It is no surprise to anyone who walks through the streets in Vancouver to recognize the diverse make-up of our communities. We acknowledge that our city has become a hub in which different cultures come together and interact on a day-to-day basis, yet we find that the diversity we see in our everyday lives is lacking in the decision-making circles that impact the way our society functions. Boards, committees, tables, and councils are no longer truly representative of what our society looks like at the ground level.
SCENE is a project, built by the efforts of a hard-working team and an extremely talented and devoted cohort, that aims to continue the process of increasing newcomer and immigrant representation in leadership positions. Motivated by newcomers and immigrants’ knowledge and lived experience, SCENE intends to provide the extra tools for them to participate to their fullest in local politics, non-profits and businesses. Our cohort motivations and expectations from the trainings are focused on their engagement with diverse groups, the most effective use of the resources available to them in leadership positions, and how they can use these resources to give back to their communities and build pathways towards inclusion in their involvement.
While there is no denying that diverse leadership representation and civic engagement are necessary for the building of healthy and productive communities, there still exist barriers that newcomers and immigrants face in their pathways to leadership. In sharing a safe and open space for communication with our cohort we have been privileged to hear their stories about their efforts towards involvement in social and civic positions. Often they encounter these barriers because of their identity as newcomers or immigrants, their skills are undermined and their ranking in professional settings is considered to be lower in comparison to their coworkers’.
Due to the setbacks that many newcomers and immigrants have experienced in their search for opportunities to participate in their communities’ social and civic leadership positions their representation has been negatively affected, and their ability to see themselves in leadership positions has been diminished. But this does not mean that their fervent efforts to give back to their communities has decreased; instead they continue to search for ways in which they can meaningfully give back and participate. SCENE is aiming to provide our cohort with the necessary training, networks and access to opportunities to prove that more than possible, newcomer and immigrant participation is necessary.
We know that representation can lead to a deeper sense of belonging in our communities, in which our cultural differences are not simply acknowledged and tolerated but also respected, accepted and appreciated. The inclusion of diverse voices in decision-making circles has grown to be a necessity for creating strong community ties and for the growth of communities that address the needs of these diverse voices at an individual level. Newcomer and immigrant expertise is needed to shape the communities, municipalities, and provinces they live in. In the end, as one of our cohort members has pointed out, diversity and inclusion are better for the welfare of our society.
SCENE is now half-way through our training sessions with our first cohort and as a living and changing project, we have learned so much from them and with them. If you would like to learn more about the project you can visit us at mosaicbc.org/scene or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Project funded by Canadian Heritage and Vancity