by Amy Richardson, CFICE Communications RA
Since the beginning of the Community First: Impacts of Community Engagement (CFICE) project in 2012, Elizabeth (Bessa) Whitmore has held a lead role on the team.
Whitmore has extensive experience in international development from teaching and doing community research abroad. Whitmore brought that aspect into her lectures at Carleton University’s School of Social Work.
“I’ve been an activist all my life,” Whitmore says. “As a faculty member at Carleton, I’ve been very engaged with community. Much of what my teaching has been is interactive teaching and getting students out into the community.”
Whitmore believes getting students out and working with the community is the best classroom experience they can get.
“I’m not good at just standing in front of the class and blabbering on about something,” Whitmore chuckles.
“Getting students out into the community because they need that kind of real world exposure, I think, is highly motivating to them – to do something that’s actually useful to somebody. Depending on their age, they really don’t have a lot of experience out there in NGOs and community based organizations, and it’s a great way for them to start.”
Whitmore says she joined CFICE because it perfectly aligned with her teaching style.
“[CFICE] is certainly right up my alley with the whole notion of campus-community engagement,” she says. “It’s something I’ve been interested in for a long time.”
Currently, Whitmore is busy with the transition from Phase I to Phase II at CFICE in the CCE Brokering Working Group. There, she will act as a broker between the community and post-secondary institutions to solve community needs.
“A broker is a kind of funnel that helps people in both directions find what they need and what they can share,” Whitmore describes.
Together with Jason Garlough, community co-lead of the CCE Brokering Working Group and Executive Director of the Ottawa Eco-Talent Network, Whitmore is working on a pilot project in the Ottawa region. The project will work to develop a brokering mechanism that will match researchers from post-secondary institutions with a community that has a research need.
When Whitmore isn’t busy with all of that, she’s also involved in CFICE’s Evaluation and Analysis Working Group helping to evaluate the entire project.
“You need to know how it’s going, what’s working and what isn’t working, what needs to change, and what success means. We need to think about all that stuff as we go along and not just at the end,” Whitmore stresses.
Each of the working groups is doing evaluation in a different way and Whitmore sees this as a strength because of the size and diversity of the CFICE project.
“Being part of the Program Committee, which is all the co-leads, it’s a great group of people. We’re thinking together, learning together and coming up with ideas. It’s been very stimulating for me,” Whitmore says.
“It’s a very interesting and forward-looking project and I’ve certainly learned a lot along the way.”