Using the Art of Hosting to foster dynamic community conversations
Participating in the local food movement in Northern Ontario
Supporting innovative programs working with Indigenous youth in Thunder Bay and region
Born in Ottawa, Ontario, I am a non-indigenous woman of European ancestry who has lived in several different communities in Canada and abroad. The beauty and resilience of Northern Ontario found me eight years ago when I began working in Eabametoong First Nation. I have now called Thunder Bay home for over five years and I am passionate about playing a part in building the future of this region.
How I Know What I Know...
What I know stems from the experiences that have been gifted to me over the course of my life. As a teenager, I gravitated towards jobs that allowed me to work with children in education-based settings. This lead to over fifteen years experience working directly with children and youth ranging from running summer camps and after school programming to working as a certified teacher and mentoring other youth workers. These experiences helped me understand that engaging and supportive child and youth programming requires relationship building, meaningful material centered on personal growth, and the ability to hold space for youth voice and agency.
As a young adult, I had an innate curiosity of the way other people lived. An undergraduate degree in International Development Studies lead from a year working with an advocacy group in Ghana, West Africa to three years teaching in a remote First Nations community in Northern Ontario. From these opportunities, I learned what the word community truly means and the importance of local knowledge in creating impactful social change.
As an adult, I found myself yearning for growth. A new job with a non-profit organization working to develop the capacity of youth workers in Indigenous communities led me to Thunder Bay and provided opportunities for learning from First Nation communities across Ontario. From these relationships, I learned how to develop non-profit programs for children and youth from a community-focused lens and gained more consciousness around my own positionality and process of learning and unlearning.
Engagement & Relationship Building – Whether the program element at hand is project development, resource building, or facilitating training, I first start by asking questions and building an understanding of the people I am working with and the people they are looking to serve through their programs.
Dialoguing – I see my role in the program development process as a facilitator who is guiding a team of people through a conversation about the work that they are passionate about. I start by asking partners to take a step back and look at their program from a big picture lens. I ask questions that probe responses focused on people’s knowledge of the work, their connection to community, and the feedback collected from those who the program is serving.
Synthesizing – During these dialogues with teams, I sketch out notes that everyone can see, starting the process of synthesizing information and ideas into clear, actionable points.
Reimagining – From that point of clarity, backed by clear, synthesized information, I support partners to build up and reimagine their program in new ways. Together we develop a manageable plan of action for that change to take place.
Supported Implementation – At that stage in the process, I am available to support the implementation of certain steps if needed. In the past, this has included roles such as resource writing or reviewing, core document creation, training development, facilitation, or direct program support.
Capacity Transfer – My approach also focuses on building the capacity of organizations to do this work internally in the future. As such, I am keen to work with organizations and communities over an extended period of time as programs and actions evolve to ensure a successful transfer of skills and knowledge.
Interested in having Courtney support you? Get in touch today!
Check out Courtney's resume here: