Help unpack the complexity of the post-secondary research funding system in Canada and its relationship to Indigenous research efforts
Advancing Indigenous Research Through Systems Mapping & Resource Creation
The Indigenous Institutes Consortium (IIC) represents seven Indigenous-owned and operated Indigenous education and training institutes in Ontario, and acts as a collective voice for these institutes, their students, and their research needs.
These Indigenous Institutes (IIs) are uniquely positioned to conduct research that responds to the priorities and interests of the Indigenous communities and people they are designed to serve. However, they experience systemic barriers to accessing research funding in a highly competitive system that structurally favours well-resourced, non-Indigenous post-secondary institutions.
In response to this shared need, Coeuraj produced eight guidebooks to support IIs in navigating the complex, post-secondary research system.
These guidebooks included a comprehensive Systems Guide, that maps out the key elements of the Research Councils’ funding system and current policies regarding Indigenous research. This Guide also describes the unique role of IIs’ and the value they would bring to Canada’s research ecosystem. In addition, seven smaller addendums were produced that provide specific information and recommendations tailored to each II regarding their research interests and goals.
In 2021, our team engaged in a robust systems research process to produce these resources across a six-month sprint.
We scanned and analyzed a wide breadth of resources, from national policy documents outlining Canada’s commitments to reconciliation, to Tri-Council research mandates that set the standard for research funding nationwide.
We then paired this knowledge capture with interviews conducted with representatives and knowledge holders from participating IIs to better understand their visions, needs, and research aspirations as leaders of Indigenous Research, and as stakeholders navigating the research funding space. And just as importantly, we mapped out the relationships and power dynamics that drive the research funding system as a whole.
Together, this primary and secondary research allowed us to provide detailed, and accessible, insights for questions such as: How do I know if my work is eligible for Tri-Council funding, and how can I prepare to meet funding criteria? What types of research grants exist for my discipline? Where is Indigenous Research currently situated in the present research system—and where might it be able to go with the appropriate funding and capacity support?
Today, these guidebooks exist as resources that IIs and their students can access. The Systems Guide to Research Funding in Canada can be found in full on the IIC’s website here.
Along this journey, we also captured lessons that informed how we approached this work and other projects moving forward. These lessons include the following ideas.
- It is important to respect Protocols even when engaging with communities and leaders digitally.
- There will always be a place for culture and Traditional Knowledge to inform how products are created, especially when the products are meant to gather, generate, and share knowledge.
- Our clients are a part of systems that they are impacted by—and systems they can impact themselves. The best work we can do together not only provides the means to approaching a specific problem, but provides opportunities for a whole system to engage with itself and solve problems together.
- There’s only so much insight that desktop research can provide. Picking up the phone to have conversations leads to break throughs.
Ultimately, as practitioners, we are invited into our clients’ worlds. Our job is not just to leave work “behind” but to engage in mutual learning and generate value through collaborative knowledge creation. Developing the Systems Guide to Research Funding in Canada, and institute-specific compendiums, alongside IIC, was a special opportunity to live that principle out in practice.