Engaging Indigenous Youth Through Popular Theatre: Knowledge Mobilization of Indigenous Peoples’ Perspectives on Access to Healthcare Services

Plazas, P.C., Cameron, B.L., Milford, K., Hunt L.R., Bourque-Bearskin, L., & Salas A.S. (2018). Engaging Indigenous youth through popular theatre: Knowledge mobilization of Indigenous peoples’ perspectives on access to healthcare services. Action Research, 1-18 https://doi.org/10.1177/1476750318789468

Available from Research Gate

Engaging Indigenous youth through popular theatre: Knowledge mobilization of Indigenous peoples’ perspectives on access to healthcare services

Abstract

In Canada, Indigenous peoples bear a greater burden of illness and suffer disproportionate health disparities compared to non-Indigenous people. Difficult access to healthcare services has contributed to this gap. In this article, we present findings from a dissemination grant aimed to engage Indigenous youth in popular theatre to explore inequities in access to health services for Indigenous people in a Western province in Canada. Following an Indigenous and action research approach, we undertook popular theatre as a means to disseminate our research findings. Popular theatre allows audience members to engage with a scene relevant to their own personal situation and to intervene during the performance to create multiple ways of critically understanding and reacting to a difficult situation. Using popular theatre was successful in generating discussion and engaging the community and healthcare professionals to discuss next steps to increasing access to healthcare services. Popular theatre and short dramas provide a venue for mirroring stigmatized care and expose racial biases in the delivery of care. The contributions of the students, their input, and their acting were to increase our awareness even more of the pervasiveness of the stigmatized care that Indigenous people experience.

Canadian academics and academies are making significant efforts to engage Indigenous communities in authentic and respectful partnerships in curriculum, student success and research. We don’t get it right, but we are trying, and we need to learn from examples where these partnerships have reported on successful outcomes. This paper is one such example.

One reason why this paper is one such example is one of the authors is Indigenous. From her bio: Lisa Bourque-Bearskin, RN, PhD, is a Cree/Metis Nurse from Beaver Lake Cree Nation, and associate professor at Thompson River University, School of Nursing. Dr. Bourque Bearskin’s leadership is in bringing together networks of community researchers. She initiates community-led research by Indigenous communities that enhances understandings of Indigenous nursing knowledge and social determinants of health, focusing on Indigenous wellness that maintains cultural integrity of nurses practice and supports Indigenous sovereignty.

I have commented many times in this journal club about “engaged scholars” who claim they are writing about mutual and authentic partnership but then don’t co-publish with their non-academic partners.

The paper describes an indigenous led health intervention – the Community Health Representative (CHR) – derived from indigenous led research. The paper reports on the use of popular theatre to disseminate these research messages. Popular theatre is not theatre as you would go to see a play. Popular theatre is a method of theatre that engages both actors and audience in the production and is used often in social justice contexts.

This paper talks about working with the Chief and Council as well as the school principal and the community health director to receive an invitation to present their project. This illustrates how the researchers worked with community and within community protocols to vest power and authority in the community. The paper doesn’t paint a rosy picture. It illustrates issues related to student attendance and child care and how the process enabled the indigenous youth participants to manage these issues collectively.

The popular theatre production was not only indigenous led it was youth led as well and was designed to build capacity of the participating youth. “The staff at the school saw an increase in confidence, an ability to relate better to peers and teachers, and an increased level of comfort in other school activities.

The popular theatre production was presented in a symposium where academic papers were presented first and were followed by the play and audience engagement.

One gap the paper illustrates was the lack of follow up to undertake some of the actions developed through the play and audience engagement. “One shortcoming was not following through with the actions discussed during the interactive performance event due to funding limitations. Ideally, popular theatre projects involve taking action afterward to move forward the suggestions raised.”

Knowledge mobilization happened during the engaged research and dissemination activities. The impact of the research doesn’t happen then. It happens later. Impact requires dedicated efforts to support ongoing development towards impact and to capture the evidence of impact. Knowledge mobilization ≠ impact.

Let me reiterate that: Knowledge mobilization ≠ impact. Just because you have disseminated your research evidence doesn’t mean anything has changed.

An earlier journal club post introduced the term epistemic injustice. Related, this paper uses the term Epistemological domination as a form of ongoing colonization. I will leave it to you to check it out in the article.

Finally, the paper speaks about the “elements that are deemed integral to the conduct of respectful and ethical research with Indigenous peoples, namely respect, responsibility, relevance, and reciprocity.” Another framework is OCAP: ownership, control, access and possession.

Questions for brokers:

1. If you’re interested in creating impact from your research what are you doing to go beyond disseminating your research evidence?

2. Respect, responsibility, relevance, reciprocity vs. ownership, control, access and possession: discuss.

3. How is indigenous led research in partnership with academic researchers similar and different from community-based research?

Research Impact Canada is producing this journal club series as a way to make evidence on KMb more accessible to knowledge brokers and to create on line discussion about research on knowledge mobilization. It is designed for knowledge brokers and other knowledge mobilization stakeholders. Read this open access article. Then come back to this post and join the journal club by posting your comments

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