Blog / Our story of First Nations Engagement

Working with Aboriginal groups has been one of the most rewarding areas of work to build expertise in.? Since 1999, the Agentic team and I have led dozens of projects with Aboriginal groups. If you’re looking for strategy, facilitation, or digital engagement projects such as creative campaigns, think about working with Agentic.

We’ve strategized provincial projects such as Aboriginal career networks, capacity building in technology, developing business plans for e-learning, and we’ve prepared? many strategic briefing notes for senior staff, ministers, and Aboriginal leaders. We have also worked on smaller projects, like organization websites for many indigenous groups.

Haida Boat on the shoreline of Haida Gwaii

When I think back to the first major project, it was working for Christa Williams at the First Nations Education Steering Committee. That transformed into 10 years of opportunities with not only the steering committee, but many other organizations. Christa wanted help with First Nations SchoolNet, which was an industry Canada program to deliver technology to on-reserve schools in British Columbia. In the four years that followed, we delivered over $13M,? not only technology, but training, Internet connectivity, and hundreds of computers. Just before the holiday season in 2015, I was delighted to run into an old acquaintance from that time that told me they were still happily using the computers that we delivered to them in 2006.

It was an exciting time for technology and schools. FNESC taught me a lot about how to be accountable to the communities and how I could bring my expertise in technology to them. With a small team, we developed some incredibly innovative programs that I’m still proud of today. Some of the programs were media labs, video and website training, video conferencing and e-learning, and an annual conference.

This work got me out to communities all over British Columbia. Never before had I realized the incredible beauty and diversity of BC. Through visiting many remote and rural communities, I got a sense of how we could best serve the teachers, students and parents so that technology served them in their context. Christa taught me exceptional methods of accountability and transparency. I’ve never forgotten the lessons from her and her staff. They grounded me with tools for dealing with the many complexities I would encounter in this work, always remembering at the foundation that we are here to serve the communities. This provided a basis onto which everything else could be built.

Not everything was easy. There were certainly many times where we would want to tear our hair out. From dealing with budgeting issues with the federal government, which I liken to landing a 747 three feet from the end of the runway, to delivering computers to locations far and wide, there were always new challenges and discoveries. Still, it was a very rewarding experience.

This work with FNESC garnered other opportunities as well. FNESC was dependent on internet connectivity, but there was a lack of connectivity to First Nations in the province. To ameliorate, we started working with other partners to close the gap. One partner that I still work with today is the First Nations Technology Council, as it was then one of the first emerging players in thinking about the role of technology for First Nations communities. I worked with them as a volunteer for many years in capacity building. When our work with the Olympics took off in 2009 I stepped away, but I was delighted to return in 2012 to assist them in their new work, especially with the?First Nations Knowledge Network?where we have build up the traffic to more than a hundred thousand people a year.

We also had the opportunity to engage in various kinds of sessions with youth, elders and other community members. I truly enjoy these sessions as it is endlessly fascinating to talk to people face-to-face about the issues that concern them and dream up innovative ways to address them.

As a person of colour, but as a non-Aboriginal person, I relate to many of the challenges that confront Indigenous people today, especially with the challenges of overcoming the impact of colonization. We do not yet live in a world where diversity is valued the way it should be.

If you are an Aboriginal organization, the work that we can do together is only limited by our imagination. We’ve worked on projects large and small, and have a unique methodology that ensures that we listen to you and work as partners in moving a project forward. If you’re looking for strategy, facilitation, or digital engagement projects such as websites and creative campaigns, consider working with Agentic.

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