The Coady International Institute at St. Francis Xavier University (StFX) is a world renowned centre of excellence in innovative community leadership education that incorporates both on-site and distance support and mentoring, utilizing state of the art adult education methodologies for maximum effectiveness and outreach. Our commitment to leadership is rooted in the belief that leadership education can transform lives and unleash peoples’ potential to contribute to society. With more than 5,500 graduates in 130 countries and a legacy of 50 year of community empowerment and economic development; the Coady Institute is equipping citizens with the skills and tools they need to build strong, inclusive, and self-reliant societies.
In 2009, the Coady Institute recognized an opportunity to build on the capacities and potential of Canadian Indigenous women emerging leaders with a unique, customized program that incorporated facilitated learning, community placement experiences, mentorship, leadership self-assessment and reflection. The Indigenous Women in Community Leadership (IWCL) program was made possible with the generous financial support of Imperial Oil and ExxonMobil Foundations. The program uses experiential, interactive methods that draw on the experiences of participants, mentors and facilitators as well as best practice from the field to create a stimulating environment for learning. The program is managed by a Mi’kmaq women leader, Sheila Isaac, who is dedicated to inspiring and motivating Aboriginal women in leadership and community development through this program
In developing the program the Coady Institute created a series of case studies that looked at successful Aboriginal community development in a variety of sectors and geographies to serve as inspiring resources for the program. The examples focused on instances where the community led and sustained their own development and made changes that served to improve the wellbeing of the community.
This past May to the end of August the first iteration of the IWCL program was held with 12 Aboriginal women leaders, 11 First Nations and 1 Inuit women representing 8 provinces and 1 territory in Canada. Over the course of three weeks the women lived and learned together, and then put this learning into action during their three month community placements. They examined their own leadership style and how it impacted others, gained practical skills in asset-based community development (ABCD), and how this approach can build on a community’s strengths and ensure sustainability, honed their project management knowledge and developed advocacy & governance strategies. During their time on campus they met with a dedicate group of established Aboriginal women leaders and were paired with a mentor from this group. Mentors are a critical component allowing emerging women leaders to benefit from the experience and wisdom of proven aboriginal women leaders who understand the context, challenges and most importantly the innovative solutions in these often difficult environments.
Directly following their on-campus program the participants worked on a project of their choice for 3 months in a community/organization placement. The Coady Institute worked with the women to discuss their ideas and interests and help them develop a project that best suited them and their learning objectives. The IWCL projects ranged in idea from using their “ABCD” skills in their respective communities, research papers, video case studies and an awareness campaign.
Post community placements, participants and mentors returned to campus for a week long process of reflection, sharing and planning for the future. These women's successes will be followed, and case studies will document stories that will be of inspiration to future cohorts of indigenous women leaders.
In 2012, a leverage fund will offer further opportunities for education or expansion of projects and initiatives.