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Parkland Institute

November 3, 2020

Ian Hussey on how organizations can start to evolve their internal work and governance practices in support of calls for racial justice.

Tell us about the Parkland Institute. How would you describe its purpose and what makes it unique? 

Parkland Institute is an Alberta-wide, non-partisan research centre within the Faculty of Arts at the University of Alberta. The think tank was founded in 1996, and all of our research, publications, and videos of our events are available for free on our website and through our media platforms (such as our YouTube channel). 

We produce and publish research on economic, social, cultural, and political issues facing Albertans and Canadians, using the perspective of political economy. More specifically, we do research on such issues as the gender wage gap, pay equity laws, health care privatization, Indigenous workers’ experiences in the oil sands industry, migrant workers, long-term care, minimum wage, diagnostic laboratory services, reproductive health services, increasing automation in the oil sands industry, fossil fuel pipelines, the Alberta coal phase-out, basic income, farm workers, the Alberta government’s budget and various taxation and resource royalty policies, employment standards and labour laws, among other topics. 

We are all navigating the global pandemic in different ways. What’s a key insight from how the Parkland Institute is responding to the crisis? 

Our research indicates that COVID-19 has hit the economic sectors that predominantly employ women the hardest, so publishing feminist political economy research is a key concern for us during this public health crisis. 

We recently published a feminist approach to Alberta’s COVID-19 response and, since most low-wage workers are women, we followed that publication up with a blog post on the benefits of raising the provincial minimum wage to a living wage

Unfortunately, the United Conservative provincial government is continuing its austerity agenda during the pandemic, so another key area of our research this year has been diagnostic laboratory service, privatization of our health care services, and changes to our labour laws and employment standards code that will negatively affect working Albertans. 

Tell us about how the Parkland Institute is making its work more inclusive and building engagement with different communities. Any tips or lessons to share with others in the sector about decreasing barriers to participation? 

We’ve been inspired by social movements and political initiatives in Edmonton and around the world to further racial and economic justice, and we understand that we need to improve our internal work and governance practices and processes to reflect our commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) principles. 

Parkland’s staff is fortunate to work under the guidance of an experienced and engaged Advisory Board comprising leaders from across Alberta’s post-secondary schools and community and labour organizations. Our staff also draws inspiration and guidance from our Research Committee that includes researchers working with various post-secondary institutions and labour and community groups. Parkland’s Advisory Board and Research Committee are both critical for our ongoing work to filter all of our work and governance processes through EDI principles. 

For example, this year our Advisory Board undertook a review of our research topics, publications, and events from the last year to start to evaluate our work output against EDI principles. The board used this initial review in their ongoing discussion of how to change Parkland’s constitutional document to reflect our commitment to EDI. 

The board also created an EDI standing committee of the board to continue its work of evaluating how best to infuse EDI principles throughout the organization’s work and governance processes, including how new board and research committee members are chosen, what research topics Parkland chooses to work on, how we select researchers and writers to work with, what topics we choose to highlight at our annual conference and other events, how we select speakers at our events, and how we try to foster a fun and inclusive environment for our supporters and volunteers to participate in. 

For people looking to engage with you, how can they get involved? Who can they contact? 

We encourage folks looking to get involved with the Parkland Institute to sign up to receive our email updates and to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. If you’d like to be put on our volunteer list, please email Sharlene at parkland@ualberta.ca

 

The Parkland Institute is a non-partisan public policy research institute at the University of Alberta.

 

This is an unprecedented moment for democracy in Canada so we created Sector Spotlight to learn about how leading practitioners are responding to it. Have ideas for our next Sector Spotlight? Get in touch!

Ian Hussey, Research Manager

Ian Hussey is a research manager at the University of Alberta’s Parkland Institute, and a steering committee member of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council funded Corporate Mapping Project.