Charter Members will Pursue Eight Themes

We have designated five discussion categories that will be vigorously pursued during the upcoming Charter Planning Process. As part of the online facilitation processes, partners will be organized into planning teams, a new online planning tool will be introduced, and digital sticky notes will be shared in large digital sharing circles.  

  1. Increasing Innovation Awareness, Education and Skills
  2. Growing Research Collaborations
  3. Creating Knowledge Transfer & Mobilization Strategies 
  4. Identifying and Supporting Indigenous Business Innovation Needs, Priorities, and Clusters
  5. Growing Indigenous Research Talent
  6. Building Indigenous Leadership and Institutional Capacity for Research and Innovation
  7. Indigenous Curriculum, Knowledge and Student Support Strategies
  8. Economic Transformation, Employment and Wellbeing: Evaluation and Measurement

Each of these themes offer rich dimensions for discussion. Some examples follow here.

Increasing Innovation Awareness, Education and Skills

IIn the past, colleges and universities effectively bypassed Indigenous people and communities in favour of identifying their own priorities and conducting their own ‘Indigenous research’ and this approach lingers on today. There are deep institutional patterns and structures that need to be reset, and new systems and mechanisms introduced which will encourage new generations of Indigenous people to create their own research agendas which benefit their communities and wellbeing.

Indigenous people and businesses have had few opportunities to understand and explore the value of research to innovate their own businesses and economies. They lack the capacity and strategies to identify community-based research priorities. If these issues were to be surmounted, improved awareness of the role of research would enable new growth in Indigenous economic and business development in a wide range of sectors notably agriculture/agrifoods, renewable energy, environmental industries, healthcare, and forestry. These are sectors that align naturally with Indigenous value structures and knowledge systems which emphasize the importance of sustainable growth, wellbeing, and intergenerational connectedness, among others.

How can we communicate the value of research and innovation to Indigenous audiences. How can we educate Indigenous businesses and communities about research protocols and finally, how will this awareness and education help Indigenous businesses embrace a culture of research and innovation?

Growing Research Collaborations

Many Indigenous communities currently lack the capacity or processes to identify (communitybased) research priorities. Systems and research infrastructure needed include the development of Indigenous ‘value-creation models’ which enable Indigenous communities and businesses to prioritize their research needs while recognizing wellbeing in tandem with economic priorities. Part and parcel with this are the need to decolonize and indigenize research approaches so that they align more closely with Indigenous needs. New models for ‘community-based value creation’ are at the heart of what is needed to identify Indigenousled research collaborations.

New strategies are needed to grow research collaborations which result in economic and wellbeing benefits accruing to communities. It means moving from a deficit picture to a future which enlists the best research minds to grow community economies in ways to which communities aspire.

Creating Knowledge Transfer & Mobilization Strategies

TThe post secondary research community has little knowledge of the Indigenous business community and visa versa. These communities rarely interact and there are no systems in place for Indigenous businesses to access the knowledge which researchers are generating. The current systems which enable Indigenous businesses to find Indigenous researchers are not well organized.

Charter members see the potential for Indigenous economic development corporations to work together with Canadian corporations on research agendas that are to a scale and level never yet dreamed about. Large Canadian corporations, as well as medium and small businesses, have tremendous assets and resources which if channeled in directions that Indigenous communities want and encourage, could lead to exponential growth. These are the strategies that Charter partners will discuss, laying out new ideas for knowledge transfer among Indigenous businesses, Indigenous development corporations, large Canadian corporations, and post-secondary research organizations.

The end results of these collaborations will be long-term partnerships which benefit all parties. It will mean continued and sustained streams of research funding for post secondary institutions, new markets, customers, investors, and partners for Canadian corporations as well as accelerated growth and diversification on the part of Indigenous development corporations including new business development and jobs in communities. The scale of these collaborations will do much toward achieving the goal of a $100 billion Indigenous economy.

Identifying and Supporting Indigenous Business Innovation Needs, Priorities, and Clusters

Moving forward, one issue is a lack of capacity on the part of Indigenous businesses to advance applications for funding for their own research and development needs. It is important to understand capacity needs in the Indigenous context as it relates to their ability to articulate a research agenda and seek funds to support it. Many Indigenous communities are ‘treading water’, pre-occupied with deep social issues which are eclipsing their ability to think in longer or strategic terms. Charter members will want to explore ‘workarounds’ to address these capacity issues as well as put their minds to other impediments to knowledge mobilization and innovation.

