A Scottish Visit to Canada / Une visite écossaise au Canada

Sian Ringrose, Scottish Agricultural College

In June 2012, Sian Ringrose from the Scottish Agricultural College visited Canada for some professional development in knowledge mobilization and rural policy. She spent one week with RIR-York and one week with RIR-Guelph. She also attended a rural policy school in Quebec and then some play time in New York City.  She tells her story below.

En juin 2012, Sian Ringrose, du Scottish Agricultural College, a visité le Canada à des fins de développement professionnel en mobilisation des connaissances et en politiques rurales. Elle a passé une semaine en compagnie de RIR-York et une autre avec RIR-Guelph. Elle a également assisté, au Québec, à une École d’été sur les politiques rurales en plus de séjourner quelques temps dans la ville de New York. Elle raconte son histoire ci-bas.

I recently returned to the UK from a month long visit to the provinces of Québec and Ontario, Canada.  This was a welcome change from my usual base at SAC (Scottish Agricultural College) in Edinburgh, Scotland, which was rather damp and chilly when I left in Mid-June.

On a knowledge transfer and exchange grant from the Farmer’s Club Charitable Trust Fund I was on a quest to learn about international rural policy, knowledge mobilization (KMb) and integrating research with knowledge translation and transfer programmes.  A particular aspect of my trip was to identify ways in which young people can be encouraged into agriculture, and to highlight the variety of agricultural and rural job opportunities available to young people today.

My tour of Canada began in the city of Montréal, Québec.  I was to attend a two week summer school on International Comparative Rural Policy (ICRPS). Staying in the Grey Nun’s Residences, of Concordia’s University I quickly realised the joys of air conditioning, and the discomfort of high temperatures twinned with high humidity!

Over the next three days we had guest speakers from; Rio Tinto-Alcan (the worlds largest producers of Aluminium); the Union des producterus agricoles (UPA – the UK’s equivalent of the National Farming Union) to sustainable food systems in the Montréal Region.  After living the city life we headed North to Québec City, then onwards to the more rural North-East town of Rimouski.

After two weeks travelling through rural Québec we eventually landed back in Montréal just in time for the end of the Jazz festival.  Definitely worth the visit for anyone who likes to sit outside in the sun, with a glass of wine listening to free musical performances – and a welcomed break after 14 straight days of work.

My trip did not stop here though, it was the beginning of July and I headed off to a new province and the bright lights of Toronto, Ontario.  It was here that I met with David Phipps and the Knowledge Mobilization Unit (KMb Unit) at York University, Toronto.

David introduced me to my host for the week, and KMb Manager, Michael Johnny.  For the rest of the week I visited a range of institutions from the Ontario Public Service to Blue Door Shelters for the homeless.  It was very interesting to see how the knowledge exchange networks of these organisations operated; some of which had very little funding for support infrastructures.  I was also asked to present my own knowledge transfer and exchange experiences at the KTE Community of Practice.

It was a refreshing change to see so many dedicated people from a variety of different backgrounds working together.  Despite the divergence from my own agricultural base, it was reassuring to find similar problems and issues arising in other disciplines.  The biggest issue that was discussed at nearly every meeting I attended was the issue of impact.  The evaluation or recording of work that clearly demonstrates the value of the projects being carried out, whether they be generating a homeless hub network or producing research snapshots for wide audience bases, was a particular hot topic.

This hot topic followed me to Guelph, which was my last destination of my travels.  Here I was hosted by Bronwynne Wilton, Knowledge Mobilization Program Manager at the University of Guelph and Elin Gwyn, OMAFRA Knowledge Translation and Transfer manager.

Another aspect that made a particular impression on me was the utilisation of students as key resources.  The trust and responsibility given to students for the production of knowledge transfer material was excellent.  I had the benefit of meeting with the SPARK programme communications manager Liz Snyder and student contributor Joey Stabic.  They demonstrated how they employ and train students to deliver a wide range of communication material on a whole host of research topics being conducted at Guelph.

The belief and trust in the students delivering high quality knowledge transfer material was very inspiring.  Seeing what could be accomplished with the resources and the capacity to respond was very impressive.  Additionally, the experiences and skill sets that these students develop over the years would, no doubt be a huge asset to them when entering the highly competitive job market.

Miss Siân Ringrose
sian.ringrose@sac.ac.uk
Policy Researcher/Research Co-ordinator
Rural Policy Centre, SAC

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