Indigenous Women in Community Leadership (IWCL) program

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Indigenous Women in Community Leadership (IWCL) program

$500,000 - $1 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

The Coady International Institute at St. Francis Xavier University (StFX) is a world renowned centre of excellence in innovative community leadership education that incorporates both on-site and distance support and mentoring, utilizing state of the art adult education methodologies for maximum effectiveness and outreach. Our commitment to leadership is rooted in the belief that leadership education can transform lives and unleash peoples’ potential to contribute to society. With more than 5,500 graduates in 130 countries and a legacy of 50 year of community empowerment and economic development; the Coady Institute is equipping citizens with the skills and tools they need to build strong, inclusive, and self-reliant societies.

In 2009, the Coady Institute recognized an opportunity to build on the capacities and potential of Canadian Indigenous women emerging leaders with a unique, customized program that incorporated facilitated learning, community placement experiences, mentorship, leadership self-assessment and reflection. The Indigenous Women in Community Leadership (IWCL) program was made possible with the generous financial support of Imperial Oil and ExxonMobil Foundations. The program uses experiential, interactive methods that draw on the experiences of participants, mentors and facilitators as well as best practice from the field to create a stimulating environment for learning. The program is managed by a Mi’kmaq women leader, Sheila Isaac, who is dedicated to inspiring and motivating Aboriginal women in leadership and community development through this program
In developing the program the Coady Institute created a series of case studies that looked at successful Aboriginal community development in a variety of sectors and geographies to serve as inspiring resources for the program. The examples focused on instances where the community led and sustained their own development and made changes that served to improve the wellbeing of the community.
This past May to the end of August the first iteration of the IWCL program was held with 12 Aboriginal women leaders, 11 First Nations and 1 Inuit women representing 8 provinces and 1 territory in Canada. Over the course of three weeks the women lived and learned together, and then put this learning into action during their three month community placements. They examined their own leadership style and how it impacted others, gained practical skills in asset-based community development (ABCD), and how this approach can build on a community’s strengths and ensure sustainability, honed their project management knowledge and developed advocacy & governance strategies. During their time on campus they met with a dedicate group of established Aboriginal women leaders and were paired with a mentor from this group. Mentors are a critical component allowing emerging women leaders to benefit from the experience and wisdom of proven aboriginal women leaders who understand the context, challenges and most importantly the innovative solutions in these often difficult environments.
Directly following their on-campus program the participants worked on a project of their choice for 3 months in a community/organization placement. The Coady Institute worked with the women to discuss their ideas and interests and help them develop a project that best suited them and their learning objectives. The IWCL projects ranged in idea from using their “ABCD” skills in their respective communities, research papers, video case studies and an awareness campaign.
Post community placements, participants and mentors returned to campus for a week long process of reflection, sharing and planning for the future. These women's successes will be followed, and case studies will document stories that will be of inspiration to future cohorts of indigenous women leaders.
In 2012, a leverage fund will offer further opportunities for education or expansion of projects and initiatives.

About You
About You
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Coady International Institute

About You, Your Group, or Your Organization

Coady International Institute


, NS

Please confirm that this project could benefit First Nations, Métis and Inuit Peoples


What categories best describe who your group or organization serves (check all that apply)

First Nations, Métis and Inuit people, Other.

What best describes your group or organization

University, Technical Institute or College.

How long have you, your group, or your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Define your idea / project in 1-2 short sentences

The IWCL program supports Canadian Indigenous women in strengthening and building upon their leadership skills to foster community driven development.

Select the stage that best applies to your solution

Growth (the project is up and running and is starting to move forward)

Social Impact
Please tell us about the social impact of your idea or proect

The IWCl program aims to empower emerging women leaders for the benefit of their communities. The IWCL program recognizes Indigenous people as custodians of their knowledge and cultures, supporting women leaders to develop mutual knowledge and understanding regarding community development practices. The individual women and communities that participate in the IWCL program are in turn force multipliers, sharing their learning and experience with others in the wider community.

The case studies and lessons documented, and leadership generated, is providing a balance to the often negative focus on problems and issues in Canadian Indigenous communities by showcasing and promoting what is possible and how communities are collectively able to address challenges and embrace opportunities.

Your Future Goal(s): Tell us what you hope to achieve with your idea or project in the next year

We will empower 15 new leaders in 2012 and widen the circle of influence and impact in indigenous communities.

In 5 years, what will be different as a result of your idea/project?

57 IWCL program graduates from across Canada will be employing the knowledge, experience, support network and skills gained through the program to lead and act for their community’s improvement, and to encourage and influence other indigenous women to act for change. A network of leaders encompassing graduates, mentors, facilitators and others will be united by a common understanding of what it means to build on their communities strengths. A series of projects initiated or supported by participants’ placements will be creating change in communities and leading to similar projects being launched. A body of educational resources, especially case studies of successful Aboriginal community development, will be available to educators and communities to provide models and inspire change

Tell us about the people/ partnerships that are already involved and why they are important to your idea or project.

The IWCL program was made possible with the generous financial support of Imperial Oil and ExxonMobil Foundations. The Imperial Oil Aboriginal Relations Network actively promotes the program to women leaders and provides advice on ways to increase awareness. The Assembly of First Nations passed a resolution in support of the program and to encourage communities to participate in placements, increasing awareness broadly about the opportunities. The graduates, mentors and faciitators engage their contacts and networks to promote the program and the mentors provide continuity and advice to refine and improve the program offering. The communities that host placements provide participants with experience and deeper understanding of the complexities of community development.

If there are other people/partners that you will reach out to tell us who they are and why they will be important to your idea or project.

Universities, colleges, associations, networks, programs and organizations that serve to advance Indigenous women’s leadership are natural partners that share common goals and benefit from share learnings. The IWCL program’s impact will be greatly increased by the dissemination of educational resources and case study materials that highlight positive examples of Aboriginal community developments. Universities, colleges, organizations, associations, governments working for Aboriginal community development are also key as a goal of the program is to inspire others to build on the strengths that exist within their communities and to discover ways to engage with members to shape and drive development.

Describe the kinds of support you receive (other than money) or will need to support your idea or project (e.g.: donated, space, equipment and volunteers)

Support to promote the program and encourage Canadian Indigenous emerging women leaders to apply will remain an important aspect of the program, which will require the help of a wide network of contacts. Individuals and organizations that have contact with Indigenous women leaders and can encourage them to recognize their leadership potential and share information on the opportunity. As well, Indigenous women established leaders who are willing to serve as mentors and work with emerging leaders to develop their strengths will remain a critical aspect of the program. Support from community partners to provide a learning space for IWCL candidates to complete their 3 month community project is also important (i.e. Assembly of First Nation's resolution to support IWCL)

Do you currently have funding for your idea or project?

Yes (answer the next two questions)