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April 25May 9 Mid-career training for community workers



Christine Lafortune

The diploma offers her more tools: Christine Lafortune

Photos by Andrew Dobrowolskyj

by Austin Webb

Even with 10 years experience working in some of Montreal’s most disenfranchised neighborhoods, Christine Lafortune decided to go back to school.

Lafortune, 38, is one of 24 students taking part in this year’s graduate diploma in Community Economic Development at Concordia’s School of Community and Public Affairs. Like most of the participants in this two-year-old program, she’s already well established in her field, working as a development officer in a Plateau-area CDEC. Still, Lafortune believes there’s always more to learn.

“I love what I do,” she said from her office last week, “but the diploma will give me more tools. I’ve been doing this for a while and it’s a good opportunity to step back and take stock, look at some new approaches.”

The Diploma in Community Economic Development (CED) was created for people like Lafortune: dedicated members of community and government organizations looking to deepen their understanding of and approach to the field. The one-year program offers practical courses on financing and entrepreneurship, but also has more theoretical courses in comparative and feminist approaches to CED.

“A lot of people already working in this field have never had any formal training,” said Graduate Program Director Eric Shragge. “Here they get to pull back and examine it critically. We learn how to read an account statement, and at the same time teach the theory of political economy.”

Shragge believes the program is timely, reflecting changes in government social policy over the past 10 years. “The rise of neo-liberal policies has led to a lot of deregulation,” he said. “This has created more opportunities for citizens to be involved, but it’s also forced the community sector to become more politicized.”

For participants and organizers, the main theme of the program is to bring social aims and community processes together with the nuts and bolts of economic development.

“We need to link our social programs with work-oriented programs; that’s why I’m here,” said Luc Rabouin, a social worker from Lachine who enrolled in the program this year. For Rabouin, that means setting up low-rent cooperative housing and entrepreneurship programs.

In both years of its existence, the program has drawn participants from all over the country. In its first year, social and community workers arrived from Winnipeg, Halifax and British Columbia and both years have seen students from some of Canada’s northern aboriginal communities.

For Montrealers like Lafortune, the broadening of perspectives can only be a good thing. “I’ve learned so much this year from so many of the students,” she said. “In the north, they seem to have a much more global approach problem-solving.”

Following up on what she’s learned, Lafortune is heading to Italy this summer to witness some of that country’s more progressive social and economic programs. “I’m excited about it,” she said. “In Italy, they’ve been successful at integrating so-called fringe elements of society into the workforce.”

The diploma in CED is taught completely in English one year, French the next. Program coordinator Michael Chervin thinks an alternating unilingual program makes more sense than a yearly bilingual one, given the realities of community work in Montreal.

“You don’t want to exclude people who have a lot to say,” he said, “and there are many experienced people who can contribute a lot to this program without necessarily being able to study in both languages. It’s a much more inclusive way of doing things.”

Institute in Management and Community Development marks first decade

For the 10th year, Concordia’s Institute in Management and Community Development will welcome community activists and organizers to Montreal for an intensive week of bilingual workshops and demonstrations on the Loyola Campus.

As always, the week will be packed with insight and incident, but there are some innovations, too. The opening day, June 14, includes performances in the Oscar Peterson Concert Hall by cabaret artist/activist Norman Nawrocki, Jamaican-born oomaanist dub-poet Debbie Young, and comic monologuist Jean-Yves Joannette.

The opening day also includes talks by Omar Aktouf, a management professor at HEC who specializes in new economic thought, and fundraiser and author Kim Klein, who will talk about how the war on terrorism threatens civil liberties.

For the third year, the Institute offers students in the Department of Applied Human Sciences the opportunity of attending the summer program for academic credit. They are expected to participate fully in the training sessions, and attend additional sessions in a structured classroom setting with an instructor. Students not in an Applied Human Sciences program can use the course as an elective.

As well as the five-day summer program, with its short workshop sessions, the Institute offers two two-day forums on specific subjects. One is called Environmental Activism and Sustainable Development (June 11-12), and the other, In Pursuit of Social Justice: The Corporate Factor (June 13-14).

The deadline for registration is May 20. A Web site will be up soon. In the meantime, the PDF version of the brochure can be accessed at http://carina.concordia.ca/conted/reg/Program2002.pdf.