C²UExpo Leaves Participants Energized to Create Change

Participants of this year’s C²UExpo conference at Carleton wrapped up the three-day event at the end of May energized about going back to their communities ready to make positive changes.

“We’ve been electrified, we’ve been moved, we’ve been inspired, we’ve been challenged. And we’ve been in some ways … renewed,” said Ted Jackson, conference convenor, in his closing remarks on May 29. “These CU Expos are very important for all those reasons.”

Jackson thanked participants for making the journey from all corners of the country and the world – some from as far as the U.K. and India. The campus-community partnerships they’re creating are helping build countries, build democracy and build a better future, he said.

“We’ve had a wonderful conference and you can see the depth of this movement. The depth of this whole community-engaged sector keeps on giving right through the conference,” Jackson said, referring to the week’s final keynote events.

Steve Kent, deputy premier of Newfoundland and Labrador and Minister of Health and Community Services, was on hand to wrap-up the conference with a discussion about his role in the Office of Public Engagement. The office is working to involve citizens in the creation of policies and programs.

Conferences like C²UExpo are proof that the community’s desire to be involved in policy-making is not “going away anytime soon,” Kent said.

In a panel discussion that followed, members of Community First: Impacts of Community Engagement (CFICE), echoed Kent’s sentiments about creating active governments that work with their communities. CFICE is a research project involving Carleton professors who are heading up a series of “hubs” directly related to issues facing communities. The project seeks to strengthen community work through university partnership, and was a key player in bringing this year’s expo to Carleton.

“Working together is how I think we make solutions across all of these issues,” said Abra Brynne, program manager at Food Secure Canada, who works with CFICE on food security issues.

“If we don’t do it constructively and creatively, and with respect and vigorously, we’re in big trouble,” she said.

Gail Store, who travelled to the conference from Fredericton, N.B., said her biggest takeaway from the week is the “nutcracker” analogy, which is based on the kind of co-operation Brynne highlighted. It’s the idea that change has to come from both the bottom and the top in a nutcracker effect.

“What is happening here in these kinds of conferences is that we learn to listen to each other, we learn to honour the work that each other is doing, to be challenged by and to be open to it, and to keep that permanent campaign of renewing democracy,” Jackson said.

The conference attracted more than 400 participants – researchers, professors, students, advocates from non-profits – from Canada and around the world who travelled to Ottawa for the three-day C²UExpo. The conference is a Canadian-led international initiative that connects campuses and community organizations so they can explore solutions to community problems.The conference is hosted by a different university every two years.

The Carleton organizing committee worked for months to put together the program for this year’s conference.

“From the very opening…it has been a joy, because we have looked broadly, we have looked deeply and hopefully we can all proceed together to make a better world,” said Geri Briggs, project manager of CFICE.

 

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Kirsten Fenn

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