A group of Laurier partners are working closely with the Waterloo Region Immigration Partnership to develop and evaluate the ‘learning community’ model of shared learning through collaborative research, education and innovation activities.

The Immigration Partnership is a a network of over 100 organizations in settlement, health, social services, business, employment and education systems. Collectively, they support immigrants, refugees and international students in the Region of Waterloo.
Laurier partners include:
  • Centre for Community Research, Learning and Action
  • Community Service Learning
  • International Migration Research Centre
  • Laurier International
  • Social Innovation and Venture Creation

The learning community model emerged from a PhD course at Wilfrid Laurier University in social innovation and social change methods in the Fall of 2015, led by Dr. Manuel Riemer. During the course, the group reviewed, debated and discussed key concepts and approaches related to complex social change. While the learning community model has many parts, some of its main principles include:

  • A systems thinking orientation
  • A commitment to learning at the level of the individual, organizations and the collaboration as a whole
  • Commitment to reflective practice and creative problem solving
  • Willingness to examine and question predominant “mental models” (i.e., perspectives, cognitions) about what the collaboration’s problems are, what’s causing/making the problems worse and what could make it better
  • Equitable and fair decision-making structures, empowering voices that are often unheard or unaccounted

The learning community will create strong relationships between Laurier and the Immigration Partnership that will allow both groups to benefit from the knowledge, expertise and resources of the other. For example, in research related activities, Laurier will benefit from the Immigration Partnership's deep expertise implementing settlement policies and their support interpreting research evidence, and the Immigration Partnership will benefit from the availability of Laurier's expertise in research design/methods and the availability of trained students to support research and evaluation activities.

A learning community is more than a community-university partnership where partners work together on various activities. In the learning community, both groups will influence and shape collaborative activities, engage in shared interpretation and reflection of project findings, and maintain strong communication for growth and learning by both groups.

The project team that developed the initial learning community plan, is proposing 6 initial activities.

  1. A learning team, with representatives from the Immigration Partnership and Laurier, that will meet quarterly to: identify learning needs; advise project teams; review and synthesize emerging findings; support the application of evidence for governance, policy change and practice; and, critically reflect on the insights from practice.
  2. For credit and professional interest courses on the theory, practice, policy and governance of refugee settlement and related issues; co-developed and co-taught by members of the learning community.
  3. A speaker series featuring settlement and inclusion experts and practitioners.
  4. Increased student community learning placements to settlement and inclusion organizations and a shift toward project- and team-based placements to provide more sustained support to community partners.
  5. A collaborative settlement and inclusion design lab with community, faculty and student participants to develop and test new ideas for delivering settlement and inclusion services.
  6. Evaluation of the learning community model.

Are you part of the Immigration Partnership? Are you a Laurier faculty, staff or student interested in getting involved? Please complete the brief online survey to share your feedback or indicate your interest to join one of the learning community activities.

Feedback Survey