Fellowship Program

Summer 2024

Introducing our 2024 Social Connectedness Fellows!

Check out the short profile below of each 2024 Fellow, the partner organization, and area of research.

The Social Connectedness Fellowship empowers students, recent graduates, youth, and people with lived experience to carry out innovative research that will inspire local and global action to build community and belonging.

2024 Social Connectedness Fellows

Caroline Naluwemba – Harvard Law School Project on Disability (HPOD): Investigating Self-Advocate Participation in UN CRPD Shadow Reporting

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Caroline Naluwemba

Caroline Naluwemba (she/her) is a dedicated self-advocate from Inclusion Uganda, championing the rights of peers with intellectual disabilities. She volunteers with the International Rescue Committee and Inclusion International’s “Inclusive and Accountable” project. Born in Kampala in 1988, she holds diplomas in project planning from Makerere University and fashion design from NIAAD. Caroline founded an advocacy group and researches disability inclusion, including employer attitudes. Inspired by her mother, who has always fought for her rights since childhood ever since she developed cerebral palsy, she is also the CEO of Caroline Fashions, training self-advocates in tailoring and crafts. Caroline uses her experiences to impact families and communities positively.

Research Project: Investigating Self-Advocate Participation in UN CRPD Shadow Reporting

Two self-advocate leaders will collaborate with Harvard Law School Project on Disability (HPOD) to research the involvement of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in preparing shadow reports. Under the guidance of HPOD’s Hezzy Smith and Anne Fracht, the fellows will explore how self-advocates engage in shadow reporting to the UN CRPD Committee, identifying barriers and strategies used to ensure their voices are heard. They will review reports submitted by both self-advocates and other disability rights groups and conduct interviews with participating self-advocates. The research aims to highlight successful strategies, such as Hungary’s easy-read reports, and provide insights for future advocacy efforts.

HPOD is committed to enabling civil society, and especially persons with disabilities and their representative organizations to undertake informed human rights advocacy. We provide human rights training and education, facilitate the development of international law and policy, encourage inclusive development practices, share technical assistance on strategic litigation, and stimulate new thinking about the abilities of persons with disabilities and their human rights.

Dorothy Mazeau – HelpAge Canada: The Canada HomeShare Program: Housing that Connects Us

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Dorothy Mazeau

Drawing on more than 20 years of experience of living in shared homes, Dorothy Mazeau (she/her) has poured her enthusiasm for this lifestyle into founding Golden HomeSharing Connections as a way to help others learn about the benefits of home-sharing and find compatible home-mates. She also serves on the Board of Directors of Sharing Housing Inc., a non-profit organization committed to education and advocacy for home-sharing across North America.

Dorothy earned her Bachelor of Architecture degree from Rhode Island School of Design. In the 1990’s, she became an advocate for the cohousing movement, serving on the Board of Directors for both the Cohousing Association of the United States and the Canadian Cohousing Network. Throughout her years in Canada, Dorothy has lived primarily in shared homes, both as a single mother and on into her senior years.

Research Project: The Canada HomeShare Program: Housing That Connects Us 

The Canada HomeShare program, spearheaded by HelpAge Canada, facilitates affordable housing arrangements for older adults, promoting aging-in-place through intergenerational homesharing partnerships. By creating connections between older adults and post-secondary students, the program addresses social isolation and fosters a sense of belonging, while the fellow’s research efforts will aim to understand the benefits and challenges of homesharing in various community contexts, supporting long-term community engagement and development alongside local seniors’ services organizations. 

HelpAge Canada, founded in 1975, started as “Help the Aged Canada,” focusing on representation for older persons in Canadian charities and has since become a registered charity dedicated to promoting healthy aging, forming a global network with HelpAge International in 1983. HelpAge Canada collaborates with community-based seniors’ services organizations to tailor solutions, aiming to enhance the lives of older individuals and their communities both domestically and internationally, with a vision for a world where everyone can age with dignity. 

