Home | Research Partners

Research Partners

Distribution of Community-Based and Indigenous-Led Research Teams

SPARC BC’s research initiative, funded through a grant from the BC Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, has benefited from over a dozen partnerships with community-based and Indigenous-led research teams across BC. Their research efforts have provided valuable insights into their community social services work and, collectively, enhanced our understanding of volunteerism, post-secondary linkage to the sector, peer support work and community outreach enhanced by lived and living experiences, and system perspectives. Below you will find a description of these key research partners.

The BC Society of Transition Houses (BCSTH)

The BC Society of Transition Houses (BCSTH) is a member-based, provincial umbrella organization with 131 members. The BCSTH’s mandate is to train, support and advocate for Women’s Transition Housing and Supports Programs (including 83 Transition Houses, 52 Second and 4 Third Stage Houses, and 27 Safe Homes and 7 Long Term Housing sites).  The BCSTH also supports 86 Prevention, Education, Advocacy, Counselling and Empowerment (PEACE) Programs supporting children and youth aged 3-18 years and their non-offending caregivers.

In line with the themes of system perspectives and impacts and lived/living experiential knowledge and peer support, BCSTH evaluated the impact of their Bursary Fund program with the overarching objective of adding to the evidence base on the efficacy of flexible funding initiatives to:

  1. Successfully support domestic violence survivors to achieve independence; and
  2. Strengthen the community and social services sector by improving staff retention, enhancing the capacity of transition housing programs, and supporting women with lived experience to join the sector.

ABLE Research Consultants is a BC-based firm with 40 years of collective experience and knowledge in the field of work-integrated learning (WIL).  Its Principal, Dr. Andrea Sator, is the provincial Research Chair for the Association for Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning (ACE-WIL) and the Co-Chair of Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning Canada’s (CEWIL Canada) National Research Committee.  Dr. Sator also holds a faculty position at Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Melville School of Business.

ABLE Research Consultants have focused their efforts on three projects supporting a greater understanding of the linkage between post-secondary job training and work-integrated learning programs and the community social services sector.  This body of work has helped determine effective and inclusive practices for recruiting, onboarding, training, developing, and retaining human resources in the community social services sector.  Insights from this research project may also support the building of capacity and informing the sustainability of the community social services sector (i.e., responding to a growing diversity and complexity of needs) through its development of a sustainability toolkit as well as the development of a Skills Competency Framework for the sector.

The Canadian Alliance for Social Connection and Health (CASCH)

The Canadian Alliance for Social Connection and Health (CASCH) undertook a study to understand the role of food traditions and social eating in strengthening BC’s community social services sector, promoting social inclusion, and addressing food insecurity.  This project was developed by Iqra Akram and Kiffer Card and the Canadian Alliance for Social Connection and Health, which is an inter-institutional, community-academic alliance of researchers and practitioners committed to addressing loneliness and social isolation through our three pillars: (1) Research and Evaluation; (2) Policy and Program Design; and (3) Knowledge Mobilization.

This research partnership aimed to understand the role that culturally appropriate food traditions play in facilitating social participation, volunteerism, community service utilization, social cohesion, food security, and food sustainability.

University of British Columbia (UBC) Doctoral Student Researcher

University of British Columbia (UBC) Doctoral Student Researcher, Julia Nakamura led the analysis of two waves of the Canadian Social Connections Survey (n=3,454).  Additional project administration and support was provided by the GenWell Project, UBC (Marisa Nelson, Sofie Jensen, Dr. Frances Chen), and Dr. Kiffer Card at Simon Fraser University.

This project team aimed to characterize the motivations for volunteering as well as the types of volunteer engagement during the pandemic.  The project also sought to understand how volunteerism differs across key sociodemographic groups and develop evidence-based guidelines for making volunteering accessible for diverse populations in Canada.

BC Rural Health Network (BCRHN) & UBC Centre for Rural Health Research

The BC Rural Health Network (BCRHN) and UBC Centre for Rural Health Research jointly carried out a gap analysis to understand and address opportunities for improving the relationship between rural community voices interested in policy and decision making and health planning at regional and provincial levels. 

