Nation of Wellness (NoW)
The need (Why we need to act)
The world and Canadian society are undergoing rapid change, presenting emerging challenges and opportunities to each new generation. By defining/reclaiming a clear purpose and promise for adolescence, each of us can execute actions that help young people feel supported and trusted to acquire and create the knowledge they need to steward the future.
The approach (What we do)
Youth and young adults aged 14-28 plan and lead work within their communities to build a culture where young people (especially those with experience of marginalization) are seen, heard, included, and celebrated
Young people forge pathways to connect each other with networks of support through youth-led conferences, community dialogue events, and advocacy initiatives
Young people steer the course of the project, focusing on what resonates with their diverse lived experiences
The outcome (The difference we want to make)
Young people build resilience by creating and enhancing environments of belonging, exploring and sharing their culture, and discovering, developing and demonstrating their skills
More community entities define and fine-tune their roles vis-à-vis the next generation: creating opportunities for young people to lead and take supported risks that feel relevant to their lives; show that their skills, knowledge and experiences are valid and valuable; and, inspire hope for the future
Marcella Sunshine [email protected]
Abbotsford School District
Centre for Health Evaluation & Outcome Sciences
First Nations Health Authority
This project is part of the Mental Health Promotion Innovation Fund (MHP-IF) which is funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada. The MHP-IF is a national program that seeks to learn about promising approaches for advancing mental health promotion among young Canadians.
The MHP-IF projects are supported by a Knowledge Development and Exchange Hub for Child and Youth Mental Health Promotion. You can learn more about this project, the KDE Hub and all 20 projects at kdehub.ca.
Being a youth-developed and led project, NoW simply brought together young people, told them what resources they had available to them, and what the providers of those resources (funders) were hoping would result. Then we helped them to use those resources in a way that might either strengthen things that they already knew worked well, or answer questions they had about what they believed might work.
Over the first two years of the NoW project (which coincided almost exactly with the COVID-19 pandemic, the youth developed 8 main activities:
- Periodic (currently bi-weekly) NoW Stewarding Group meetings, where youth (selected by their peers) can guide the progress of the project, review and approve budgets, reflect on and evaluate their work.
- Hosting periodic (currently bi-weekly) “Just For NoW” community dialogues on sensitive topics that are relevant to youth. These are attended by both youth and representatives from various community partners, as well as general members of the community.
- Hosting bi-weekly “Devil’s Club” meetings put on for and by mostly urban Indigenous youth who feel disconnected from their culture due to engagement in the child welfare system, current and historical homelessness, and/or medicating their sense of dislocation through substance use.
- Hosting weekly “Youth Peer Group” (YPG) meetings-a low-barrier, informal, activity-based milieu in which people can make their initial contact with NoW activities and grow and maintain relationships among its contributors and participants.
- Regular GREENHOUSE meetings. We were awarded $115K funding from CIHR and MHCC to support this work, which is hosted by the University of British Columbia (UBC), and in partnership with the NoW Contributors, UBC, First Nations Health Authority, Abbotsford School District, Abbotsford Police Department, and SNAFU dance theatre. This project focuses on the connections between cannabis use and youth mental health and uses theatrical-based approaches for knowledge mobilization and community-building.
- Regular meetings and interactions with Abbotsford School District administrative staff, exploring ways that we can support the district’s goal of student-driven, self-directed educational activities with authentic youth voice, especially from marginalized youth who require equity-based approaches to meaningfully contribute to and participate in the school environment.
- Ad hoc consultations with community entities (especially Health Authorities) who are seeking feedback on their developing or existing youth-targeted health promotion initiatives.
- Supporting youth to identify and engage in self-directed “Learning Journeys” that are relevant to their lives and learning needs. We conducted one large cohort of 15 youth in the summer of 2020 as our ‘Learning Journeys Pilot Project.’ The learnings from this pilot project were captured in an interim developmental evaluation report. The report was well-received by community partners, especially the school district. Youth have continued to develop, propose and engage in new learning journeys since then. For example, one of our youth led a learning journey where they engaged with and presented on current research addressing youth and cannabis use.
ICED (Indigenous Co-Executive Directors)
Created by two Indigenous youth and supported by Impact’s adults, ICED has created an co-executive director (in training) position at Impact. Funded by the Vancouver Foundation’s “LEVEL Youth” program, the goal of ICED is to position young Indigenous and racialized youth to influence the future of the non-profit sector in British Columbia.
What makes us think this is a good step towards trusting youth? The need for this project has been developed solely by the youth, who over time have been searching for more meaningful opportunities to be and feel useful in their community. Trust is not about what WE think would best support an individual’s journey, but rather, it is running with whatever it is a person believes could best support them and their goals.
Project activities we plan to have a management role in include:
Facilitating strategic meetings.
Representing Impact at events and community meetings.
Helping develop long-term plans for all Impact’s teams and projects.
Guide and continue to grow our practicum programs at Impact.
Create new projects aimed towards youth engagement.
Model, learn from, and share about an equity-based Indigenous youth engagement approach.
Youth Advocacy Documents and Materials: