November 30th, 2018

Poetic Harvest (Heenal Rajani)
Photo Activity

Tell me
where do you come from?
let us hear, let us see
images of our ancestry

I come from a place
I’ve never been to
fog forest, mountains and rivers, urban joy

I come from around here
I come from some really strong Québécois women
fragrant harbour, contrasting cultures,
some place in Asia
ancient greens

I come from a blank page

We are all tagline
re-invented each time we speak
each moment
but we are not words

We are kindness
we make maps, unified
silence our guide
hear the call inside
we trace our own pathways

Where do we come from?
where are we now?
where are we going?
past, present, and future are not separate

Life is a collage
all roughly cut shape
sticky in all the wrong places
surprising connections
and no one knows how it will turn out

We’re all trying to figure out the story

I come from a blank page
I am a blank page
I represent not an organization
but a people
I come from fertile soil
prairie snow
I come from persecution and resilience
from olives and almonds
I come from community

I am
because we are

When you think you are done
Is the time to start creating
we are all maps
we are all legends
yes, you
we are locations
and we are directions, too

Everyone belongs

I come from border country
from a drained swamp
from war, entitlement and greed

Wherever we come from
Aisa, Africa, Europe, America
we are all one body
one canvas we share
we co-create knowledge from a place of possibility

I come from abundance and sustainability
a world of inclusion, harmony, diversit
where we celebrate our sacred shared histories

I come from us
I come from here, there, and everywhere
I come from a blank page
pure, brilliant, possibility, peace
I come from fields of love

I come from fields of love

September 20th, 2018

Poetic Harvest (Heenal Rajani)

So we’re back
from our summer break
refreshed, revved up, ready to collaborate
as we reconnect
we’re overjoyed
though most of us are over-
not under-employed

Who are we?
why are we here?
and what are our hopes for the coming year?
let’s build on the base that we’ve been building
let’s kick on
let’s do some kickass things

I love violence, marginalization, and discrimination
narratives are a source of fascination
they teach us so much including about ourselves

I’m excited to catch up and get back in the grove
‘cos this project
is ready to move

I’m excited to be back in the picture
to listen
to understand
to see how projects are going on the ground
the poverty reduction group is mostly through
with data collection
Good luck to the rest of you
I’m looking forward to the intangible made tangible
as the data is sorted through and understood
and we can use these learnings for good
how can this impact policy?
the government angle is absolutely vital

I’m looking forward to diving in and to growing
as we together
broaden our knowing
embedding Indigenous perspectives into our learning
I’m glad, so glad, to be returning
I’m excited to find fun ways to share our learning
with community partners as theory and practice converge
I’m here to serve
I’m sitting on the sidelines in a quiet way
but still, I created

The second year is often when
things start to happen
trying to wrap my head around this project
aren’t we all?
let’s wrap our heads together
as summer turns to fall

I’m looking forward to sharing and summarizing learnings
that are already quite surprising
I hope we continue with the trajectory we found
and pretty soon
our results will astound

So the critical interpretive synthesis team
looked at literature on narratives quite a manageable body of work
and we try to identify and analyze
common assumptions and practices,
barriers and challenges,
theoretical approaches, effective strategies,
conditions for mobilizing narratives
into social and policy change
to provide a model that can be shared,
contrasted, and compared
with what emerges from other working groups

Let this inform our ongoing data collection
do other working groups’ findings align
or point in another direction?

We look for articles that would be a good fit
and we found there aren’t a lot of hits
in the field of Health Sciences
there’s lots of narrative research
that’s a fact but
not much about how this has a policy impact
from 18,000 articles
we ended up looking at 25

It was interesting to see that most were in the environmental field
and as we began to extract data
we were surprised by some emerging themes and insights
we tend to think that policy is evidence-based
but often the opposite is the case
there’s a competition of meaning
not a competition of evidence

Narratives are used strategically
as a meaning making device
because when it comes to policy making
evidence won’t suffice
social change often starts with the public
story is used to bring together and to divide story brings out emotions from deep inside
science has a role in policy change
power is discussed
but with limited range

What’s the impact of how we come together?
what about money?
does this have an impact ever?
we have to think about who benefits
from the promotion of certain types of narratives
we’re already starting to find
that narratives that are personalized
appear to generate victim blaming
isn’t that amazing?

