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SPECTRUM Newsletter - Issue 1

Welcome to the SPECTRUM partnership!
 

Thank you for your interest and commitment to SPECTRUM: an exciting partnership among service organizations, government, community and academia to address complex social issues facing Manitobans, supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Led by our partners, a Steering Group will facilitate partnership development over the next three years, organize capstone research projects to demonstrate partnership effectiveness, and support the partnership’s application for resources to operate SPECTRUM into the future. We have enclosed a brief summary of SPECTRUM, a summary of workshop discussions, and a list of partners for you to share within your organization, departments, institutions and communities.

Partnership launched

SPECTRUM hosted its inaugural partnership workshop on Friday, September 20th 2019 at the Centre Culturel Franco-Manitobain. Over 55 people attended, from 13 organizations. We spent the morning learning more about one another, SPECTRUM’s vision, and discussing how we see the partnership evolving. If you were not able to join us- we missed you and look forward to connecting with you and your organization. SPECTRUM recognizes the importance of all of our partners in creating success. We also recognize that not every date chosen for workshops will work for all partners. We are working to ensure that our next workshop date works for those who could not participate initially. We hope that newsletters and updates will help partners stay up-to-date and engaged in the partnership moving forward.

Key partnership characteristics identified

The participants believed that SPECTRUM was capable of co-creating a safe, collaborative space at the intersection of academia, community, and public policy to identify innovative solutions for complex social problems and action these solutions into positive change for Manitobans. Each partner contributes a unique constellation of skills, perspectives, and lived experiences. This diversity strengthens our connection and benefits problem solving, decision-making and action. The group agreed that expanding SPECTRUM’s membership was necessary for success, including participation from service users, federal government, the business community, and wider geographic involvement. Partners hoped SPECTRUM would increase individual, organizational, and community research capacity, as well as grow and reinforce their research, government, community and academic networks.

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How to move forward - next steps

Across conversations, the participants highlighted the importance of creating structure, processes, and organization within the partnership to support our capacity to identify and realize tangible goals and deliver on SPECTRUM’s ability to co-create evidence and effect policy change. The group emphasized the importance of describing an operational framework to move the partnership forward, including setting an overarching vision and objectives, clear roles and expectations, identifying project specific sub-committees, and outlining an actionable strategy. Partners also highlighted the importance of moving these items forward behind the scenes and re-connecting with the membership sooner than later to maintain momentum. We are listening. The Steering Group is meeting biweekly to address partnership expansion, structure, and to advance planning for the next workshop.

Your feedback is requested!

Your input is needed to ensure all voices and perspectives contribute to partnership development. Please connect with us if you would like to add to the workshop summaries, have suggestions for how to formalize the partnership structure, have an idea for a future workshop, or would like to get more involved in workshop implementation - please email spectrum@umanitoba.ca. 

Information sharing

Open lines of communication are critical to SPECTRUM’s long-lasting success. In the future, we plan to circulate regular newsletters, infographics, presentation slides, and other shareable products to update partners and their home organizations. We are working on setting up a digital space accessible to all partners to share information. If you want to suggest a knowledge product (e.g., briefing note), or a means of distributing materials, or want to be part of the team taking care of communication for the partnership, please email: spectrum@umanitoba.ca. In the meantime, follow us on Twitter @UofM_SPECTRUM, check out our website: www.spectrum-mb.ca and stay tuned for more information.

Second workshop

We are working on organizing our second workshop for 2019. At this point, we are aiming for the week of Dec 9-13, but will be in touch to find the best date for most partners.

ABOUT SPECTRUM
 

What is SPECTRUM?

SPECTRUM is a partnership of researchers, students, community service providers, non-profit organizations and government staff from across Manitoba. The SPECTRUM (Social Policy Evaluation Collaborative Team Research at Universities in Manitoba) partnership plans to work together to seek ways to improve social services programs and policies in Manitoba and beyond. Our work will involve both qualitative and quantitative research, drawing on the information available in the Manitoba Population Research Data Repository housed at the University of Manitoba. The data system includes de-identified records of service use from the provincial departments of Education, Families, Justice and Health.

Why is SPECTRUM needed?

Users of social services are often the most disadvantaged and most marginalised members of society. And despite being eligible for a number of support programs, these people can easily fall through the cracks due to the lack of coordination between departments and agencies. With political and public pressure to spend taxpayer funds wisely, there is a need for rigorous research to make sure people are getting the services they need and that the programs are helping as intended.

Who is in this partnership?

SPECTRUM partners include:

  • researchers and students from the fields of education, social work, law, psychology, sociology, economics, social epidemiology, and political studies at the University of Manitoba and the University of Winnipeg

  • government staff from departments of Families, Education and Training,and Justice, and the cross-sectoral Healthy Child Manitoba Office

  • leaders of community service organisations – including United Way Winnipeg, Public Interest Law Centre, Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth, Aboriginal Council of Winnipeg, Winnipeg Police Service, and others.

 

The team has been reaching out to other organisations and will continue to do so over the next several months, and inviting them to participate in workshops.

How does the partnership work?

