Advocacy in action: Bridging research and policy-making

January 24, 2024

Description | Meet the panelists | Watch the webinar | Transcript


We all benefit when researchers are empowered to raise their voices and advocate effectively.  

Today, public policy needs researchers more than ever. In the face of increasingly complex challenges related to climate change, food security, widening social inequality, and much more, there's a pressing need to build stronger connections between research, policy, and society. The time is now for scientists and researchers to play a bigger role in shaping public policy, and ensure that decision-makers have access to the best available evidence.

How can social scientists and humanities scholars play a bigger role in creating policy change? On February 28, 2024, Evidence for Democracy (E4D) and the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences (FHSS) are convening a panel of experts to discuss what science advocacy looks like in today’s policy landscape. Join the hour-long webinar as we walk you through E4D’s new Essential Guide to Science Advocacy, and explore how the Guide can help you make a policy impact with your research.

The event took place via Zoom on February 28, 2024 from 1:00pm to 2:00pm ET in English, with simultaneous interpretation in French. There was also live captioning in English and French. 


Meet the panelists

Headshot of Karine Coen-Sanchez

Karine Coen-Sanchez

University of Ottawa

Headshot of Dr. Kaitlin Schwan

Dr. Kaitlin Schwan

University of Toronto

Headshot of Paul Dufour

Paul Dufour

University of Ottawa

Headshot of Dr. Chelsea Gabel and Dr. Nicole Goodman

Dr. Chelsea Gabel & Dr. Nicole Goodman

McMaster University & Brock University


[00:00:03:11] Hannah Paveck: Welcome everyone, and thank you so much for joining today's webinar: Advocacy in Action: Bridging research and Policy-making. I'm Hannah Paveck, Manager of Policy and Research at the Federation for Humanities and Social Sciences.

[00:00:18:14] Today I am in Ottawa, which - as is the Federation's office - located on unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabe Nation. I'm grateful to live and work on this land and honour all of First nations, Inuit and Métis people for their valuable contributions past and present. This webinar is presented jointly by Evidence for Democracy and the Federation, and we’re really delighted to be collaborating with E4D to explore the important role social scientists and humanities scholars can play in creating policy change.

[00:00:54:05] This webinar was sparked by the recent launch of E4D’s Essential Guide to Science Advocacy, which is a fantastic resource for researchers looking to effectively engage in the policy-making process. We're very excited to delve into this conversation today with our brilliant group of panelists who will be sharing insights into how the social sciences and humanities can shape public policy in Canada.  

[00:01:19:24] Before we begin, a couple of housekeeping notes, which I will pop into the chat soon. Today, we're offering simultaneous interpretation from English to French as well as closed captioning in both languages, and these options can be found at the bottom of your screen. This conversation will be recorded and there will be a Q&A session at the end of the webinar and you can submit your questions at any time by typing them into the Q&A box. So without further ado, I have the pleasure of introducing our host and moderator for today's conversation, Sarah Laframboise is the Executive director of Evidence for Democracy.

[00:02:00:04] Sarah is a leader in science communication, policy and advocacy. While completing her PhD in biochemistry at the University of Ottawa, Sarah founded the Ottawa Science Policy Network. And over the last two years, she has been at the very forefront of advocating for increased funding to graduate students and postdocs in Canada, in her role as executive director of the Support Our Science Campaign. Thank you so much Sarah for the collaboration and for hosting this conversation with us. Over to you.

[00:02:33:03] Sarah Laframboise: Thanks so much, Hannah. And a huge thanks to the Federation for co-hosting this event today with us. I'm honestly thrilled to be here with this amazing panel and I'm really excited to share a bit about our advocacy toolkit that launched late last year. I'd like to also acknowledge that I am here today in Ottawa, where I'm honored to live, work and play on the traditional Unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabe Nation.

[00:02:57:17] I'd also like to acknowledge that throughout the presentation today, and our discussion later, I will be using the word science in its broadest definition to encompass all walks of science, from social to humanities and beyond. Next slide.

[00:03:13:18] So a little bit about Evidence for Democracy, or E4D, as we like to call it. We are the leading fact driven non-partizan not-for-profit organization promoting the transparent use of evidence in government decision making in Canada. And to do this, we use original research, [...] based campaigns and skill training to empower and engage the science community while cultivating a public and political demand for evidence informed decision making.

[00:03:40:18] Now, the origin of evidence for democracy dates back to 2013 during what is now known as the War on Science. Here you can see the death of evidence march which occurred in Ottawa led by the very ominous Grim Reaper figure. And this really was a testament to the bleak time that this was for science and evidence. During this time, nearly 90% of federal scientists didn't feel like they could speak out freely to the media about their work. Science is often excluded from the political process entirely, and this sparked this reaction from the science and research community to really mobilize and become forefront in political discussion.

[00:04:21:03] So E4D has been working ever since to make sure that scientists are respected by the government and that it plays a role in policy decisions. Following the elections in 2015, the Trudeau government came in and we had some really significant wins for science. We saw the election of a chief science advisor, we saw the appointment of a minister of science and an ISED minister. We saw the scientific integrity policy, which enshrined not only a freedom to speak, but also a culture of openness, and integrity in the conduct of research and communication of evidence within departments and agencies.

