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Sustaining the Work
Project Final Report
Multicultural Education Consortium - B.C.

Prepared by Adrienne S. Chan
Vancouver, BC
August 1999

Project purpose

The project "Sustaining the Work" was intended to help support and maintain the work of educational institutions which have been involved with the Lower Mainland Multicultural Education Consortium and the Multicultural Education Consortium - B.C..  Since 1995 the Consortium has been managing projects with up to ten concurrently participating educational institutions. These projects have involved institutional representatives in a training and consultation process to provide information, educational context, skill development and provide a means to achieving relevant institutional objectives. The participating institutions have been engaged in the process of developing their organizations to become more responsive and inclusive to multicultural and diversity issues. The purposes of "Sustaining the Work" were:

  • to identify the achievements, needs and priorities of institutions that have participated in a one to three year process of multiculturalism, diversity and educational change, within an implementation context.
  • to engage institutional members in a reflective process and assessment of the factors influencing and preventing organizational change.
  • to work with individual colleges, institutes and school districts to build on their achievements through training, consultation and organizational development.
  • to prepare a set of case studies for the use of other educational institutions and other organizations; to identify issues and lessons learned through these studies.

Forums for change

Forum One focused on achievements and lessons learned by institutions over a one to five year period. Details of Forum One were outlined in the Interim Report (May 1999). Some of the important issues arising from the focus groups and interviews included:

  • Networking, sharing, and communication vehicles provide insights, thoughts, approaches and support to many institutional members who feel isolated or are simply in need of additional information. More ways to achieving connections could be explored.
  • Attitudes and values have been and continue to be core elements to the work of institutional change.
  • The broader definition of diversity has begun to be approached. However, there are still institutional administrators who prefer a primary focus on multiculturalism and anti-racism. For some institutions there is particular difficulty in attempting to incorporate the subject of sexual orientation into the issues of diversity and change.
  • Integrating diversity into the institution as an ongoing institutional activity continues to be a challenge. Many institutions have begun with the attitude that this is an "add on".
  • Human and financial resources are required in concrete, visible ways.

Forum Two focused on building from lessons learned and working on institutional priorities for the academic year. In brief, institutional work involved the colleges and institutes:

  • Douglas College - A consultation process was completed. This was followed by facilitated discussions/ workshops, which included multi-levels of the institution (including the President and one Vice-President, and Labour Relations representatives). The focus was on policy, the college actions plans and the development of a new committee/reporting structure.
  • Justice Institute of B.C. - A consultation process was completed to implement training for institution wide harassment awareness, beginning with senior managers. The JI will contribute financially to maintain the services of the consultant trainer for work to be done this fall.
  • Kwantlen University College - Numerous consultations and facilitated discussions were completed to work on action plans for the diversity committee and institutional priorities. The committee includes numerous Deans, faculty and support staff, as well as representatives from Human Resources.
  • Langara College - Consultation and facilitated planning sessions were completed in order to work on developing the committee structure and their action plans. Cross college committee membership includes Board representation.
  • Vancouver Community College - Primary focus was on training on diversity, with regard to their equal employment policy, and moving to the next steps. Training involved all senior managers and a commitment was made to incorporate diversity into their strategic planning process.

Work with the school districts included:

  • Coquitlam - Consultation and workshops regarding policy and the district's implementation plan. Workshops involved senior administrators including district wide principals.
  • Maple Ridge - Consultation and training regarding diversity and change, with the senior administration include principals, senior administrative officers and superintendent(s). A commitment has been made to work on developing future actions as follow up to their policy. The district contributed financially to ensure that this particular piece of work could be completed this year.
  • New Westminster - did not participate in Forum Two.
  • Surrey - Consultation and training with principals and other (mixed) groups, regarding cross cultural issue and policy. The district contributed financially to complete their training sessions this year.

Among the participating institutions, all have ongoing priorities and work plans for the coming year. It is worth nothing that a good deal of the work in Forum Two involved senior administrators, where in previous years many of the sessions involved teachers, faculty and counselors. A number of institutions would have benefitted from additional time in consultation and training, but this could not be done within the time and budget constraints. Three institutions "topped up" work done by the consultant/trainers, to ensure that what had been started could be completed in this academic year.

Forum Two also worked to engage provincial associations to disseminate more information about the training, models and skills of the Consortium and the institutional participants. Previous work had been done with the B.C. School Superintendents Association and College and Institutes Educators Association.

This year we were able to meet with a subcommittee of Advanced Education Council of B.C.. This yielded interest from a number of institutions about how they might become involved with the Consortium as well as benefit from the consultation training process. In particular, specific enquiries were made by Malaspina College, Okanagan University College and University College of the Fraser Valley.

We have continued to liaise with Consortium on Diversity in Education (CODE), and we were able to have an article published in the newsletter of the B.C. Principals and Vice Principals Association. Unfortunately we were unable to facilitate an actual meeting with the B.C. Principals and Vice-Principals Association, or the Ministry of Education Field Services Team.

