Community-Based Projects for Change

People all over Canada and the world are coming together to tackle projects that help make their communities a better place. Check out some of the important work that’s being done!

Are you working on an interesting project that you think others should know about? If so, submit a short paragraph and a link to a short video about your organization/project to CUExpo2015(at) and you could be featured on our front page!

Dandelion Dance Company – Dancing for social justice
The Teaching Effectiveness Network project – Tackling the problem of beginning teacher development and retention
The Representation in Action project – Understanding the real work of MPs
EcoEquitable – Using sustainability to improve social and economic integration for new Canadians
The Community as Teacher Project – Building communication and trust between Aboriginal clients and their future health care providers
The Participatory Water Governance Project – Uncovering issues of water and sanitation through participatory video
The Hidden Harvest Ottawa Project – Harvesting food hiding in plain sight
The Creative Video Day Camp Project – Teaching media literacy to youth through video production
The Centre for Global and Community Engagement – Connecting Students with Community
Vehicular Injury in Aboriginal Communities – Working with Indigenous Communities to reduce injuries from vehicle accidents
Pathways to Education – Helping low-income youth graduate high school
The Real Food Challenge Project – The movement for “real food” on university campuses
Exploring Solutions for Sustainable Rural Drinking Water Systems – Risks and challenges
The NOISE Project – Enhancing the academic success of youth
Emma’s Acres – An agricultural social enterprise
Ottawa Inner City Health – Coordinating healthcare for homeless individuals

 Dandelion Dance Company

Dandelion Dance Company is an Ottawa-based non-profit youth dance theatre company that explores social issues through movement. The company’s repertoire is driven by the experiences, reflections and passions of young women, who range in age from ages 13 to 19.

Dandelion Dance Company is grounded in the belief that youth have important insights and ideas to share and that dance is a powerful medium with which to explore and share these ideas, both with each other, as well as the broader community. Having an all-female setting creates an environment that allows young women to safely explore issues that may be specific to growing up as young women in this society. Dandelion Dance Company’s commitment is to the creation of dance theatre pieces that reflect social issues relevant to the current company members. They are a fully inclusive company that is open to persons with different backgrounds and abilities, and that acknowledges the gifts and enrichment that evolves when persons with various backgrounds and abilities work together. The varied abilities and experiences of the young women from all walks of life ultimately lends greater authenticity and strength to both their experience of working together, as well as to the work they create. Dandelion Dance Company will be performing at C2UExpo’s open-to-community reception, so be sure to RSVP if you would like to see them in action. For more information about the Dandelion Dance Company, please visit their website.

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 The Teaching Effectiveness Network project

A project of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, the Building a Teaching Effectiveness Network (BTEN) is designed to enable a diverse group of leaders to come together to address the growing problem of beginning teacher development and retention.

Although beginning teachers bring new skills, perspectives, and energy into their classrooms, they also tend to leave the profession at high rates, with nearly half leaving the classroom in their first five years. Working with school districts, BTEN focuses on the needs of new teachers in urban schools as they learn to teach students well, collaborate with colleagues, engage families, and successfully navigate the policies and routines of their districts and schools. Through rapid, small-scale testing, principals and beginning teachers have worked to address feelings of burnout and increase confidence by developing a feedback protocol. BTEN is also working to improve the district systems and processes that support new teacher development. BTEN is a partnership of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and the Carnegie Foundation. For more information about the project, please visit the project website.

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 The Representation in Action project

How do Canadian Members of Parliament approach the task of representing their constituents? And why is there divergence in the representational styles adopted by MPs? While a great deal is known about constraints upon MPs’ activities, much less in known about the representational activities that MPs engage in while in their constituencies or Parliament.  The Representation in Action project seeks to better understand the types of, and reasons for, connections that MPs make in going about their representational duties.

The goal of the Representation in Action project is to gain an increased understanding of how democracy works. This is accomplished by spending time observing 11 MPs while they go about their representational duties, both in their constituencies and in Ottawa. The study investigates whom MPs seek to represent; how they interpret their own roles as representatives; how they learn of the needs of their constituents; how they act on those needs and preferences within the structures of Canadian government; and, how they communicate their representative accomplishments back to their constituents. Findings suggest that MPs differ in style and focus on 4 main categories of connection – Party, Policy, Service and Symbolic. Variance on these connections is due, in part, to differences in each MP’s Constituency Context, Personal Goals, and Experiential Learning. For more information about the project, please contact Dr. Royce Koop (

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Located in Ottawa, EcoEquitable is a non-profit social enterprise that provides temporary employment and skills development training to immigrant women through small-scale textile recycling.