Fionn Crombie Angus – Harvard Law School Project on Disability (HPOD): Investigating Self-Advocate Participation in UN CRPD Shadow Reporting

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Fionn Crombie Angus

Fionn Crombie Angus (he/him) is an extraordinary young man with Down syndrome. Combining his love for traditional Irish music and wildlife ecology, he has played his fiddle from the Amazon to Zanzibar. Instrumental in the UK’s Down Syndrome Act 2022, he consults with the Dept of Health and Social Care and conducts focus groups across England. His Happiness Project includes 700 interviews with notable figures in various fields. As the inaugural chair of IASSIDD’s Inclusive Research Group and a 2022 Distinguished Achievement Award recipient, he will keynote at their World Congress in Chicago. He co-runs Fionnathan Productions, lectures internationally, and is pursuing a joint doctorate with UVH and Trinity College Dublin.

Research Project: Investigating Self-Advocate Participation in UN CRPD Shadow Reporting

Two self-advocate leaders will collaborate with Harvard Law School Project on Disability (HPOD) to research the involvement of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in preparing shadow reports. Under the guidance of HPOD’s Hezzy Smith and Anne Fracht, the fellows will explore how self-advocates engage in shadow reporting to the UN CRPD Committee, identifying barriers and strategies used to ensure their voices are heard. They will review reports submitted by both self-advocates and other disability rights groups and conduct interviews with participating self-advocates. The research aims to highlight successful strategies, such as Hungary’s easy-read reports, and provide insights for future advocacy efforts.

HPOD is committed to enabling civil society, and especially persons with disabilities and their representative organizations to undertake informed human rights advocacy. We provide human rights training and education, facilitate the development of international law and policy, encourage inclusive development practices, share technical assistance on strategic litigation, and stimulate new thinking about the abilities of persons with disabilities and their human rights.

Joe Schwartz – Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program: The Impact OF and ON People Involved in Inside-Out

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Joe Schwartz

Joe Schwartz (he/him) is a teaching assistant and training coach with Temple University’s Inside-Out Training Institute, as well as a reentry strategist with the Liberation Foundation Reentry program. After serving 15 years in prison, he now dedicates himself to initiatives focused on criminal justice reform and expanding educational opportunities.

Joe’s conviction is that all people, regardless of circumstance, deserve access to the transformative power of education. He has recently joined the steering committee of the Pennsylvania Consortium for Higher Education in Prison where he works to galvanize the collective efforts of colleges and universities to implement educational programs within carceral institutions. Joe believes that education invigorates dignity, humanity, and purpose no matter the circumstance. For the justice impacted, meaningful change is more than a second chance, it is about seizing first-time opportunities.

Research Project: The Impact OF and ON Formerly Incarcerated Men and Women Who Are Involved in Inside-Out Trainings and Workshops 

Since the pandemic, Inside-Out has included dozens of formerly incarcerated Inside-Out alumni in instructor trainings and community workshops. These men and women are referred to as “coaches” in the trainings and “dialogue partners” in the workshops. The goals of this project include: 1) to more fully understand the impact of the coaches / dialogue partners on the training and workshop participants, 2) to more fully examine what these activities mean in the lives of the coaches / dialogue partners, 3) to explore how Inside-Out can expand these and further activities for other men and women who are formerly incarcerated.

The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program® is an innovative educational experience that bridges the gap between campus-based students and incarcerated individuals. Held inside prisons, this semester-long course encourages dialogue across difference, challenging stereotypes and promoting diversity. By fostering deep listening and understanding, Inside-Out inspires participants to create more inclusive spaces in the world. 

Kaiden Kanagarajan – The Relationships Project: Creating a Pattern Library for Relationship-Centered Practice

Kaiden Kanagarajan

Kaiden (he/they) lives in Tiohtià:ke/Montréal. He is completing his research fellowship with the Relationships Project. They will be helping to build a relationships “Pattern Library” based around core relational practices that recurringly struggle with.

Kaiden is passionate about love has always been fascinated by people, behaviours and relationships. He has an undergraduate degree in psychology from McGill University and has spent the last several years working in communications and fundraising and no aims to return to a career in psychology, particularly in couples and family therapy. They dream of a career in conflict mediation and community support work.