For Forum Three case studies were developed to be used as a learning/training tool for other institutions. The case studies gave comparative material for institutions considering their course of action, to examine change processes and their implications. The case studies explored and examined the work of institutions involved in the institutional change process focussing on diversity, multiculturalism and educational change. The issue of confidentiality was dealt with by using pseudonyms for the institutions.

Forum Three developed four cases studies of two school districts and two colleges.   Key observations included:

  • Committee, team, and workgroup composition:  While structures varied across institutions, the need for a cohesive structure was integral to the process. "Champions" developed over time. Significant factors in the composition of these groups included: representation from different sectors and levels of the organization, reporting mechanisms to administration, whether or not the committee had perceived power, and how the group was established - either organically or with a set mandate.
  • Leadership: Leadership was, and continues to be, a critical feature of institutional change. Leaders emerge from within the committee and group structures, but they are also evident within the institution as a whole. Many of the committees were led and initiated by teachers, coordinators, faculty and principals. Two institutions explicitly involved students and unions in their process. The presence of an assistant superintendent, superintendent, board member, president, or dean who publicly and visibly supported the work being done gave a strong message to the institution.
  • Conceptualizing a larger vision:  Participants in institutions commented on their acquisition of, and the need to conceptualize, a larger vision. This acknowledgment meant they would continue to facilitate other individuals to seeing the "bigger picture". For example, policy, training, and resource materials do not stand alone, they require further guidelines for practice, skill development, and critical analysis for usage. A number of participants attended training where models for organizational change were discussed. This provided an overview and context for examining the wider issues related to their presenting "problem".
  • Ownership and integrating into the institution as a whole:  Some of the key individuals in institutions have become strong advocates for multiculturalism and diversity. There is a need to integrate these issues into the institution as a whole, so they do not come to be identified solely with these key individuals. When sole identification occurs, these individuals may become marginalized and thus the topics become minimized as only being important to the individual and not to the institution. This also occurs when there is a positioning of funding and resources with one priority versus another.
  • Building from previous work and maintaining continuity:  Associated with ownership and integration is the need to build from achievements and sustain the work. Continuity is an issue for many institutions, particularly when there are many agendas and priorities on the table. Moving ahead means being able to reflect on past achievements and shortfalls. This includes: consideration of how actions and strategies might be approached differently, identifying what might be approached in the same ways, taking the learning from other institutions, learning from the past, and redefining future directions.

Project Results

"Sustaining the Work" has reinforced the need to work with institutions, with their institutional priorities and within their level of readiness and skills. Building on increments of the work, change has been accomplished. A step by step process is a necessary component to "success".  The Nelson Report (1992) suggested a number of priorities for the work of the Consortium and these continue to be relevant:
  • Finding a home for the project and a champion of the cause
  • Legitimation of the process
  • Policy enactment and development
  • Access and equity
  • In-service training and professional development
  • Networking and information exchange

In the final analysis, "Sustaining the Work" accomplished its objectives:

  • Forum One:  Identifying Achievements provided documentation from the work of participating institutions, their struggles and continued involvement in the process.
  • Forum Two:  Building from Lessons worked with individual institutions to achieve at least one concrete objective over the academic year 1998-1999 (e.g. an action plan). These objectives were determined in the fall of 1998.
  • Forum Three:  Case Studies provided documentation of models for change from the "lived" cases of institutions.

All three forums has provided tangible evidence and supports for sustaining the work of organizational change in diversity and multiculturalism.

Budget and Administrative Issues

"Sustaining the Work" was completed within budget. However we did not anticipate the level of consultation and administration that was required for the project. A number of institutions required additional time due to the complexity of their issues. The consultant-trainers "donated" over nine days (72 hours) of their own time to the project in meetings with the institutions, additional consultation and preparation time, preparing reports and meetings with the Consortium.

As previously noted, some institutions "topped up" budgets in order for consultant-trainers to complete specific pieces of work. This may be a question asked of institutions who are considering participation in future projects. It may also be an indicator of commitment, i.e. whether an institution is able to make any financial contribution to secure the completion of work.

The issue of administrative time should be considered in planning any future projects. If the Consortium requires a high degree of ongoing reporting and meeting time, this should be built into the budget. If there is an expectation that some of this time be "donated", then this should be clarified at the outset of the project.

Final Report Prepared by Adrienne S. Chan
Vancouver, BC
August 1999

n.b. this report republished in in May 2004 by Adrienne S. Chan, Ph.D., Vancouver, BC

Footnotes The "Nelson Report" - Nelson, Patricia. Social Planning and Research Council of B.C. 1992. Lower Mainland Multicultural Education Project. Vancouver, B.C.

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© Copyright 1999-2004   A.S. Chan, Ph.D. & Associates


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