But through our approach some stories will have been missed
if they weren’t explicitly called stories
they wouldn’t have made our list
but as we move forward we intend to identify
key assumptions
that shape the research that we reviewed
and strengths, limitations, and gaps too

The poverty and inequality group
has been pretty busy too six cases identified and nine interviews
and some preliminary findings to share with you
because narratives often begin from personal experience
sharing a narrative can itself be empowering and therapeutic
an individual story can make people aware
change attitudes, perception, help others to care

But it’s so hard to do this well
to do this ethically, respectfully
and then the story might be lost
and who knows the personal cost
sharing a narrative creates risk
of funding, of scrutiny, as well as personal risk

Not every story is fit to be chosen
what are all the key components?
emotional, moral, policy, depth
a story has to be based on
Identifying trends and themes
if it’s to have an effect on policy downstream

Drill the story down into a change
that’s simple and easy to communicate
social and policy change doesn’t happen alone
it needs a collective
there’s strength, reach, and resilience
when you’re in a collaborative
and change takes luck
and also time
find the right moment to strike
go straight to ministers if you see policy change glory
and use real, emotional, passionate stories
the more interdisciplinary endorsements the better
we achieve so much more when organizations work together

Though it can be challenging
dealing with the press and with endless meetings
when resources are so scarce
but a recommendation to you from us
are you probing deep enough?
what’s the story under the story?
are they motivated by truth or by glory?
how could we identify unsuccessful narratives?
our data’s one sided, it’s hard to be comparative
narratives may be used to develop awareness of issues
but they get dropped for policy position submissions and other things too

How could we keep stories and statistics, instead?
how may we unite the heart and the head?
we’ll be writing up the cases and sharing all the details.
the next group to take the stage
legacies of colonialism
isn’t the right name
we wish to bring groups and organizations together
in a collective way
because that hasn’t really happened
we wish to do this respectfully so that we can reflect fully
colonialism has underfunded communities, divided them
we won’t take this approach so misguided then
we’ll include and invite everyone
share priorities, our health, housing, and education
it’s essential to build relationships and connection from the start
so with our partners, we shared first from the heart

For Indigenous communities, everything
is done through storytelling
we don’t only celebrate the successful or most compelling
we found the questions on occasion repetitive
we tried our best to be sensitive and let people speak
switching off the recorder got us closer to the type of authentic responses that we seek

Moving forward, we need template
to help us communicate with partners and demonstrate
the value of this work
how can we use this opportunity
to help build partners’ capacity?

We are learning how storytelling can help us see reality
and understand complexity
they enhance our capacity for knowing
in a different way
stories help us see people, as people
not as patients
health issues, social issues
don’t exist in a vacuum
you can’t understand them with p-values in a classroom

Stories, like people,
are multifaceted and complex
stories illuminate
the broader social context
stories are different
each time they’re told
stories are rich
more valuable than gold
stories speak
to the heart and the head
stories are sacred

So, take the structured interview guide
bring your heart
and the hunger you have inside
let our impact reach
far and wide
let research and real change collide

Together, let’s learn
and become more wise
let’s take these narratives
and mobilize

June 26th, 2018

Poetic Harvest (Heenal Rajani)

to the wrap-up
of our first year

Thank you all
for coming together here

And before we part ways for our summer break
let’s consider where we’ve come from
and what course we’ll take

Thank you
for mentors
for the communities that raised us
and this perfect summer day
thank you for mornings
with people close to us
thank you
for this inspiring place
thank you for the opportunities and all the connections
thank you for the learning and collaborative reflection
thank you
for brilliant people
and for back to back three-hour meetings
(not good for the body
but it’s good for the soul)
I’m grateful for each of you for helping me grow
I’m grateful for each day I wake
I’m grateful for this safe space
that you all helped to make

During our first few meetings
we asked ourselves
how can we make this project great?
what kind of environment do we want to create?
how will we keep this project alive?
what do we need to truly thrive?
how will we know?
how will we grow?
when things get tough, how do we want to be together?

Before we start, what’s at the heart of our partnership?
this statement of unity resonates with us all
it’s not a value statement
but our collective call
for being, thinking, and leading together
with generosity, honesty, accountability, clarity,
listening, respect and innovation,
awareness, connection and celebration,
there’s a lot of love in this room
that’s one thing we are doing well
but there are some elephants too

It’s okay if generosity is not always there
let’s acknowledge that
it’s something this container can bare
and we could all do better of being aware of using accessible language
that would show that we really care

Let’s make a template to communicate the value of participating
let’s develop ways of integrating new members into this group
and keeping everyone in the loop
even when they can’t be at all these meetings
like a dashboard to visualize our progress
yeah, that would make it so easy, yes
because we don’t all have time to read five pages
we need minutes but visuals and video engages much more