Research Project: Creating a Pattern Library for Relationship-Centred Practice 

The research fellow will play a pivotal role in developing the Pattern Library for Relationship-Centred Practice, which aims to provide practical guidance and resources to practitioners seeking to prioritize relationships. Their tasks will involve conducting practitioner-led conversations to gather insights, experiences, and wisdom, as well as conducting desk research to underpin theory and collate useful resources for each pattern. 

The Relationships Project catalyzes and supports the prioritization of good relationships as fundamental, fostering a community of practitioners across the UK and beyond. Their work focuses on creating spaces for connection and shared learning, deepening understanding of relationship-centered practice, and translating effective strategies to embed relationship-focused approaches into practice consistently.

Kenneth Butler – Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program: The Impact OF and ON People Involved in Inside-Out

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Kenneth Butler

Kenny (he/him) holds a BA in Organizational Studies from Pitzer College and is currently pursuing a Master of Public Administration at Cal Poly Pomona. He’s deeply engaged in social justice work as a coach/dialogue partner for the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program and a volunteer facilitator for the Prison Education Project. Additionally, he mentors participants in the Reintegration Academy program. Kenny’s passion lies in following the footsteps of his mentors to advance social justice. Recently, he undertook a Fulbright fellowship in Uganda to research the country’s recidivism rate.

Research Project: The Impact OF and ON Formerly Incarcerated Men and Women Who Are Involved in Inside-Out Trainings and Workshops 

Since the pandemic, Inside-Out has included dozens of formerly incarcerated Inside-Out alumni in instructor trainings and community workshops. These men and women are referred to as “coaches” in the trainings and “dialogue partners” in the workshops. The goals of this project include: 1) to more fully understand the impact of the coaches / dialogue partners on the training and workshop participants, 2) to more fully examine what these activities mean in the lives of the coaches / dialogue partners, 3) to explore how Inside-Out can expand these and further activities for other men and women who are formerly incarcerated.

The Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program® is an innovative educational experience that bridges the gap between campus-based students and incarcerated individuals. Held inside prisons, this semester-long course encourages dialogue across difference, challenging stereotypes and promoting diversity. By fostering deep listening and understanding, Inside-Out inspires participants to create more inclusive spaces in the world. 

Maya Oversby – Indigenous Climate Action: Indigenous Divestment Toolkit

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Maya Oversby

Maya (she/her) is a part of the Fellowship program working in tandem with the Samuel Centre of Social Connectedness and Indigenous Climate Action creating a divestment toolkit. Maya is from a small town in Northwestern Ontario, Treaty three territory, called Dryden where she was born and raised. Maya is Métis and of mixed European descent (English and Irish) and her roots lie in the Red River/Treaty one territory. For the past six years Maya has resided in Thunder Bay Ontario pursuing her education through Lakehead University. In June of 2023 she completed her Honours Bachelor of Outdoor Recreation with a focus in Land-based therapeutic recreation and shortly after began her journey towards a Masters in Social Justice.

Maya enjoys working with Indigenous research methodologies that center kinship and belonging, not only between people but the Land as well. Apart from school she fills her time with art, beadwork, harvesting and hiking with her dog, Fauna.

Project: Indigenous Divestment Toolkit 

This project aims to create a toolkit empowering Indigenous communities with divestment strategies, utilizing Indigenous rights outlined by UNDRIP to push for divestment from industries violating these rights, positioning Indigenous sovereignty as a financial risk for corporations and promoting a shift from extraction to regeneration. 

Indigenous Climate Action has been an Indigenous-led organization addressing climate change through gatherings, resources, amplifying voices, supporting sovereignty, and nurturing healing justice since 2015. Guided by a diverse Steering Committee, they envision a world where Indigenous Peoples lead climate justice efforts, employing deeply relational approaches to develop strategies and resources in collaboration with Indigenous communities to uplift voices and stewardship for future generations. 

