Service as a Way of Being: Understanding the Experiences of Service Providers toward Building an Equitable Environment

March 01, 2021

Bio: Elizabeth Bishop is the creator of The Conscious Service Approach—a research-based process designed to educate, support, and celebrate the Service Providers and Change Makers of the world in ways that are personally meaningful, relevant, transformative, and current. She holds a diploma in Developmental Services, a bachelor’s degree in psychology and Religious Studies, and a master’s degree in Adult Education. Elizabeth is currently pursuing her doctoral studies in the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University.

Congratulations on winning a Vancouver Foundation Develop Grant. How do you feel about winning the award?

I am thrilled to have been awarded a Develop Grant with Vancouver Foundation in partnership with Bridge for Health Cooperative and the Public Health Association of BC. I want to acknowledge the support of the entire board of Bridge for Health, including founder Paola Ardiles (Lecturer, Faculty of Health Sciences), and my project co-lead, Ilhan Abdullahi.

Tell us about your grant project. What is its goal? Who will benefit from it?

The title of the project with Vancouver Foundation is “At the Intersection of Service Provider Wellbeing and Equity in Healthcare and Social Services Systems Transformation” (it is a mouthful). Below you will find a brief description:

Since the pandemic hit, we have come to realize that our healthcare and social services systems might not be as strong as we thought.  Many challenges emerged in long-term care, non-profit organizations, and hospital settings. Informal caregivers were forced to continue care with less support. All the while, these service providers faced the same fear and worry about the future, their health, the wellbeing of their families, and their ongoing commitment to the people they promised to serve. This project will allow us to show our appreciation by listening to the lived experiences of service providers to learn firsthand what would make their jobs more fulfilling, joyful, productive, equitable, and safe. We will then be able to better understand what changes and solutions are needed to achieve these critical health and wellbeing outcomes.

While the pandemic has been a trigger, the truth is that service provider well-being, including vocational fulfillment, has been a major concern since I started in the field 40 years ago. It is just that COVID-19 made it more evident to those outside the field, along with the realities associated with oppression, marginalization, privilege, and discrimination related to racialization and other forms of diversity. The idea is that healthy and happy service providers will be better equipped to provide high quality service, contribute to organizational effectiveness, and create the kind of safe spaces required for sensitive discussions related to equity. We seek to understand what would best support this transformation.

Through the information gathered in the Develop Grant project, we intend to apply to Vancouver Foundation in Fall 2021 for a Systems Transformation Test Grant, where we can implement the recommendations that emerge through our current research.

This is very meaningful research. Can you tell us how you prepared your application for the grant?

I did my research ahead of time. The Vancouver Foundation website is full of useful information, including video resources, to assist in the preparation. I was also lucky enough to get involved in a workshop session conducted by the Foundation and their consultants, designed to make the application process more accessible to groups who were often overlooked in the past. This gave me some insight into what to expect when applications opened. Finally, after drafting the responses to the application questions, I accessed the wisdom and support of the Bridge for Health Cooperative, which helped to refine the focus of the application.

What suggestion would you like to give to those who are interested in applying for a grant from Vancouver Foundation?

First of all, you are required to be in partnership with an organization through which the funding can flow and through which the project is managed. I suggest, of course, to use the resources on the website. I also spoke directly with one of the Foundation team members to share my idea and ask questions. This was very helpful. Be sure you have resources and utilize them well; more heads are better than one. And finally, be sure to follow your passion in seeking project funding. I believe that makes the writing process easier, provides the motivation required to follow through, and is evident to readers and decision makers.

Lastly, could you share something about yourself such as your academic background, hobbies, interests, etc.

I am currently pursuing my doctoral research with the Faculty of Education at SFU, specifically in the Philosophy of Education stream. I completed my Master of Adult Education with St. Francis Xavier University, where I focused on the development and facilitation of self-reflective practice in the helping professions. My doctoral studies will build on this work with an emphasis on how we define service, including the notion of service as an expression of love.

My background has been in human services for many years, and I continue to teach in various human services programs at the college level. I am an avid spiritual explorer. I have recently fallen in love with running outside. And I love spending time with my family, including my almost 8-year-old grandson.

Thank you very much, Elizabeth. We wish you all the best for your future endeavors.