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Concordia’s new centre for social transformation hosts its first innovator-in-residence

NOV. 25: Jodi Calahoo-Stonehouse discusses how Indigenous worldviews can create systemic change
November 19, 2019
Jodi Calahoo-Stonehouse: “We might be able to arrive at prototyping solutions if we can see the problem collectively.”
Jodi Calahoo-Stonehouse: “We might be able to arrive at prototyping solutions if we can see the problem collectively.” | Photo courtesy of Make Something Edmonton

Earlier this month, Concordia announced the launch of its new SHIFT Centre for Social Transformation. The first-of-its-kind multi-stakeholder collaboration centre was made possible by a recent $10 million gift from the Mirella & Lino Saputo Foundation and the Amelia & Lino Saputo Jr. Foundation.

On November 25, SHIFT welcomes its first innovator-in-residence, Jodi Calahoo-Stonehouse, for a series of conversations and workshops. Weaving Our Worldviews: Social Transformation and Indigenous Practices is a day-long event open to the public and will take place at Concordia’s 4TH SPACE from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Calahoo-Stonehouse is founder and co-owner of Miyo-Pimatisiwin Productions and co-producer and broadcaster of the award-winning Indigenous radio program Acimowin.

Her work centres on sharing positive narratives of Indigenous Peoples and improving the realities of marginalized Indigenous youth. Her interests include Indigenous media, Indigenous legal traditions, Indigenous feminism, social innovation and Indigenous futurisms.

The event will be co-facilitated by Aleeya Velji, who has extensive experience supporting transformational change in both large- and small-scale organizations and has worked closely with Calahoo-Stonehouse for the past several years developing the Edmonton SHIFT Lab.

Both innovators will use a variety of media, including storytelling, interactive activities and a keynote discussion. It’s part of a week-long residency at Concordia, where Calahoo-Stonehouse will work with Indigenous students and community members on social innovation challenges.

Social innovation is this magnificent tool where we can start to see the problem from each other’s perspective

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Jodi Calahoo-Stonehouse: I’m Cree and Mohawk from the Michel First Nation.

I like to think of myself as a transmogrifier — a kind of secret agent specializing in making change. However, lately my profile hasn’t remained as secretive as I had hoped. I like to do my work behind the scenes listening to people and shining light on Indigenous Peoples doing really great work.

How did you get started in your life’s work of shining a light on the beautiful stories and work coming out of your community?

JCS: There wasn’t really one defining moment but more of a cumulative impact as I grew older and witnessed the disparity of resources and the quality of life between Indigenous and non-Indigenous folks in the community where I grew up.

And as I got older, I spent more time on reserves, looking at the education system and the quality of water between communities. I knew that until Indigenous Peoples lived the same quality of life as non-Indigenous peoples in this country there would be plenty of work for me to do.

And it hasn’t just been my work but also the work of Johnny Calahoo, my great-grandfather, who was the first president of the Indian Association of Alberta. His mandate was to ensure that Indians — as Indigenous Peoples were called at the time — had access to education and support for their children.

And, as much as I love following in the footsteps of my great-grandfather, it also brings me deep sadness that we haven’t fixed the problems that he identified over a hundred years ago.

Who were the mentors who helped you grow into being a person who works to improve conditions for Indigenous Peoples and their communities?

JCS: My mother played an integral role in that she raised me to think very critically about systems that impact our lives. She is incredibly intelligent and always questioned authoritative roles and the influence of policy and legislation. She also made me very aware of how privileged I was. She planted seeds at a very young age that our family would contribute to ensuring that Indigenous Peoples had a better quality of life.

And then from there comes a whole list of beautiful strong Indigenous women who have mentored and taught me. While all my formal teachers have been women, as a little girl my grandfather played a central role teaching me about relationships, particularly about relationships to the land and to non-humans.

So, my gender balance has been between my grandfather and my mother, who were the core fundamental sculptors of my identity.

How do you envision Indigenous worldviews helping with social transformation?

JCS: As smart as we are as human beings, we’ve fundamentally overlooked one thing: we see the world differently. Indigenous Peoples don’t see the world in the same way that settlers and immigrants see it.

And, within that, there are many ways in which settlers, immigrants and Indigenous Peoples see the world. So we have this layered complexity of how people understand who they are, why they’re here and the work that they’re going to do on the planet. So we need to come back to those very basic things of how we understand what water means, how we understand what well-being means, how we understand what it means to solve a problem.

Oftentimes we are coming to negotiation tables, legislation, policy, and we’re trying to make decisions to help people, but we don’t see the problem in the same way. So I see social innovation as this magnificent tool where we can sit together to start to see the problem from each other’s perspective. We might be able to arrive at prototyping solutions if we can see the problem collectively.

What are your hopes for your week-long residency at Concordia?

JCS: I hope to give some love to the people doing the hard work. It’s not easy trying to solve these complex, difficult, uncomfortable and overwhelming problems that we’re facing in society. And sometimes we forget to do community care. There is a lot of research around self-care and how important it is, but Indigenous Peoples have a collective identity.

Community care is integral to how we nurture our Indigenous identity, our well-being, so that we can continue to do good work. If I can contribute to that I will be very happy with my energy coming to this territory.

I’m really looking forward to visiting Concordia and its spaces. I’ve heard that really proactive things are happening on the ground at the university in working directly with people.

There is one thing about academia: we can write scholarly work and produce really brilliant minds, but it’s another thing to take that brilliance and apply it to everyday life in order to change peoples’ reality. That is what I hear Concordia is doing.

How can Concordians connect with you while you’re here?

JCS: I’d suggest getting in touch with the SHIFT Centre for Social Transformation!

Meet SHIFT’s first innovator-in-residence: Jodi Calahoo-Stonehouse is in conversation with SHIFT at Concordia’s 4TH SPACE (1400 De Maisonneuve Blvd. W.) on November 25.


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