[00:04:55:01] At E4D we’ve continued to speak on behalf of the Canadian science community. We do this through a kind of analysis of the Standing Committee for Science and Research. We've kept tabs on a variety of different funding commitments, such as the fundamental Science Review, and we also push different advocacy campaigns such as that with our Vote Science campaign during election time. We really try to get science to be an integral part of election platforms. Alongside this, we continue to develop training programs and resources to equip scientists with the skills to engage in policy. Nezt slide.

[00:05:32:09] To inform a lot of this advocacy research, we do a lot of really exciting research projects that really kind of provide the basis for advocacy. For example, you can see at the top here, our “Evidence in action” research that's looking into specific challenges faced by Canadian parliamentarians when they are aiming to understand and gather scientific evidence. Our “Eyes on Evidence” series investigate transparency of evidence in politics through analysis of both federal and provincial quality policies that are available to the public. We've taken this steps further as well and done some public polling to look at kind of public values and views of what evidence actually is and how it can be used in the policymaking process.

[00:06:11:00] So all these reports are available on our website and I won't run them today, but I wanted to highlight them because they actually really informed a lot of our work in creating the advocacy toolkit. In its entirety, the research that we've done at E4D really shows us that Canadians not only value evidence as an input to policy decisions, but they also want to see more transparency around that evidence. And when we do this properly, we believe that everyone benefits when governments make policy decisions that are informed by the best available evidence.

[00:06:41:17] And evidence can help policymakers understand what works, where it works, why and for whom. And it really can distinguish the boundaries between reality and political framing. That all leads us to our advocacy toolkit, which you can access directly through the QR code here, or you can find it on our website. This essential Guide for Science Advocacy was really spearheaded by Senator Stan Kutcher and Dr. Rémi Quirion, both of which have been incredible allies to this community over the last few years. They both realized that there was a void in tools and resources to train scientists on how to better engage in the policymaking process. Next slide.

[00:07:20:01] So we're talking about advocacy, it's really important for us to reflect on why, why should scientists advocate for science in the first place? In short, there's many different reasons. So our research has really shown us that there's a really big public appetite for evidence. More than half of Canadians feel that pays too little attention to scientific evidence and public opinion, and this provides an opportunity. Additionally, science is impossible to separate from the solutions too many of the grand challenges that we're facing as a nation, both today and tomorrow. Everything from climate change, [...] security, widening social inequality, future pandemics and so much more require science as solution to all of these grand challenges.

[00:08:06:21] Landscape also illustrates the realities of our particular dilemma challenge us by allowing us to see some foresight in different scenarios or inaction. So it really creates that reality of what a situation really is, help capture that. Next slide. At its core, advocacy really requires relationship building. And this is a two way street. We've already alluded to the gap, we’ve already alluded to the gap between policymakers and scientists, and this makes it really difficult for them to connect on different issues. For example, on the policymaker side, we know that they are really looking for reliable and really relevant information that they need in real time.

[00:08:46:19] In particular, they often face challenges with access to experts, and so in particular around that they have concerns around bias and information overload. And it's nearly impossible for them to know what is accurate and what is not. With a variety of different types of things coming across there. On the other hand, we have scientists who are really looking for an audience to be able to convey their evidence. This allows researchers then to make an impact and extend their research from outside of their - the restraints of academia, this access to policymakers, [...] is not easy and it requires additional time and resources, which often is for researchers to find.

[00:09:32:08] There's also differences in language scientists tend to use lots of jargon that isn't accessible to policymakers or the public, and we tend to overcomplicate things a little bit. As I mentioned, the policymakers really kind of need to understand these bottom line assumptions and bottom line things of impact for what this is going to mean for their community, where our scientists like to talk in details and often have these large result sections about how all of this will provide some sort of change. This, in a sense, inherently creates a disconnect between these two groups. And so advocacy in relationship building is really outlined in our toolkit about how you can create those relationships. Next slide.

[00:10:15:16] [...] tend to fall into this notion that really originated from an outdated communications model where we believe that if you relay a piece of information, people will believe us and that will change their corresponding behavior. This is largely not the case. And in policymaking, we must realize that scientific evidence will not always lead to a corresponding policy outcome. Science advice is just that, counsel to be kind of taken or ignored. And this is really because in reality, the policymaking process is really complicated and nuanced. Scientific evidence is only one type of evidence. Similarly, we have social, economic and legal evidence, and it's really up to these elected officials to gather, synthesize and make sense of constantly evolving information from many different sources.  

[00:11:04:05] This becomes even more complicated when we realize that there is multiple decision makers working at the same time and having multiple different forms of information coming through their desks. Next slide. At its core, there is not a one size fits all approach to advocacy, and I'm sure you will hear that from our panelists today when you're entering advocacy, it's important to be patient, be consistent, and be creative. I just love to show this example from one of our followers at E4D Amanda Veri who actually wrote their MPP’s name on [...], and she posted this on Twitter and was actually able to get a meeting with Stephen Lecce by doing this. So this is just to say, take a step outside of your comfort zone, you know, be engaged in social media, be open to opportunities.

[00:11:55:20] And there's always different diverse ways for you to engage in policy conversation. So all that I talked about today is covered in our toolkit, in case you're wondering what else you might get there, it's really about tangible skills. So in the toolkit we were hoping to cover some machineries of government, how government works, how to prepare a budget submission, how to meet with elected officials, how to engage in committee work, write a briefing note, and how to actually craft a message. What does that look like? How can you use storytelling to convey your research? So please take a look. Again, this is the QR code here for the toolkit. I think there's lots of amazing resources there, and there's much more to know about advocacy than I was able to present. So next slide.

