Narrative Change Lab 2021

THE INITIATIVE

In November 2020, Inspirit Foundation launched the inaugural Narrative Change Lab. This national initiative is a creative experiment to engage and support practitioners and content creators from underrepresented communities to develop a culture strategy that advances BIPOC narratives in the pop culture space.  We believe in the transformative power of pop culture to support equity by impacting how we view and understand each other. This Lab is an opportunity for innovative BIPOC leaders in arts and media to collaborate and imagine new ways of shifting narratives and seeding new stories in the Canadian pop culture landscape 

2021 THEME: REIMAGINING MUSLIM NARRATIVES

Our 2021 theme will focus on Muslim communities in Canada and their narratives. 

The first Muslims arrived in Canada in 1854. They brought with them their stories, cultures, foods, weaving them into the fabric of Canadian identity. But Muslims have never been seen nor treated as equal Canadian citizens. In the two decades since 9/11, Islamophobia has spiked nationally and globally, despite increased efforts by both Muslim and non-Muslim communities to educate the public on the systemic discrimination and racism faced by Muslims in countries around the world. 

Here in Canada, a 2018 Environics Survey concluded: “Of all the distinct groups in Canadian society today, Muslims are most widely considered to be the ‘other’ because of where they come from, associations with terrorism in other countries, and specific religious practices like head coverings.” 

Over the course of this year, the Lab will explore the various issues affecting Muslims in Canada, focusing especially on the intersections of community narratives and pop culture. Led by the Fellow, and in collaboration with Inspirit, the Lab will convene a cohort of Muslim leaders in arts and media to create strategies to advance Muslim-led narratives in Canada’s pop culture space. This cohort will be selected to represent the cultural, ethnic, and sectarian diversity of Muslims in Canada. 

This space will be updated throughout the year with the progress of the Lab and experiences from the participants. We imagine this to become a place where we can share our findings, but, more importantly, tell the stories that we hope become the starting points for change.  

WHAT’S NEW IN THE LAB

We are excited to announce Sarah Hagi as our inaugural 2021 Narrative Change Lab Fellow!  

A superbly talented and prolific writer, Sarah brings an intimate knowledge of storytelling and expertise in pop culture. She will collaborate with Inspirit to lead a cohort of Canadian Muslim arts and media innovators to imagine and design how to take Muslim narratives from where they are now to where they could be. 

MEET SARAH!

Sarah Hagi
Writer, Essayist, Journalist and Pop Culture Critic 
@KindaHagi

I’m a Toronto based writer, essayist, journalist and pop culture critic. Since 2015, I’ve been writing pieces about identity, race, and just about anything I’m interested in for places like The Globe and Mail, Hazlitt, GQ Magazine, Time Magazine, The Cut, The New Yorker, Food and Wine, and more. Currently, I’m a panelist on CBC’s Pop Chat and CBC’s Canada Tonight with Ginella Massa.   

As a writer, my work is heavily informed by my experiences as a Black and Muslim woman, even when I’m writing about things that seemingly have nothing to do with either of those things. Essentially, my identity informs my work and my take on pop culture, which is exactly why I’m excited to lead the Narrative Change Lab. Canada has such a rich and distinct community of talented Muslims throughout so many industries — something we rarely see reflected in our country’s pop culture and media landscape. This Lab is important to me, because as someone with years of experience navigating Canadian media, I want to make sure the conversation around Muslims goes beyond the same “representation” conversation I’ve been seeing since I entered this profession. 

MEET THE JURY

Pacinthe Mattar, Omer Ismael, and Khadija Aziz supported our search for the Fellow, Sarah Hagi, as our external jurors for the Lab. They were chosen through an outreach and application process and bring strong experience in the arts and/or media sectors, pop culture, and deep knowledge of and engagement with Muslim communities in Canada.  

Learn more about the exciting work they are doing and their interests in this Lab. 

Pacinthe Mattar
[Phonetically: pah-SENT MAT-tar]
Journalist, Writer, and Producer

My life can be summarized by this Georges Simenon quote: ““I am at home everywhere, and nowhere. I am never a stranger and I never quite belong.” Growing up between Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, and Toronto between cultures, different worlds, in between languages and communities, it was so rare to see that kind of experience reflected in art, literature, and news.

I’ve always been drawn to stories of being on the periphery, of being both at home and homesick simultaneously, no matter where. Stories that don’t fit neat, clean narratives. I also grew up seeing how often women, and Muslim women specifically, are written about, spoken for, and how little space or agency they are given to write, create and shape stories about their own lives. That’s what drew me to a career in media and storytelling, and now as a juror for the Narrative Change Lab.

