May 12, 2022

UCalgary professor receives over $1M in funding to support anti-racism & equity programs research with immigrant and refugee youth

UCalgary research team partners with Calgary-based organizations to re-frame youth-centered programs using an anti-racism lens

Calgary, AB – What are the experiences that new youth immigrants face when they come to Canada and what support do they need? UCalgary researcher, Dr. Pallavi Banerjee, associate professor, sociology, PhD, will answer these questions thanks to  over $1M in funding from the Government of Canada - Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to develop a community-engaged framework that will take place over the next two years. Dr. Banerjee,  along with her research team, will partner with four Calgary-based service providing organizations (SPO) – the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society, Centre for Newcomers, The Calgary Bridge Foundation for Youth and Calgary Immigrant Women's Association – and work with BIPOC youths to gain a better understanding of how immigrant and refugee serving organizations can better support youths in their integration journey.

“Research has found that most programming for immigrant and refugee youths is built ‘for’ them rather than ’with’ them. With this funding, my team along with the SPOs plan to generate promising anti-racism practices within the SPOs that centre on the needs and experiences of BIPOC immigrant, refugee youth.”

Dr. Pallavi Banerjee, associate professor, sociology, UCalgary

Dr. Banerjee’s vision is to to create a framework that builds youth capacity around racial consciousness, build the capacity of SPOs to implement youth-centered, evidence-based and coordinated youth settlement practices through an anti-racism lens and helps develop tools to disrupt systemic racism within policy, practice and community.

To begin this work, the research team will use informal interviews and observations to look at existing youth programs across the four SPOs. They will analyze whether current practices include an anti-racist lens and what unaddressed needs persist for youth.  Next, Dr.Banerjee’s team will facilitate six focus groups composed of refugee and immigrant youths from a variety of backgrounds to gain a better understanding of their racialized experiences. They will then conduct several co-designed workshops to establish an anti-racist and anti-oppressive framework.

Once the framework is established, they will bring their community-based programs to the broader Calgary community by designing public installations with the youth that could take the form of digital art collections, sports, land-based community work or performance projects run by the research team, the four SPOs and the participating youths. The public installations will be designed in collaboration with Dr. Pratim Sengupta, professor at the Werklund School of Education, and his research lab, who pioneered public computing installations.

“By taking a community-based approach with anti-racist and social-justice oriented framework, we hope to correct the idea that immigration integration is one-sided. As it stands, our society does very little to understand the thoughts and practices that immigrants and refugees bring with them. Proper integration takes understanding from both sides and what better place to start than with our youth. They are, after all, Canada’s future.”

Dr. Pallavi Banerjee, associate professor, sociology, UCalgary

By using expressive forms such as performance projects and art installations, Dr. Banerjee hopes to allow space for SPOs to develop future programming that is co-designed by youths. Even though her project is set to only take place over the next two years, the approach of creating programming “with” youth instead of “for” youth will be a lasting legacy.


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