[00:12:41:54] If you want to learn more about E4D, you can join our newsletter to stay up to date with activities. But largely, [...] that you might be interested in. Just yesterday we launched the Evidence Advocate competition, where you can nominate yourself or others to showcase advocacy efforts at the intersection of science, society and policy. We also, as I mentioned, run a variety of training programs and our “Science to Policy Accelerator” program is going to open for submissions next week. This is a five week long training program for recent graduates, which will help them to learn more about science policy. And it kind of builds on a lot of the tools that are outlined in advocacy toolkit. So with that, I feel like that was a good warm up into advocacy. It is my absolute pleasure to bring you this exciting panel today highlighting the experiences of researchers in advocacy.

[00:13:35:02] And I think as we reflect on the advocacy toolkit itself, I really hope that today brings together some stories, some examples of real life advocacy efforts. So joining us today, we have a very exciting group of advocates. I'll start just by briefly introducing each of them and then we'll hop into the [...] questions from myself, which will let the panelists introduce themselves and describe their journey into advocacy. About 13:45 we will transition to audience questions, so prepare some of your questions in the Q&A function on Zoom. If we have a lot of questions, I'll transition a little bit earlier to do these questions as well. So feel free to put them into the Q&A as they come up for the session.

[00:14:13:22] I'll invite all of our panelists to put their cameras on now, and I'll just start by briefly introducing everyone. To begin, we have Karine Coen-Sanchez, she is a doctoral candidate in sociology at the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Ottawa and co-chair of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council's addressing anti-Black Racism Committee. Next up, we have Paul Dufour, he is a principal at Paulicy Works and Senior Fellow at the Institute for Science Study and Policy at the University of Ottawa. We also have Dr. Kaitlin Schwan. She is an associate professor of family medicine at the University of Southern California and the incoming director of the California Street Medicine Collaborative. Then together, we have Dr. Nicole Goodman, Chancellor's chair for Research Excellence and an associate professor of political science at Brock University, joined by Dr. Chelsea Gabel, a Canada research chair and Indigenous wellbeing, Community Engagement and Innovation, and an associate professor in the Department of Health, Aging and Society and the Indigenous Studies Department at McMaster University. But together, Dr. Gabel and Goodman lead the First Nations Digital Democracy Project.

[00:15:29:10] So thank you all for being here. I'm excited to get into the discussion. To begin, I will call upon Karine. Karine, you are truly a powerful voice for next generation researchers and it has been a pleasure of mine to work with you as well over the last few years. Your extensive work in addressing anti-black racism and promoting equity, diversity, inclusion in research and beyond is truly incredible. Could you share a little bit about your journey into advocacy and maybe some key motivators that really drive your activism in these areas?

[00:16:03:22] Karine Coen-Sanchez: So first, I want to say thank you for having me here. And before I answer the question, I want to share a poem. Because I feel like this poem breaks the not the ice, but it makes people get into a different level of consciousness. And I think this is the notion that we're trying to advocate here as advocacy. So advocacy, it's not something that comes natural because we've been programed to follow instead of lead. So I'll start the poem and it's called “What I See is Different from what you see.”

[00:16:36:19] What I see is different from what you see.

I see kings and queens, you see animals.

I see an empire, you see a village.

I see culture, you see dress up.

I see beautiful, long braids, but you see dirty hair.

That's the difference between you and me, we don't see the same thing.

The one thing we both can see is the disrespect.

But if you open your eyes and you open them up wide enough, you will be able to see their beauty and what you didn't see before.

[00:17:05:06] This was written by a nine year old Black girl for Black History Month, and I have permission to use it, she's my daughter. But the bigger picture here is we don't see the same thing. And that's okay. I think that's the notion of advocacy is we're not supposed to all see the same thing, we’re not supposed to all agree, we're supposed to be able to respect differences.

[00:17:33:14] So when we speak on behalf of changes and inclusivity and diversity, we need to make the distinction between diversity and inclusion. So to answer your initial question, what guided me as a Black Canadian, born here and raised, I never felt like I belonged. And it's not necessarily because they can say, well, you know, there's not a lot there's 2% or 2.5% of Black people. Yeah, that's beside the point. The point is that belonging it's a multilayered, and it became more and more dominant in my ways of learning the higher up I climbed up the ladder. That's when I started to really understand. So no one speaks the same language as me. And when I say language, I'm not speaking about English. We can speak both English, but we don't understand each other because we don't speak the same language. I say that as a form of metaphor.

[00:18:25:02] I wanted to research a certain subject, nobody was able to provide me with the assistance or the guide that I needed, No one understood the language that I was using, whether it's Afrocentric or storytelling. Like you mentioned earlier, these methods are not recognized as merit based, so they're not recognized as valuable in the academia. So this brings up the notion, who decides that? I think we don't need to get into the whole structure of that. I think everybody here is pretty familiar with that stuff. But that brought me into questioning why my first paper, “Polite Racism,” brought me into understanding what is my position already in this country that I'm in? Why do I fit in? And why do I feel invisible in spaces that I'm supposed to be visible? How does that manifest itself in my temporal and spatial cognitive learning? Is it that learning a [...] form of learning?

[00:19:21:07] Because I've been robbed of studying things that resemble the truth, that talks about the history in a truthful form. I've been positioned as a slave whenever they address, let's say, Black History Month. When I know it's bigger than that, there's other elements to it. So this is what drove my “breaking down barriers” so in breaking down barriers, we have to create space. And in creating space is not just bringing in people that look different from you. We have to respect the knowledge and wish to bring into the space. We have to also embrace that knowledge in order to have an authentic dialogs and an authentic inclusivity.