Meliss Desmond – Special Olympics International: The Impact of Family Engagement on Special Olympics Parents

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Méliss Desmond

Méliss Desmond (they/them) is developing a career in public health, with a deep interest in investigating and creating equitable health systems through research and community-based policy. They are also a multi-disciplinary artist practicing with time-based media and curatorial design as a means for anthropological exploration. Méliss holds a bachelor’s degree from Concordia University, Montréal in Applied Human Sciences, Human Relations and in the following years, plans on getting a Msc in Global Health with a focus on displaced persons health.

Research Project: The Impact of Family Engagement on the Social Emotional Well-Being of Special Olympics Parents 

Over the next three years, Special Olympics aims to develop and implement a global family strategy focused on engaging, educating, and empowering families of athletes to promote inclusion. This project will seek to provide insights into current family engagement practices, assess their impact on the social-emotional well-being of parents, identify best practices, and offer recommendations for future family engagement initiatives. The overarching goal of this project is to help Special Olympics understand the impact of family engagement on the social emotional well-being of Special Olympics parents from low- and middle-income countries. In line with SOI’s “Nothing About Us Without US” principle, the Fellow will work alongside a Special Olympics athlete leader on all phases of this project. Please read the full project description.

Special Olympics provides year-round sports training and athletic competition for over 4 million individuals with intellectual disabilities worldwide, fostering physical fitness, courage, and joy while promoting friendship and inclusion. With programming in 201 countries across seven global regions, Special Olympics aims to drive social change, improve health, and build inclusive communities to enable full social participation and lifelong fitness for people with intellectual disabilities. 

Nat Slater – Human Rights Watch: Inclusive Adaptation: Championing Disability Rights in Climate Relocation

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Nat Slater

Nat Slater (they/them) is a researcher and artist whose work aims to elevate the perspectives and wisdom of those closest to the impacts of the climate crisis. Nat holds an M.S. in Environmental Humanities from the University of Utah, where they used participatory art-based methods to explore the intersections of environmental and disability justice. A Mellon Foundation scholar, Nat’s graduate work was supported by a fellowship focused on environmental justice and community-engaged learning. Outside of work, Nat helps organize a community group for trans and queer cyclists, reads submissions for the science section of literary journal The Offing, and co-parents two fluffy cats.

Project: Inclusive Adaptation: Championing Disability Rights in Climate Relocation Strategies 

The climate crisis disproportionately affects people with disabilities, yet there is limited data on the impacts of planned relocations on this group. Human Rights Watch aims to address this gap by investigating how government plans for climate-related relocations impact the rights and social connectedness of people with disabilities, collaborating with activists and experts to propose inclusive solutions. The Fellow will support this research by identifying government actions, documenting the effects on social ties, and proposing disability-inclusive measures for climate-related relocations, assessing government policies for inclusivity and advocating for their rights, particularly in the Philippines and potentially another Asian country, and will create visual maps of relocation plans. 

Human Rights Watch passionately defends global human rights through meticulous investigations, widespread exposure of abuses, and advocacy for justice. As an independent international organization, they lead the charge in advancing human dignity and freedoms worldwide, catalyzing change through innovative methodologies and strategic partnerships. 

Pallav Singh – Seeds of Peace: Making Peace Possible: Bridge-Building and Belonging in India

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Pallav Singh

Pallav (they/them) holds a postgraduate degree in Public Policy and Governance from Azim Premji University, Bangalore, India. Passionate about rights-based research, they have gained valuable experience through engagements with leading Indian think tanks such as the Centre for Civil Society and the Centre for Equity Studies, as well as various independent research projects. Their work is grounded in Indian constitutional values and the capabilities approach, informed by an intersectional feminist and pluralistic perspective. Pallav’s research interests span legal, policy, and social dimensions, with a focus on areas including land rights, SOGIESC rights, gender, and education.

Research Project: Making Peace Possible: Bridge-Building and Belonging Through Interfaith Education 

Seeds of Peace India aims to expand their interfaith programming, including two iterations of their Interfaith Harmony Camp and/or a national-level interfaith harmony conference, to address India’s interfaith conflict. The Fellow will be integral in designing and implementing these initiatives, focusing on understanding the strengths and impacts of interfaith programming through tasks like network mapping and enhancing monitoring and evaluation frameworks. This project offers the selected Fellow an opportunity to contribute to program improvement and impact assessment, engaging in research to inform strategy, measure impact, and potentially collaborate on multimedia or community-action projects such as the national Interfaith Harmony Conference or a short film about the Interfaith Harmony Camp.

Seeds of Peace has been synonymous with peace and conflict transformation for over 30 years. Headquartered in the US, they inspire and equip new generations of leaders in conflict regions with the relationships, knowledge, and skills needed to effect practical change, fostering dialogue-based solutions in conflict-ridden regions worldwide. They have directly trained and supported nearly 8,000 young adults and educators and engaged tens of thousands more through dialogue, aiming to cultivate global leaders and advance social, economic, and political changes essential for peace. 

Ruth Tamari – HelpAge Canada: How Online Support Facilitates Independent Living for Older Canadians

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Ruth Tamari

Ruth Tamari (she/her) is currently working on a Masters degree at McMaster University in Health and Aging, focusing her thesis research on intergenerational community in multi-unit housing. Previously she worked as a geriatric clinician for 20 years at Baycrest Centre including its innovative Community Recreation Outreach Program. She realized the importance of seniors-driven and seniors-led facilitation of the community-building process to achieve sustainable results. Ruth is the author of “The Invitation: Rich and Raw Conversations about Aging, Death and Dying.” As an emerging older adult herself, she is interested in exploring the humanistic perspective of aging in our families, communities and society.

Research Project: Understanding CORE – How Online Support Facilitates Independent Living for Older Canadians 

Healthy Aging CORE (Collaborative Online Resources and Education, “CORE”) Canada is an innovative community-driven initiative dedicated to connecting organizations that support older adults, and advance independent living for older adults across Canada.  CORE is an online platform that connects organizations and individuals, through discussion groups, communities of practice and through knowledge exchange and resource sharing. While these active groups are undoubtedly helpful, a strategic approach to discerning priority topic areas and resources at a national scale has not been undertaken.  To address this, the SCSC Fellow will build off HelpAge Canada and National Institute on Aging research to identify priority topic areas at a national level, most important to supporting older adult independence and inclusion. 

HelpAge Canada, founded in 1975, started as “Help the Aged Canada,” focusing on representation for older persons in Canadian charities and has since become a registered charity dedicated to promoting healthy aging, forming a global network with HelpAge International in 1983. HelpAge Canada collaborates with community-based seniors’ services organizations to tailor solutions, aiming to enhance the lives of older individuals and their communities both domestically and internationally, with a vision for a world where everyone can age with dignity. 

Samantha Luntha Chikopa – Partners in Health: Building a Roadmap for Enhanced Gender & Youth Health Services in Malawi

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Samantha Luntha Chikopa

Samantha (she/her) was raised in a tight knit family of 5 in the warm heart of Africa – Malawi. She has recently completed her Bachelor of Science Degree in Gender and Development from the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources, with Credit. She is passionate about social justice and aims to advance her studies in development sciences to empower her to become a strong advocate for the creation of inclusive and meaningful policies.

Research Project: Building a roadmap for enhanced gender and youth responsiveness for health services in Malawi 

PIH Malawi, known locally as Abwenzi Pa Za Umoyo (APZU), is seeking to assess the gender and youth responsiveness of its services and ultimately identify opportunities for deepening the integration of gender- and youth-responsive principles within its operations.   

This project will support APZU to collect quantitative and qualitative data on the gender- and/or youth-responsiveness of its services through the administration of surveys, key informant interviews and focus group discussions.  The fellow will analyze and contextualize the data with a belonging lens, while integrating findings from academic and grey literature. Working with local experts, the Fellow will generate recommendations for actions APZU can take to strengthen the gender- and/or youth-responsiveness of its services.   

