On March 22nd, 2016, NBSPRN co-hosted the John Howard Society of Southeastern New Brunswick’s Forum “Enhancing Public Safety through Knowledge Exchange and Connection Cross Sector Collaborators” at the Université de Moncton.
The Forum brought together over 35 community organizations, non-profits, researchers, and policy makers. The day began with keynote speakers, Nick Cutler, Acting Director, Community, Corrections and Corporate Services with the New Brunswick Department of Public Safety who spoke candidly about the importance of an evidence-based approach to care and case management and also about the importance of cross-sector collaboration to improve public safety in New Brunswick.
Following his presentation, the audience enjoyed a round of eight 6-minute lightning talks from various community organizations and academic researchers. The topics covered included community and non-profit organizational contribution to public safety, current programs/mandates, and past or ongoing research projects.
In the afternoon, Dr. Jimmy Bourque, Associate Professor, Faculty of Education at the Université de Moncton spoke about the value and utility of both applied and evaluative research for non-profit and community organizations and offered a number of best practices for those interested in collaborating with researchers and embarking on the research process.
Finally, the rest of the day was dedicated to structured networking in the form of a World Café which invited participants to reflect on what they learned throughout the day and discuss gaps in knowledge as well as identify possible collaborative projects and policy development ideas related to enhancing public safety in their communities. Participants were asked to sit in small groups and answer : What does public safety mean to you? How could you or your organization contribute to enhancing public safety? And where are there knowledge gaps to enhancing public safety that would benefit from new community-researcher collaboration?
The success of the day was reflected during this afternoon session, when participants were given the opportunity to network, share ideas, explore possibilities and co-creates. Conversations were lively, open, and productive. A number of new thoughts were shared including a clear outline of research needed in the next five years. Days like these are not only inspiring because they showcase innovative content but because of their potential to stimulate the development of new innovative content.
I am reminded here of Nicols, Phipps, Provençal and Hewitt’s article titled “ Knowledge Mobilization, Collaboration, and Social Innovation : Leveraging Investments in Higher Education” (2013).
They explain that strong collaborative relationships are important drivers of social change. And when it comes to addressing “multi-dimensional complex problems”, in this case public safety, “arriving at innovative solutions requires multi-dimensional perspectives” (30).
“Inter-systemic, inter-institutional, and inter-disciplinary collaborations are a means for addressing such complex problems, while also maximizing resources, reducing interinstitutional fragmentation and service duplication, creating conceptual and organizational synergy, building community capacity, and engaging people in research” (2013, 30).
This event was an important first step towards enhancing public safety in New Brunswick. Moving forward, it is critical that we continue to support these types of collaborations and work together to identify solutions to our challenges. I look forward to reading more about how those who attended were impacted by the session and encourage folks to keep in touch by joining the LinkedIn group “Community of Inquiry: Enhancing Public Safety Research Group”.