[00:20:07:06] That means I am accepting you as the being that you are. I'm not going to alter your way of thinking or the narrative in which you should speak, or the tone in which you used to use or the language. That's not inclusivity anymore. That's me bringing you into a space and then monitoring your behavior and your tone to fit my perception of what I think you should look like. So these are so in depth and at the same time, it's so enriching when we're able to become observers to the system. So that means we have to disassociate ourselves and understand why do I do what I do. I always ask these questions, what are my reflexes based on?

[00:21:00:20] You have to do a self reflectivity process. Why am I doing that? There's a reason, but we might not be consciously aware of that. So once we start exploring these aspects of who we are and what we do what we do, and what all part of that is, by the way, because individual success doesn't exist, it's a collective success. There's no separatism. I hope I'm not speaking too fast. There's no separatism where our collective unit. So in order to embrace collectivity and change, we have to work as a team. I don't know how much time we had, so. That's about it for now and I think but I -

[00:21:40:22] Sarah Laframboise: That was amazing then. Yeah. Thank you so much. I'm really excited to delve into so many of what you just said and the questions. I think this will be great. Thank you. So, Paul, we have you up next. You have tons of experience in science policy and really in a diverse range of role. And, you know, these contributions to the next generation also have been extremely commendable. So thank you for all of your efforts there. I was wondering if you could share a bit about your journey into science policy. What motivates your passion for advancing science and technology, both on national and global scale? You've kind of been on multiple sides of the equation as well.

[00:22:25:02] Paul Dufour: Thank you Sarah and thank you to the Federation for inviting me and this distinguished panel. I'm going to say most of my remarks in English. But you know, I'm happy to comment on any of the questions in French. I'm a bit of a science policy junkie. I've spent a good part of my career working in the field of science and public policy, and I've had the privilege actually of working with a lot of very interesting organizations and very interesting people. And I've learned and I'm still learning, even though I look very old to you, I'm still learning. And I want to give back.

[00:23:18:12] So my advocacy these days is to work with the next gen. So I've been quite active in trying to work with the various growing science and public policy youth movements across the country, of course, including the Ottawa science policy Network that Sarah referred to, but also the science policy exchange at Montreal and the new second cohort of the Youth Council that's advising our Chief Science Advisor, Mona Nemer, with whom we met yesterday. And these are all dynamic, passionate people that want to make a difference, that want to change the landscape and change the dialogue and the conversation with a great deal of respect, as has just been previously mentioned by Karine, which is a necessary tool.

[00:24:26:13] So for those of you who have not really delved into that guide that Sarah was just referring to the essential guidelines, really it is a well-done document, and it is worth reading in some detail, and it is a two way street. Screaming or yelling at people doesn't necessarily always work. Sometimes it does, by the way. And that Evidence For Democracy, you know, Death March that took place on the Hill that Sarah referred to 14, 12 years ago now had an incredibly powerful pivot moment. Right? Because it alerted to the science and research. And what I say science I mean knowledge and the largest possible context, which includes, of course, knowledge, Indigenous knowledge, social science, humanities, etc.

[00:25:27:23] That march did an incredible wakeup call  to the research community at large in this country. And I salute the people who were engaged in that and who drove it with a lot of passion. And Sarah, you know, my congratulations to you on keeping up that passion that you have, but you also need patience, because, you know, patience is the passion of all great hearts, I say. And one has to keep at it, because I've dealt with this over a number of years. I've experienced closing down organizations that do science and public policy advice, and it's not fun when that happens. It happened under the Harper administration, that I was working with as a science advisor at the time, and the office was closed down and it was part of a whole series of issues at the time that that administration was involved in, in terms of [...] its scientists and, you know, the E4D movement responded to that, as did by the way, the media. The media at the time was sort of saying, well, you know, it's just a bunch of geeks on the Hill, but it's more than that.

[00:26:51:12] It's, you know, people who want to make a difference and change the dialog a little bit. And so, for those of you who may be interested, I wrote a chapter in a book with Kathryn O'Hara, a science journalist, which we called “How Accurate is the Harper Government Misinformation?” And it was about how they were trying to change the use of evidence or the lack of it in their decision making. And that changed the whole dialog within the country and led to a whole series of series of movements that I think triggered many other things. And now Sarah's mentioned, you know, fast forward, we have a government that is interested clearly in evidence. Every cabinet minister has a mandate letter that actually says I shall value and respect the use of science and evidence in my, you know, mandate.

[00:27:55:05] And we have a science advisor, as Sarah referenced and so on. But one can never rest on your laurels in this business. Funny things happen along the way and things can get lost along the way, right? So it is so important to continue to tell stories and stories that are meaningful, stories that are impactful to our elected officials, yes, but don't forget elected officials are supported by a whole host of other handler's supporters, etc. And it's always important to communicate what it is you're trying to communicate, not just to the ministers, not just to their deputies, not just to the elected officials, but also the people that actually work with them because they make a difference along the way and they can be very influential. So that's a very important lesson I learned as well.

