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Cultivating Authentic Connection and Courageous Contribution W/ Dr. Jackie Oncescu #15

Do you want to see human systems — education, sport and leisure, healthcare, etc. — where ALL individuals have an opportunity to thrive? In this episode, I sit down with research and community activist, Dr. Jackie Oncescu, where we talk about creating new systems and structures designed to have everyone at their best. We dive into topics such as tapping into belonging and contribution as a means of creating rich and meaningful lives; using human centered design to develop systems that serve people, rather than systems designed by ‘experts’ that are fit to bureaucratic metrics; healing ourselves as a means of deepening connection and being of service to others; and so much more. This is a juicy conversation you won't want to miss!


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Jackie Oncescu 0:00

The sense of belonging and inclusion requires us to be acknowledged for who we are in our and what we bring into a community. And if we don't have spaces for for us to come authentically into an arena, like a social arena to connect with others, and we're looking for that it's a human nature to feel connected. And the more connected we are, the healthier I think we can be. And it empowers people to make decisions that are better for themselves, no matter what trajectory they're on.

Stuart Murray 0:36

Welcome to episode number 15 of the connected movement podcast. I'm your host, Steve Murray. Are you disillusioned with our old outdated systems and stories? Are you tired of the growing polarization in society? So am I my aim is to engage in and unpack conversations with people from all walks of life as a means of CO creating a way forward for humanity. Today's guest is Jackie wants sq. Jackie is a professor, researcher, creative thinker and facilitator in the field of recreation and leisure management and community development. She is a passionate advocate for recreation, blending theory with creative community development approaches to help community practice redesign and reimagine recreation and leisure experiences. Born and raised on a farm in rural Saskatchewan. She developed a strong appreciation and interest in community to development, particularly leisures role in creating resilient individuals and communities. Jackie's work has taken her across Canada, working in researching on the East Coast, West Coast and the prairies. She's currently an associate professor in the recreation and sports studies program in the Faculty of Kinesiology at the University of New Brunswick. I really hope you enjoy this episode and before we dive in a thank you to our sponsor, Karen Phytoplankton. Many daily discomforts are the result of malnourishment and you may be malnourished. If you crash in the afternoon, you have digestive issues, you get lots of headaches, have trouble sleeping, you have muscle or joint pain, have trouble concentrating and so on. The good news is the right supplementation can help with this. I've personally benefited from using Karen Phytoplankton, which has helped me find more energy in the afternoons and beat that crash. You can find Karen Phytoplankton products at Costco locations or online at the Karen Without further ado, let's dive in.

Well, thanks, Jackie, for coming on and taking the time to chat. I've heard some amazing things about the work you've been doing. And in the chance I had to talk with you had been really inspired and really agree with the power of sport, to influence society and help improve society. And I'm curious what brought you into wanting to work with sport in the first place?

Jackie Oncescu 3:04

Yeah. I grew up in rural Saskatchewan in the middle of nowhere on a farm and my parents role modeled sport as like, you know, they participated and and when you grew up in a smaller community, often sport you know, recreation or leisure, I kind of like talking to all three makes life more enjoyable and adds a lot of quality of life. And I think when I grew up small town, sport was like, the thing that I was good at. I didn't do well in school and school was secondary, I think for me, but playing and being outside or connecting with nature or being involved in a sport team. I think it's like honestly, I say this to people a lot. I think it saved me from surviving, you know, for surviving a rural community. I mean, the village we grew up in was maybe 150 people in the village itself, it serves, you know, 300 people surrounding like the farms and stuff, but I graduated with a class of like 12 people Wow. So it wasn't like it was you had activity on the farm as kids we supported the farm process and the farm lifestyle but then sport was the opportunity to be engaged in community and to connect with others and it was what I was good at I school was like a terrible experience and sport, I think kinda like it was where I could like grow and and be connected and participate in something that gave me confidence. So I have a lot of value for that. That experience and, but there's a big but but that's not the experience for everybody and sport can be quite harmful and exclusionary, almost as much as it can be supportive in and and create those opportunities for for feeling connected and growth and inclusion. But we, there's a lot to it. It's quite complex, but that joy that I felt in the experiences I felt I'd like every kid to have you know that opportunity. And that's why I'm not just like, for me sports one aspect but outdoors, recreation, arts culture, the whole bit is our space Eric's experiences people can connect to themselves to others and feel like they're part of something bigger than themselves. And that, to me is the power of sport, rec and leisure is connecting to ourselves.

Stuart Murray 5:40

Yeah, I can relate to that I certainly would have likely ended up in the prison system if it weren't for the power of sport, growing up into channel some of that that young energy that I had going around. I'm curious when you said like sport saved you? What did what does that mean for you like when when you say sports saved you this sounds like there's something really powerful there that you weren't getting from school that you weren't getting from the rural community that you were in, what was it that sport did for you?

Jackie Oncescu 6:07

it's a for me, it was a place where I belonged, I contributed and I was I had skills and good feel my worth in those settings. Were in other settings in the school setting, I was not great. When it came to academics, I struggled, I didn't feel I didn't feel like like I wasn't a great student. And I struggled. And that was those were spaces in places where I didn't feel good about myself. And so when I gravitated into or when sport was became part of my life like is where I wanted to spend my time, it's where I was part of a team. And so we talk a lot about sense of community in community development and how what contributes to a sense of community is that you belong, that you have something contribute and that you in that you feel like you're part of something bigger than yourself. And I think where teenagers in particular are struggling like with Who am I that identity piece, and want to connect to people and experiences that feel good. Leisure, sport rec can can be those things with the right environment. So for me, I created friendships outside of my school where I didn't have, you know, maybe the best friendships in the school, but it was my sport teams, then I found those people. So you start to create that community. And if you struggle to feel like you fit in as a teenager or a youth, but you find it in an art or a form of dance or in in outdoor pursuits, or a sport team. It can save kids, it can keep them connected to themselves and that they matter and that they matter to others because they're contributing to something else. And in that case, the sport, the competition in art, the expression, theater doesn't matter. Like those are the spaces where we find ourselves sometimes and what and what we have to contribute and grow. So that's kind of what I what it was. Yeah.

Stuart Murray 8:01

Yeah, the tremendous sense of belonging and working together with a group of people towards a common goal, through hardships through all the wins through the losses. All of these things are such profound experiences at a young age. And to get that in an avenue where you can develop and grow with these people over a period of time, I'm sure you've probably had some of the similar teammates that move with you through a long period of time as well. So you could experience it's like a pressure cooker for life, right, like almost a simulated environment of the things that we can experience in the broader world, kind of down into a simulation that to build some of those skills.

Jackie Oncescu 8:40

And I think to why sport is a conflicting space for it is because sport notoriously is built on competition, right. And so I think we're where we get away from the possibility of feeling those things in sport or competitive settings. It can, it can move us away from the positive effects that sport can have. And there's that's why it's not always a great space, because some actually feel it can be bullied in those spaces, and can feel a tremendous amount of exclusion in those spaces. So that's why I'm always cautious about how much we put into sport pool, like broadly, because everybody's individual experience will be different. But we have, we don't always create those settings in sport. That do feel good. And the more competitive the more specialized, the more pressure and the more we make sport feel like a job or work beyond the like there's work to a certain degree, but that joy is a fine balance. I think sometimes so yeah, it's for me growing up like it was small town like it wasn't like we were in pursuit of provincials or nationals like it was just like, we were there some sports we were better at than others and, and and wedding we went we would win and we were Lose but like, there is it was just kind of a, an end in and of itself was just, it wasn't about the winning.

