*Please note: Other projects are being included in this new site during 2019 fall.

Project Name: EFECT

Client/Sponsor:  SSHRC

Date: Dec. 2016 – September 2019

Team: Academics from McGill University, Concordia University, University of Toronto, OCAD University, McMaster University, University of Alberta, Community Partners – FemTechNet, METRAC , The Atwater Library and Computer Centre, The Sexual Assault Resource Centre, Fembot , The Pivotal Point, under the leadership of Dr. Paula Gardner (Principal Investigator).

Objective: EFECT stands for Experiments in Feminist Ethical Collaborations in Technology.

(As stated on the EFECT website) In this SSHRC Partnership Development Grant, EFECT borrows from work previously done with FemTechNet to reflect on why women, racialized women, and non-binary women find ICT/M spaces to be uninviting and inhospitable. EFECT seeks to tackle cultural practices of oppression that prohibit the entry and continued success of these diverse peoples into ICT/M educational and work environments. Their exclusion tends to create media and technology content that is violent, misogynistic, and non-representative, which in turn perpetuates cycles  of exclusion, bias and prejudice.

Its important to identify the two layers the project was operating on and producing content for:

1. On the partnership level – to question and challenge what ethical cross-sector collaborations really necessitate of us as a culture and practice (i.e. looking at power and privilege, knowledge production/distribution, etc.), and what tools/outputs could the project produce to support others who wish to approach collaborations with such intentions – such that they can effectively learn from our experiences (benefiting from our strengths, and avoiding our stumbles).

2. On the ground level  co-determining what a project collaboration with our community partners could be and developing it into something actionable.

Outcome: (As stated on the EFECT website) We believe that centering work on a foundation of diversity and collaboration is crucial to the creation of diverse and broadly representative media content. This is vital to formulate communities which are invested in ongoing processes and outcomes of their work; ones which see beyond just collaborations which end with a project.

What we created during our collaboration:

1. On the partnership level – The EFECT team has created a set of methods, and toolkits which reflect our common ethics and equity based collaboration. The team has also created a six-series of podcasts to engage others with our experiences and learnings. All outputs are being finalized in September 2019.

2. On the ground level  – The Montreal team created curriculum on XYZ

The Toronto team worked in partnership with METRAC, a community organization deeply committed to addressing violence against women and children, to co-design and author curriculum that METRAC’s youth facilitators can put to practice in their after-school sessions with middle and high school students. This curriculum designed by youth and for youth is built on principles of  anti-oppression and addresses what sexual violence and oppression can look like online.

Its aim is to create awareness that this behaviour exists online and in the different ways it might manifest in this realm (i.e. what can sexual violence and oppression look like online), to shatter the normalization of such behaviour online particularly in communities where this might be normalized in their real lives (leading it to it not being questioned, asked for help on,  addressed when it happens, and processing the emotional impacts). This curriculum is designed to create avenues for dialogue on this issue in safe and creative ways, and to have the youth understand their boundaries, the implications of such behaviour, and how they might want to handle these situations if/when they arise.

My role: I have been part of the research team since December 2016, and played many different roles since I joined the team. Alongside professor TL Cowan, I co-interviewed all members of the collaboration in early 2017 and analyzed the interviews for insights to co-author the projects manifesto. I was Project Manager from mid 2017-into late 2018, and all along also a researcher working with the Toronto team to develop the youth project. I have co-designed curriculum and co-developed the facilitators handbook (alongside TL Cowan) on “What Happens on the Internet…Doesn’t Stay on the Internet” workshop (which includes a ‘meme making’ facilitator instructions). I was also the Podcast series producer, which entailed reviewing our project content and surfacing key themes that have appeared in our collaboration over the past 3 years, proposing the first line of topics that others can build off, organizing the sessions, and working alongside the new Project Manager  (Nathaniel Laywine) and Podcast Editor (Stephen Surlin) to ensure their production and completion.

Externally, I have co-presented about the project on a panel alongside other team members at the 2018 NWSA conference (The National Women’s Studies Association) in Atlanta.

Mpathy Insights: It only makes sense to share learnings at the two levels we were operating as a project-

  1. On the partnership level- A key recurring area of learning in my work has been on the importance of trust, and that building trust is a mutual act done consistently. We must fund for trust building and co-determination, not shot-gun marriages and
  2. On the ground level- Say what you mean, and mean what you say. Working with youth was an incredible experience, particularly because I think we were really open to the sharing of knowledge, however, we have to name and work with the power and privilege imbalances in the room in a way that they are addressed and mitigated – as facilitators of the process we shared our lived experiences, academic knowledge and curriculum design principles, while youth shared lived experiences, their terminology, their honest reactions, and their inputs so we could co-create in a way that was genuinely collaborative.

This has been one of my most memorable projects to date in my working career. I will never forget the ways in which we aimed to practice what we preached and try ourselves out when we did not.

Media: N/A The project outcomes are all currently being finalized, and thus have not been shared publicly as yet.