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Reflections from the Lab

24 Nov, 2016

Introducing the Shift Lab: Noelle Jaipaul

Curious about the folks who are participating in the Shift Lab? Wonder no more! Over the next three weeks, we will feature each of the Core lab team members (12 in all) as they tell us their thoughts about social innovation, racism and poverty in Edmonton, and why they joined the Shift Lab.  Yesterday, we met BrandonToday, meet Noelle Jaipaul. You can also check out Noelle’s bio here.


I think it will likely sound strange to a lot of people, but racism has always fascinated me. As a racialized girl growing up in Central Alberta, my first memory of a blatant experience with racism was in grade 5. As I got older, I don’t remember a huge amount of overt or obvious racism against me, but I do remember the more concealed or latent racism. Questions like, “but where are you REALLY from,” or “you must not be used to this cold weather, where you’re from” – questions posed to a girl born and raised in Alberta. When I left the shelter of my town to attend university and started volunteering at a shelter for youth at risk of homelessness, I became aware of another nuance of racism. A lot of the youth I worked with were racialized people. A lot of the people I saw and knew were homeless or living in poverty were racialized. A lot of immigrants and newcomers I met had battled with poverty or were still entrenched in it. This racism went beyond the racist slurs or microaggressions that are hurled at people of colour. This racism was linked to poverty and was rooted in systems and institutions. Suddenly racism seemed even scarier, more violent, and way more complex.

The complexity of unraveling the linkages between racism and poverty obviously cannot be done by a single person. When I heard about the Edmonton Shift Lab, I was really excited about the possibilities for community coming together and working together, breaking out of old molds and developing new and innovative ways to address these issues. I’m most excited about working closely with folks from all different backgrounds, who are going to be approaching these issues in very different ways. I’m really excited to learn from the people around me, and step out of the usual framework in which I usually see poverty and racism and any associated solutions. I’m looking forward to engaging in this messy process of social innovation – learning about the process and learning about developing sustainable and meaningful change. I’m a novice when it comes to social innovation, but I know I’m going to be supported by a lot of great minds and passionate people. I truly can’t wait to see what comes out of this.

The Shift Lab obviously has a lot of work to do in the coming months. On the one hand, there’s been a lot of media attention lately around racism in Edmonton. It’s a lot harder for people to argue that racism doesn’t exist when we are confronted with these acts of racism gone “viral.” On the other hand, the Shift Lab has to address much more than the individual bias that lead to racism. Shift Lab has to work on dismantling systems and institutions that perpetuate systems of poverty for racialized folks in our city. I think the next few months will be filled with lots of challenging conversations, which will be critical for us in order to develop a clearer idea of where we want to go. I look forward to the Shift Lab being a safe space to have these conversations and for people to speak their truths. I really look forward to the next few months and am so excited to see what solutions and strategies we can develop together as a community.

By |2019-09-09T19:29:59-06:00November 24th, 2016|Categories: Reflections from the Lab, What's Going On|0 Comments

About the Author:

Addressing racism and discrimination continue to be identified as a critical piece of the puzzle in how we reach the big goal of ending poverty in a generation in Edmonton. Building on the work of many local initiatives, the diverse collective making up the Edmonton Shift Lab is stewarding an exploration to develop potential service, policy, system and community action prototypes that will help reduce racism as it contributes to poverty. We want to be bold and explore how to Shift ideas. Shift attitudes. Shift systems and Shift into new ways of solution finding with community.

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