[00:28:56:10] Sarah Laframboise: I might cut you off there, Paul. Just to make sure we have time for questions, but I think that's a great reflection. Again, like I said, I think we'll cover a lot of it in the questions too. Next up, we have Kaitlin, and Kaitlin, I am really excited to hear more about your work kind of at the intersection of homelessness, prevention and human rights, street medicine and kind of hands on the ground. So can you share a little bit about your background, the driving forces behind your commitment to that advocacy work? And, you know, addressing these unique challenges for marginalized communities, particularly women, and addressing adequate housing and health care.

[00:29:34:14] Kaitlin Schwan: Absolutely. Thank you so much, Sarah. It's wonderful to be here with all of you. I want to say that I'm an uninvited settler calling in from the traditional and unceded territory of the Mississauga of the Credit First Nation. And I'll just say a little bit about myself, because I want to dive into the questions with all of you. My background is I've been working on issues of housing and homeless in Canada over the last 15 years. And really what animates my work is a commitment to housing as a human right, and my understanding that we are one of the wealthiest nations in the world and have every opportunity to realize that for all people. My background is I did a PhD in social work and have been doing kind of policy and research translation work at universities and research centers and had the chance to work at the United Nations for a number of years, working on the right to housing.

[00:30:45:12] What has perhaps been most important and impactful in my work, I'll mention briefly, has been leading the women's National Housing and Homelessness Network over the last few years. This is a network that's focused on trying to end homelessness for women and gendered diverse folks across the country. And what we really found when we looked at housing policy, is that there was huge gaps in understanding the housing crisis as very much a gendered crisis, an intersectional gendered crisis. So this network formed to build a body of evidence led by people with lived in living experiences of homelessness from across the country, and then channeled that work into a human rights challenge. And I'll put in the chat just now a link to our research and our human rights claims for folks who are interested. The arc of our work is really to try to develop an evidence base, the policy analysis, and then the human rights analysis that would enable us to move forward in terms of shifting policy using Canada's own human rights commitments. So I'll stop there, but thank you, such a pleasure to be here.

[00:32:11:08] Sarah Laframboise: What a great example of like evidence based impact. I think that's so great. Next step we have jointly, Chelsea and Nicole, who combined, have some very extensive experience in Indigenous well-being, digital democracy, and really the impact that technology has on civic participation. So I'll give you both a chance to kind of share a little bit more about your respective backgrounds and how this collaboration effort kind of came into fruition, you know, the engagements have really contributed to addressing unique challenges faced by the Indigenous communities in advancing digital literacy and inclusion. So I'm excited to hear more.

[00:32:49:03] Chelsea Gabel: Great. Okay, well, maybe I'll start. Nicole and I kind of met yesterday quickly and mapped it all out. Thanks so much Sarah, it's really great to be here. So just a bit of my background. I am a Red River Métis, I'm from Rivers, Manitoba, and I'm a citizen of the Manitoba Métis Federation. As Sarah pointed out earlier, I am currently an associate professor in the Department of Health, Aging and Society and have a cross appointment with the Indigenous Studies Department at McMaster. We were a program for over 30 years and we became a department officially two years ago with over 12 Indigenous faculty, which is really exciting.

[00:33:25:14] I also held a Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Wellbeing, Community Engagement, and Innovation. I was the first director of the McMaster Indigenous Research Institute, so now my colleague Dr. Savage Bear, is our first full time director. So it's really amazing to have her. I was on the Standing Committee on Ethics with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research for six years, and two of those years I served as the first Indigenous Vice-Chair at that committee. I've been in the Indigenous health policy space for over 20 years.

[00:33:58:08] I used to work in Ottawa within a national Indigenous organization as well as Health Canada and as a graduate student way back in the early 2000, and that's so weird to say, like back in the early 2000, I was part of the network Environments for Indigenous Health Research, which is part of CIHR, and that the purpose of that program was to establish a national network of centers that focused on capacity building, research, and knowledge translation. And it provided these incredibly supportive research environments for Indigenous health research led by and grounded in Indigenous communities in Canada. And I could go on and on about the network, I always say that it really changed my life. This is where I was trained in Indigenous research methods and methodologies and arts based approaches.

[00:34:47:18] I am a community engaged arts based scholar, and so I incorporate things like photo voice, body mapping [...] film, digital storytelling. And I now co-lead the National Coordinating Center, which acts as sort of a secretariat that coordinates the nine NEIHR networks across the country. I also lead the Indigenous Mentorship Network of Ontario,  which is also CIHR funded, it's really committed to growing and supporting community based Indigenous health and well-being research and training opportunities for Indigenous trainees and have a partnership with Story Center and Story Center Canada. I'll put a couple of these links in the chat, but we work with organizations and communities to create story based programs, primarily supporting communities and organizations in creating like these digital stories. So 3 to 5 minute short videos and storytelling, which I hope to talk about in one of the follow up questions. You know, storytelling and digital storytelling is data. It can be really powerful data  that really inspires both, I think, connection and action.

[00:35:53:09] So I'm going to turn it over to Nicole to talk more specifically about our experiences and the work that we've done with the First Nations Digital Democracy project that we've been working on for over a decade and worked really closely with government and community, all sorts of, you know, benefits, but it was also very challenging project. So take it away Nicole.  

[00:36:15:03] Nicole Goodman: Thank you. I'm an associate professor of political science at Brock University, where I'm completing a Chancellor's Chair for Research Excellence, which has focused on specifically advocacy for municipalities across Canada in the area of digital elections, notably creating the first ever standards for online voting in Canada with the Digital Governance Standards Institute. I'm very passionate about advocacy and include practical outputs in all my projects, many of which have led to either policy change or tried to support it. A part of my work with Indigenous communities across Canada, I worked with Chelsea since 2013 on the First Nations Digital Democracy Project, which was initially funded by a [...] partnership development grant and has continued to take on a life of its own based on its impact on communities and the need for support that it offers.