Stuart Murray 10:08

That's very interesting, I actually had a very different experience of that when I was growing up. And I think part of that is not only from sport, but from culture, like what we inherent because I think we have a story of, of the people that is rooted in scarcity and separation. And so you know, more for somebody else means less for us often, right. And so that's reflected in, in sport as well. And I remember growing up, being heavily invested in the outcome of the game. And something shifted for me later in life where I started to, I love, I love competition, but for the purpose of bettering myself. And, you know, like, if playing volleyball, for example, I now really just want to have a good rally. I know which side of the court the ball lands on, I want to have a rally. And I'm wondering, you know, how do we shift from that competitive base model? Where you talked about for that, for that enjoyment, and for the sake of bettering ourselves and finding belonging?

Jackie Oncescu 11:13

I think this is where sport becomes where we get a lot of tension, because sport by nature is competitive. And that can kind of go against the the values of inclusion, and belonging, because what value are we? What principles or values are most important? And I think I think it gets really tricky, in terms of how do we create that those spaces while in pursuit of competition or winning or valuing, because, arguably, there's just some sports settings and experiences that that is absolutely the number one thing and the To Do, do and do all do what you can, everything you can to get there, because the outcome is becomes more important. And it's not that you can't feel that you belong along the way, while you're in pursuit of something that's more important. But I think that's where the sports system. We have different levels of experience, we have grassroot we have like, you know, amateur and professional sports settings. And I'm not an expert in any of the sports system settings, by any means. I'm more more or less curious about how we give, create access into those settings for as many people as possible, particularly those that aren't necessarily targeted to begin with. So I think we have to be really cautious about, you know, the individual experience as part of a collective experience. And, and I think so much of it comes to who's leading who's coaching, you know, our, our policies, how competitive, we create the settings. Arguably, there's just some grassroot experiences that I've heard of, that I'm just like, this is unnecessary at this stage, you know, dryland training when you're 10 years old? Or, you know, like, you know, like, in and for what outcome? You know, like, what, what do we lose by focusing on those, those two early those experiences too early? And even just a gender perspective, to throw that in there that layers in different experiences and in sport settings that are, you know, between boys and girls, or men and women? And why, what, where they get satisfaction and joy? You know, and so there's, there's so many things to figure out in those settings. So I don't know that there's one answer, but it is really complex, super complex. But it, I think it's the principles of like, what do we what are we valuing the most? And who leads that? And how do you create that?

Stuart Murray 13:56

Totally. And you know, what? values and what values and principles would you highlight as some of those most important things, if we want to create that foundation that allows a space for everybody to feel heard and supported?

Jackie Oncescu 14:11

I think it's for it's the sense of belonging and sense of community and connection, I think, arguably, the thing that we need more than ever before is connection to others. And I've been reading a lot of work. There's a book friend of mine recommended called Radical help and it talks about the solutions to some of not solutions, like I guess like strategies to taming some of our bigger social wicked problems are embedded in relationships, that the more excluded we are from settings people, sorry, like community or feeling that we belong, the more isolated we are and, and in like the sense of belonging and inclusion requires us to be acknowledged for who we are in our and what we bring into a community. And if we don't have spaces for for us to come I'm authentically into an arena like a social arena to connect with others. And we're looking for that it's a human nature to feel connected. And the more connected we are, the healthier I think we can be. And it empowers people to make decisions that are better for themselves no matter what trajectory they're on. So that's why I focus so much on exclusion and inclusion in sport and recreation settings is because there is a tremendous amount of positive things that can come from those leisure pursuits. No matter if it's art, or culture, outdoor sport. But we, because in those arenas is where we can feel connected and feel like you're a part of a community, I think those principles if we could focus on those, oh my God, in school settings and health settings, like there's even research to talk about the role of social relationships and like poverty reduction in terms of economic, and even health outcomes, like the role of relationship. But that's, I think, too fuzzy for government to get their hands on. So we, we just focus on these objective measurements and other things that we think are going to fix and help people. But arguably, those that are most excluded from the settings are those that don't have the means to be in them to begin with. So they, they're always, I mean, community means you're either in or out, there's a boundary there. Right community is like minded people coming together, sharing values, sharing, interests sharing. And if you aren't in that community, then then you're not feeling those things. Right. You're on the boundaries are what we call the margins.

Stuart Murray 16:37

Yeah, and there's so much pain and trauma, I guess, ultimately, that can come from being on the outside of that rabbit, like losing that sense of belonging, right. And if that's happening again, and again, it's just going to reinforce that sense of, of not being enough, right? Hurt people, hurt people. And so what we're doing, consciously or not, is perpetuating this pain and suffering that we've inherited from intergenerationally. Culturally. And I've noticed when people are empowered, you use that word earlier, when people are empowered. They understand that their actions and what they say and what they do, brings a weight to it, and it can impact other people. And so then they want to take, you know, conscious responsibility. Yeah. And they have the ability to be able to have the courage to accept that what they're doing is impacting somebody, if we're not empowered, we might not even realize how much our actions are actually impacting other people. Yeah,

Jackie Oncescu 17:42

100% Like, it's just, this is why I go we talk about in community development, talk about reflect reflexivity, like reflect reflecting on yourself and your own privilege and how you show up to the world and how our assumptions can negatively impact the way we move through community practice. So I always share this story. Like we have assumptions, right based on like our own values and the way we grew up and like, I value sport, I was role model, my mother played it, my dad coached my mom playing. And it was just so cool to see that as a kid, like looking back now recognizing that and so I have a value attached to sport, and recreation experiences and, and outdoor recreation be from what was role modeled and shared in my life? Well, I carry that forward, and I have that value on all the things I do. And I remember interviewing a mother that lived in poverty. And I was doing research and I remember hearing her talk about, like, this bike that was going to be donated to her and her family for her for her son's and I remember, in that moment, her telling me, I don't, we don't want, I don't want the bike. And in my head, I'm like, we've been conditioned, I've been conditioned to think that this is like, what we do is we give people in need things to so that they can have a similar experience, like this is my values and like, this is how we take care of one another and how we help others and, and I asked her, Why don't you want the bike and she was like, I can't my son, I can't replace it. I can't, it's a nice bike, it's gonna get stolen and once it gets stolen, then I can't give that back to my son and I don't want to even go that route. I'd rather him not have the experience at all rather than have the joy taken away, and I can't replace it. And my heart sank and I left the so I left her home and I got in the car and cried and I was in this like crisis was this emerging academic. I'm like, I don't know what I'm doing. I have no idea. Like, I just that was like, I feel like the TSN turning point in my life worth my work. And I was just like, I have no idea what I'm doing. But I need to figure this out. Because I know I'm not alone in this approach. I know that this we've we've been approaching this for it from like an inclusion from this idea. And pinch me that day, and I can still feel the emotion of sitting in that parking lot. And I was just like, that was, it's just that's like one of the lessons like about our assumptions, right and like, we bring this forward. And like, if I was a community practitioner, if I had that assumption, my actions and my policies come from that. So then, then I create opportunities based on my belief system, which is, leads into, like, all the work that I do, and the approach I take now is different. It's not a top down, where it's like, hey, we'll give them equipment, we'll give them gas cards, we'll give them all this stuff. And then then there'll be included, when it's actually the there's a different a better way of doing it. But yeah, that's, like, we got to check ourselves. Because what we think is important, I thought of giving some like a bike to kid would be empowering. And in some cases, that is this particular family, it isn't. It's some families, it's perfectly okay. Which goes to the complexities this, like, there's no one solution. But in that family that wasn't okay. That's not where they were at. And that, and so, that's why we have to start with where families are at.

Stuart Murray 21:13

Totally, yeah. And we are always looking for this dogmatic, easy pathway for like, where's the manual, you know, I'll do I'll do the work, just telling me, you know, show me show me where it is. And it's just, it's not like that at all. And I want to actually dive a lot deeper in to unpacking how we can really create a system and be less colonial in our approach of thinking, you know, we can come in and be the fixers of all these problems from this top down mindset. But before we do, I'd like to actually step back and when we were talking last time, you you were going into explaining how Canada we've we've got a sport and recreation system that is really tailored to the middle and the upper class. And I think it'd be really nice to unpack that a little bit. For listeners.

