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Canada Bridges (Bridges Social Development)

In a world where all youth could show up, stand up and be heard - what would they say? What would they change? At Canada Bridges, we believe youth have wisdom, and that change begins when we listen to them, and change ourselves.

Our Story

Why We Exist

Ten years ago, a group of students, new to Calgary and facing civil war at home in Yemen, invited us to help them develop their voice, leadership skills and influence. Working together made Canada Bridges realize that marginalized youth have the wisest perspectives, deepest insights and greatest potential to create a stronger, more diverse, and healthier society for everyone. That invitation changed us. We had never worked with young people before. Today, we focus exclusively on amplifying youth voice, and supporting youth-led change. According to Britney, a young change leader “ – there’s adults there, not telling us how to do things, or what to do, encouraging us to open up and speak up, encouraging our input.”

Canada Bridges has now worked with thousands of young people between the ages of 16-30 from across Alberta and for the past 5 years, we have prioritized invitations to work with youth from the Siksika, and Iyarhe Nakoda Nations. Indigenous youth face many barriers – including the effects of intergenerational trauma, lower levels of resources, and systemic racism. Despite this, they have tackled issues ranging from water rights, to mental health, Indigenous language preservation to clean energy. With Canada Bridges’ support, they have started youth programs, hosted community events, made award-winning films, represented their nations at international conferences and started social businesses. We walk alongside, connecting them to resources, learning and coaching that helps them create the change they want to see. As Tricia, another young leader puts it “If I hadn’t known about Canada Bridges I wouldn’t be as ambitious and courageous today. They encourage, motivate and are with us throughout the way.”

Our Impact

What We Do

We are surrounded every day by amazing youth who have limitless potential, incredible resiliency and passionate visions for the future. Canada Bridges supports under-represented youth to recognize their potential as change leaders in their communities. We also help our broader communities recognize the changes they need to make for youth to live out this potential, for the benefit of all.

Unveiling Youth Potential (UYP) is an approach to realizing the potential of young adults by supporting their roles in building strong, resilient communities. This approach was developed from the belief that social change is necessary to address structural injustice; and that youth and young adults represent the group that offers the greatest hope for this change as they go beyond societal, cultural, governmental and institutional barriers to enliven the wisdom of communities around the world. Furthermore, we believe that youth and young adults desire positive social change . . . in fact, their future may depend on it.

The following components are often integrated into workshops, programs, conversations, and hangouts:

Wisdom Stories answer the question of WHY you want to inspire change. What is it that youth participants are passionate about, and what motivates them? What is it that makes them believe they are the right individuals to lead change?

Community Mapping answers the question of WHERE you are going to inspire change. Participants may choose to focus on any community that they belong to, but they will be most influential in a community they deeply care about.

Change Leadership answers the question of HOW you are going to inspire change. Unveiling Youth Potential introduces a leadership strategy called “Gentle Action”, adapted from a book of the same name by David F. Peat. Gentle action is all about introducing small changes that are sensitive, relevant, and culturally-aware.

Social Entrepreneurship answers the question of WHAT you are going to do to inspire change. Unveiling Youth Potential teaches social entrepreneurship from a perspective of compassion. The goal is that youth participants would see themselves differently in relation to the world around them – that they would feel empowered to respond to social issues.

We empower youth to be agents of change by supporting the development of capacities necessary to respond to the conditions of their environment and meet situational challenges. Through the UYP program, Bridges Social Development supports empowerment by inviting youth participants to reflect on themselves and their communities – and the connectedness between the two – and then take action by responding to community needs or priorities. Youth become agents of change as they start to take action, engaging within their communities whether by just simply being kind to others, being a more understanding or connected neighbour, daughter, son, mother, father, sibling, or by initiating a social change project.

Developing the capacity to engage with life’s challenges and subsequently take action are crucial pieces of learning. We believe that every youth has the potential to lead and/or support social change. Through this approach, the building of empowerment will result in the realization of healthy and vibrant communities.