A group of researchers, government staff and leaders of community organisations came together with an idea to work together, and collaborated on the development of an application for a Partnership Development Grant to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. This application was funded for 3 years (to 2021). The partnership will work together to develop a proposal for a bigger and longer term Partnership Grant in the next few years.The initial funding supports the development of the partnership, which means the building of working relationships between the partners named in the grant, as well as growth to bring in new partners who can contribute to the goals of SPECTRUM. Partnership members will work together through workshops, meetings, one-on-one discussions, emails etc., to develop and complete projects that evaluate programs and policies delivered by government partners and community organisations, and the reasons why some programs and policies are not reaching all the people who need them.

How to get involved

If you would like to get involved and have not been invited yet or would like to invite a partner to the group, please send an email to: spectrum@umanitoba.ca.

WORKSHOP SUMMARIES (09/20/2019)
 

The energy and enthusiasm in the room while discussing SPECTRUM’s future was electric! Partners discussed five key questions during the workshop to steer SPECTRUM: What can SPECTRUM achieve? Who should be a part of the action? What do I bring to the table as a partner? What do I hope to bring back to my home organization or community? What should be the focus of our next meeting? All contributions were valued, recorded, and summarized. Please find summaries and detailed notes for each theme below.

What do you believe a group like SPECTRUM is capable of?

Workshop participants believed that SPECTRUM will create a collaborative space and synergy through new and reinforced partnerships. They believed SPECTRUM will benefit from and can strengthen the Data Repository at MCHP. SPECTRUM can identify, inspire and influence innovative solutions to create change to complex social issues. SPECTRUM needs to mobilize new and existing knowledge to influence public perception and political will to make change. SPECTRUM has the power to shift the process and intersection of public policy and academic research. Spectrum is capable of building research and policy analysis capacity in Manitoba and beyond.

What do I bring to SPECTRUM?

Participants felt they brought a wide variety of skills, representation, experiences and perspectives to SPECTRUM that were fluid and would evolve with the partnership. Overall, partners felt they brought the ability to bridge different sectors with respect to communication, collaboration, organization, funding and resources. Specifically, participants referenced qualitative and quantitative research skills, experience working with administrative data in Manitoba, communication, evaluation, grantsmanship, and knowledge transfer, including storytelling. Participants also referenced their roles in government, community, and academia as being qualities they brought to the partnership. Government partners identified the ability to ensure SPECTRUM goals were relevant, engage productively with different sectors, and facilitate communication. Partners in the community highlighted their ability to bring the voice of service users to the conversation, engage community members in the SPECTRUM process, and communicate SPECTRUM back to the communities. Particular substantive areas of knowledge and experience were also highlighted by partners, such as childcare and family policy, human rights, front-line experience, economics, and policy analysis. Finally, participants indicated they brought their lived experiences and perspectives, including a focus on social justice, which would strengthen advocacy and partnership commitment.

Who else should join the group in crafting solutions?

There was consensus that wider representation at SPECTRUM was necessary. In particular, partners representing the broader Manitoba geography, the business community, service delivery organizations, established social initiatives, organizations representing various marginalized/minority groups, social service users, and Indigenous communities were identified. Participants were informed after this discussion that several Indigenous organizations are part of or have been invited to be part of SPECTRUM but were unfortunately unable to be present at the meeting; the Steering Group has reached out to engage with Indigenous organizations for our next meeting. Additional financial and practical suggestions to increase participation and the retention of SPECTRUM partners were made such as providing honorariums, other organizational resources, and flexible participation expectations.

What do I hope to be able to take away as a representative of my organisation?

Participants wanted tangible, measurable products that included evidence, solutions, more in-depth understanding, and deliverables. Participants wanted to acquire data access and skills, increase research potential, and build their knowledge base. Participants also wanted to build their networks; creating new partners, and collaborating with one another.

How could this initiative benefit the people I serve?

Participants felt that SPECTRUM would allow them to better facilitate access to and use of evidence, including data, as well as create capacity in the research process. Participation in the partnership could better integrate stakeholders; centralize processes, and move organizations, academia, government and communities away from working in silos into a more concerted effort that would benefit service users. Doing so would increase the effectiveness of individual partners to serve their communities. Specifically, participants identified the possibility of better communication, engagement and strengthened relationships with government. Overall participants felt that SPECTRUM would improve the quality of life for all Manitobans, in particular youth, those who experience social exclusion, and communities whose voices have not been traditionally heard. Participants felt that SPECTRUM lessons learned and successes would inform their everyday operations in their various organizations. Participants also pointed out the possibility that SPECTRUM could have unintended, negative consequences considering the partnership addresses groups of individuals who are often marginalized by the social sector.

What would you like to see this group focus on next meeting?

First and foremost, there was consensus that the groups see themselves as an entity with common ground and interest, that need leadership. Much like a traditional organization, the participants’ responses propose the need for an overarching framework from which to operate under which must include a vision, strategy and objectives. Through a framework, participants’ noted need for role and expectation clarity can also be addressed. The tools that participants identified in their responses to use toward this purpose includes research, data, exploration, and the energy that can be brought to that effort. Also, the responses would suggest that participants would like to start their efforts sooner rather than later, and it was suggested that organization efforts begin before the next meeting. Also, there was indication that the groups would like to be partitioned into project-oriented committees. The need for a triage process is also suggested in that the group would like to identify a problem(s) or need to begin working on immediately. Several groups suggested strategic planning or a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis in order to identify such priorities.

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