"The magnitude of the SFU CED Program is truly an eye opener for me. I know now with certainty that restructuring our economic development office to undertake CED was the right thing to do."
In this Q and A with Briarpatch magazine, Anne traces her path as a popular educator.
“Popular education begins with recognition that the people most affected by issues should be the ones designing the solutions.” Anne believes popular education is a useful tool for anyone engaging in Community based Economic Development. It allows many more people to participate in making change happen.
Anne grew up in working-class Scotland, where she was exposed early to the principles of popular education.
“In my family, we had a strong sense of cultural identity and resistance to British domination. Liberation theology was a major influence in the church I grew up in, and the oppression of poor Catholics by British elites was a central concern.”
Although Anne holds academic credentials she draws on her lived experience as much as her academic training when organizing in Northwest BC especially on the traditional territories of the Gitxsan and Wet’suwe’ten First Nation.
“My childhood experiences have helped me understand, on a personal and practical level, how formal education systems can replace “local knowledge” with abstract knowledge and academic ways of learning. In doing this we run the risk of losing knowledge that is deeply connected to place – this kind of knowledge is how we learn to live sustainably. It is steeped in relationship where we see ourselves as part of the ecosystem around us not apart from it. And we see ourselves “in this together” with the people around us.”
In the 1990’s the Gitxsan chiefs wanted a vehicle that could bring Gitxsan and non-Gitxsan people together to “dream a future” together. Anne was part of a team encouraged to use popular education as one way of engaging local people.
Anne and colleagues formed the Storytellers' Foundation to support local people to realize their full potential and power in culturally diverse ways. Storytellers’ achieves this through a wide variety of programming that is responsive to the dynamics and changes in the community. Currently Storytellers’ focuses on youth development; local food systems; safety and wellbeing and the intersect between a cash and sustenance economy.
Anne teaches Making Change Happen.