 

Khadija Aziz (She/Her)
Textile Artist & Educator
www.khadijaaziz.com

I am a Toronto-based textile artist and educator currently pursuing an MFA at Concordia University. My commitment to community engagement through arts is rooted in inclusivity, accessibility, and intuitive learning. From my experience in facilitating public narrative workshops through the Institute for Change Leaders, I have learned to incorporate storytelling and narrative-building exercises into my community education practice to empower more people to take pride and ownership of their personal stories. As a South Asian immigrant artist, I am familiar with the challenges faced by marginalized professionals in creative institutions and the industry.

This Lab is important to me because I want my younger cousins to see more diversity in the arts so that they can focus on building their narratives rather than justifying their experiences.

 

Omer Ismael
Program Manager and Strategist
Digital Main Street
@omerismael

I am a program manager and strategist committed to addressing community change through arts, technology, and entrepreneurship. For over a decade I have led programming at several non-profit organizations, museums, and festivals where I designed training programs and strategic partnerships that worked to serve newcomers, youth, and young professionals across Toronto. Arts and culture have always been a powerful way for me to address issues present in my community and throughout my career. I’ve designed programs that leveraged different forms of artistic expression to address issues ranging from anti-black racism, equity, and youth violence prevention.

I use art as a tool to address issues of inequality, just as mass media has been used as a tool for perpetuating stereotypes of Muslims and adding fuel to the fires of Islamophobia. And, through the Narrative Change Lab, I am excited to be a part of the process of undoing these narratives and rebuilding narratives of Muslims, by Muslims themselves.

CALL FOR FELLOW (APPLICATIONS NOW CLOSED)

Applications are now closed. The jury will select a 2021 Fellow who works within and has deep knowledge of the arts and/or media sectors, a passion for pop culture, and lived experience and connections within Canadian Muslim communities.

The Fellow will receive a $65,000 stipend to co-lead the Lab with Inspirit from February-December 2021. The expected time commitment is approximately 25-28 hours per week.  Inspirit will also provide additional funds to cover the associated costs of running the Lab.

DELIVERABLES

The Fellow will:

  • Collaborate with Inspirit to convene and facilitate a multi-disciplinary cohort of Muslim practitioners to develop innovative approaches to counteract and go beyond Islamophobic tropes within Canadian pop culture;
  • Generate creative strategies and solutions to amplify diverse Muslim-led pop culture narratives through public arts and media events/projects;
  • Provide research and insights into the current landscape of Muslim impact and engagement in arts/culture and media in Canada; and,
  • Elevate public dialogue and awareness of critical issues within Muslim communities and the broader public around Muslim identity through associated public and community engagement activities.

Please note: The final design and deliverables of the Lab will be mutually agreed upon with Inspirit during a kick-off phase in February 2021.

FELLOWSHIP CRITERIA 

The Fellow will demonstrate:

  • Deep experience and knowledge of the arts/culture and/or media sectors in Canada;
  • Experience using storytelling and pop culture tools to shift narratives and advance social change;
  • Knowledge of and experience in multiple storytelling platforms and/or disciplines, including, but not limited to: web, podcast, print, film, television, and radio; and/or, visual arts, performance, music, comedy, etc.
  • Commitment to civic engagement and strong relationships in a diversity of Canadian Muslim communities;
  • An ability to collaborate with others, and develop and maintain positive working relationships;
  • Experience and demonstrated skills in engaging and facilitating groups.

Additional skills and characteristics:

  • Based in and eligible to work in Canada;
  • Eagerness to listen and engage diverse perspectives of others;
  • Self-starter with strong project management skills;
  • Exceptional research skills;
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills, and the ability to convey information effectively for a variety of audiences;
  • An understanding of systems and strategy development;
  • Comfort with risk and exploration in an emergent and highly experimental process.

TIMELINE

  • Applications open: November 11, 2020
  • Application deadline: December 7, 2020
  • Selection process: December 9, 2020 – January 14, 2021
  • Shortlisted candidates notified and interviews: January 18 – 22, 2021
  • Selected Fellow notified: February 1, 2021

APPLICATION FAQs

Q: When is the deadline to apply for the Fellowship? 

 The deadline to submit applications is  December 9, 2020 at 11:59 PM EST. 

Q: Can I apply with another person? 

Applicants must apply individually.   

Q: Who can apply?  

In keeping with Inspirit’s commitment to equity, we encourage self-identifying Muslims from across Canada with relevant experience to apply. We are committed to all forms of diversity and welcome applications from all racial, ethnic, and sectarian backgrounds. We also welcome candidates with disabilities, as well as all genders and sexualities. 