Jackie Oncescu 21:59

Yeah, for sure. I love this part of the story. Because I think I think so many people don't understand, because that's part of, like our privileges seeing is sometimes it can get uncomfortable. And so in Canada, sport and recreation, you know, for a while, like we were in a governance where we were taken care of by the government with more funding, so kind of like, like post World War Two, and we, we shifted to, like universal health care in the 1940s. Like, we started, like, pulling together like a social safety net, to take care of our Canadian economy, and, and, and citizens. And so we were in this place of, of social kind of liberalism, thoughts. So we were taking care with a good social safety net, there's lots of investment from the government. And then we hit a bit of a recession by bit, we hit a recession in like the 80s. And so in the 70s, and 80s, there's this kind of turn with government, where it was like, we can't spend this kind of money all the time. And people can take care of themselves if we give them more choices to choose from. And government started to pull back funding in all sectors, but also in municipal recreation, and sport. And so municipal recreation lost some of their funding, and they had to download the responsibility for programming onto the private and nonprofit sectors, which ended up being private sector. So they, you know, sport, grassroots sport clubs, kind of, like had more opportunity to, you know, be centers of programming. And, and there's less programming funding and less free programming happening. And with that, download a responsibility, it increases the need, we are with, with less resources from the government, it meant that sport and recreation started having to change the way they delivered things from a community development model to a business model, because now they had to make money to cover the costs of running the programs. So we shifted to a business model in like, kind of the 8090 1980s and 90s. So is like, Okay, we have less money, but we can make money. How do we make money? Well, we target people that can afford to participate in our activities. So they use user fees, but then when you use user fees, and you're creating programming, you target people's interest, it's basic marketing. So it's like okay, well, what do you want to do? Like the community says they want to do soccer programs or hockey programs or whatever. So you build these programs, and then you charge them as minimal fee as possible and most you know, like, like try to keep it low cost. But when this ends up doing is it targeted, middle upper class citizens that can afford to pay. So then over decades of doing this, we create a sport and recreation delivery system based on middle and upper class citizens, largely largely white citizens. shared values of sport, recreation and leisure, which are not necessarily in alignment with those that are not in those classes or of that race. And so we've created in 40 to 50 years a system built for very, like almost a small group, but a a group of people that have a lot of privilege. And so we've designed a system based on white, middle upper class citizens leisure, Sport and Recreation values. And we're now more currently trying to unpack our systems because there's much more diversity than that in our communities. And we're striving to create more inclusion, but you can't, there's a difference between Inclusion and Social Inclusion in this too. So we have a system built for these types of people in these values. But we know there's lots of people that don't fit those values. So what you offer doesn't resonate. So opening the door to what we have as a system. So what we call access, like creating more access to his existing system will work for some, but that's not dismantling the system to be more inclusive. It's just like, here's more resources, so you can get into the door, but then behind the doors, the same system of experiences versus changing the system of experiences, which is a bit much bigger job. But yeah, that's kind of how we, we've gotten to this delivery system is largely like, economics, capitalism.

Stuart Murray 26:31

Yeah. And, you know, I could imagine even beyond being able to pay for the, you know, the the year of sport for the child is, like, even being able to get the sport there, if you have to work two jobs, or, you know, if you're already overwhelmed and slammed, like, you got to register your child, and you need to seek these things out. And so there's even I would imagine an aspect of privilege that we have with our time and our flexibility, and maybe only one parent needs to work the job where, you know, the parents might not be as present in a in the lower income family. So I'm sure those are other barriers, systemically built into that.

Jackie Oncescu 27:10

And I think to like an I'm not a sports system expert, but one of the things we do know is that grassroots sport is largely volunteer, driven, and largely its parents. So that's not fair either. So even though I'm quite critical of our systems and privilege and class it at the same time, I think it's barely unfair, that sport, you know, requires this family currency, you know, in a way that like this, this parent energy, because we can't afford to bolster that system for more support, and we're burning it out. I mean, parents, I sometimes see sport, and this is a personal opinion, it's, it's an, it's an facilitation of like, the delivery systems and extension of parenting and the government gets away with it. Yes, and there's all sorts of things that are challenging when, you know, parents are involved with managing a child support experience, but we need them to do it with the support system would fall on its on its face if we didn't have all these parents, you know, parenting through this sports system, like, like, that's, it's like an extension of parenting, at least in the Canadian context. Yeah.

Stuart Murray 28:22

Totally. And bless, bless the parents who are, you know, running around and take taking care, and that's a lot of timeless, you know, time spent invested into these different aspects. It's yeah, it's really wild. And what comes up for me there, Jackie, is when I think of, you know, where we place value is where it will direct our, our energy and attention to right. And so it's like, it seems like, we've really undervalued the power of sport to bring it back to what you mentioned, of how that saved you. In the beginning. It's like, I don't think the value of the health that's tied into that, or the preventative medicine aspect, or the, you know, the preventative costs, with our justice system, keeping people out of jail, like all of these things seem to have been removed, similar to childcare, or all these different aspects of society that are so fundamental to creating equitable opportunity and creating, you know, a landscape where we can thrive. It seems like that aspect of sport, you know, it's just more like, but it's a good chance for the kids to go play. Yeah, I think sport is so much more than that.

Jackie Oncescu 29:30

Well, you know, what's interesting is the research has been research done on the values of leisure so like, think of sport within that. Find that though how middle and upper class families value leisure and sport and recreation for the outcomes of getting their child ahead. So they often are like, it's a great place for leadership skills and teamwork and like there's opportunities and and all of those values are attached to getting ahead, where when they ask parents that are living in PA Verdier low income, like why do you value leisure and they valued leisure for family bonding. So families, lower income tend to value leisure for that family experience, because the family leisure experiences buffer the effects of poverty, they can protect them from the damaging experiences that come from being in community. And so when you have these different values, when we think about supporting a family that doesn't fit this middle upper class narrative, what we provide and community contradicts the values that they have, and the experiences they want to actually have. So we fund as an example, community sport activities, the it, we were like, hey, well, we'll get your kid into sport in recreation, because these are all the great things that can come from it. But that's not going to change the fact that they're living in poverty, and that they're trying to navigate community life with a stigma and the challenges that come with it. So you're just putting them in a social arena that can actually be more harmful. But instead, if we gave them tools and resources to create family leisure experiences that help them feel more connected, or lots of the families we've worked with, actually just want to be in nature, they want to go camping, or hiking, biking, but but we take their choices away from them by putting only these other opportunities, like we'll fund these experiences, like Come with us. But we won't fund these other ones that allow you to do what you need to do that's right for you. So when you talk about we're talking about values, that those are fundamentally different values driving different leisure choices in family units. So when we have a whole system driving values of getting ahead, leadership, teamwork, and, you know, being on a platform being seen, and spotlighted, and then we have, we have values over here, it's like bonding time together protection. You know, those are different. Or we don't have a we don't we don't do enough for that those other values.

Stuart Murray 32:12

Totally. And I think one thing there that came up earlier, when you were speaking was this difference, and perhaps I've fallen victim to that before, you know, just this idea of thinking, Oh, well, let's improve access, like, let's get this opportunity for more people, probably from my own delusional perspective, and from my place of privilege, right from my inability to see because I benefited so much from the systems and structures that were in place that helped me be a better leader that helped me, you know, find belonging find all of these things. But, you know, it was my experience. And so I'm curious about your take on that difference between just providing more access to the existing systems and structures? And where it seems like a lot of the work you're focusing around is looking at that fundamental change in that shift. And I know something you had mentioned before, was human centered design to help change that system? Could you help talk about some of that work? You're doing?

