by Kate Higginson, CFICE Communications Research Assistant

A hand holds up a lit sparkler.With the holidays over and a new calendar started, most of us spend January focusing on getting back into a routine. Many of you may have come up with a traditional New Year’s resolution, like eating more veggies or cutting down on waste- and these are great personal goals! However, the purpose of this article will be to challenge you to also set a professional goal: To be more community-first.

Whether you’re a student, a faculty member, a CCE practitioner, or a community partner, we can all challenge ourselves to be more community-first in our work. We are offering you two sets of actions that will help you be more community-first in the new year: ensure an accessible work space, and share resources. Hopefully, you’ll find some practical ideas on how to improve your professional world by making it more community-first.

Action 1: Ensure an accessible work space

In November, our CFICE newsletter focused on ensuring the inclusion of people with disabilities. Ensuring accessibility is, of course, something that we all need to be doing year-round. However, we challenge you to take a look around your work space, whether it’s an office, a community center, a classroom, etc., and look for barriers for those with disabilities.

These can take the form of architectural barriers like stairs leading to your building without an accompanying ramp, or technological barriers like the absence of a microphone in a large lecture hall.

When looking for areas of improvement, don’t forget about attitudinal barriers that may exist in your work space. Barriers aren’t always as easy as spotting a missing accessible washroom. Sometimes, a proper scan of barriers will lead to the discovery that your job opportunities are not being advertised in accessible spaces (e.g. online, or through a university disability initiative).

Of course, there are countless types of barriers that your workspace can improve on – and when you’ve identified one, either address it yourself, or send it to the proper channels.

Hands of many individuals from different background pile on top of each other in the centre.

Action 2: Share resources

In the New Year, we would also like to challenge you to take inventory of your resources and make sure that they are being adequately shared. If you’re in a position of power, you may not even be aware of the types of resources that you can share with your community partners. We suggest that you pay attention to the ways in which you can share financial resources, knowledge, and space.

If you’re working in an academic setting, you may be familiar with some of the ways to share resources with your community partners (e.g. mobilizing funding by placing research assistants in community organizations, or offering travel bursaries). Talk with your team to look for other avenues to share financial resources, and ask your partners how best to redistribute funds.

As I’m sure you already know, knowledge is one of the most powerful resources in existence. If you’re a community member, you have access to community knowledge. Take a moment to make sure that this knowledge is being shared with everyone at the table. And take the time to ensure that you and your academic partners are working with a shared language that puts you all on the same page. The more voices that are heard, the better!

A third way to make sure you are adequately sharing resources in the new year is to make sure that you are sharing your space. This could mean offering community partners access to meeting rooms, university library collections, or even parking spaces. It could also mean planning meetings at local community centers so meetings are more accessible to everyone.

There are many other ways to ensure that you’re sharing your resources with the goal of being community-first. As always, the first step is awareness, so make sure that you take inventory of the resources at your disposal, be they physical or intellectual, and offer them to your partners.

New Year: New Improvements

We hope that you are inspired to make your workspace more community-first, be it by improving accessibility or sharing more resources. These are only two simple resolutions that you can achieve this year, but feel free to come up with your own! Remember that the New Year is a great opportunity to set new standards of excellence, and being community-first is just about the most excellent thing we can think of.

For more about how to create an accessible workspace, check out our articles: here and here.

If you’re looking for more ways to see to it that your resources are being shared, check out our article on the subject from last May.

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