The findings from this study have added insights into both the need for community engagement in health care decision-making and the challenges of incorporating community voices. Interviews undertaken with rural community leaders highlighted the importance of municipal input into health planning while provincial policy and decision-makers discussed constraints that impinged on their capacity to include community voices.  The findings from this study, which specifically relate to community-identified needs and health services priorities, have potential implications on health outcome improvement, equity, and access to health care in rural BC.

Community-Academic Partnership

Community-Academic Partnership that adapted a well-established peer support framework (the 12-Step Program) to support those with mental health conditions—specifically those in need of postpartum peer support in rural settings.  This partnership included April Hards (Citizen Partner and Co-Lead), who is a single Métis mother and member of the LGBTQIA2s+ community with valuable lived experience in chronic mental illness and community-based research to the project.  Other project team members included Dr. Jude Kornelsen (Academic Partner, Co-Lead), Associate Professor in the Department of Family Practice at UBC and the Co-Director for the UBC Centre for Rural Health Research; Audrey Cameron (Project Coordinator and Patient Engagement lead at the Centre for Rural Health Research; and Natalie Boyle (Student Researcher) with knowledge and interests in perinatal mental health.

The development of this 12-Step Program to meet the needs of postpartum peer support in rural settings integrated a decolonizing lens and was tested in a rural community in Golden, BC.  The implementation was evaluated and provides important insights into lived/living experience and peer support relevant to the community social services sector and considers system perspectives and impacts.

Umbrella Multicultural Health Co-op & UBC Centre for Rural Health Research

Umbrella Multicultural Health Co-op and the UBC Centre for Rural Health Research jointly evaluated an innovative model of employing Internationally Trained Health Professionals (ITHP) as Cross-Cultural Health Brokers (CCBHs) to provide culturally competent and appropriate care to immigrants, refugees, and newcomers to Canada. From a systems perspective, the work done by the CCHBs involves bridging language and cultural gaps for newcomers to Canada accessing health care and the creation of linkages with other, more expansive, community resources supporting social determinants of health. These productive relationships honour the commitment to ‘going upstream’ to pursue a model of wellness, not of illness.  In large part, this is achieved through the work of ITHPs that have the cultural competency and lived and living experience.

Chilliwack Channelling Youth Voices

Chilliwack Channeling Youth Voices (CYV) is a local collaboration between youth and researchers that explores and communicates the views of young adults aged 19-26 in Chilliwack who have lived/living experience with a variety of interrelated challenges including homelessness, addiction, poverty, mental and/or physical health barriers, transitioning out of government care, impacts of incarceration, and the death or loss of a parental figure in their lives.

With support from SPARC BC’s Strengthening Social Services Sectors grant, CYV used youth participatory action research methods to develop a youth-defined framework of acceptable and effective care by gathering and analyzing the reflections of over 70 Chilliwack youth with lived experience of the above challenges. The team then employed innovative engagement techniques to share this framework with care professionals in a knowledge co-creation session, addressing together the ways existing policies, norms, and systems facilitate or prohibit service providers in their attempts to deliver “good” care.  This project has provided valuable insights into the role of lived/living experience and peer support within the community social services sector.

The CYV research team is led by a very dedicated core of youth peer leads and coordinated by Marinel Kniseley with additional research support from Jennifer Hawkins and Dr. Amy Salmon (UBC’s Centre for Advancing Health Outcomes). The Cyrus Centre, a drop-in shelter for marginalized youth in Chilliwack, BC, provides sponsorship and secretariat support to the project. Other community partners include Chilliwack School District (SD33), the Ministry of Child and Family Development, and Xyolhemeylh (Fraser Valley Aboriginal Children and Family Services Society), all of which have invested a great deal of time and energy as knowledge users.

The Public Health Association of BC (PHABC)

The Public Health Association of BC (PHABC) carried out a study on youth volunteerism in local food systems in BC.  The PHABC is a voluntary, non-profit, non-government, member driven organization that provides leadership to promote health, well-being, and social equity. 