Jackie Oncescu 33:06

Yeah. So at the end of the day, like because I focus a lot on people living, like citizens living in poverty, and that comes with lots of other oppression, related to gender, race, like race, ability and age. So it's complex. But fundamentally, one thing that people that are lower income, that don't have is choice, they have no freedom to choose. So depending how, how supported one may be in the system, social service system, like if they have socialists, if they're on social assistance, or they have, you know, their choices are largely taken away from them. So the less money you have in Canadian society, the less choices you have less choice of how you get around less choice of where you live, less choice of the resources, you, you know, like food, like you, you have less choice. So when it comes to sport and recreation, we also really have stringent choices. It's like you can be in these organized activities or nothing. And but that doesn't address the social and economic and material deprivation that surrounds those experience those choices. So for me, fundamentally, I would just rather give people more choice. So how do we create systems delivery systems in sport, recreation and leisure, where we stop telling families and people this is what you can do to helping them create choices for themselves to do what's right for them. And that means that we have to get off our high horses and stop assuming that we know what's best for these families. I don't know what the lived experience of poverty is like. I have had, I understand it from other experiences through research and through family members experiences in it, observing it, but I've never lived it. And arguably, the people that are living it know what they need more than somebody that's not living at. And so our approach to working with and making, making changes as we center our design or our experiences that we want to offer on the human experience. So we, we were using what we call human centered design, which is, whatever you're designing whatever system, it's actually comes from technology like, like Apple would use it like the user experience, like, Hey, you agree with your Apple phone? Like what do we want them to the human experience? Because then they can sell more products, right? So for us, it's like, we want to the views, we human centered designs have picked up and now work in more social service sectors as well. It's like, how do we create systems that work better for this one heute for this, this human experience of poverty in this health setting, or in the social services or early childhood education, or whatever it is. So human centered design has, is designing based on the human experience. So in the work I do, it's, it's really important that whatever gets designed, like a policy, a program, a service, an organization, that everything is centered on the person that's going to experience those, not the experience of the people delivering them. So there's a difference between like it's not about because right now, what happens is we largely centered our services on a business model, which is focused on efficiency, accountability, and individualism, which is like, how can we get people to do things more for themselves on their own? How can we do this with less resources and be super efficient? And how do we make it make everyone accountable to it? And those go against principles of inclusion, because we actually want collectivism we want to, we want to be more supportive. So we actually, when we are working with people on the margins of community, it's not about how much more can we make them do it by themselves, it's how can we get to help doing it with them and for them. So human centered design has kind of multiple phases, there's different models, but you start with building from a place, or designing a program or service from empathy and understanding of the person experience. So for us, we work with citizens that have families that are low income, to understand their lived experience, and what it's like living the way that they do, how their day to day life, is how they navigate the services that they have access to, what their life is like and feels like. And then if they are in a sport setting, we talk about what that experience is like once we understand, and there's many stories, like there's no one story of poverty, so it's pretty complex, but you get these kind of ideas of what their what that user experience is. And then we work with those people, and people in leisure and sports settings, to identify the problem or the issues that we think or center that we want to that we want to do better in the system for so if it's like they're feeling disconnected, they don't know, there's like they seem to lack like there's like a real lack of knowledge or connection, then we look at that, as a core problem is like is there's a missing piece there. But it's based on their lived experience. And then we move through and we brainstorm to create a facilitation. So we moved from like empathy and understanding to what is the core issue to then co creating with them possible solutions and ideas to test out so we call it like ideation or brainstorming. And then we move to like testing it out, and then launching it. And so but the process involves them and their experiences centered through every stage of the process. And then what gets designed, often better suits them. So you want me to give an example of what this look like would love that. So in Manitoba, we work with I've worked with an organization for a few years, quite a few years now. And they're called Rock recreation opportunities for children. And we, we worked with families on ideas for how to help them connect. So how do we open more doors so this isn't a true inclusion like like Social Inclusion Project, but what we wanted to do is create more access so that they could get into experiences of their choosing. So one of the things we learned early on through interviews and focus groups with with with interviews with families was that they really were unaware of how to fill out paperwork where this information was online access. That's not a like low income issue. That's a system not speaking to a population. Like if you have a subsidy program, and it's all online and you have rural low income citizens that have digital Like barriers are literally digital literacy challenges. That's a big disconnect. So we learned what they needed. And we found that they needed more knowledge and awareness. And so we actually, they we did a, an activity, and it was kind of like a red light green light, like, like a traffic stoplight situation. So we had parents, we did a folk, we did a group experience, we said, okay, what are the activities you want your kids to do this year? So they wrote them all out on a piece of paper? And then we said, Okay, what do you have to do to get those kids into the activity? Like, what are all the responsibilities? So we put up on board, all of the things typically like, well, we have to drive in there and negotiate with my ex husband or ex wife, like the family schedule, register get equipment, all of the facilitation. So they picked all of the ones that were applicable to like one activity, they wanted to get their child, and then they lay them out in front of them. And we said, okay, of all the things you have to do, what do you like? What do you what can you do on your own? What do you need a little bit of help with, and what is something that you can't do without support, so it was green was I got this yellow was I need a bit of support Red was I can't do this without somebody else. So green was like, they can be encouraging. They can be like, supportive emotionally, they could they could do that, you know, some of them said, I can get equipment. And then as we got to yellow and red, it was like, I don't know where to find funding, I don't know how to fill out the application. And so when we got to the red and the yellow, it was all the paperwork processes that they needed help with like some, in some cases, they needed someone to go to registration night, because sometimes registration was in person, and they weren't comfortable going. So then we took all of the yellow and red. And then we co designed supports that that organization could do that would address the yellow and the red based on what the parents need it. And so they go to registration night, they fill out the paperwork with them, they do email reminders, or text messages. They focus on building relationships with the families, so that they feel comfortable going to registration late with them, or they just pick them up and take them to registration night and they stand in line with them. That's not the traditional access provisions that are typically provided. But we take the what the family wanted with those parents wanted. And then we went through brainstorming ideas, tested some things out and put those in play. And so it's an evolving process, it doesn't stop once you get to the end, because then you evaluate and this organization is intuitively tuned into all of their families, they don't need me in there at all anymore. There, they are nailing it. But they just make they pay attention to the patterns of the families, and they start to see patterns. And they're like, hey, something's here. Like, let's talk to them. What do you need from us? How can we support you? And and that that's essentially what it is. It's designing from the center of the experience of living in poverty. And that is very different from what we offer today.

Stuart Murray 43:02

It's totally different. And, as you alluded to earlier, you know, the more we can listen to everybody's experiences, we actually all benefit because we we it's almost like there's a parable in India where, you know, there's seven blindfolded people and they're all feeling a different part of an elephant, you know, and everybody's all convinced that the trunk Oh, no, that's a tree trunk, and then the tail, oh, that's a paintbrush, and it's like, together, there's actually a more holistic picture of, of what's really going on. So being able to develop those skills, and our ability to listen in such a way actually would bring a richer experience. And, and something I learned about from my background in environmentalism was a story that happened in Africa where this group had come in, and had, you know, they'd come in as received a ton of funding to go in and develop food security processes for this village, who had, you know, environment, massive environmental issues started to misuse the environment. And these people came in and they, you know, they built this big garden on the hillside and they went in and the people in the village, they're like, oh, yeah, we'll go in and we'll build it with them. And the people didn't participate. And they didn't understand why. And so they built the and said, Okay, well, we'll do this work, and then we'll, you know, we'll help coach them through and just, maybe we just need to coach them and build these skills up. And then at the end of it, they built the garden, all the stuff started to grow in, they were there for months, and then all of a sudden, this population of Antelope or some some African subset of that came through and eat everything. They said, that's why we didn't help you

Jackie Oncescu 44:48

That just explained everything. Like it's just like, oh my god, of course, like, why would I waste my time? I know it's gonna get eaten, but you won't listen to me and what we know and aren't all our expertise, right? Mm hmm. Yeah. Huh, yeah, governments in the form of I mean, governments, largely somewhere, I gotta watch what I say, but there's a lot of control, right? We create, like, we create subsidies and programs, sometimes at a federal or national like at a national level to ensure that we're economically contributing citizens and that we're healthy so that we're not a burden on society. So we sometimes create these programs, so that we focus on avoiding those risks in in, quote, unquote, at risk populations. But as once WISEWOMAN of said to me, You're not born vulnerable systems make you vulnerable. So we're not we're just perpetuating vulnerability in our systems, by the way that we operate. And, and so you want to focus on changing your system so that people can thrive, right.

