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Day 3: Pirates, Elvis and Simluations

March 12, 2013

Does anyone remember that pretty terrible movie about cyborgs called SimOne? It had Al Pacino in it. Anyways, today was nothing like that. Though Elvis did enter the building.

After an early morning workout, I drifted downstairs for the first ‘official’ day of the simulation. The 60-odd people (there are about 60 of them, most of them are not odd!) were there too. We had an informal introduction activity where we all stood in a big circle and went around the room, briefly sharing our names and affiliations. It was then I really got a sense of the diversity and expertise of the crowd. Reading it on a list is one thing, but hearing how we had experts on family health, executive directors of large (and small) community organizations and people from different branches of government made me excited to talk to more of these wonderful people about their work. A few people talked about pursuing ‘systemic revolutions’ in the delivery of care in certain sectors, which especially piqued my interest.

In the 30-minute break that followed, I had a chance to follow up with Renee Lyons, Chair in Complex Chronic Disease Research in Canada and the TD Scientific Director of the Bridgepoint Collaboratory for Research and Innovation. Bridgepoint is taking a socially-focused, systemic approach to the challenges that come with complex, chronic heath issues (being affected with multiple, on-going health issues). They’re a small, innovative hospital in the East End and I had no idea they existed before today. I am glad I know now.

Then, we were back in the conference rooms (lovely, big-windowed places looking out onto the ocean, by the way) for a presentation of the recommendations and results from the “Violence Report”, a huge review of different kinds of knowledge (for example, what is situated in academic literature, reports from community organizations and informally in communities) about effective ways to help youth recover from experiencing violence. The presentation gave a very broad overview of different “proven” strategies (for example, using culturally sensitive programs), but from the way different members in the room asked questions, it was clear there was some confusion about why the recommendations were being presented as very vague, open-ended statements, a tension that wasn’t really resolved. We were reminded, though, that the recommendations were meant to provide a lead-in to the simulation – which would be all about how to put this knowledge about what works into the hands of community organizations that need it.

But, by then it was time for lunch. I took a little walk outside, because there had been a circle of brightly coloured chairs that had been calling my name all weekend. See?


There is also a pirate by the hotel elevator who looked a little lonely. I kept him company.


But then I was ‘on stage’, playing the role of cop in the launching scene of the simulation. The scene actually went longer than we had initially planned. We explored the roles a bit more deeply.  Jimmy told me after that seeing us in front of the room made it clear to everyone that this was not going to be a conventional conference masquerading under another name. They would be acting, roleplaying and discussing the issues.

And that’s what happened, more or less. It was a learning experience for everyone. The way the first scenario had been worded and the roles different people were encouraged to take on made the first role play different than what was expected. Instead of focusing on how the community organization (providing the program for youth) would look for external resources, everyone focused on how they could use community resources to better understand the problem. There wasn’t much knowledge translation being sought – instead, people were looking internally – within their organization, selves and community to uncover knowledge there.

I also experienced first-hand how difficult it can be to have your voice ‘heard’ as a youth in this context. A lot of the conversations that happened around our table, I felt, were excluding me. Not intentionally, but just because people weren’t used to, perhaps, in this context, having a young person at the table with them when they were discussing strategies. I wonder how much of this role play experience is true to life. Also, I was the note-taker, so I had something to preoccupy me and prevent me from fully participating.

At the same time, I think that the role-play element was key to how well discussion flowed. Inhabiting a role reduced my nervousness about speaking up – I felt more free to share more ideas without having to feel like I was tying my ‘real identity’ to any of them. I think I spoke up more than I would have if there had been a roundtable discussion with no other structure.

We ran a re-tooled version of the simulation after a short break, meant to get more at the knowledge mobilization aims of the conference. Assuming we DID know what was the problem in the community, where would we go to fill in the gaps in our information about how to best address it? We were encouraged to select which roles we felt were necessary for our simulation.

One of the ones we identified was “Knowledge broker” – yes, it’s a real thing! This kind of person acts as a go-between for community members and academia, trying to figure out how collaborations between the two can best work. Knowledge brokers also collect and share relevant information with the community organization in a form that makes sense for them.

A really neat thing about the simulation process was that after we had all been working on the situation in our different tables, certain groups came to the front and ran through their own little role plays. Seeing different people really bringing life to their roles (including a government ‘Policy Maker’ whose responses attempted to squirrel him out of any financial responsibility) brought more to the discussion.

But, then it was our pre-dinner break. I had managed to convince the girls to visit the second hand store with me. It was just nice to be outside!


We had dinner and anxiously waited for 7:30, as we’d been told at various times during the day that there would be a special surprise. Can you guess what it was? I already mentioned it.

Elvis entered the building. Well, an Elvis impersonator, anyways. It was not what I would have predicted. But then again, the conference has thrown a lot of curve balls – playing Gangam style  as a ‘refocusing’ activity (most of the people in the room had no idea what to do with themselves. There was a lot of awkward standing. It was great). Elvis managed to confuse Austria with Australia and tried to convince us that he was the original Justin Bieber. But he was really there to thank the CYCC staff for organizing the entire event.

After that, there was going to be karaoke, but I came back and slept instead! Heading off to bed now. I want to be refreshed for Day II, the final day of simulations. I’m wondering if it will bring things “together” for everyone. We’ll see!

One Comment leave one →
  1. Christina permalink
    March 12, 2013 7:19 pm

    I’m enjoying your posts way more than studying for Stats! I’m glad you’re getting the real east coast experience, complete with chowder and lighthouses! Be sure to try some salt water taffy if you get the opportunity.

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