Accommodations are available upon request for candidates with disabilities taking part in all aspects of the recruitment and selection process. Please contact us at 416-644-3600 or info@inspiritfoundation.org to discuss how we can assist. 

Q: How do I know if I’m qualified? 

We are looking for applicants who demonstrate:   

  • Deep experience and knowledge of the arts/culture and/or media sectors in Canada;   
  • Experience using storytelling and pop culture tools to shift narratives and advance social change;   
  • Knowledge of and experience in multiple storytelling platforms and/or disciplines, including, but not limited to:  
  • web, podcast, print, film, television, and radio; and/or,  
  • visual arts, performance, music, comedy, etc.  
  • Commitment to civic engagement and strong relationships in a diversity of Canadian Muslim communities;  
  • An ability to collaborate with others, and develop and maintain positive working relationships;  
  • Experience and demonstrated skills in engaging and facilitating groups.   

Additional skills and characteristics:  

  • Based in and eligible to work in Canada;  
  • Eagerness to listen and engage diverse perspectives of others;  
  • Self-starter with strong project management skills;   
  • Exceptional research skills;   
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills, and the ability to convey information effectively for a variety of audiences;   
  • An understanding of systems and strategy development;  
  • Comfort with risk and exploration in an emergent and highly experimental process.  

Q: What kinds of arts and/or media experience are you looking for?  

We are considering participants from all artistic practices and media backgrounds.  

Q: What Is the Lab NOT? 

  • This Lab is not intended to be aacademic study or major research report on the Muslim arts and media landscape in CanadaAlthough some research on the current Muslim landscape is necessaryit should not be considered the final product for this Lab 
  • Individual project funding.  
  • Individual skills training workshops.  The Lab is not intended to focus on individual or group skills training. 
  • An account of all the obstacles facing Muslim creative and content creators, without practical solutions being offered for these obstacles;  

The main aim of this Lab is to consider and identify solutions for multi-layered Muslim narratives to access the pop culture space. What type of initiatives will support Muslim narrative-making in Canada? How do we achieve shifts in narrative power for Muslim communities in Canada? 

Q: What deliverables are there? 

We view this project as a collaboration between Inspirit Foundation and the Lab FellowWhile we have identified some general deliverables, we expect that final deliverables will be further developed by the Lab Fellow in collaboration with those participating in the Lab.  Broad deliverables include: 

  • Collaborate with Inspirit to convene and facilitate a multi-disciplinary cohort of Muslim practitioners to develop innovative approaches to counteract and go beyond Islamophobic tropes within Canadian pop culture;  
  • Generate creative strategies and solutions to amplify diverse Muslim-led pop culture narratives through public arts and media events/projects;  
  • Provide research and insights into the current landscape of Muslim impact and engagement in arts/culture and media in Canada; and,  
  • Elevate public dialogue and awareness of critical issues within Muslim communities and the broader public around Muslim identity through associated public and community engagement activities. 

Please note: The final design and deliverables of the Lab will be mutually agreed upon with Inspirit during a kick-off phase in February 2021. 

Q: Can I apply for project funding through this Lab? 

No. While our other work focuses on funding projects and organizations that align with our goals and activities, this Lab is not a granting program. Rather, we are taking a step back to consider what initiatives are needed to access the pop culture space, which types of initiatives will support the intersection of narrative-making and pop culture, and how to achieve shifts in narrative power for Muslim communities 

For funding inquiries, please email us at grants@inspiritfoundation.org.

Q: What support will Inspirit provide?  

  • As a Fellow you will receive a $65,000 stipend to co-lead the Lab with Inspirit from February-December 2021. The expected time commitment is approximately 25-28 hours per week.  
  • Inspirit will also provide additional funds to cover the associated costs of running the Lab.  
  • Research and travel budget (to be determined) 
  • Stipends for participants in the Lab for the duration of the Lab 
  • Administrative support from Inspirit Foundation 

Q: Can this be my full-time job? 

The expected time commitment is approximately 25-28 hours per week.   

The stipend does not cover health or other benefits, and the Fellow will not be Inspirit employee. 

This project will not prohibit the Fellow from taking on other work, but the Fellow will be expected to meet monthly mutually agreed upon deliverables to Inspirit. 

Q: Will I be an employee of Inspirit? 

No. The Fellow and Lab participants will be engaged as independent contractors of Inspirit. 

Q: What if I have questions that haven’t been answered here? 

If you have any questions that have not been answered here or need any clarifications, please email Angie Balata at grants@inspiritfoundation.org .