Stuart Murray 45:54

Yeah, totally. And, you know, I guess, to understand, too, you know, it's understandable why government would reduce some of these KPIs or, you know, metrics to what can be easily measured, so that we can report on that in the news or so that we could do the same in education, right? It's like English, English scores, maths scores, those are easy. They're tangible things that we can report back to, but how engaged are kids? You know, how, how much are we setting them up to be the leaders of today and tomorrow and building these skills so that they feel a sense of belonging, and that and I'm sure that same kind of short sightedness would would manifest when we looked at sport and leisure is like, our metrics are maybe good for bureaucratic reporting, and our you know, our check sheets, but are they really capturing the essence of where we need to go to develop it and experience for humans and for society that enriches people's lives?

Jackie Oncescu 46:50

Yeah. Oh, I agree with you like, whereas I was reading, I think it was in this book, and I even penciled it. And it was just like, we don't aren't focused on creating systems for thriving, which we keep treating people in economic ways. And so we have to start thinking differently about about those ways that we value people in our, in our, in how we support them. And it's so complex, right? Like, that's part of it, we get I think we get paralyzed by the complexity. But when you said accountability, and like metrics, that's accountability. So that's not one metrics, like we govern, our government governs us through those, those kind of core values of the more in the more, the less that people need to lean on the government, the better off that, that the more we value them, right. So the more independent you are, you don't lean into us on these systems, the better off you are, but in their in their eyes, but that countability, too, for education or like, it's just like, here's your metrics. But that's not how this works. Like even when I apply for government, like I apply for funding. The government often wants to know, what is it that you're going to do? Like, what what is the project? And what are your outcomes, and I'm saying I need front end funding to get to the product that we will then evaluate, but trying to get someone to say like, we don't really know what's going to get designed. Government doesn't like that. I mean, that luckily, I have landed a project that is allowing us that that that huge, that phase of development. But it's really tricky, sometimes convincing a grant app, you know, funder to say, we don't know what we're going to design, but I promise you is going to be really good and probably really effective, because this is the approach we're taking. But there's like, Well, what do you what are your outcomes? Like? What are your objectives? Like? It's like, well, we need our objectives is to design something, and then we'll evaluate it. And so it's tricky, because if they want no ones, but if we knew that this was going to work, we wouldn't be having this discussion. And you wouldn't be funding it if we knew how to tackle, you know, climate change and obesity, like we would have this funding, right? So we're funding the wrong, we need to fund the front end of, of discovery and in designing not just the implementation of something that we thought was a good idea.

Stuart Murray 49:10

And it's a total, it's a total shift, you know, it's it is stepping out of that colonial we know as best we must that reductionist very basic mindset. You know, in order to do this, we must do exactly that. And here's his dogmatic pathway. And it's like, it's things aren't as clear cut, we can't reduce all of these things. And we need to step back and see the massive complexity of interplay between all of these weird dynamics in our systems that are always shifting and changing as well. And so it's, it requires constant checking in constant evaluation, like you said, you know, it's like, maybe that system even worked for a minute. But then even then we need to check back in Yeah, check back in and so it's, it is an ongoing process. And, you know, when we were talking last time to you We were going around where government does play an important role. For sure, you know, especially with access to funding, being able to empower the individual so that they can put food on their plate and their families plate and bring the expertise to do that. I don't necessarily think that it's going to be the bureaucrats that are going to be the ones in the community doing this, but helping to facilitate those who can bring the expertise and who have the capacity to be able to listen and facilitate that human centered design or whatever kind of model it is that we need to move that forward. You said change must come from community, ultimately. Right. And that's, that's this long lasting, sustainable change. And you said something about, I create a space of possibility for it to take place. Yeah. Can you share more about that?

Jackie Oncescu 50:49

Yeah. Like, I think sometimes, we get pigeonholed. As professors, we get pigeonholed as, like the experts in a topic area in largely Yeah, I know a lot about this topic. And I can talk about it a lot. And I and I appreciate that. But for me, it's almost uncomfortable. Because I'm trying for me, what I've come to learn is that my role, I think, is creating the space for change to be possible. And I've learned enough to know that that often means getting uncomfortable in community spaces, like reaching in work, building relationships, and creating the space for community to come together to share their own experiences, to then co create their own solutions. It's just a, it's like a container to hopefully impact like, I don't want to say that we empower people, because that doesn't feel good either. But it's just a space where we can focus on capacities and relationship building. And, and just have the funding and the money to like be able to like feed people bring them transportation pay for them to be in a space and time where they have the answers, they just often aren't given the power, and the space for their voices to be heard. This is the grassroots versus the top down right top downs, like, oh, we know, we'll, we'll put together a funding application. And these are the activities will fund and then then I get the I might Great, I'll evaluate this, this is interesting. And then families say to me, this doesn't work, I can't get my I can't pay for that much gas. But what would work would be funding unstructured activities, their funding structured and, and so instead, if we get to the community, and we can bring people together, and we can start having those honest conversations and building those relationships, we can start to see and understand each other. And that's where empathy and understanding comes. And once we get there, then we can see what the problems are, and understand the possibilities. But the possibility can't be present without the person that's living it.

Stuart Murray 52:55

Totally. Yeah, it's I see it in all of these things. You know, we've got a centralized, a centralized curriculum that comes in education down right through, it's like, oh, yeah, these people in Ottawa or these people in Fredericton, or whatever capital have, we brought in all the experts. And we've decided exactly the pathway that a child needs to be able to develop, oh, we brought in all these sport experts who's come through, and we've created a new system that's going to serve everybody, and we've got the answers, you know, and you said something again, last time, you said, The answer lies within those who are experiencing the policy or the program. And that's brilliant. And I think that's so applicable to so many of these different systems, writ large that we struggle with be that food, sport and leisure education, health care, whatever that is, I think that really gets down to so much of the root and, and then from that is, is, as you said, empathy and listening, like from your take, be it with the people you work with bid in other relationships? What are tools that you use to help listen attentively to others?

