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What We're Learning

26 Jul, 2017

Shift Lab Prototype: Diversity Certification Program

(L-R) Noelle Jaipaul, Sheida Azimi, and Soni Dasmohapatra

(L-R) Noelle Jaipaul, Sheida Azimi, and Soni Dasmohapatra


The first phase of the Edmonton Shift Lab is coming to a close. This process has been an interesting one and was quite unlike anything anyone on our team had engaged in before.

The small but mighty Red team was made up of Soni, Sheida, and Noelle. Our prototype asked “how might we create a tool that addresses racism in accessing housing?” Called the Diversity Certification Program, our prototype aims to improve awareness and knowledge about anti-racism practices and provide tools and skills to help address racism by way of a training program for large-scale building management companies and landlords who work with diverse tenants.

The training consists of four phases: the initial training program with approximately fifteen hours of training; working with a consultant to integrate anti-racism practices into building policies; a celebration of the completion of certification; and ongoing follow-up and evaluation of the rental property. Successful landlords will receive visual marketing in the form of a “Diversity Approved” branding (stickers/decals), as well as promotion through our website that potential renters will access.

The process of social innovation design, new to our three teammates, felt a bit uncomfortable at times but was a huge learning experience. We were able to gain a lot of insight into the ways that design can and should take into account the context, needs, and desires of the people who will ultimately use or benefit from the innovation. All of us would have appreciated a bit more time during the ethnographic research phase, to be able to have a bit more time and space to wrap our heads around what we were trying to accomplish within Shift Lab. We were able to connect with key individuals in the community for our research, but we all felt like we were still missing some important voices. Mainly, we wanted to be sure that the prototype we designed would actually be addressing the intersection of racism and poverty in housing for those in our community who are most confronted with barriers and discrimination.

early planning stages of Diversity Certification

Early planning stages of the prototype

Over the course of the last few months, we were able to sit down and have some really challenging conversations around what we thought our prototype should include, and what the buy-in would be for the general population in Edmonton – that is, how do we get non-racialized people on board, and acknowledge that racism is an issue that needs to be addressed? Where is the “what’s in it for me?” In particular, we were challenged to think hard about why landlords or rental management companies would be interested in expending the resources for this Diversity Certification program. Throughout the entire prototype design process, we had to remember that, within our small group, we were preaching to the converted – we knew that racism and poverty have severe effects on marginalized people when trying to access housing. We needed to think about why that would matter to landlords and integrate this into our prototype.

At our Community Campfire in April, we presented our prototype to community members and representatives from various agencies in Edmonton. We received really positive feedback and a lot of support for this idea, as well as suggestions on ways to move forward in really feasible ways, including building partnerships and finding funding. A key piece was to find the “early adopters” – those rental companies that were open to being leaders on the issue of anti-discrimination in housing. After finding these companies, other companies would follow the trend, lest they be left behind.

Red team at the campfire!

The Red team presents their prototype at a community campfire

We are looking forward to what happens next, as we think that our prototype has real potential for being piloted in Edmonton. Next steps include finding partners in the community that we could work with and who could add momentum, as well as connecting with community members to hear their thoughts and ideas surrounding our prototype and how it could play out moving forward.


Written by Noelle Jaipaul, Sheida Azimi, and Soni Dasmohapatra.

Diversity Certification Program graphic by Molly McMahon.


By |2019-09-09T19:29:56-06:00July 26th, 2017|Categories: What We're Learning, What's Going On|Comments Off on Shift Lab Prototype: Diversity Certification Program

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.