Founded in 2002, EcoEquitable Inc. works to realize their vision of an inclusive and sustainable society where all can realize their full potential within their community. To achieve this, EcoEquitable provides a bridge to social and economic integration for people in need, especially immigrant women, while greening the community at the same time. New Canadians, and especially women immigrants, experience significant barriers to finding employment and participating in Canadian society. EcoEquitable supports women through training and employment possibilities well suited for women caring for children at home and sewing projects that motivate and train women to surpass the minimum income needed to cover life’s necessities, and the life tools they need to fulfill their dreams and ambitions. Through EcoEquitable, these individuals build everlasting friendships with others in their community while learning important skills, and promoting sustainable living by recycling textiles, and encouraging others to do so as well. To learn more about EcoEquitable, please visit their website.

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The Community as Teacher Project

The Community as Teacher project is a unique inter-professional community-led educational experience that places healthcare students from the University of British Columbia (UBC) in cultural camps that aim to bridge the gaps of communication and trust between Aboriginal clients and their future health care providers.

Formed through a partnership between the Division of Health Care Communication and the Fraser Valley Aboriginal Children and Family Services Society (Xyolhemeylh), the Community as Teacher project has been operating since 2006, providing UBC students from across the various health professions with an opportunity to engage with and experience Aboriginal culture. Camps are led and organized by community elders, family intervention workers, and youth leaders. On- and off-reserve children and teenagers are gathered into a secluded and peaceful environment where they can reconnect with their rich history and culture.  In exchange for their learning experience, UBC students provide health-related workshops on topics chosen by the community. Common topics include: sexual health, drug use, mental health & self-harm, nutrition, doctors’ roles and responsibilities (e.g. confidentiality) and how to become a doctor, social worker, nurse, etc. To learn more about the Community as Teacher project, visit their website.

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The Participatory Water Governance Project

The goal of the Participatory Water Governance project is to explore and document narratives around issues of water and sanitation in the community of Khayelitsha, Cape Town. This Participatory Video project is a partnership between the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability at the University of British Columbia and Illso Care Society in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. The project included a week-long video production training with 24 youth members of the Iliso Care Society, in Khayelitsha, Cape Town in November 2014.

Various arts-based methods were used to creatively explore and uncover important issues and stories on water and sanitation in the community. Several themes emerged such as hygiene, dignity and safety around the use of communal taps and public toilets, pollution and impacts on water quality, and many other social concerns including teen pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse and how music and education are a key solution. The research team is currently finalizing the video and plan to hold a community screening and focus groups with local government in April 2015, to explore opportunities for participatory public policy around issues related to water and sanitation. This research is being conducted by SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow Dr. Crystal Tremblay and Professor Dr. Leila Harris from the University of British Columbia. For more information please contact or visit the UBC program on water governance:

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 The Hidden Harvest Ottawa Project

The Hidden Harvest Ottawa project aims to increase Ottawa’s food security, address climate change, and evolve Ottawa’s culture to be a food-tree friendly city by connecting the owners of fruit and nut trees with those eager to harvest local food.

By revealing and sharing the fruit and nuts around the City of Ottawa, HHO seeks to make good use of local food and inspire community members to plant trees for tomorrow which will feed the Ottawa community as well as mend the environment. To date, HHO has obtained permission to harvest 140 fruit and nut trees around Ottawa. Over 600 volunteers support the harvesting efforts of HHO, the “fruits” of which are distributed between the nearest of HHO’s 8 different food agencies, the homeowner, the harvesters, and HHO. HHO financially supports their harvest activities through donations, and the sale of fruit trees. To learn more about this project, visit their website.

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 The Creative Video Day Camp Project

Founded by Concordia student, Erik Chevrier, the Creative Video Day Camp project provides youth with the chance to improve their media literacy as they learn how to produce their own films and broadcast them around the world using Youtube.

In partnership with Concordia University, the Creative Video Day Camp has campers becoming young filmmakers by taking on the roles of a real film production crew. In each two week session, campers learn through hands-on activities how to develop a story idea with a production team, and turn that concept into a script and storyboard. In addition to working on the main production, campers are also encouraged work on independent projects during “free-play” where they can explore different media platforms (stop motion, photography, animation, video, digital arts) in order to create their very own project from beginning to end. To learn more about this project, visit their website.

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 The Centre for Global and Community Engagement

The Centre for Global and Community Engagement (CGCE) at the University of Ottawa works with local and international organizations to offer students a wide variety of individual or group volunteer placements as well as experiential learning opportunities as part of degree courses or on an extracurricular basis.

Through their scholarships and community engagement opportunities for students, the CGCE helps local and international organizations increase their capacity to improve the lives of those with whom they work. For example, in 2014, with the support of the Alex Trebek Innovation and Challenge Fund, the CGCE worked with Ottawa ACORN to offer free income tax clinics to a wide range of low-income people and families. Through this project, a total of 10 University of Ottawa student volunteers were trained to provide clinics to 800+ individuals. These clinics allow low-income individuals and families to benefit from the tax refunds to which they are entitled, and helps them develop financial literacy. For more information on the CGCE, please visit their website.