[00:37:04:11] And one of the key challenges faced by First Nations that we encountered in this research, was that those communities whose election governance fell under the Indian Act or First Nations Elections acts, were not able to choose alternative or non-paper based voting modes, even in times of crisis. For example, at the beginning of the COVID pandemic, when some First Nations were being forced to hold in-person paper elections, meanwhile, other elections across the country were being canceled or postponed. So through our collaborative work with communities, we've been able to advocate and work with the government to explore amending the referendum regulations, which would allow those First Nations the opportunity to choose the best voting modes for their unique communities and circumstances.

[00:37:45:03] That's just one of the examples, wonderful examples that's come out of the project. So I'll leave it there to allow time to keep going.

[00:37:52:11] Sarah Laframboise: That's fantastic. Thank you both so much. So I invite kind of all the panelists to be spotlighted now so that we can have a bit of a discussion. I'm conscious of time, so I'm going to encourage everyone to share their questions in the Q&A and I'll combine them with questions that I have for the panelists as we go forward. One that I feel is resonating after that story is really the balance between quantitative and qualitative type of data to describe the advocacy issue. This is outlined in our Advocacy Toolkit as well, and we kind of talk about the specific role that storytelling can play in these types of discussions.

[00:38:31:05] So I mean, it's notably also more challenging when you have sectors that often don't speak to each other and you have the natural sciences over here and the social sciences over here, and no one's really discussing with each other. So it's hard to kind of embrace storytelling when we don't have those types of interdisciplinary connections. I'm also seeing a question about storytelling in the chat. So I mean, how does storytelling really play a role in this? Maybe we can kind of start talking about that. And the question in the chat is really, you know, policymakers and other decision makers value stories more or even equally to data and economic, or social impact on a particular issue.

[00:39:12:03] So what type of balance have you found? Do you see one works over the other? Do you see a spot for both?  And maybe give a little wave if you want to go first on that one.

[00:39:29:20] Chelsea Gabel: Maybe I can start. So yeah, I think so, maybe combined with one of the questions that you posed to our group, Sarah, which is, you know, what has your experience also been balancing the role of data and storytelling in your advocacy efforts? So I guess I almost want to clarify that. I think I mentioned earlier, you know, that storytelling and all arts-based work is data, right? It is a form of data. And it can be very, very powerful data.

[00:40:01:09] This past summer, we worked on a digital storytelling project at Back to Batoche, which is a historic Métis site, and it's now an annual gathering to celebrate Métis culture. And we looked at Métis cancer survivors’ experiences from diagnosis through treatment and into remission. And in their stories they talked a lot about, you know, their treatment, their care, their coping throughout their journey. And in fact, CBC just interviewed some of our participants on Monday. So I was going to maybe put the link for that as well, that feature of the story. And the stories that are shared provide, I think, qualitative data and information that is otherwise very difficult to access and share.

[00:40:45:09] And in my experience, sometimes, you know, single photos or 3-to-5-minute short videos can stir emotions and arouse public concern more powerfully than any statistical report or any academic publications. Right? They can really mobilize empathy and concern. And ultimately, you know, they can have the ability to change policy, I think, in a positive way. And I would say that context is really important and something that I talk about, and I'm going to shamelessly plug a book that’s coming out, it's called Indigenous Statistics. It's the second edition with my colleagues, Indigenous colleagues, doctors Chris Andersen, Maggie Walter and Tahu Kukutai. And we really talk about, you know, the danger of statistics out of context, particularly within an Indigenous context.

[00:41:34:04] And so the cancer stories that we did at Back to Batoche has helped to, I think, start a dialog to share stories that create community and invite healing and to let others know, you know, that they're not alone. So I hope that somewhat answers the question. I mean, do policymakers, you know, necessarily take the digital stories or storytelling on their own? No, you know, I think that it's a really challenge being part of arts based work, you know, because they would love to see the numbers and the quantitative work. But those stories really provide, I think, a powerful, you know, alternative and provide that context.

[00:42:14:16] Sarah Laframboise: And it humanizes issues, right? I think that's so powerful from what you're saying, is that really illustrates the challenge in a visual way and often cases or you know, an audio way that resonates more. Karine, I saw your hand up did you want to comment on that as well?

[00:42:32:20] Karine Coen-Sanchez: Yeah, I've done a couple of research and I did focus group centered in storytelling. I think it's possible to integrate both. When you understand your positionality as a researcher, I think it goes back to the [...], not just obtaining data, it's respecting the lived experiences of the individual that are participating in the research group. I recently did a Mitacs funded research with postgraduate racialized students that was implemented to change a policy at the University of Ottawa in the curriculum to include if you're being faced with racism or biases to go to the Human Rights Office. That sentence was never included in any of their syllabus. Data can be used to manifest change if it’s done it within a respectful way.

[00:43:27:06] What I mean by that is respecting, like I said initially, the lived experiences of the participant, it's not a personal gain, it's not about getting the awards, it's not about publishing and all of that stuff. Yes, that's great. But at the end of the day we have to make social changes. I published a bunch of stuff. I'm not going to talk about it, you can Google me. I don't care about advertising [...]. What I care is bringing a form of awareness in which when you leave, you should be able to reflect on your own responsibilities as an individual. All in the society that we're sharing on this place called Earth. That's really what the basis of these type of conversations, I would think, is about. So I'll just stop there because I can go on.

