A board game, phone app and a subscription box for guided self-reflection are among a set of tools developed by an Edmonton community research group to fight racism.
Shift Lab 2.0 facilitator Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse said the social innovation lab tools invite people to explore their biases. They look to find that “sweet spot” where someone can reconsider in a positive, inviting way. The focus is on building relationships.
“If you care about someone, you’re less likely to harm them or hurt them or hate them. Racism is fear and harm that perpetuates hate, and so what are the opposite of those things? Kindness, compassion, friendship,” she said. “We recognize reducing racism isn’t going to happen overnight. It’s going to take many things, many people, many years. But we are committed to getting there, and this is one of the ways that will help.”
The tools currently being tested include the Exploring Wahkohtowin board game on the history of Treaty 6, a subscription box called You Need This Box, which aims to help a person reflect on and challenge systemic racism, and a Reflection Pool phone app to identify biases and teach empathy. They’ve also created a sticker and coffee-sleeve awareness campaign about treaty relationships between settlers and Indigenous peoples.
Shift Lab 2.0 organizers expect to hold a formal launch for the set of tools later this year.
The number of hate crimes has risen locally in recent years.
Since December, there have been at least six attacks on Black Muslim women in Edmonton. Edmonton police received 60 reports of hate crimes last year, while there were 80 reports between January and November 2020 in Calgary.
Anti-Asian hate crimes have also been on the rise in Canada and the U.S. over the past year, and hate is expected by many to have motivated the killing of six Asian women in Atlanta, Ga. last week.
Another prototype from the lab is a brochure teaching bystanders how they can intervene in overtly racist encounters. It’s currently being revised to address issues specific to recent assaults on Black Muslim women.
When complete, lab facilitator Sameer Singh said it’s meant to give people tools to help them de-escalate, react and support people targeted by racism and harassment in a helpful way.
“You never know when there’s going to be a racist incident or harassment on a bus,” he said. “The idea is to provide muscle memory.”
“If you read it, it might just be in the back of your mind so that if something does happen tomorrow or a month from now, you might feel like you’re in a better position to do something positive and help somebody who’s being harassed because of the colour of their skin or religion or even their gender.”
Shift Lab 2.0 was facilitated and funded by the Skills Action Society and Edmonton Community Foundation.