Connecting to Community: My Live Work Well Co-Op Experience
Written by Moira Forster
As a third-year undergraduate majoring in Psychology, I sought out co-op positions for Summer 2023 that would immerse me in research-intensive environments. I was thrilled when I received an offer to join the Live Work Well Research Centre (LWWRC) as their Communications Co-Op student. My primary role was to assist in planning the Reimagining Livelihoods Forum, an event rooted in the Centre's partnership focused on disabilities and livelihoods.
I accepted this position with the goal of drawing inspiration from various research initiatives, deepening my understanding of livelihoods and the challenges faced by individuals with disabilities, and engaging in a collaborative and enriching experience. Throughout my Co-Op term, I came to the office in-person each day and attended various team meetings with the LWWRC staff. While in-person work and weekly team meetings were somewhat new and nerve wracking to me, I found that Deborah Stienstra, the Centre's director, set a welcoming tone by starting each meeting with personal life updates. This encouraged me to be my authentic self and consider myself as part of the conversation. Eventually, I felt comfortable sharing and collaborating with my team, fostering a profound sense of connection that I will cherish moving forward in my academic career.
During my time this summer at the LWWRC, I completed a variety of tasks that familiarized me with the Centre’s values and initiatives. In addition to managing blogs, newsletters, and website enhancements, I consistently monitored the Centre's social media channels. I also reached out to various ally organizations whose values and missions align with those of the Centre, typically emphasizing equitable and intersectional research, the importance of lived experiences and community, and a focus on care and reciprocity. In reaching out to these organizations, I began to realize the central importance of our shared values and intentions, and how these are what lie at the heart of a lot of what LWWRC does. The potential that community support has to offer in propelling initiatives forward, and the importance of establishing intentional and mutually beneficial relationships, has been emphasized to me through this work.
My primary responsibility this summer was organizing and participating in the Reimagining Livelihoods Forum. This event was highly anticipated by my supervisor, Lenore Latta, and I as we took on much of the planning. While this was a daunting task that required meticulous work, being there to watch the event unfold was an incredibly satisfying fruition of the work we had been putting in for months. Though we had planned event happenings carefully, the forum took on a life of its own. While we had used the slogan ‘share, discuss, and engage with diverse perspectives, experiences, and knowledges about livelihoods’ countless times to promote the forum to others, actually seeing this unfold in person and witnessing these discussions was truly inspiring and made all the work worth it. Conversations sparked by presentations spilled over into the breaks, and I can imagine them trickling back into communities and effecting real change and reimagination, even in my own life.
The Reimagining Livelihoods Forum was my first time attending a research-related event with many experienced professors and academics. Still, it felt like an environment where other students and community members, like me, were invited to contribute their own thoughts and ideas, which allowed for true reimagination to take place. The LWWRC fosters a similar environment, as my time here has really emphasized the importance of community and collaboration in propelling initiatives forward to create real change. As someone who has spent her last few years doing a lot of online coursework and research, it has been incredibly refreshing to come in every day to a physical space with a team who consistently invites me to the table and encourages me to contribute and show up as my full self. Moving forward, I plan to carry this sense of care and community alongside any work I do, and I now acknowledge this sense of care as something that is important to me and my future livelihood endeavours. I owe a huge thank you to the Live Work Well Research Centre, and the incredible staff I have worked with along the way. Thank you!