Partners in Health mission is to provide a preferential option for the poor in health care. By establishing long-term relationships with sister organizations based in settings of poverty, Partners In Health strives to achieve two overarching goals: to bring the benefits of modern medical science to those most in need of them and to serve as an antidote to despair. We draw on the resources of the world’s leading medical and academic institutions and on the lived experience of the world’s poorest and sickest communities. At its root, our mission is both medical and moral. It is based on solidarity, rather than charity alone. 

Sarah Combs – Data-Driven Envirolab: Measuring Urban Environmental and Social Inclusion

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Sarah Combs

Sarah (she/her) recently graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a BSPH in Environmental Health Sciences and a minor in Arabic. Her position as a Social Connectedness Fellow is working in tandem with the Data-Driven EnviroLab (DDL) at UNC, an organization focused on utilizing data to understand the intersectionality between environment, health, and justice. She is excited for the opportunity to collaborate with the DDL team and other fellows and to apply her public health background to her work.

Research Project: Measuring Urban Environmental Performance and Social Inclusion 

Candidates will have the chance to choose one of these three projects.  

  1. Evaluating Subnational Climate Policies for a new climate action report card: DDL’s Cities Climate Action Report Card assesses nearly 800 cities’ efforts to achieve net-zero emissions, aiming to identify strengths and weaknesses in climate action plans amidst concerns of greenwashing and “window dressing,” offering fellows the chance to contribute to evaluation and scoring processes focused on key criteria such as net-zero strategies, nature-based solutions, and emissions treatment. 
  1. Deepening the UESI on relevant case studies for heat stress or air pollution: The UESI project focuses on improving analysis of climate change and air quality indicators, aiming to incorporate new data sources such as ozone and crowdsourced air quality data to develop high-resolution indicators for urban heat island effects and air pollution in targeted cities. The project aims to assess the impact of urban heat islands on heat stress and other environmental outcomes, integrating crowdsourced data to better understand citizen exposure to outdoor heat. 
  1. Expanding socioeconomic data for equity analysis: The Fellow will explore alternative socioeconomic indicators aligned with the UESI equity framework to assess environmental inequality in global cities, focusing on whether less affluent citizens are disproportionately exposed to environmental hazards or have limited access to environmental benefits, thus filling data gaps left by sparse official income reports at the neighbourhood level.  

The Data-Driven Envirolab (DDL), based at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, is an interdisciplinary research group utilizing innovative data analytics to address contemporary environmental challenges. The lab collaborates with scholars and policymakers globally to strengthen environmental policy through evidence-based approaches and information transparency.

Shaznay Waugh – Qmunity Camp NWT: Reviving Traditional 2SIQTIP Identity

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Shaznay Waugh

Shaznay (she/they) is a Two-Spirit Dënesųłiné and white youth from Łı́ı́dlı̨ı̨ Kų́ę́, Denendeh. She is about to enter her fourth-year at the University of British Columbia with a major in Social Justice and a minor in Indigenous Studies. Beyond academics, Shaznay is a poet and artist that writes and creates to celebrate resistance against colonialism. Whether academic or artistic, their work is oriented by Dene Laws, centering love and honouring the spirits of the land, their relatives, and themselves.

Research Proposal: Reviving Traditional 2SIQTIP Identity 

Through this project, Qmunity Camp NWT are seeking to understand how settler colonial states disrupt traditional Indigenous identities and how communities resist colonial notions of the gender binary and heteropatriarchy, aiming to address the macro-level impacts of colonization on GBV, while recognizing the power of individual and collective resistence. As such, this project, led by the selected Fellow, in collaboration with the Camp Director, seeks to investigate the impact of settler colonial states on traditional Indigenous identities and the prevalence of gender-based violence among 2SLGBTQIPA+ community members in the North, emphasizing desk-based and community-based research methods while attending Qmunity Camp programming in June and August. The final report will serve to understand and evaluate Qmunity Camp’s impact and inform their advocacy. 