Our Programs

How We Do It

Canada Bridges collaborates with a wide range of community partners to offer the following programs and initiatives as part of our UYP Approach:

UYP Workshops and Facilitation

Canada Bridges is invited by community partners, to co-develop or join on-going youth programs and initiatives.  While each workshop or facilitation opportunity is unique, and tailored to the youth involved, we specialize in supporting interactive and experiential facilitation in the following areas:
1) Wisdom Stories answer the question of WHY you want to inspire change.  Exploring self-awareness and personal passions, skills and abilities through activities that turn the focus inward – recognizing the wisdom and learning gained from individual experiences and our own life stories.
2) Community Mapping answers the question of WHERE you are going to inspire change.  Exploring the contexts in which we live and work, to see how our communities shape us, and how we shape them. Understanding that our potential is not only about ourselves, but also about understanding who we are as unique community members.
3) Change Leadership answers the question of HOW you are going to inspire change. Exploring how every individual youth or young adult can observe and navigate various community systems so that they might inspire positive change from within. Helping youth recognize their potential and build skills to be catalysts of change, leaders of change, or even just acknowledge places where change may be needed.

Some recent UYP Workshops and Facilitation opportunities have included:
·      Siksika Girls Empowerment Group – encouraging girls to explore their personal stories, develop their leadership abilities, and build a community of strong, supportive female role models in the school and broader community.
·      SETS Meaningful Futures Program in Siksika, – exploring career opportunities that fit with youth passions and community change goals and supporting them to navigate education and skill building pathways to reach those goals.
·      Morley Community School Knowledge and Experience Class – supporting youth to develop their understanding of personal power and find ways to express selves in a wide variety of situations.

A Youth Explosion

For the past 9 years, we’ve hosted A Youth Explosion (AYE), a storytelling event where Indigenous youth share their wisdom with a diverse public audience through a wide variety of mediums including spoken word, art, dance, music, and film. For the first time this year, the event was organized and facilitated by a youth planning committee composed of past AYE presenters and volunteers. For many of the presenters at AYE, it is the first time they have shared their stories publicly. Many of the audience members have never heard what Indigenous youth have to say. They deepen their understanding of the effects of intergenerational trauma, and the ongoing structural injustice that faces Alberta’s indigenous people. They also witness the incredible resilience and wisdom that youth bring to the table. Each year the event grows: in 2019, over 250 people attended the event, held at TELUS Spark in Calgary, where 13 Indigenous youth shared their strength, passion and resiliency.

Transitions Mentorship Program
Supports Indigenous young leaders (ages 18-29) who have moved to Calgary  from their reserves to pursue career and educational goals and develop a supportive community in the city. We offer group activities and hangouts for youth to expand their skills, build their knowledge of community organizations, and to grow their network in Calgary. Young leaders may be matched with a mentor based on shared passions or career goals. The program began as a pilot in 2016 and has continued in full form since 2018.

Youth Led Project Support
Over the past few years, some of the work that we have felt the strongest about, and seen the greatest value in, was in supporting young leaders to dream, create, and fulfill initiatives in their communities that they are passionate about, outside of formal programs or workshops. We believe that this is truly at the heart of our work. Each initiative has been youth defined and youth-led; we walk beside young leaders on an individual basis with tailored supports, resources, and ongoing mentorship and coaching.

 

Our Requests

What You Can Do

We invite community leaders with lived Indigenous or allyship experience to be part of our mentorship community, helping youth to explore what they need and building supportive relationships and connections that enable youth potential.

We invite professionals with anti-racism and anti-oppressive organizational development experience to consult with us on our policies, processes, ways of being and doing in order to ensure a healthy environment for our people and community.

Videos

Contact

Anna-Marie Ashton

Canada Bridges (Bridges Social Development)

587-439-7501

Charitable Number: 883401507RR0001

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