. This is especially true as we navigate the ongoing crisis.”
For details about the 15 projects selected in this round of funding, as well as past and ongoing projects, visit SHIFT’s website. The next funding opportunity will be launched in October 2020.