Paths towards reconciliation in the workplace: exploring the Aboriginal cultures awareness workshop

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Rocke, Catherine Ruth
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ABSTRACT Paths Towards Reconciliation in the Workplace: Exploring the Aboriginal Cultures Awareness Workshop Educational workplace initiatives to address social inequality are widely used within organizations. In the past, these workplace workshops have varied in their underlying philosophical perspectives - with goals ranging from maintaining the status quo to promoting social change. Workshop curriculum grounded in the contact hypothesis have drawn from such diverse fields as social psychology, organizational theory, feminist viewpoints, critical theory, liberatory educational philosophy, conflict resolution and Indigenous approaches. The research to date on the efficacy of these various types of workplace educational programs have been mixed. For the past ten years, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority has offered the Aboriginal Cultures Awareness Workshop to its health care employees in hopes of addressing the differential medical care received by their Aboriginal patients. This mixed methods research project focused on the perceptions of key stakeholders and workshop participants on the most helpful, and least helpful aspects of the Aboriginal Cultures Awareness Workshop. The findings point towards a conceptual framework on the conditions needed within educational workplace initiatives that can create paths toward reconciliation between different identity groups. Addressing the need for accurate information and developing empathy within an atmosphere of joyful humour that is supported by the circle were the key findings in this research project. Specifically, the findings that informed this conceptual framework included the importance of learning about Aboriginal history from an Aboriginal perspective, the power of storytelling to bridge the divide between different identity groups, how the appropriate use of humour can both ease tension, but also be used to challenge intolerant ideas and finally, the power of sharing circles to create safety and allow for dialogue. Drawing on the contributions of the diverse fields that have historically informed these types of workplace educational programs, this research project integrated the field of peace and conflict studies, and Indigenous perspectives to make a number of recommendations for future workplace educational programs.
Conflict Resolution, Conflict Transformation, Education, Workplace Workshops