2023 CERi Award Announcement

Emerging Community-Engaged Researcher Award

Dr. Tammara Soma is an Assistant Professor at SFU’s School of Resource and Environmental Management where she conducts research on issues pertaining to food system planning, community-based research, waste management and the circular economy with a strong focus on food justice. She is also the research director and co-founder of the Food Systems Lab which is a research hub that specializes in bringing a sustainable food system to everyone and works with the communities to find equitable solutions to complex food systems concerns. Her citizen science work in food asset mapping with communities in Vancouver, Alberni-Clayoquot, and Kitselas First Nation expands and deepens the project’s scope by including ecological and cultural assets important to food system resiliency through the direct involvement of participants representing diverse communities. Her approach to research foregrounds the voices of equity-deserving groups and centers on communities at home and abroad. Her collaborative research has proven to be critical in helping communities understand their food systems and define ways to address their challenges. She provides the community with an opportunity to be exposed to and trained in research methods such as photovoice and citizen science and, in return, receives high-quality data and information that enriches her exploration and analysis. In the process, she successfully disrupts the hierarchical nature of academic research. In addition to her academic work, Tammara is also the co-director, co-writer and host of the CBC documentary “Food is My Teacher” where she highlights diverse community food champions in Canada and celebrates the healing power of food.

Community-Engaged Research Achievement Award

Dr Nicholas Blomley is a Professor in the Department of Geography at SFU with an interest in the spatiality of the law, and the worldmaking consequences of such legal geographies on marginalization, exclusion, and poverty. He began conducting community-engaged research in 1994 and has spent the last three decades negotiating these difficult questions of hierarchies of privilege and what researcher can offer to those with whom they work. For several years, he was a member of the Right to Remain (R2R) research collective, working with the grassroots SRO‐Collaborative with the aim to provide research supports to tenant organizing for improved safety, habitability, affordability, and sustainability in Single Room Occupancy buildings in the Downtown Eastside. One crucial outcome of this research work was to successfully persuade Vancouver City Council in 2021 to introduce ‘vacancy control’ in SROs. Other outcomes have included an SRO tenant convention in 2023, and continued work on a documentary. Currently, Nick is also engaged in research on the challenges that precariously housed people face in securing and controlling their personal possessions. This has entailed a collaboration with a grassroots organization in Abbotsford, the Drug War Survivors, whose membership comprises precariously housed/houseless people. While ongoing, the goal is to not only amplify the voices of peers, but also to engage in legal reform and policy relevant research.

Dr Dana Lepofsky is a Professor in the Department of Archaeology at SFU with a focus of understanding long-term relationships between people and their environment. She believes strongly that studying archaeology is a privilege and that this privilege is squandered if we do not fully embrace the degree to which the practice of archaeology is intertwined with current social issues. She works with and learns from Indigenous communities of the Pacific Northwest to document how their past interactions with their lands and seas are recorded in memory, language, and the ecological, paleoecological, and archaeological records. Her current work largely centres around cultural keystone species and ecosystems such as Pacific herring and clam gardens and cultural keystone places (Húy̓at and Laxgalts’ap) recognizing that such species have always played a central role in food security and food sovereignty, and that the ability to sustainably harvest and eat these foods is linked to a range of issues including cultural identity, governance, and emotional and physical health.. She is also enthusiastic about bringing together settler and Indigenous populations to promote Indigenous heritage conservation (www.lasquetiarc.ca). She is devoted to educating diverse communities about archaeological heritage and has given countless talks and tours to school groups, elder classes, and local governments; organized “community days”; and written countless community articles. In her current SSHRC Insight grant, she brought together five Nations (Tla’amin, WeiWeiKum, K’omoks, Halat, and Qualicum) with the local settler community to co-create ways to honor and protect Indigenous heritage, while tackling how archaeological heritage is embedded in current issues of identity, land use, and assertion of rights and title (www.lasqueti.ca).

Community-Engaged Graduate Scholar Award

Meridith Sones is a PhD Candidate in the Faculty of Health Sciences and Knowledge Mobilization Manager for the Interventions, Equity, Research, and Action in Cities Team (INTERACT). Working in partnership with cities and communities, her research explores how neighbourhood design impacts social connectedness, health, and equity in urban areas. As part of her PhD, Meridith crafted a successful SSHRC grant to create Youth.hood, a community-engaged research study exploring how neighbourhood environments in South Vancouver help or hinder social connectedness for local youth. She launched Youth.hood in response to needs raised by the South Vancouver community, which faces stark inequities in social infrastructure while reporting some of the lowest levels of social support and community belonging in the city. In partnership with the South Vancouver Neighbourhood House (SVNH) and research collaborators at SFU and Stanford University, Meridith recruited and mentored over 40 youth community scientists to map and analyze social connectedness assets and barriers in their neighbourhoods, and join forces with other residents to advocate for neighbourhood improvement at multiple forums with decision-makers. This collective research and advocacy effort paid off for the community immensely, leading to a motion being passed by Vancouver’s City Council in June 2023 to address social infrastructure inequities in South Vancouver. Meridith recently received funding from Health Research BC to further mobilize findings from Youth.hood, with an aim to guide continued action locally while informing broader dialogue and practice on the design of healthier cities with and for young people. 

