Workshop gives pointers on internal conflict, approaching the media
by Sylvain Comeau
Every summer, members of community groups come to Concordia for expert training and shared insights.The Institute in Management and Community Development's (IMCD) summer program, held this year at Loyola from June 7 to 11, presented workshops and lectures designed to help community groups accomplish more with shrinking resources.
Applied Human Sciences Professor Ghislaine Guˇrard, who headed a workshop on Intervention in Conflict Situations, said that limited resources are a constant source of conflict for community activists.
"There is a lot of tension right now within groups because there is very little money and great need. Group members fight over how to use their resources, and whether they should cater their services to areas which are more likely to attract government grants."
As a result of government funding that has become scarce in the 90s, "there is also conflict between different groups; they feel like they're pitted against each other. And there is a debate in many groups about whether to be services-oriented -- which is really just a band-aid solution -- or to be militant and activist, demanding more government funds."
In the workshop, Guˇrard challenged some of the cherished myths about community groups that may prevent conflict from coming to the surface to be addressed.
"One of the myths in community groups is that everybody is equal. Another is that because their goals are virtuous, their means must be virtuous also. Of course, that is not always the case."
"Community groups are like other organizations; some people have more power than others. The first step is to bring the conflict, and the sources of the conflict, out into the open. It's perfectly normal that there are power imbalances in these groups."
Such inequities often arise because one or more individuals within a group have valuable government or corporate contacts. "One solution is for members to cultivate their own network of contacts, so that they have equal influence to the most powerful group member."
Barry Lazar, who teaches public affairs broadcasting at Concordia, and Hˇl¸na Katz, a journalist who has handled public relations for several non-profit groups, presented a workshop on "Getting the Message to the Media."
"Most community groups can't afford advertising; they can't get their message out unless they know how to deal with the media," Lazar said.
Once they learn how to align their interests with those of the media, they can get a lot of free publicity. Lazar said that some groups need to work on their timing if they want more media attention.
"In some cases, groups have sent out press releases, and then wondered why hardly any journalists showed up to their event. It might be because they scheduled their event on election day, or on a Saturday, when there may be only one news crew available instead of two or three."
Lazar said that the workshop was aimed at teaching community groups to put themselves in the media's shoes.
"We tried to teach them to better understand the media's needs and priorities. For example, most groups are concerned with a lot of issues and have a lot to say. But it is much more effective to keep their communications with the media to one or two clear, simple ideas."
"Groups have to ask themselves, 'If I were a journalist or editor, would I be interested in covering this event or press conference? Will it make news?' "
by Sylvain Comeau
Databases are a hot topic today, judging from IDEAS 99 (the third International Database Engineering and Applications Symposium), held at Concordia on August 2 to 4. As several speakers at the conference reported, experts in the database field are wrestling with the mother of all databases, the World Wide Web.
"One of the major themes of the conference was the question of how to deal with the vast amounts of information on the Web," said conference organizer and Concordia Computer Science Professor Bipin C. Desai.
"More and more database experts are working on forming a theory about how the Web is structured, and how it can better serve people's research needs."
Keynote speaker Jeffrey Ullman, from Stanford University, discussed a search engine he designed with his students to address the latter problem.
"The search engine is designed to determine which Web pages are the most important. It does this by looking at pages that are referred to by other Web pages. The concept is similar to a library's citation index; papers referred to by other papers are considered more important than papers which exist in obscurity."
For scientists, one of the most important stores of information on the Web is the database of the Human Genome Project, a monumental undertaking aimed at mapping the genes of the human body.
"This information has to be made available to scientists everywhere; that is why it is on the Web. The challenge, of course, is to accommodate requests for specific data."
One way that the Genome Project crunches the data is by using an object-oriented system, which treats groupings of data as a "black box."
"You don't have to know what's inside a black box. All you need to know is that if you give it certain input, it will produce certain output. As long as you know the proper input, you don't have to tell the system how to produce the data you need. Those instructions are already encoded into a grouping of data."
Graduate student Gosta Grahne acted as program co-chair for IDEAS 99.
Excel 99 was a big open house event held at McGill University in June to attract minority students to the study of science and engineering, and Concordia faculty, students and staff took an active part. Here, Master's student in Chemistry Tania D'Alesio makes ice cream with cream, liquid nitrogen and chocolate syrup. Professor Mary Baldwin and Technical Supervisor Miriam Posner gave two workshops, one called Fun With Chemistry, and another introducing the computer-based laboratory.
Students in the Elderhostel course Jazz, Jazz, Jazz do their thing. Two music courses were held this summer to coincide with the Montreal International Jazz Festival. One was the ever-popular general jazz course, and the other, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Duke Ellington, was taught by world-ranked expert Professor Andrew Homzy.
Teaching old dogs new tricks
"You're never too old to learn" was the theme of Concordia's second annual Adult Education Summer Institute, held at Loyola in mid-June.
About 60 people took part in the five-day event, officially titled Learning Across the Lifespan. It included eight workshops that allowed participants an opportunity to learn and network with other professionals in their field, ranging from teachers to human resources workers.
Although the three-credit summer program was mostly attended by Concordia students, many of whom already work in the field, nearly one-third of participants were from the general community.
Paul Bouchard, Adult Education and Education Studies program director, said he aims to increase enrolment from outside Concordia to 50 per cent. "We would like to see a better mix of people from the adult education field," he said, "since [the Institute] is an exciting new format for them to learn."
Adult education is a growing field too, Bouchard added, since 90 per cent of learning is done outside the traditional school system, often in the workplace.
For the Department of Applied Human Sciences, summer is a busy month, providing opportunities for community outreach. This summer the department introduced an intensive week-long course called Healing Generational Trauma.
About 200 students took the course. Some were counsellors, many were aboriginal, and most had direct experience of poverty, abuse and other emotional damage.
The teacher was Jane Middleton-Moz, a Vermont-based therapist and lecturer. The course looked at how unresolved trauma can be carried on to the next generation, leading to violence, substance abuse, community disconnection, problems in relationships, depression and chronic illness.