Introducing the Shift Lab: Vanessa de Koninck
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 Matt. Today, meet Vanessa de Koninck. You can also check out Vanessa’s bio here.
What excites you the most about the Shift Lab?
The work of the Shift Lab is an exciting continuation of my own interest in the study of anthropology and its application to real-world challenges. I’m keen to explore how systems thinking fostered in a dynamic collective can lead to bold initiatives and innovative thinking. I also bring an immediate professional interest to an involvement with the Shift Lab, as the ED of an organization with a mandate to create an inclusive society free of racism.
I think what I’m most excited by, though, is the application of ethnographic techniques and principles to achieving traction on pressing social issues. When people hear the word ‘ethnography’, they sometimes think of an old man with a pipe and round glasses surrounded by his steamer trunks, or glossy National Geographic photos of topless women in grass skirts and beaded headbands. But ethnography is about so much more than journeying to far-away places and creating vignettes of ‘the other’. Ethnography derives its strength from holistic, field-based methods, where we engage with the production and reproduction of social constructs and systems in real time by real-life actors. And fieldwork also gives us the opportunity to do deep listening, to hear the insights that people have about the issues that centrally affect them, and participant observation, to walk alongside people and learn what it is like to navigate systems from their perspective.
The Shift Lab has an enormous goal in front of it, but I’m hopeful that we’re setting out to do more than just create a report or an action plan—that spark of the unknown combined with the passion and skills of my labmates makes me incredibly excited about what lies ahead.