Through their Rise Up! Youth Volunteerism research project, investigators explored factors that shape youth volunteering experiences (e.g., recruitment, training, and engagement) as well as how these experiences impacted youth mental health, social-emotional well-being, and community connectedness.  This project also explored the opportunities and barriers that underserved, and equity-seeking youth groups have with volunteerism, including Indigenous youth.  This study has provided valuable insights into the broader considerations around volunteerism in BC that may inform future approaches for engaging younger generations in volunteerism that are beneficial to this community and to the sector.

Kitselas Five Tier System (K5T) & Coast Mountain College

Kitselas Five Tier System (K5T) and Coast Mountain College partnered to study opportunities for community members to discover and pursue career pathways through post-secondary education and how these pathways may help build capacity for a sustainable community social services sector.  K5T is a community-built, community-driven social enterprise system working within the community social services space to promote employment and skills training for marginalized community members within Kitselas First Nation (KFN) and the greater Northwest BC region.  Coast Mountain College (CMTN) is an accredited post-secondary institution that serves learners in the Northwest region of BC. 

Specifically, this study helped identify barriers to the pursuit and completion of post-secondary education among Kitselas members, examined gaps in service between post-secondary education and the community social services sector, and opportunities for enhancing career pathways for community members and the social services sector. 

The Peer2Peer Indigenous Society

The Peer2Peer Indigenous Society, a community social service organization dedicated to addressing issues affecting at-risk populations in Victoria, BC.   This organization is led by Métis peers with lived experiences of substance use, poverty, homelessness, and mental health challenges. 

In an evaluation of their StreetLinks pilot, a day-labour program for unhoused residents who provided storefront cleaning services to businesses in downtown Victoria, Peer2Peer Indigenous Society leveraged their lived experience for peer support.  The results included the establishment of a positive community activity to reduce stigma and strengthened relationships between unhoused individuals and business owners. 

Naqsmist is an Indigenous-led organization with roots in the Syilx and Secwepemc Nations.  It provides training, workshops and transformative storytelling to help impart language, resources, tools, and stories that shift mindsets from fear and control to trust and faith.

In an assessment of their Cultivating Safe Spaces program, a decolonizing methodology created by Elaine Alec using lived experience and Syilx knowledge, Naqsmist sought to explore the impact of training on individuals and their implications for social service organizations in BC.  The study also helped to clarify the role of facilitator lived/living experience in their roles and how they convey knowledge that enhances capacity to meaningfully impact decolonization initiatives within various organization environments.

The Taskforce to End Homelessness in Burnaby

The Taskforce to End Homelessness in Burnaby and its charitable non-profit, The Society to End Homelessness in Burnaby, in partnership with SPARC BC, carried out a case study evaluation of the initiative and assessment of its service model as potential best practice for helping to address homelessness at a community levelThe Taskforce is comprised of a wide diversity of membership including all levels of government, the health authority, social service agencies, business, faith communities, and concerned citizens.   

The Surrey Overdose Response Community Action Team (CAT)

The Surrey Community Action Team (CAT) on Opioid Overdose Response worked with SPARC BC on a case study of their partnership network and peer-support initiativesThe Surrey CAT acts as a forum and platform for a network of community partners and people with lived or living experience of substance use to address the service and resource needs of this local populationMembership in the Surrey CAT includes a wide variety of community partners, such as the City of Surrey, Surrey Public Library, Surrey Fire Department, BC Emergency Health Services, Surrey RCMP, Fraser Health Authority, First Nations Health Authority, and several community social service organizations involved in peer outreach and system navigation. 

At SPARC BC, we’re committed to building a just and healthy society for all. For over 50 years, we have worked in partnership with individuals, organizations and all levels of government to meet the social development needs of people and communities to promote positive social policy change.

Committed to the values of social justice, inclusion, integrity and learning, our efforts focus on creating the foundation for advancing our vision of a just and healthy society for all. This includes evidence-based social policy research, targeted outreach and engagement as well as community development and capacity building.