The Auricle Project
Decolonizing community wellness research.
InWithForward is a “social design shop” in Vancouver who have launched a project in Edmonton called, “Auricle.” The project is located in Alberta Avenue.
Natalie Napier of InWIthForward told me, “We are trying to redesign the social welfare state with values like agency, autonomy, and connection. Auricle is a prototype of the InWithForward team in partnership with the Recover Urban Wellness initiative out of the City of Edmonton.”
The project is collecting anonymous “mini stories” from community members about their well-being. From a pamphlet about the initiative: “By focusing on stories, we want to know how you are well, not just if you are well.” After telling your story, you will be asked to share your interpretation of these stories and some demographic questions [unclear: are they being asked demographic questions or are they being asked to share their interpretation of demographic questions?]. The reason why they want to know so many demographic details is that, “Without understanding who submitted the data, we may reduce, generalize, or erase the specific experiences of specific identities and communities.”
Napier says, “We are trying to prototype some anti-oppressive approaches and decolonial approaches to research. We wanted to make sure that folks who may not traditionally take part in a process like this had some neighbourhood ownership and a chance for people to participate, so we hired ‘local listeners.’ We hired people with different language skills and different backgrounds to go out and ask people to share stories and to go find some folks who otherwise might not participate.”
We hired people with different language skills and different backgrounds to go out and ask people to share stories and to go find some folks who otherwise might not participate.
McCauley’s Dana Wylie is one of the “local listeners.” She told me, “I ended up going to Boyle Street Community Services, where they hold bike maintenance events for people could take their bikes and get them fixed for free. That ended up being a perfect place to sit and chat with folks. The people I talked to there had lived rough on the street at some point, and I found them to have insightful and inspiring perspectives on well-being and what it even means, and what is important to them. They have all learned some incredibly profound lessons, and have a kind of wisdom the dominant population doesn’t have. Working on this project has given me the gift of connecting to that wisdom and perspective, enough to realize that there’s much in it that we all need right now.”
Ivy Staker of InWithForward said, “We are also going to have all of our local listeners’ bios on the website. If you would like to schedule a time to speak to someone, you can email us at email@example.com and we can try to help you out to get that set up.”
There is also the do-it-yourself solo version online. You can tell your story by going to www.auricle.info. After you submit your story and answer the demographic questions, you can choose to receive an email with a $5 gift certificate to The Carrot Cafe. Natalie Napier said, it is “our way of saying, ‘Have a coffee on us.’ Then you will be invited to join what is called a ‘sense-making session.’ That’s optional, for people who are feeling keen, people who are curious to read other peoples stories and see how they compare to your own.”
The interactive sense-making sessions will happen in October (exact dates to be determined) to “share back data and stories with the community, to collectively make sense of what these stories are telling us, and to help shape the bigger story this data might tell. All community members will be welcome!” says Staker.
Staker adds, “We hope that journalists and curious people of all stripes will ask for access to the data. We can send particular story sets about particular things they are interested in and maybe do some of their own thinking about what that means for their neighbourhood. We want people to start conversations, bring it to community groups they are involved in, and give the data life beyond our involvement.”
Corine Demas serves as volunteer President and Spoken Word Director of the Heart of the City Festival Society of Edmonton. Corine is passionate about poetry, storytelling, and her city, Edmonton. She lives in McCauley.