RISE (Responsible Indigenous Strategy for Empowerment), is a community engagement employment project that is designed to provide Indigenous youth with training in strategic approaches, program delivery, facilitation, listening and inclusion, and evaluation tools. The RISE Youth Leadership and Development Project is a partnership between ALIVE, Community Associations, MoreSports, and the Vancouver Park Board in the recruitment and development of a RISE Team of Aboriginal youth and young adults. The RISE project currently operates out of five community centers: Ray Cam, Strathcona, Mount Pleasant, Hastings, and Britannia. RISE has just recently completed its third session, and is preparing to launch its fourth in 2019.
What do RISE leaders do?
Each RISE leader brings their own unique strengths, knowledge, and experiences, which allows the focus of their engagement in the community to reflect their individual background and interests. This enables RISE leaders, members of the community, to create experiences or programming that they themselves have felt is missing in the past. RISE leaders are supported by their supervisor and the RISE coordinator to network and build connections with their community’s youth, and other local area partners. With these supports RISE leaders are able to find areas of interest for community/program development that draw on, and enhance, their capacities as leaders .
RISE leaders run different types of programs in the community including arts & culture, recreation/sports, youth citizenship/leadership, or a combination. Some of the work of RISE includes community consultation, facilitation, sharing circles, asset-mapping, and other outreach/ engagement activities to help centres understand and respond to community-identified priorities.
RISE leaders work as a team to identify and support other Aboriginal community members, as well as other excluded groups, to become connected to neighbourhood opportunities and become actively involved in all aspects of city life. They receive support from the RISE coordinator, and community centre staff, in the implementation of strategic activities in the assigned pilot sites, which provides opportunities for intercultural sharing and learning, engagement and encouragement, and more extensive/reflective participation.
Training and Mentorship
Each leader receives on-site mentorship from community centre supervisor(s) as well as weekly check-ins with the RISE coordinator. RISE leaders also receive regular paid training throughout their placement that is relevant to the work they are doing. This includes:
- Group management development
- Supervision skills
- Facilitation skills
- Physical literacy
- Asset-mapping/social policy awareness
- Cultural workshops and program creation
- And other relevant training
The Importance of RISE
Vancouver is home to one of the largest Urban Indigenous populations in B.C.- a relatively young population who report aspirations of succeeding academically, raising healthy families, and contributing positively to their communities. Having an initiative like RISE ensures the positive participation and engagement of Aboriginal youth and young adults in their local Vancouver communities.
It is too often that Aboriginal children and youth are socially excluded from their community, marginalized or isolated at schools, and excluded from extracurricular activities such as clubs or sports teams. Many young Aboriginal Peoples report feeling that they are treated negatively by non-Aboriginal people, and too often it is expected that Aboriginal residents restrict themselves to only Aboriginal-focused services and organizations.
Ultimately, the lack of positive participation and engagement of Aboriginal youths in their local vancouver communities manifest in poorer health, diminished educational achievements, and a decrease in well-being compared to their non-aboriginal counterparts.
Aboriginal people are not well-represented in mainstream neighbourhood spaces. Community centres are taxpayer-funded municipal institutions with both the resources and the mandate to support/facilitate the process of neighbourhood-level reconciliation. Aboriginal youth are the fastest growing population, and have great potential to support reconciliation efforts by paving the way to the future in their urban communities. In leadership and in staff roles RISE leaders are in a position to influence other centre- staff, as well as the impact the centre’s programming.
We hope this initiative will create a better understanding of the social, economic, and cultural assets to be found in the urban Aboriginal community, and the importance of involving Aboriginal youth, elders, and families in community decisions or opportunities.
We expect that more Community Centres will sign up to be a part of this initiative; further supporting ALIVE to scale out the “reconciliation in action” strategy across Vancouver, neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood.