By Lily Haines, KMb RA
Five years ago, a research proposal landed on Todd Barr’s desk. It happened to be CFICE’s grant application for the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, passed along for review. Little did he know, the paper actually marked the beginning of a new chapter in Todd’s life and career.
In 2011, Todd took on a role as the community co-lead of the Community Environmental Sustainability hub at CFICE, in addition to his role as executive director of the small, non-profit Trent Centre for Community-Based Education in Peterborough (now known as the Trent Community Research Centre). Todd, a “jack-of-all-trades,” worked tirelessly with CFICE and the centre to build bridges between post-secondary institutions and communities for empowered learning, with an end-goal of improving local economic, social, cultural and environmental conditions.
Although he retired from his leadership role with CFICE last October, Todd’s legacy with the action-research project lives on in his accomplishments.
“Our greatest success I think was graduate student involvement,” he said. “The partnership between CFICE and the Trent community centre provided paid research assistant-ships that have opened the door to working with different community groups here in Peterborough.”
“There’s one master’s student that sticks out in my mind…her name is Tessa Nasca,” he recalled. “For research assistants at CFICE….well it’s kind of like a job on the side for most students, but for Tessa it’s actually now become a fellowship,” he said.
Tessa’s work with CFICE directly ties in with her master’s research thesis in sustainability studies and “Happy, Healthy Neighbourhoods” at Trent University. CFICE locked in a two-year funding plan for Tessa, which even became part of her offer of acceptance to Trent University. “A bunch of stars aligned in her favour,” he said. “Now she’s a bit of an entrepreneur here.”
CFICE is a huge project, Todd said, with many different players and partners. “It’s not quite there yet, but I hope CFICE will be the start of a community-campus engagement movement that leverages resources to address issues in communities and build collaboration,” he said. “I would hope CFICE can contribute to the bigger conversation, and shift the landscape in how community-campus partnerships address challenges in universities and communities.”
What’s next for Todd?
Todd plans to continue his work as a social innovator and consultant. He found inspiration and a desire for change in reading Al Etmanski’s book, “Impact: Six Patterns to Spread Your Social Innovation.” In a nutshell, he said, this practical guide summarizes where his future is headed.
“I see myself as a social innovator,” he said. “I’m really interested in good processes that effect positive change in our communities…so I’m going to keep doing that!”
Todd made it his mission to catalyze community action through research, and here at CFICE we are very lucky to have had him serve as a Community Environmental Sustainability hub co-lead.