Co-op Students Gear Up for Community Summit

Co-op Students Gear Up for Community Summit

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This article was originally posted on the SFU Vancouver Blog on July 17th, 2013.

Building on the success of their first community summit last fall, SFU Public Square has already begun preparations for their second annual summit at the end of September. To help them with preparation and summit itself, Public Square has brought on three SFU Co-operative Education students who are helping shape the summit while lending their energy and expertise to the team.

Mark Friesen, the Community Outreach Coordinator, is in the Urban Studies Program at SFU and is starting to build out his thesis. Focused on authentic democracy and participation, Friesen was very much interested in the work SFU Public Square has undertaken.

“I like the whole idea of a public square,” Friesen explains. “The concept of people coming together as equals for a discussion appealed to me.”

The topic of the summit, BC’s economy, also intrigued Friesen as he has a particular interest in how economy and democracy relate. Though Friesen is interested in this aspect of the summit, he’s less familiar with the process and model Public Square uses.

“The process at Public Square is very unique compared to lot of non-profits that also do public outreach and engagement work,” he notes.

This process, which Friesen notes gives participants ownership and allows them to get to know one another, is exactly what attracted Kate Affleck to the co-op position of Volunteer Outreach Coordinator.

Affleck, an International Studies student and Undergraduate Semester in Dialogue alumni, has become very interested in local issues over the past few years. Along with this, her experience with the Semester in Dialogue Program as well at the Change Lab, have led her to be a fan of a dialogic model that allows for interaction.

“I love that interaction is an integral part of the events at SFU Public Square,” Affleck says. “The audience interaction piece is what makes such a difference because people walk away feeling like what they had to say was important – they were involved rather than being a passive participant.”

Interested in community engagement within Vancouver, Affleck is excited to have the summit as a platform to learn more about BC’s economic future. She’s looking forward to a series of events that will illuminate the topic and add richness to both SFU and the community.

Jasmine Lew, a Criminology and Interactive Arts and Technology double major, is enjoying learning more about engagement at SFU Public Square as the Design and Communications Coordinator. With an eye for design, Lew is lending skills she’s learned through both her schooling as past Co-op terms with the Canadian Mental Health Association, BC Division to the SFU Public Square team.

Her first time working in public engagement, Lew is looking forward to making new connections at the community summit and seeing how all the great events come together.

Kicking off the events of the summit is 100 Community Conversations. Ongoing, this project is looking for individuals to host a community conversation in September. These conversations will be used to inform the discussion guide used at a meeting of stakeholders during the summit.

These conversations can be held by just about anyone. With larger groups, like SFU’s Beedie School of Business, the Association of Neighbourhood Houses of British Columbia, and Sustainable SFU already showing interest, Friesen notes that they’re looking for smaller groups to get involved too.

“We’re looking to all types of groups to get involved – from big institutions to kitchen table conversations,” Friesen explains. “Our goal is to have hundreds of groups having the same conversation and showing what’s important to them when it comes to the BC economy.”

The diverse results, which will be documented by a note taker at each conversation, will be used by SFU Public Square to inform different conversations throughout the summit.

Along with the 100 Community Conversations, there will also be an evening with Nobel Prize winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz on October 3, 2013 as well as a Youth Forum.

This youth forum is designed by youth, allowing those aged 16-24 to have their opinion about the economy and their futures heard at this daylong event. Collaborating with other youth from across the province, this conference is being shaped by a series of ‘idea jams’ held at each of SFU’s campuses.

As for now, Friesen, Affleck, and Lew have all hit the ground running in preparation for SFU Public Square’s signature event. Make sure to check out the final product of all their hard work this fall semester.

If you want to get involved, fill out this short survey that will help SFU Public Square shape summit events and get a general sense of individual’s attitudes towards the BC economy. You can also sign up to volunteer leading up to the festival or during the festival itself. Contact Kate Affleck at

More information about SFU Public Square can be found online, or read more about the Youth Forum.

Posted on September 03, 2013