[00:44:12:14] Sarah Laframboise: Yeah, thanks Karine. Paul do you want to jump in?

[00:44:16:05] Paul Dufour: Yeah, I just want to echo what's just been said. And I would also add very quickly that, you know, if you're going to go into any kind of a briefing of an elected official, or whatever, right, always do your homework, always understand, try to understand where the individuals that you're speaking to are coming from. You know, values and judgment are important and understanding where and how, what their experiences have been with respect to what it is you're trying to put forward in terms of your either your story or your data or your analysis. I mean, these are for me, these are obvious things, but sometimes because I've seen it enough, you know, researchers go in and they say, this is what I want to do, this will happen without thinking about who they’re talking to, and what their lived experience is, and what they're dealing with, because a lot of them deal with a lot of stuff. Anyway, I'll stop there.

[00:45:16:00] Sarah Laframboise: Thanks, Paul. That's great context as well. Kaitlin, did you want add?

[00:45:20:13] Kaitlin Schwan: Yeah, I just wanted to add onto kind of what you’re articulating Paul, and share a really brief anecdote. So some of my work has involved supporting kind of human rights work around folks who are living in encampments. And a couple of years ago I met a woman who was living in the woods in Cherry Beach in Toronto, and [I] spent an hour with her understanding her circumstances. And I was leaving I noticed that there was a measuring tape that had been spooled out across in front of her tent.

[00:45:59:07] And I asked her, could you share with me if there's a purpose or function to this measuring tape? And she said, yeah, that makes a particular crinkling noise when someone steps on it. So it functions as a security tool for her own physical safety and well-being. And I've found anecdotes like that to be incredibly helpful when having conversations with, for example, bylaw officers who might look at that measuring tape and say that's just garbage and not actually see the function and tool it serves. So I think, Paul, your point about how are people even physically seeing the objects they're engaging with within the policy realm or in physical space, in urban spaces and helping them see it a different way? Thanks.

[00:46:55:08] Sarah Laframboise: What a fantastic example of perception, I think that is so powerful. Thank you for sharing that. Nicole, did you want to add?

[00:47:04:00] Nicole Goodman: I was just going to hop in I was looking at the time and I was going to make a comment that kind of builds off of the other ones talking about how we can take stories and translate those into actionable policy recommendations. So a few examples in talking to -  so talking to participants, first of all, to ensure that the recommendations that we're writing accurately reflect their wishes and hopes. I think too often researchers kind of write the recommendations that they see, but there isn't kind of, you know, going back and forth to actually check to ensure that. One example that Chelsea and I encountered in our First Nations Digital Democracy project was we wrote this report for the federal government and, you know, we thought it was going to be done, and we met with communities to ensure that they were happy with the recommendations and they felt that their voice had been incorporated and they didn't.

[00:47:50:12] So we had to rewrite everything, but we're so glad that we did, because then at the end of the day, when the report finally came out, it was that much more meaningful. And just to build on that, specificity is really important in terms of recommendations. So if you're going to make a recommendation for increased funding, well, what does that mean? You know, what is that? What exactly does this look like? So what form should the funding come in? How much? How long? To who?  What are the reporting requirements?

[00:48:20:12] The more precise the recommendation, the better the advocacy. If you don't provide the specificity, the government can say, well, you know, we gave $1,000,000 to X, Y, Z, which may not necessarily actually address the issue. So that's another really important lesson that we learned through this. Thanks.

[00:48:36:16] Sarah Laframboise: Thanks a lot. Great lessons learned. And I'm also caution of time. I wish we could talk for forever on this. I think we can go for another hour. I know this group has been talking about doing something as a follow up to this that I'm feeling like that is more and more important to take these stories and have them in writing somewhere. To the audience, please note there'll be more to come from this group.

[00:48:58:10] But you know, to kind of give us a sense of [...] and then go into a bit more details about advocacy efforts that you all have all experienced, what do you see as some like “low hanging fruit” or ways that researchers can maybe take that researchers can maybe take that first step into advocacy? One of the comments from the audience, too, is, you know, how do we engage in advocacy with things like disinformation and political polarization? So maybe in your reflections you can include, you know, what kind of personal challenges come up when you engage in advocacy, what kind of structures do we need for researchers to be able to safely engage in advocacy and have the support that they need to engage in advocacy? So a bit of a loaded question, but I'll put it out to see whatever resonates with the panel today. And who wants to go first? Maybe Chelsea, we'll go back to you or Nicole, either is good.

[00:50:00:08] Nicole Goodman: Okay, so I guess there's sort of two parts to this, in terms of low hanging fruit, I think, first of all, one of the most important things is to realize that as researchers, we can extend the impact of our work through advocacy and contribute to scholarly literature. A lot of researchers necessarily don't do advocacy because universities may not recognize those types of outputs or those efforts in tenure and promotion processes in annual reviews. So there can be little incentive to engage in this kind of work.

[00:50:30:12] I think it's important to realize that engaging in this advocacy can actually benefit our research and the value that our research has, like working on the two in tandem. So some things to consider, like in terms of low hanging fruit, a researcher who hasn't done much advocacy could consider broadening their repertoire of outputs to include things like maybe op-eds podcast, you know, lower hanging fruit in terms of advocacy efforts. It can still have an impact, but are less effort than, say, legislative submissions. I think also including participants in conversations about what they would like to see. And this can include writing reports or presentations for participant communities or groups. I think if we're more open to turning into their unique perspectives and listening to them, it can help to open up the researchers’ mind to advocacy.

