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The Black Experience Project

Posted on Tuesday, December 18, 2012

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This project was conceived two years ago (2010) because it was clear that previous studies had not adequately captured the black experience in the GTA...The project’s introductory statement

By Neil Armstrong

A three-year groundbreaking research study focusing on the black community in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) is now underway in Ontario.

The study is being undertaken by the Environics Institute, in partnership with Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute, the United Way of Greater Toronto and the Atkinson Charitable Foundation.

The purpose of the study is to examine the lived experiences of the black community in the GTA and its partners have a strong commitment to community engagement to ensure the research focuses on the issues and questions of greatest relevance to the black community.

“Studies in the past were quite academic or they were studies that were at the request, based on something that has happened, a reaction to something to find out what the outcome is,” says Marva Wisdom, project director – community engagement of the study.

 She notes that the thing that is different about this study is the community engagement component where they are actually asking the community to help them decide what the research is going to look like and their input.

This approach goes right across all areas of the community, all vocations, the financial sector, health sector, social services sector, youth demographic or elder demographic – all the black community across the board in our diversity, said Wisdom.

“This project was conceived two years ago (2010) because it was clear that previous studies had not adequately captured the black experience in the GTA, and that there is an opportunity to address the gap through innovative research that provides context, voice and expression to present the black experience through a different dimension. To accomplish this it is essential to seek broad community input at the onset of the project, and throughout its three phases,” notes the project’s introductory statement.

The economic, educational, social and political disparities experienced by the black community in Canada are well documented, but the underlying factors are still not well understood.

The study will break new ground through exploring the lived experiences of individuals within the black community, and the factors leading to success or failure. It will also provide insight and direction in identifying policies and other initiatives that will contribute to future success.

Phase One focuses on Community Engagement between February – December 2012. It will make use of focused discussions and interviews with small group and individuals across three region/areas of the GTA (Peel, City of Toronto and GTA East).

These sessions are intended to establish a solid foundation for the research by:

  • Identifying the issues and questions of greatest relevance, by leveraging the knowledge, skills and experiences within the community.
  • Involving our leaders, local organizations and community at-large.
  • Engaging emerging youth leaders
  • Providing opportunities for participants to contribute to subsequent phases of the project.

Phase Two focuses on Research Design and Execution from December 2012 to December 2013. The rich information captured through the community engagement process will guide the design of the research in Phase 2, which will consist of an in-depth survey of the Black community across the GTA (incorporating a representative sample of 1,000 to 3,000 individuals).

Phase Three, the Post-Study Dissemination and Engagement, will be from May 2014 to December 2014. Once the research has been completed, the findings will be broadly publicized, and sessions/events will be organized to actively engage the Black community and policy makers around implications and next steps. The study’s findings will be shared in a variety of ways, including traditional and social media.

The project partners and collaborating organizations helping to lead in the planning and execution of the study are: African Canadian Development Council, Black Artists Network Dialogue, Black Leadership Health Network, City of Toronto, Heritage Toronto, Jamaican Canadian Association, Midaynta Immigrant Settlement and Somali Immigrant Services, NIA Centre for the Arts, Peel Social Planning Council, Redemption and Reintegration Services, United Way Peel/Black Council Advisory Committee, United Way Toronto, Tropicana Community Services and Youth Challenge Fund. Discussions are currently underway with other organizations expressing interest in actively supporting the project.


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