Do we even know what we’re here for?
because the purpose of these meetings has changed.
and the format can change too.
we could have a more defined schedule
and bring more accountability to us all
and now as we place a timeline on the wall
we note everything that we’ve accomplished
much has happened, although nothing’s been published

To each of you, a thousand thank you’s
we launched, we formed the working groups
we established values
we discussed what critical really means we started working closely with our teams
we stepped out like pioneers
and our focus became more clear
our ethics were proved because we persevered
we drafted questions, recruited volunteers
on International Women’s Day
The Atlohsa exhibit blew us away
and we did theatre
but this was no play
we’re all sculptures
we’re all intelligent clay
we had valleys
as well as peaks
but these are opportunities to look more deeply

Let us always be mindful
this is a story
but, whose is it?
who gets to choose how it’s used?
this question’s at the heart of this project
and we must keep it front and centre

Let’s look at possibilities
not make a how-to guide
to be applied and abused worldwide
community partners are by our side
but let us not hide the truth of what we observe

It’s hard to find time
for full participation
we set up meetings and then there’s cancellations
it’s hard to collect and compile observations
I feel like I’m drowning in all the permutations

But when we look at our progress
it seems quite a natural process
there are ebbs
there are flows
that’s just how community work goes
but this is surprising to those on the outside
just goes to show the academic community divide

What will we take from here into year two?
what shall we keep?
what shall we renew?
after the summer
let’s re-engage
most importantly, let’s all get on the same page
and stay there

Though we read and write at different speeds
communication and cohesion are what this project needs
much remains to be learned
about narrative mobilization
thank you for being part
of this conversation

March 8th, 2018

Poetic Harvest (Heenal Rajani)

Can you see me yet?

What an honour to be here on International Women’s Day
a reminder, if one was needed,
that we all have a role to play
to escape our plight together
we must fight together

Let’s remember to praise each other
to raise each other up
women will lead the way for making society more human again
let’s hold ourselves to account
it’s not just the amount of women “empowered”
but who’s included?
who’s intentionally excluded?

The milestones we share
are not shared by all
trans women
black women
gay women
poor women
indigenous women
what are their choices?
where are their voices?

The indigenous lens
is bringing back an understanding
of the balance of life
the ogichidaakwe
warrior women
we don’t even have a word
(isn’t that absurd?)
for the divine feminine
the essence of life
all the planetary abuse and violence
there’s no excuse for silence
our Mother is being raped
all around we’re seeing the cost
of balance being lost

Women are sacred
women are the gateway to all life
women are wise, women are mentors
women are strong but far from the centres
of power in our society
now is the hour
we can learn so much when we listen
and we are all worthy to speak
this is no time to be meek
but be strong
be bold
be loud
speak up
stand up
rise up
let us trust in the power of our stories

We can talk about guilt
but what are we actually doing?
we have all these recommendations
but how are we actually seeking reconciliation?
all we want to do is help our future generations
so let us stand up against all that’s unjust
let us stand up because we must
let’s stand up, in truth we trust

What stories are not being told?
there’s a mentality of blaming the victim
not acknowledging the diversity of situations
that women get murdered in
will you finally see me if I’m no longer a statistic?
how many of our sisters will be taken before something is done?

Violence breeds more violence
cultural disconnection, separation
makes violence continue, generation after generation
meanwhile, boys grow up without a dad
don’t know how to be the fathers that they never had
we have to honour and respect women
it’s the only way out of the mess we’re in

The suffering of others is not my burden
let’s respect people’s dignity
acknowledge generosity
with knowledge comes responsibility
no more passivity
in case you thought that this is an academic project
you were wrong
this is real life

Let us not forget the organic, emergent nature of story
let’s appreciate the richness, the messiness in all its glory
let’s not make it flat
we can do better than that
academic papers won’t be our saviours
we want real changes

Let this resonate in our hearts as well as our heads
screw patriarchy, we choose love instead
how can we make our hospitals a more warm and open place?
how can we make everyone feel welcome in that space?
let’s not get so caught up in the research
that we don’t do the real search
within ourselves
our communities
our organisations
the real search for what we can do differently
what do we really mean when we say “social change”?
it’s about the world that’s right here in front of me
it’s deep, it’s complex, it’s much more than policy
it goes right to the root, you could say
of how humans could live together in a better way

Here we all share information
we seek education
have conversations
but our obligations go way beyond this project
if that’s what you even call it
our obligations are to the flourishing of the human spirit
our obligations are to life
nothing is out of scope
the work really does matter

With the diversity and knowledge we have on this team
in the magic that lives in that space in between
we can co-create whatever we dream
the most impactful research group that’s ever been convened
together we can make visible what might never have been seen

This work matters