[00:51:17:16] The way that we look at a problem or an issue we may not see opportunities for advocacy, but by collaboratively engaging with communities, we may be able to, you know, open up and see those things. I think broadly, however, slowly changing the approach that many researchers take to research by being more collaborative. And then you had kind of talked about, you know, what can institutions do or you were kind of heading down that road? I think, Sarah, I think ultimately it comes back to institutional flexibility and the more open universities can be to true collaboration and bringing in groups, and companies and other public actors like all types of stakeholders, this includes being quick on producing agreements to facilitate this work.

[00:51:56:17] I recently completed a project where the preparation for the agreement took a year, and such delays can cripple projects. Also, you know, maybe having a regular bi-annual sessions with researchers to understand how advocacy is evolving and how to support continue to put efforts in place to support them. Thanks.  

[00:52:16:07] Sarah Laframboise: That’s great. I'll go to Karine and then to Chelsea next.  

[00:52:19:19] Karine Coen-Sanchez: I think we need to be also realistic. Does advocacy involves compromising our relationship with capitalism. A lot of that work is non payable. And a lot of the grassroots things that I've done, Sarah you know, I didn't get paid for and I wasn't looking to get paid for it because I had a bigger picture in my mind. And I think when we do advocacy, depending on where you are in your life, you need to understand that you don't know - I mean, it doesn't matter where you are in your life - we don't know everything, knowledge is continuous. It's not like - don't assume that you’ve reached a platform where you can speak on behalf of others. Even if you are at the research level, you still can't do that.

[00:53:02:03] You have to provide that space and create a space to have the people that you are advocating for still speak on behalf of their themselves. As a Black woman, I don't comply all [...] because it's not homogeneous. There's immigrations, [...], there's gender differences,  there's sexuality, there's different facets to it. And also we have to be realistic that a lot of the advocacy is controlled by what sounds good at the moment. What are the buzzwords for the moment, some of the information that we might bring forward might not be sellable. They might not want to talk about anti-blackness right now. They want to talk about some other marginalized community, that's a form of control. That's a form of controlling the narrative  and determining where they're going to find what. We need to be aware of all these things and even if your voice, if you feel that your voice is not being heard, someone is listening to you.

[00:54:00:02] I've had students, I’ve had [...] where I had five students. When I do my speeches and that one student, there's always that one student that comes and talks to me afterwards. Professors come and talk to me afterwards. “Thank you for speaking up.” So we have to be mindful of not just what we’re gaining out of it, what we're delivering socially and at a global scale.

[00:54:26:14] Sarah Laframboise: We often talk about, you know, [what’s] obviously being done on the side of people's desks, right? Like it's always this additional thing that people have to do and there's definitely a burden to that. Chelsea, go ahead.

[00:54:40:20] Chelsea Gabel: I mean, I feel I'm just going to be reiterating at this point. I mean, I'll start by saying, you know, my students, my Indigenous students are advocates like our Indigenous Studies Department, you know that’s what we do. They love community engaged work, they love arts based approaches.

[00:54:59:03] But the reality is, and Nicole talked about, this is within academic spaces, you know, these approaches take time. We're often not rewarded. And academic publications are very slow, like sometimes they're nonexistent. You know, and we do many, many other things that Nicole pointed out. So I won't reiterate that.

[00:55:20:22] And we did a project a number of years ago that looked at journals within social sciences, and we found that there was a complete absence of participatory and Indigenous led work in social sciences in the journals. So social scientists are doing a lot of Indigenous research. Everyone's loving Indigenous research, but it's not being led by Indigenous people and it's not community engaged, nor is it participatory. And so this is often why I really try and advocate and talk about the work that my colleagues are doing because they need to be acknowledged.

[00:55:54:06] I want to talk about their publications and the work that they do, you know, but this raises questions about the recognition and impact of these approaches within the social sciences. And that we're missing a really important opportunity to leverage our participatory research as an effective tool for building knowledge. And obviously this has serious consequences when it comes to hiring practices and tenure and promotion committees, right? Which focus overwhelmingly on our record of peer reviewed publications. And so I think, you know, we need to adapt our tenure and promotion guidelines.

[00:56:28:00] We've done this at McMaster. And if you're not familiar with DORA, which the Declaration on Research Assessment, it recognizes the need to improve the ways in which researchers in the outputs of scholarly research are evaluated. So I'll just leave it at that.

[00:56:43:07] Sarah Laframboise: No, that's great. And yes, absolutely, to everything that was said. Thanks so much to everyone. I think we're going to have to wrap things up right now. And I am so sad to say that this hour went by way to quick. So I hope that we will be able to keep this conversation going, and have more to share from this group. So I wanted to make sure I had a chance to say thank you to all the participants today and the panelists. So I will pass it up to Hannah, from the Federation for some last remarks here.

[00:57:14:03] Hannah Paveck: Thank you, Sarah. I'd just like to echo how wonderful it was to hear more and learn more about everyone's work today. Such a brilliant conversation and we're looking forward to continuing it with next steps. I also would like to share that we will be distributing the recording of this webinar in the next couple of weeks. So do keep an eye on your inbox. Thank you so much.