Jackie Oncescu 54:01

Oh, my gosh, right. We're right in the middle of it right now, where we're doing a project in New Brunswick, and we're focusing on understanding the experiences of those that are trying to serve citizens that live in low income. So the the provider experience, and right now what we're doing is we've it's kind of cool, like we, we've got an actual map. And and so we're in a large region, and we've we're, we're looking, we're working across like a dozen different communities, smaller rural communities, and we've been working with some key community developers in the region. And so we're like, okay, who are the movers and the shakers like who is who is working really hard on poverty reduction, from transportation to food, you know, sport, leisure, community childhood education, health, like who are the movers and shakers. And then what we do is we put them out together and we identify how, how close they are to the actual family unit. So like, you Is it a caseworker? You know, that's like working with families, versus like the mayor, that's a super big advocate, so that the distance between the mayor and the family is a little bit larger, because they're not, you know, they're advocating and maybe building programs or like funding opportunities, where, you know, the food bank, or early childhood education centers, or family resource centers, or organizations that are little bit closer to the family unit. So we map them out based on how close they are to the to the individuals in poverty. And then we start connecting with them personally. And we reach out and we just say, Hey, this is like, what we're curious about, we'd like to learn more about your experiences, and, and how you see experience, you know, your experiences, delivering services and working, you know, with families. So we do that. We're doing that right now. So it's really just conversations. It's like what I like to call curious conversations. And it's building awareness of who we are and who they are. And like, finding our common understanding, it's like, oh, yeah, like, we're hearing this a lot. Like, we're breaking down silos a little bit, because we're working across different sectors. So curious conversations. And that relationship, building one on one with practitioners is where we're started right now, where we're going to move that. So to create more tools is we're going to come together and gather in groups. And so we haven't quite figured out what that's going to look like. But it can be as much as like posting a barbecue. Having practitioners just come together, you no more listening more note, like more gathering more sharing on central questions that we're curious about. That's the practitioner side, then we're going to do it with the individuals that are living these experiences. And so because there's two sides of this experience, right of the system of sport, recreation, we've got providers, and there's policymakers, and they've got the people that are going to experience them. So they both have challenges, the system is heavily underfunded, and practitioners are working their asses off, and they're burning out. That's it, there's issues there. And there's, there's issues across the whole thing. So we're, or we're looking across both experiences, and then we're going to connect with individuals. So what we're going to do is work with those organizations, to then identify individuals that are willing to talk to us about their experiences, which is a little bit trickier. And it's building, learning about their lives, connecting with them in their community, maybe meeting them in person, we pay for their time, like we pay them for their time and pay for their transportation. But we start with, again, a curious conversation about understanding who they are and what it's like to navigate their community. And what what brings them joy. You know, what, where's the tension, what you call it, pain points, you know, where are your pain points and these experiences. So we want to understand how they navigate the services that are provided to them and the opportunities in their communities and what gets in the way. And then come together with them, hopefully, in the group setting. And then eventually, we'll be building a co a space where both practitioners and citizens come together with us to go through that design process of being creative, but we can't get anywhere. So until we get relationships built, you can't move a dial without trust. Hmm.

Stuart Murray 58:22

I couldn't agree more. Jackie, that's, it's amazing. And I love the term curious conversations. I think we're, you know, all of these things you're sharing are applicable across the board. You know, we're in a time where we seem less curious than ever, and are so quick to persecute people for their particular beliefs and ideas. And I think being more curious, and being able to lean into that is going to be something that will propel us forward in all of our different systems, in our personal relationships, to heal some of the division that we've been going through and for millennia, and particularly, you know, it feels accelerated in the last couple of years. How do we remain curious in conversation?

Jackie Oncescu 59:10

Oh, my gosh, I think this is so important, every aspect of our lives like even personally like I think we all get like triggered emotionally like something somebody says, and it gets you fired up, right? Like, I will get super fired up over this stuff, like super fired up. And, and, and I remember one of my, one of my like, I remember like the word should drove me bonkers as a kid my kids let's like, you know, you should do is like, Oh, your shirts aren't my shirts. And I think one thing for us to think about to stay curious is when a belief of ours or something that we see is different from ourselves, instead of defending yourself, instead of going on the defense is get curious about that other person and where they're coming from. And, and I think it's really hard for us because I think when we feel like we need to defend ourselves in situations. It's, it's uncomfortable because our narrative of of truth is being challenged. And I think when they think that's hard for people sometimes to have that challenged, and so I think the way that this work works, is that you, you have to park your stuff, and that it's not about you, it's about the understanding. And it's about, I think, being curious, because if you're curious about someone else's lived experience, then you can build relationships from there, you can't, it's hard to build relationships from a place of having to be right.

Stuart Murray 1:00:45

Isn't it ever, I noticed that in me, like, I, it's coming up a lot lately, and particularly, the deeper relationships get, the more invested we are in that and the more perhaps we have a deeper identity tied into that. And the more stake there is in a relationship, the more we can be impacted by by somebody else's actions, and it can push on those buttons of of not enoughness that we already have that exists within us. And I noticed when my not enoughness comes up internally. I over intellectualize that shit out of everything, all of it. Yeah, and it's my defensive mode, you know, that's kept me safe, it's kept me protected over my ears to switch into that rational brain, you know, put that stiff arm away from my heart. And I get caught up in the words and the ideas and, you know, the, the argumentation or all of these things, even if it's of a genuine nature, at some level, I'm not hearing and connecting to what's actually alive in the other person. And so I'm blocking a flow of connection, and I'm blocking an opportunity for both of us to grow.

Jackie Oncescu 1:01:58

I think, fundamentally, a human experience that we all want is we want to be seen, heard and understood. And, and on in personal relationships, and friendships in work, like, nothing feels better than when we can connect and feel that we feel like we've been seen, and heard and understood. And imagine being in a community where you're never seen, you're never heard and you're never understood. So if we can create, even in like, personal relationships, like, you know, when you connect to friends more, because you're like, they know you, they got you, they see you they, you know, they got it, and then you got people in your life. Like, it's, it's none of that, but their role in your life is different, right. But I think that's why those curious conversations become so important is because if you get curious, it creates a space for you to let go of yourself and your own stuff. And just be present to that person's experience not to be judged not to be to be right not to, to evaluate it, but just to be in that space. And there's no better feeling than then than that. And that's that sense of connection that comes to sense of belonging that creates sense of community. You know, you I get in fights all the time with my dad, because we have different values. And like super conservative in his side supers like liberal and on my side and, and we butt heads all the time. And I remember just shifting the conversation and like Dad, tell me more about why that matters to you.

Stuart Murray 1:03:29

Right? If you might find that there's actually, you know, an underlying need that that is really similar. And if we could start at that, it's like, oh, you also share that same need, we just have different means or ways that we think we're going to have that need met. And maybe there's actually a solution that works here for both of us. Or maybe there's not in this way, but we can have a real honest dialogue about it rather than, you know, react to our traumas and our triggers. And I also noticed, you know, like, being having curious conversations, for me also means doing my work means working on healing my trauma, working on healing my pain, because what I haven't been aware of and where my biggest suffering is where I steamroll other people, right. And it's like, that's where I come in. I'm just not even conscious about it. And as I start to unpack my trauma from from my childhood, all these things that I never even knew were there. I'm like, wow, I I've been hurting people in ways that I didn't even realize, yeah, and I need to go in and I need to start to do that work so that I can show up in a different way. And it's like, if somebody's being vulnerable doing this, it's not about me, that it's such a tough thing for us to be vulnerable. That is it. So you know if I can sit with that in somebody else, and like, what a gift it is for them to show up and trust me enough to be vulnerable to express something even if it's hard for me to hear. Yeah, what a gift.

Jackie Oncescu 1:04:57

Yeah, it I remember someone saying Like, who stopped thinking you're so important? I was like, oh, yeah, this is all like because we immediately make, you know, these experiences about ourselves like, what did I do wrong? Or like, How can I change this? And it's like, wait a minute, this is so not about me, like, Why do I think I'm this important. And I remember reading and this is in my personal life journey, like similar to what you're describing like this, like wounds and patterns from childhood. And I recognize, the more we do the work for ourselves, the better we show up to others, and that changes the world. Because when you can be authentic, to showing up and being present to you, because you're not, you're not showing up out of fear, or out of ego, or out of all these other fear of abandonment, like you're not, if that's not your operating system, because you're working on healing those parts, then you show up and community differently, and you can connect from a place of your your center space. And this is way kind of removed from my work world. But when I work with my students, the thing I always tell them is like, you've got to follow your inner compass. And if you're drawn to this, or you get lit up about this, like that's where you got to go. And, and I think my work and my own personal journey, almost circling back to how I got into this is that my wounded parts of me the wounds that I saw in experience, are things I'm trying to support. Now, in the work that I do, I felt super excluded in certain experiences, and I felt bullied, and I experienced those things. I don't want a kid to feel like that I want I want kids to have, you know, or people have meaningful connection because I missed meaningful connection. It came through sport, but didn't come in other ways. And so, but for me to show up authentically in these arenas with these people, I can't be an expert, I can't be a professor that knows all I can't. And I quite frankly, that's super uncomfortable for me. I want to connect with people, because that's where I know that what matters most, you know, and that they get just that's why the work on ourselves as like, in this is not my work world, but it's the more you can do that work for yourself, man, the you are showing the way and what you need to do moving forward.

