My first role was as a part-time Youth Co-researcher, assisting in a partnered project with The Representative for Children and Youth BC (RCYBC). I tested tools, conducted interviews alongside an adult researcher, co-wrote story cards – including my own, and participated in speaking events. After being ignored and outcasted by legal professionals throughout my childhood, it felt liberating to finally have my opinions be heard and respected by IWF and RCYBC.
The complex concepts of human service design, grounded change, and narrative therapy utterly enthralled me. Flipping the order in which most social policies and services are made, to start at the bottom rather than at the top seemed like such an innovative approach. The power of storytelling also struck me, as I listened to others and felt the full weight of their truth. It is such a powerful tool for social change because stories spark emotion, and emotion sparks action.
As I explored these fascinating approaches, I didn’t notice as the months passed me by, and before I knew it, the project was nearly over. Feeling as though I had much more to learn from InWithForward’s knowledge and expertise, I took a chance and suggested that I come on board for the summer as a full-time employee. Incredulously, they agreed, and I was warmly welcomed as a Social Research Assistant.
My horizons suddenly expanded, and I was no longer aiding a singular project, but simultaneously working across multiple fields of social justice within a lively interdisciplinary team. Unfamiliar duties such as data aggregation and cold calling soon became my area of expertise. I aggregated story cards from past projects about homelessness and social housing and I sent out more emails than I can count, pitching the “Trampoline Effect” book to university professors, and promoting the inclusive platform “Curiko” to high school teachers. When I clocked out at the end of each day I felt energized rather than exhausted. Perhaps I was a little too overeager because, in one instance, a confusion with deadlines made me cram to finish a deliverable within a single weekend…. And a month too early.
The added responsibility of being in charge of my own research project did bring pressure, especially when inevitable problems arose. Thankfully, I was surrounded by understanding team members who could relate to facing dead-end inquires and unanswered advertisements. They were there to dust me off and help me get back on my two feet. I learned from my failures and ultimately crafted a better project idea because of it.
Whereas in my first role as a Youth Co-Researcher I brought my lived experience to the table, now as a Social Research Assistant I often found myself searching for a talent I could offer to the team. That’s when my undying passion for History, an area I am preparing to earn a degree in, was brought into InWithForward’s work. I was tasked with researching the history of specific subjects, such as social housing, landlord and tenant relationships, and institutional philanthropy. The information gathered would then be collated into neat, easy-to-read timelines to present to the company’s partners. I found myself surprised by how fascinating the origins of these topics actually are and how they connect back to my own areas of interest, the Medieval and Tudor Eras. Something that caught my attention was the glaringly obvious and yet often ignored origins of the term “landlord”. It dates back to the ages of Serfdom where people would live off the ‘land of their lord’.
My hope is that InWithForward continues to embrace the role of history within social innovation. So much attention and energy are brought into dissolving or re-organizing social systems without any knowledge of why they were constructed to begin with. It is important that as we evolve, we are not circling back to the very things we set out to avoid. Not only can history be used to prevent the negative, but there are so many positive and helpful ideas, strategies, and philosophies that are either lost to time or neglected by the public eye.
I have learned that at their core, InWithForward is a compassionate, human-centered family. Through their work, they never intend to create quick fixes, but to instead, slowly shift societal and system thinking, teaching people to question and change the world around them, a sentiment they certainly instilled within me. Over the course of the last year, InWithForward helped me grow confidence, connection, and curiosity.