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 The Vehicular Injury in Aboriginal Communities Project

The Vehicular Injury in Aboriginal Communities project, supported by funding from AUTO21, works with Indigenous Communities to reduce injuries from vehicle accidents in these communities.

Understanding and reducing injury from vehicle accidents in Indigenous communities is a recognized domestic and international priority. In Canada, vehicle-related accidents are the leading cause of death of Indigenous people under the age of 25, a rate that is more than four times that of the general population. This project seeks to create and implement a countrywide, culturally-specific knowledge and skill transfer strategy (informed by innovative practices developed by First Nations) to prevent injury from vehicle accidents in Indigenous communities. From a commons perspective, injury prevention is a shared community and social responsibility that benefits everyone and is an infrastructural necessity for ensuring public safety. For more information, please visit their website.

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Pathways to Education

Pathways to Education helps youth in low-income communities graduate from high school and successfully transition into post-secondary education.

Every year, thousands of Canadian students make the life-altering decision to drop out of high school. In some of the country’s most vulnerable neighbourhoods, more than 50 per cent of students do not graduate high school, taking a dramatic toll on our communities, our health and justice systems, and our economy. Pathways to Education helps to reverse these numbers by addressing systemic barriers to education through leadership, expertise and a community-based program proven to lower dropout rates. The Pathways program provides a comprehensive set of academic, financial and social supports to youth. The results of this unique program have been groundbreaking, reducing high school dropout rates by as much as 70 per cent, and increasing the rate at which youth go on to college or university by up to 300 per cent. For more information, please visit their website.

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The Real Food Challenge Project

The Real Food Challenge leverages the power of youth and universities to create a healthy, fair and green food system.

The Real Food Challenge primarily focuses on their campaign to shift $1 billion of existing university food budgets away from industrial farms and junk food and towards local/community-based, fair, ecologically sound and humane food sources—what they call “real food”—by 2020. The Real Food Challenge also maintains a national network of student food activists—providing opportunities for networking, learning, and leadership development for thousands of emerging leaders. For more information about this project, visit their website.

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Exploring Solutions for Sustainable Rural Drinking Water Systems

The Exploring Solutions for Sustainable Rural Drinking Water Systems project seeks to identify the types of risks and challenges influencing drinking water quality and availability in rural areas, with a particular emphasis on communities of 1,000 residents or less in Newfoundland.

Through this community-based research project, Principle Investigator Dr. Kelly Vodden and her team of Memorial University researchers (community-based, government, and academic) have been working to get to the root of potable water issues in rural Newfoundland and Labrador. A recent report released by the project demonstrates that affected communities face a multitude of complex, intermingled issues when it comes to access to potable water. Through this study, the researchers hope to generate recommendations that will lead to concrete actions that benefit towns and communities in Newfoundland (and beyond!) that are facing drinking water challenges. For more information, please visit their website.

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The NOISE Project

The New Opportunities for Innovative Student Engagement (NOISE) project is a research-informed model for enhancing the academic success of youth from the Jane/Finch community and York University Social Work students through engaged learning opportunities that energize and support their civic engagement and psycho-social well-being.

Through the NOISE project, Jane/Finch youth fellows and social work student fellows work together in community action pods on social action projects relevant to contemporary socio-political-economic conditions in the Jane/Finch community. NOISE emphasizes multidirectional learning and accountability among all participants in the pod, and recognizes that youth, students, alumni, and faculty all contribute important skills and experiences and mutually benefit from their multidirectional relationships. For more information on the project, visit their website, check out their SSHRC’s Story Tellers video or follow them on Twitter!

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Emma’s Acres

Emma’s Acres is an agricultural social enterprise business, managed by the L.I.N.C. Society (Long-Term Inmates Now in the Community), that aims to turn pain into healing and to restore a personal sense of value to both victims and offenders.

The Emma’s Acres project, which has been managed by L.I.N.C. for the past four years, helps individuals impacted by the criminal justice system through the creation of an inclusive community green space where offenders on conditional release can to learn to garden and grow their own food while gaining first hand experience in managing a garden from seed to sale. The project employs survivors/victims, ex-offenders and offenders, with the proceeds of the produce sold going to fund L.I.N.C.’s peer support group for survivors of homicide. For more information, visit their website.

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Ottawa Inner City Health (OICH) 

Ottawa Inner City Health (OICH) aims to improve the health and access to health care for people who are chronically homeless.

OICH’s main function is to coordinate and integrate health care services so that homeless individuals can receive the same quality of health care as other Canadians. Since its inception in 2001, OICH has enjoyed success in working with the chronically homeless to improve health status, appropriate utilization of health services, reducing harm from substance abuse, and housing. The project operates from a social inclusion framework and focuses on addressing the chaos that characterizes life on the streets, restoring some structure to day-to-day life, and supporting the client in establishing and meeting goals to change their circumstances in the short and long term. To learn more about OICH, visit their website.

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