I-RSS in Both Worlds: Bridging Academia and Community through Relationships
- Post by: Nakita Valerio
- October 17, 2022
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I-RSS is proud to work with a wide network of community and research organizations. Of course, our work includes other important areas of contribution such as advocacy at all levels of government and in the education sphere, as well as creating critical spaces directly in the academic world to amplify and uplift post-disciplinary, decolonial Muslim studies in Canada today.
Our community research, however, is oriented around actionable work that serves Muslim communities and meaningfully furthers academic research as well. Our research is academic in approach – drawing on current research literature, we identify and aim to fill gaps through rigorous studies, reports and articles. At the same time, we are guided by serving the community, and our relationships with community organizations across Canada enrich our scholarship. These connections enable us to examine topics that may not get funded in traditional institutions, or areas where there may not be existing academic literature but there are organizations doing work who need more data.
Since 2018, we have formed relationships with Muslim and non-Muslim organizations, community organizations and research institutions. Below we highlight some of these relationships and the fruitful work we have done together.
Muslim Association of Canada (MAC)
The Muslim Association of Canada (MAC) is one of our longstanding and major clients and partners. MAC is a grassroots, charitable organization focused on “serving Canadians by educating and motivating Muslims in Canada to put their faith into action for the benefit of everyone.” With locations across Canada, MAC provides spaces, services and programs for education and personal development of Muslim Canadians.
I-RSS’s projects for MAC include national studies, regional profiles, and educational resources for the public. Most recently, I-RSS and MAC released a national study of Muslim organizations, examining their patterns of establishment and growth and the scope of their activities.This study examines the role of Muslim community organizations within Muslim communities and Canadian civic society at large, and will help organizations in understanding and directing their own efforts in their communities. Our intern team has also been working on regional profiles, highlighting Muslim community development and historic and ongoing contributions in six regions of Canada. Researchers have also been hard at work producing cutting edge articles on Muslim family conceptualizations, normative Islamic family forms and Islamophobia. Forthcoming studies include a Muslim in Canada study and studies on reverts and Indigenous Muslims to Islam. I-RSS has also assisted MAC on two resources funded by the Province of Ontario’s Ministry of Education: the Islam Awareness platform and a mental health education portal for Muslim youth.
Nisa Helpline is a Canadian charity that operates a free, anonymous and confidential phone line assisting Muslim women across North America. They provide guidance on issues such a mental health, domestic and sexual violence, Islamophobia, and relationships and careers, as well as workshops.
I-RSS served as consultants on Nisa Helpline’s Changemakers Youth Initiative. Funded by the federal government through Heritage Canada, Changemakers Youth Initiative aims to empower young Muslim women through education and individual development. Through the program, Nisa Helpline provides workshops and educational resources aimed at fostering leadership and development, community education and digital media literacy to address the challenges and issues facing young Muslim womne.
Coalition of Muslim Women Kitchener-Waterloo (CMW-KW)
Founded by a diverse group of Muslim women, Coalition of Muslim Women Kitchener-Waterloo (CMW) provides opportunities for personal and professional growth, leadership and skills development for Muslim women. CMW also addresses issues of gender-based violence, Islamophobia and racism through programs, services, collaboration and outreach.
I-RSS is working with CMW on a Muslim youth needs assessment study spearheaded by their Muslim Youth Council. This project was particularly significant as it was a truly youth-driven project given the backing of professional researchers from I-RSS. A study on supporting mental health among Muslim youth is also forthcoming.
Youth Coalition Combating Islamophobia (YCCI)
Founded by a group of young Muslims in the wake of the June 6, 2021 attack on the Afzaal family in London, Ontario, Youth Coalition Combating Islamophobia (YCCI) focuses on confronting Islamophobia through advocacy and education. YCCI takes a “youth educating youth” approach, hosting workshops and community events and providing educational resources.
I-RSS assisted YCCI in developing educational resources for commemorating the June 6th attack. I-RSS brought to the project a trauma-informed approach that helped the project, getting it into classrooms across Ontario.
Chester Ronning Centre for Religion and Public Life
One of I-RSS’s newest relationships is with the Chester Ronning Centre for Religion and Public Life. The Chester Ronning Centre is located at the University of Alberta Augustana Campus. As an academic institution, the Chester Ronning Centre strives to engage with the public and religious communities in dialogue on various issues. They facilitate interdisciplinary research, teaching and reflection, as well as interreligious dialogue and public programming on issues relevant to various religious communities.
I-RSS is conducting a community needs assessment and outreach in partnership with the Chester Ronning Centre. I-RSS will be assisting with public relations, community outreach and development and delivery of relevant community services. This partnership will foster interfaith connections, create new community connections for the Chester Ronning Centre, and aligns with I-RSS’s commitment to high quality academic research that serves both research and faith communities.
Through each of these relationships and many more, I-RSS has been able to produce research that furthers academic and public discourse and fills gaps in the current literature, while fulfilling a commitment to actionable, community-serving research. In addition to these relationships, I-RSS regularly consults with numerous organizations working on community and research issues relevant to Canadian Muslims. Without such partnerships, it would not be possible to bridge academia and community.