There is also an opportunity to explore possibilities for innovation hubs based on sectoral clusters. These are issues and challenges that cut across Indigenous businesses and communities and lead us to ask... How could these be organized as research clusters? What kind of outreach is needed to reach businesses and economic development corporations? How could Indigenous national and regional organizations be aligned and supported on an innovation agenda, and how could they in turn grow their research activity?

Growing Indigenous Research Talent

There are insufficient numbers of Indigenous researchers in place and no human resource strategies to develop this research talent. In general, we know very little about the career trajectories of Indigenous researchers and what motivates them to complete their education and choose research as a preferred career.

It is important for Charter members to understand the drivers for young people to get into a research career and whether and how their research pathways were influenced by factors such as their desire to 'give back' to their communities. If we could uncover more information about this and other motives it would be powerful in aiding our understanding about the underlying reasons why an Indigenous person would choose research as a career path. It would also help us encourage more Indigenous youth to follow this career in the future. Growth of an Indigenous research cohort must be a goal of this initiative.

In late fall, we received some funding from Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) to initiate a series of focus groups (sharing circles) with Indigenous MA and PhD students. We are also interviewing non-Indigenous researchers who work in the economic and wellbeing space. Two sharing circles were held in December 2020 and more will be held in 2021. Please click here for information about this opportunity that we invite you to share with your student network.

Building Indigenous Leadership and Institutional Capacity for Research and Innovation

The current research ecosystem has been developed and built up by western institutions which are deeply premised in western thinking, western values, and western constructs. Indigenous people look at the world in unique ways and these Indigenous worldviews fundamentally shape what is important, what is included, and what kind of research should be undertaken, and how. Indigenous people are looking for ways to grow their presence in existing institutions and to shape the research ecosystem to their own ends.

Indigenous people are also looking to create their own institutions and create new ecosystems in their own image. How do we decolonize and indigenize existing research and innovation institutions and how do we support Indigenous educational institutions to expand their research capacity, programming and funding? What kind of research is currently being conducted by Indigenous academic institutions? What challenges and opportunities do they face? What role does leadership play to drive these changes and how will things look ten or twenty years out if successful. 

Indigenous Curriculum, Knowledge and Student Support Strategies

Students enrolled in today’s campuses often have little exposure to Indigenous contributions to knowledge. We are just now seeing business schools across the country beginning to include examples and illustrations of Indigenous business development. A few years ago, there was virtually no inclusion of these developments in university and college curricula. Indigenous students attending our top education institutions today are still grappling with how these institutions are responding to their own culture and how curricula are relevant to their own journey as a people preoccupied by themes such as nation-building, sovereignty, and self-determination as their destinations. What does Indigenous curriculum development look like in today’s post-secondary institutions and what is the process of co-creating it and embedding it into the value offer of today’s institutions. How can we redefine the supports needed for Indigenous students so that they pursue academic, and research careers which are relevant to their own lives and communities? Where does the theme of innovation fit in the context of these questions?

A related issue facing many business schools is how to attract Indigenous students into business education, develop and share appropriate pedagogy models and approaches and help support those students seeking to advance their research acumen and pursue MA and PhD’s. Addressing this issue is a pipeline approach to developing and growing research talent by focusing attention at the front end of the spectrum, namely increasing undergraduate participation. Many schools are exploring how ‘Indigenous curriculum and case studies’ can be incorporated into the mainstream education of all commerce students.

Economic Transformation, Employment and Wellbeing: Evaluation and Measurement

We all know innovation is important but how important is it to Indigenous economies and to the Canadian economy? How do we even define innovation in the Indigenous context? It is a given that Indigenous people have unique world views, and they bring originality and creativity to their traditional economies and way of life. Historically, Indigenous innovations have shaped their ability to survive and prosper in places which others might otherwise describe as harsh and inhabitable.

In the modern world and particularly the business world, we do not yet see such a culture of innovation among Indigenous businesses and local economies. The evolution and identification of Indigenous entrepreneurship is an emerging story that thus far has had many successes. The evolution of commercial innovation in the Indigenous business and economic context is still in a nascent state. What could be achieved by way of jobs, business development and increased wellbeing if this culture of commercial innovation were truly embraced and nurtured by the Indigenous business community? What could be the return on investment (ROI) of an Indigenous innovation strategy and what could be the transformative impact? 

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