Stuart Murray 1:07:14

Totally. And I would actually perhaps argue that it is part of that work world because that's that is, you know, if you're talking about relationship building and curious conversations, which, you know, offer the opportunity for human centered design and listening to others to take place, like, perhaps that is, and I think so much for me, every time I'm reflecting on these things, so much of it comes back to healing so much of it, you know, so many of our problems and our challenges. As a collective. When we look outside, we can see that mirrored within us, oh my god.

Jackie Oncescu 1:07:46

The moment you want to point a finger and I'm like, Ah, then that's in me. And it's like, dude, like, and I I'll admit that this is super uncomfortable work for me, like I'm, I'm a privileged white woman. And I don't know what these families go through. And I'm an I'm trying as much as possible to be as empathetic, and I still slip up and I still say the wrong things. Or I still like, find Judge, I still can find elements of the ways that I judge, but awareness is exhausting. If anyone does personal development work, they can say it's a breeze, I challenge them on it, because it's exhausting being so reflective of yourself. It's like, why am I feeling this way? Why am I uncomfortable? One of the things of human centered design and attitude that they say that you should have when you go into this is, is the idea that like you're not going to know, there's a lot of unknowns, and you don't know anything at the start. And I will say when I worked with our families in Manitoba, I worked with a good friend of mine, she's actually in town, she's out for a family vacation, and we're going to hang out on Monday. And we always said like, you have no idea what we're doing. And she's like, No, we have we have no idea what's going to happen. And I we don't really know what's going on. But we know that we're going to do is ask the right questions. We're just going to ask the questions. And we know that we're going to get the knowledge as we move forward. And that's a really scary space to be in and nobody likes to not know. So when and that's where I think when you said you like bulldoze, like you just like you know, you come in. Sometimes it's from a place of like fear of like, I don't know, and this is like me knowing and controlling. And you we have to let go of that in this work. We don't have the answers. We don't have full control. Like we're already delayed, and we're probably a little bit behind and I'm like, but we're doing the right but everything's right where it needs to be. It's so uncomfortable.

Stuart Murray 1:09:44

Yeah, totally. It really is. And I noticed that you're you're exactly right in many ways, and I'm sure there's a lot more to it, but my desire to try and make things certain as I am in that rational mind and it's a way you know, like when I think of holding space, it's something you've been mentioned often and something I contemplate quite a bit for us to, to bring nuance into this world, it's not black and white. And so I think we need to be able to hold space for, for all of it. And, for me, a big part of that is allowing or validating somebody else's experience, without needing to change it, to diagnose it to solve their problems, to sit with somebody else's pain, to sit with somebody else's, you know, hurt, or trauma, or any of these things is painful for us, because that some of that is within us. And so it's like, can I see that in myself, as it's reflected to me through somebody else, without needing to fix it without needing to do anything, and just reflect that there enough that their whole, that they're complete, in and of itself, because change doesn't, we don't need to go out and, you know, be the advice monster and just, you know, gobble them all up, all they need to do is feel empowered, because the change, as you said earlier comes from that inner voice. It's not going to be mandated, it's not going to be coerced, no change really has to come from being inspired and connected to that inner whisper that's inside of us.

Jackie Oncescu 1:11:11

Oh, it is. And I think we're conditioned to, like our value is it's sometimes attached to like, what we can contribute and how to fix things, right. And we go, I have to challenge myself all the time when someone like steps into the space. And it's like they telling you something that it's hard. And it's just like, the question, I always, the question is, how do I support you? What do you need from me right now? Not go into fix it mode right then. And I remember running into this, because it's Greg with my dad. And it's like, I just need you to, you don't need to fix this one. I just, this is what I need from you right now. And but he doesn't know, he didn't know how to operate or show up to love me without having to fix it's like crisis. It's like fires burning, I'm going to put it out like, you know, daughter's hurting? Like what do I, you know, advice Central? Like, do you know, none of that's what I needed. But that's why it goes back to that curious conversation and holding that space is like, because even for the families that we work with, like the answers are there with them, we just need to build trust, build relationships, so we can start to hear what they need. The slippery slope with our work is that we're also don't know, like, we want to get to a place where we can implement that. And so we can't, we don't want to go in making promises that we can't keep. And so we were really cautious about like, we got to start building trust relationship, which means being honest, is that we're trying to work towards something but we don't know where it's gonna land. But we got to get that safe space because you're not just going to share a tough story with anybody. Right?

Stuart Murray 1:12:48

Oh, totally Brene Brown, she offered this analogy way back as trust being, you know, this product of being met with, you know, small experiences over time. So we offer a little bit of vulnerability that's met, okay. And she calls those those marble jar experiences where it's like, okay, I put myself out there a little bit it was really well received. There's another marble in the jar and that does take time, not only time, but also you know, courageous steps from both of us to lean in and to meet and see each other for for who we are with our flaws our fallibility our beauty our scars all of it

Jackie Oncescu 1:13:26

Yeah. Oh 100% And that's the hardest part is like being vulnerable and fully showing up like because people fear rejection and abandonment or they carry shame and and no matter who you are, the human experience comes with all of that no matter how privileged you are, right i And so we all carry it but largely we want to hide it because it doesn't feel comfortable owning it right? But man some of the best connections you make with people are from a place of from that place of like being authentic which means owning that vulnerability and that yeah and that's why the like that that showing up in those ways as best we can you find those people in the same place and then you create something from there which is like super magical like whether it's work work work related, personal or any any social arena relationship arena like man the magic happens when people can show up and just be themselves and just sit in that space. And that's like the work we did in Manitoba took off and it and it's working. There's we have flaws in that system for sure. But But work because we could just show up, listen, be curious and just own like, Oh my God, how uncomfortable we were at times, like super uncomfortable. Like, this is gonna work. Like even now it doesn't like the project in New Brunswick. I'm like, every time we get together as a team, I'm like, quickly reminded, I'm like, oh my god, this is why we're doing this. Like there's just the right energy in that room, even though it's all done. It's organized right now. And we don't know where it's going and like, but you know, when you're on the right track, right, and you, I think it's harder to feel your inner compass. When you're living out of fear, anxiety, it blinds you from your things you need to do. And that's arguably probably the work I've done in my personal life has allowed me to be on this trajectory of my work life. Like, I've left many I've left, I've taken different academic postings and in different places and arguably bounced around the country for quite a few years until I feel like I finally found my home. But you know, when you're not in the right setting, you know, when you're not in the right job, you know, when you're not doing the right project, and sometimes fear or anxiety, or all those stories we tell ourselves, limits us from what we're supposed to truly do. So that's why when you said doing the work matters, it's because yeah, then you show up who you're supposed to be, and then the work you're supposed to do is much easier to do. Because you're not afraid of what of how you're going to be seen or heard or, or any of that. Right.

Stuart Murray 1:16:05

Totally. And there's so many layers to that, as I've been diving deeper, and deeper, you know, particularly in the last year, like it's, it's amazing how I see that reflected in the vulnerability of the relationships that I have, and that I hold out it's, it's just moving so much deeper, as I'm able to stop trying to over intellectualize or, you know, not, I'm really just holding space in a different way and allowing my self like those abandonment wounds, as you said, it's like, well, I can be flawed and show up and people aren't going to leave, you know. And so if we can do that for ourselves and love ourselves in such a way. It's amazing that mirror that we can be for other people as well and kind of dialogue and conversations, particularly with marginalized groups who have had to harden themselves even more. Yeah, we that means we need to even step into that space. So you know, like you are taking on that that self worth, ecologist, all of these things in order to do that work, because you're working with parts of the population who have been largely treated as as secondary, and whose needs have been constantly by society by individuals traveling?

