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What’s Academia Got To Do With It? Looking for Community-Scholarly Balance in Co-developing Community-driven Research

Reflections on the relationship between universities and public audiences and communities are widely reflected in discussions of what I would call ‘Public Research’ — here’s one:

Wednesday, November 09, 2011, from 5:30 PM to 7:00 PM, Galbraith Building, 35 St. George Street, Room 119

Community Development Graduate Collaborative Program Seminar Series

What does it mean to do community-driven research?   This seemingly innocuous question is overlain with conflicting politics, tensions and ethics along with the potential for social change that attracts many activist-scholars to this form of research in the first place. During this seminar, I will attempt to conceptualize a reflexive assessment of praxis by drawing on five years of participatory action research with community groups, organizations and residents in the inner suburban region of Southeast Scarborough.

My entry to this community, and to this talk, begins with a failed struggle to prevent the demolition and displacement of public space through policy-supported demolition of a community mall. But next I tell the story of how this loss has segued into a grassroots attempt to re-spatialize the barriers of inequality between city and inner suburbs in response to processes of gentrification and suburban decline. With an emphasis on change, I focus on the imbrications between politics, research and activism through exploration of three key questions: How do we, as researchers, maintain long-term commitment to an evolving community development project? How do we build and maintain effective relationships with communities that support residents as experts? How do we deal with struggles, conflict and transition? Through reflection on shared struggles, successes and failures over the course of a long-term community development project, I hope to spark discussion over how we can best position ourselves and evaluate our work as scholar-activists.Vanessa Parlette is a doctoral student in urban geography at the University of Toronto. She has been involved in participatory planning and community projects in Southeast Scarborough for the last five years and has drawn on these experiences to question and contest ongoing processes of inequality that perpetuate the racialization and segregation of poverty in Toronto’s inner suburbs.

via Univ. of Toronto Cities Centre.