Meridith is a white settler raised on the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation and now living as an uninvited guest on the stolen lands of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples. Meridith received her MPH from the University of Waterloo and previously worked as a public health practitioner and consultant, leading knowledge translation and evaluation strategies for public sector organizations in Canada and internationally.

Claire Shapton is a recently graduated Masters of Arts student at SFU Department of Geography, where she completed a thesis on the Legal and Governance Geographies of Supportive Housing in Abbotsford, BC, through collaborations with the Abbotsford Drug War Survivors (DWS). At the onset of her degree Claire was planning to research housing precarity in relation to pet ownership, but pivoted after realizing that while DWS members were fully supportive of this project, they had other more pressing priorities. As a result, she switched midway to a focus on supportive housing, investigating the political-economic, legal, carceral, and dispossessiv relations these institutions foster. Throughout her research she has been accountable to DWS, listening and centring their voices while drafting questions, methodologies and analyses. Currently, Claire is working to ensure that research findings can be mobilized to effect change beyond the academy – both to community members and to decision makers – and is planning a number of presentations and panels.

Marina Chavez is a Master of Arts student at the Department of Geography at SFU focused on advocacy and collaboration with organizers seeking housing and economic justice with a goal to pursue transparent peer-based research that centers participant voices to understand how home is constructed and threatened through possessions. Her research uses intimate ethnographic methods to understand the making of “home” both within an SRO unit and throughout the Downtown Eastside neighborhood.

As part of her community-led research, Marina worked with the Right to Remain (R2R) research project and with the DTES SRO-Collaborative where she collaborated with SRO tenant researchers to uncover the subaltern histories of the SRO (including that of tenant’s own buildings). In so doing, she implemented and influenced the R2R’s ‘research as organizing’ philosophy, aiding the vital organizing work of the SRO-Collaborative. She played a vital role in the everyday praxis of tenant organizing – offering support to vulnerable tenants facing illegal evictions; organizing tenants to take the lead in building governance. Through this research she helped to shape the policy dial regarding SROs, particularly in the campaign to persuade Vancouver City Council in 2021 to introduce ‘vacancy control’ in SROs. This entailed working closely with tenants, to ensure that they felt supported (and safe) in presenting their experiences of landlord practices before the public hearing at City Hall. As part of her research and knowledge mobilization, Marina also played a vital role in a successful SRO tenant convention in 2023, designed not for policy makers, but rather to be by and for SRO tenants.

Community-Engaged Partnership Award

Anthony Kupferschmidt (he/him) completed a Master of Arts in Gerontology at SFU in 2009, and he has been involved as a community partner in a number of research projects with members of the SFU Department of Gerontology. He was nominated for this award as the lead community partner on a project examining the role of senior centres in promoting the health and wellbeing of older adults. Anthony collaborated with Dr. Andrew Wister, Dr. Laura Kadowaki and Andrea Wadman, and received funding for this project through Michael Smith Health Research BC. This work culminated in a report entitled Independent Senior Centres: Connecting and Supporting Older Adults in Metro Vancouver. This project identified challenges, opportunities and potential strategies to ensure senior centres are able to continue to meet the health and social needs of older adults into the future, and co-developed a research agenda for senior centres. This research has raised the profile of senior centres in BC, and the project findings have been widely disseminated including through an op-ed in the Vancouver Sun.

There is very little research about senior centres in BC and Canada, and Anthony’s work as Executive Director of two senior centres (the West End Seniors’ Network in Vancouver and the Langley Senior Resources Society) solidified his passion for strengthening understanding of the impact of this sector through research collaborations. He feels strongly about ensuring that older adults have the opportunity to participate meaningfully in research including in the co-creation of research questions, and that researchers share their learnings back with the community. Anthony has also taken steps to ensure that researchers who are attempting to recruit study participants via senior centres keep in mind the value of the agency they recruit through, and the time and effort supporting recruitment demands of community partners.

Anthony is accepting this award in partnership with LSRS, the senior centre he was leading while the project was being completed.