About the VOICE Research Project
The VOICE Research Project is a five-year project Community-University Research Alliance of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. The project is aimed at communities and researchers working together to help First Nations, Métis and Inuit (FNMI) children and youth achieve educational and career success. Success includes, but is not limited to, improved educational outcomes, improved workplace skills, increased engagement in community leadership and activities, retention of language and culture, more effective youth success programs, and increased career opportunities for youth in these communities.
Community circles and researchers from Brandon University and University College of the North collaborate and work in partnership on VOICE activities. A large part of working together involves the establishment of a respectful relationship that includes respect for community traditions, practices, and observances. As well each community involved in the VOICE Research Project has a different set of traditions that are unique to their community.
Th VOICE Research Project uses three guiding principles:
- The principles of OCAP. All of the activities and the governance structures and processes are built on these principles of Ownership, Control, Access, and Possession (OCAP) advocated by First Nations in Canada. The principles form an expression of self-determination and offer significant potential to rebuild trust, improve research quality and relevance, decrease bias, develop meaningful individual and community capacity, and empower communities to make change.
- Joint or co-creation of knowledge. The service providers and university researchers will accept that “expert” and “lay” knowledge systems differ but are equally important in a dialogue that identifies key issues based on information provided by the local indicators (Jeffrey et al., 2006, p. 46). In other words, FNMI and northern communities have critical questions that they need and want to form. They also want to set the methodology, shape the analyses, and present the findings (Smith, 1999). Brandon University and its community partners will integrate local and expert knowledge in order to co-create knowledge that addresses the objectives of the VOICE Research Alliance.
- Community engagement. All of the activities are based on community engagement, which can be a purpose, a set of activities, or an outcome.
Brandon University and the University College of the North are the university partners on the VOICE Research Project. The mission statement of Brandon University (BU) reflects its institutional interest in rural and FNMI communities as evidenced by the Faculty of Education programs including pre-service, graduate education programs and community-based education programs and by the Centre for Aboriginal and Rural Education Studies. Outcomes from the project, including the increased understanding of and collaboration with FNMI communities, will enhance BU’s programs and services to these communities. The project also promotes scholarly research within the Faculty of Education and provide accessible, evidence-based research information to our educational partners.
For our major community partner, the University College of the North (UCN), the relevance is several fold. The outcomes of the research help UCN engage with northern communities around issues that are of mutual concern and support UCN faculty with community-based research. As well, the partnership of BU and UCN will build a long-term relationship to address issues of mutual concern.