Find your passion, grow your career, build community and access all the tools and supports you need to thrive with help from Indigenous Education programs at RRC Polytech.

Social Innovation and Community Development

Launched in 2019, this program helps students forge their own paths into careers that give back to Indigenous Peoples and communities—through principles of Indigenous knowledge, reconciliation, governance and self-determination.

The two-year diploma program offers a common first year, then splits off into two specializations—community development or social entrepreneurship—that students can choose between. The first teaches them to work effectively with communities and organizations experiencing barriers to development, while the latter guides them to launch socially conscious businesses of their own.

Both programs foster students to become agents of meaningful change.

“You are walking into a whole new community, and it’s filled with love, and it’s filled with knowledge, and it’s filled with such a common understanding,” says Kyra De La Ronde (shown above), Black Loon Woman, a second-year Community Development student. “Everyone is there from different lives, but they’re coming to meet in a place for a similar reason.”

“When all of these like-minded people come together, it’s such a beautiful thing because we all bring so many different ideas. The way it’s taught is not a top-down approach, so you’re allowed to voice anything that comes to mind. You can have these ideas and ask instructors ‘What can I do with these ideas?’ and they will support you through that, so it’s truly a unique learning experience that until you’re here, you won’t fully understand.”

De La Ronde will graduate from the program this spring. Born and raised in Treat 1 Territory, she is a Métis woman whose family name comes from Duck Bay, Manitoba. Through the program, she has honed in on her passion for facilitating and hosting space for conversations around truth and reconciliation, and hopes to align herself with an organization that can help her move this work forward once she graduates.

“We talk a lot about Indigenous ways of knowing in the first year, so when we look at self-determination, I think it can be viewed in two different ways within both streams of the program,” she explains. “I’m in Community Development, so for me, it’s how I can give that power back to my community that has for so long not been holding the power in conversations. I hope to be this person, to be able to work to give that power back.

“Whereas with the entrepreneurship/social enterprise stream, it’s really about that self-determination in oneself and being able to use your own resources to make a profit for yourself and make change. I think they both focus on that self-determination piece, but just through different lenses. The root of it is to empower Indigenous Peoples, whether that be through empowering them through their community or empowering them through oneself.”

Though Kyra had previously attended university and worked in the field, the community-based program she’d aligned with lost its funding at the onset of the pandemic. One of her mentors mentioned the RRC Polytech program to her, thinking it would be a great fit for the up-and-coming grassroots leader. Now enrolled, she has also become involved with her Regional Youth Advisory Committee as the Infinity Women’s representative, and serves as chairperson of the Provincial Youth advisory Committee for the Manitoba Métis Federation.

“I think within three days (of applying), I was like ‘Ok, I want to do this.’ I think that process really lit a fire within me, realizing there is a way I can get an education in something that I’m so passionate about. And I’ll have that colonial piece of paper to prove to people that I’m educated enough to actually do the work that I’ve been doing.”

Social Innovation and Community Development focuses on the social, political, cultural, environmental and economic factors that contribute to the urban, rural, local and global development of Indigenous Peoples.

Students gain a deeper understanding of community development and economic reconciliation as observed through Indigenous perspectives. Collaborative courses and assignments use a team-based approach, and the delivery model focuses on experiential and project-based learning principles. Work-integrated learning and industry collaboration also introduce potential options for employment.

“It is very hands on,” says De La Ronde. “The instructors come from community, so they come from doing the work. There’s a wealth of real practical knowledge.

“My classmates have so much lived experience, as well, and they bring so many different aspects. It’s not just the instructors teaching us, but it’s our classmates teaching each other and it’s us teaching our instructors. It’s the first learning experience I’ve ever had where it’s so inclusive for all different types of learners.”

Courses taught within the program—including financial literacy, business applications and mathematics, marketing foundations, applied economics, healthy communities and environments, facilitation, and human resource and project management—give students the knowledge and skills to understand the complex business systems that support their individual career goals.

These practical skills complement the environmental issues and Indigenous theory and history components of the program, so students understand the context of colonization and how to work within current systems to ultimately strive towards socio-economic development and sovereignty.

“It’s really inspiring to know … all these different ways for communities to fund themselves, rather than relying on colonial systems,” says De La Ronde.

“It’s really inspired me to realize we can do this work and we can pay ourselves to do this work, and we can determine what we are worth. My eyes have been opened to all of the avenues of what this work is and how through this work we can fix these systems that are in place. It’s not necessarily something that has to be that way.”

Delivery of the program will soon transition to course-based registration to facilitate participants who want to study online, at a distance, part-time, or while working or fulfilling other responsibilities in their lives. The program is open to all Manitoba residents.

“I think this program is for anyone who has a passion for community and a passion for self-determination,” says De La Ronde. “It is not exclusively for people of colour and marginalized people to do this work themselves, and I think if you are an ally and you want to commit your work through ally ship, this would be a program where you can start.

“It’s for all people who have a drive to help others.”

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