Jackie Oncescu 1:17:20

Well and I remember when one of our conversations with our working group is this project and man in New Brunswick was they were like, Well, shouldn't we just work in one community, like in a bigger community like this is like, they were seeing the impossible and what we were doing. And I was like, well, arguably, most our research is done in urban settings on an urban models that get downloaded to rural communities. And that doesn't work. Geographically 20% of Canada's like little under maybe closer to 80% of Canadian residents, citizens live in rural communities. And most a lot of our policies aren't built for them in our programs. So I just see it as an opportunity. But you could see the fear in him about because he he in particular is well known for the work that he's he's he's retired really good at their craft, right. And you could see this like impossible endeavor, fear of probably making some assumptions here. But some fear of failure, like this is never like this is this going to work. And we need the whole space of the complete opposite. Because if we go to fear, then all of our we won't take chances and have the courage to step into vulnerability to try new and different. And I think that's where systems get stuck, is like they do what's always no unfamiliar, and, and this is the work of like, what Brene Brown would say is being vulnerable and courageous and stepping being brave. And it's like, we have no idea what we're about to create. But it's we have to hold the belief that it's possible. And that's why I think when our if I had fear and anxiety always centered in me as a human separate from my work, it would be harder to navigate this type of work. I don't even know if it'd be possible. And so, yeah, when our fear and it's okay to like voice the fear don't I just don't like it masked with like this expertise that this should be different. There's like, because that's somebody intellectualizing or like top Downing, you know, their their stuff onto a project and it becomes really important that we're just like, yeah, it's okay to be uncomfortable right now, and that we don't know what this looks like. But like, we got to, we got to try.

Stuart Murray 1:19:39

Yeah, totally. And these are human systems. They're organic, they're messy. And so we can't have that reductionist, easy to measure. It's just not so simple. And we need to bring the nuance we need to be more brave in the work that we do to improve systems that benefit all people and it's going to be So messy, you know, changes is hard at first, and it's messy in the middle, but it's beautiful in the end if we're willing to lean in and meet each other in that space, and yeah, you know, for people listening like is, is there ways that citizens can get involved to help contribute to, you know, the work you're doing or to contribute to to access or to sport and leisure?

Jackie Oncescu 1:20:26

Yeah, I think our project, yeah, in the regions that we're working in 100%, like, so, if they're in the regions we're working, I would welcome anybody wanting to be on this. I mean, I'm a firm believer that the more that people that love what they do and are excited about this work, that's the people we want on board, right? Is people that get excited by this work. And usually, they just find you like, they, we just it just like our team kind of organically came together. And we're just the right people in the right opportunities, some serendipity 100%, in all of this, which is amazing. It's hard to publish serendipity, they like proof. But in my personal life, and like, Oh, this is lining up for a reason. And like these people are all being placed purposely. So people want to get involved. I mean, we're working in the northern region of Campbellton. And we're working in the southern region of St. Andrews, but like, broadly, like, we're in a couple of different, what are called Community Inclusion networks. And yeah, we want people that want to be involved or like to be involved. And I think, for me, the work for people they want to get more involved as it's is finding the systems that need you, or the programs that need you. Like, sometimes one of the things that I learned in our work was, it's not the practitioners don't want to not help. They don't know how, and they don't know how to reach people. So our work found that there's families that needed these experiences, and they couldn't get to the practitioners and the policies and programs. And then the practitioners didn't know how to get to the programs and policies to these to the families. And so there's like a divide between the two. And we've been working on bridging the divide. And so I think, you know, reaching out to me is a great start. And I can put people in connection to the rates, you know, rate players, and some, in some ways, it can connect people. But yeah, there's always an opportunity, I think, I think, if anything I want people to do, I think I've read it somewhere, I've heard someone say, like, do the thing that you get you get excited about or like you're super fired up about or just like you couldn't settle on. And usually that path as unknown and scary as it can be, you know, because it's not engineering or it's not business, or it's not teaching or it's not these boxes can be really intimidating for young people. But that's largely why they're on the earth. And is to follow that, just to pursue that.

Stuart Murray 1:22:53

Yeah, hell yeah. If somebody is interested and feels that spark, what how would they get a hold of you, Jackie,

Jackie Oncescu 1:23:01

they can look me up, like I'm on the UNB directory, but my email address is just first name last, that'd be the best way is just to shoot me a message, I have a website, my own personal website, which is just my name is the domain. So Jackie on, and that my emails on there, and the work we're doing is on there so amazing.

Stuart Murray 1:23:22

So I'll make sure to link all of that contact information in the website, in the show notes for anybody listening so that they can directly reach out and contact you. Is there anything I've got one last question for you. But is there anything else that you'd like to share about the work you're doing? Are any any other thoughts?

Jackie Oncescu 1:23:39

Oh, God, no. I could go on and on. Yeah, no, I think I think we've said it all in some way or another? Yeah, for sure.

Stuart Murray 1:23:50

So what is your big vision to help move humanity forward? What would you like to really see?

Jackie Oncescu 1:24:00

Oh, man. I, I think for me, the is fundamentally, you know, for me, because I know I have a small role in a bigger picture. Like, that's a huge question. But I think for me, it's, it's just taking what I think is important, which is these experiences and leisure outside of our work world, like all these other experiences, and how do we connect people to those possibilities of experiences so that they can take off in their own way, whatever that is for them. And that would be I think the thing I want to do the most is this, like how do we get more people the opportunity to experience leisure and choices in their free time so that they can thrive and connect and grow in ways that are right for them and not to be told what's what's right for them in these spaces. Yeah.

Stuart Murray 1:24:55

I love it. Yeah, let's let's do that and see. I could not agree more.

Jackie Oncescu 1:25:01

You know, it's the it's the every child has the right to play doesn't really exist. It's every child has the right to pay to play. And I'd like to see us, oh man, I'd love to dismantle education. And I'd love to dismantle like all these systems. Right. But recognizing I am probably not here to do all of that. But if we could start getting some pretty creative models in rural areas, and, and getting people feeling more connected through leisure, sport recreation that like that would be, that'd be really cool.

Stuart Murray 1:25:32

Absolutely. And I think you're doing so much of that with this model, that human centered design and, you know, leading through these courageous conversations and relationship building, because it might start with the focus on that sport and leisure. But you know, all of that trickles, because when people, as we've said, are empowered, and taking the lead and feeling like they're important and their voice matters. But then they step up and rise to that occasion. And so the work you're doing, speaks, it hits me right in the heart, and I love you know, your work personally, that you're leaning into, as you're seeing all of this mirrored back and how that's reflected. It's like, wow, I need to dive in. So that's, it's really inspiring to hear, and to listen to, and thank you for, thank you, leaning into that and contributing to creating more beautiful communities and, you know, ultimately, a more beautiful place for all of us to to thrive.

Jackie Oncescu 1:26:26

Well, thanks for taking the time to chat about it. This is awesome. I mean, when someone wants to dive into this and have a deep conversation, like, it doesn't always happen in our worlds because we just do the work and then we just put it out to the community, academic community or whatever. So thanks for like doing this works do it's pretty important that we have these conversations.

Stuart Murray 1:26:47

My pleasure, Jackie.

I hope you enjoy this episode with Dr. Jackie once sq. Once again, a big thank you to our sponsor, Karen Phytoplankton. You can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes, Spotify or wherever you listen to your podcasts. And you can also find me on Facebook and YouTube at the connected movement. Thanks again and see you next Monday.

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