Qmunity Camp NWT, established in 2019 and formally organized in 2023, celebrates and honors identities and tradition by facilitating healing through land reconnection. Their mandate focuses on creating a space where individuals can explore gender and sexual identities within traditional Indigenous practices, fostering safety, acceptance, and belonging. By providing inclusive gatherings, supporting artistic expression, and connecting youth with culture and the land, they challenge imposed binaries and strive to combat gender-based violence, aiming to spark crucial discussions on inclusion and safety in cultural and natural settings. 

Stanford Ndlovu – Synergos: Leadership Lessons on Active Citizenry Towards Building Belonging

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Stanford Ndlovu

Stanford Ndlovu (he/him) holds a bachelors degree in Education and Honours degree in Teacher Education and Professional Development both from the University of Pretoria, he is a YALI Regional Center Southern Africa alumnus and Teachers Change Agent Network. In partnership with The Trevor Noah Foundation, he completed a prestigious teacher development programme called Education Change Makers from Young African Leaders Initiative Regional Leadership Centre Southern Africa (YALI RLC-SA).

Stanford is passionate about training, mentoring, youth development, human rights, and civic leadership. He is an advocate for quality education. He is currently a Teacher Coach at Jakes Gerwel Fellowship and Alumni committee member of the TeachersCAN Network, he is a Seasoned teacher and facilitator.

Research Project: Leadership Lessons on Active Citizenry Towards Building Belonging and Connectedness 

The selected fellow will assess Synergos’ “Bridging Leadership and Social Connectedness” work, focusing on how communities and municipalities foster a sense of belonging. Their tasks will include evaluating program strengths, impacts, and areas for improvement, mapping partner roles, identifying best practices for building collective values, and emphasizing systems thinking and collaboration to support productive collaboration between community teams, municipal officials, and leaders. The goals of this project are to 1) Build lessons from Synergos’ programmes, to create best practices for enhancing community voice and participation, 2) advocate for community voice and active citizenry, recognizing that participation in community fosters belonging, purpose, care, protection, and agency for all, and 3) inform how community leadership can promote active community participation, cultivate a sense of place, and encourage ownership of community challenges and solutions. 

Synergos is dedicated to systemic change in South Africa, fostering collaborative leadership, partnerships, and participatory governance to promote equitable access to human rights and services, with a focus on reducing poverty through sustainable solutions and increased impact. Through initiatives like the Municipal Leadership and Governance Initiative, Synergos strengthens municipal leadership, participatory governance, and active citizenry, particularly focusing on youth and women’s voices to foster social connectedness and collective action through transformational dialogue processes. 

 

Suad Ahmed – Coastal Research, Education, and Advocacy Network (CREAN): Investigating Anti-Racism and Belonging

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Suad Ahmed

Suad Ahmed (she/her) is a community-based researcher with a passion for advancing social justice knowledge. With extensive experience in various research projects in the academic, government, and non-profit international and domestic sectors, she brings a wealth of expertise to her work. Rooted in her Somali heritage, Suad’s current research focuses on the empowerment of Somali youth. Through her work, she seeks to amplify the voices of Somali youth and foster a greater sense of belongingness and agency within her community. Alongside her academic pursuits, Suad immerses herself in the beauty of Arabic language learning.

Research Project: Investigating Anti-Racism and Belonging 

From 2018-2023, CREAN’s ARIE project in British Columbia sought to comprehend racism in public high schools, propose anti-racism initiatives, and champion better educational outcomes for racialized students, driven by the recognition of the detrimental impact of racism on their health, safety, and learning. Building on ARIE’s findings, this project seeks to explore the impacts of racism and anti-racism projects on students’ well-being and sense of belonging. By utilizing this research for advocacy and policy development, CREAN aims to produce materials that spotlight the importance of anti-racism work for youth in BC, aligning with their mission to empower vulnerable and racialized youth and improve community connections. 

The Coastal Research, Education and Advocacy Network (CREAN) empowers vulnerable youth through research, education, and advocacy, utilizing community-based research to deepen connections and improve the lives of youth, families, and communities. They collaborate with residents and community leaders to advocate locally and nationally for youth, aiming to enhance urban living conditions.