CHF BC welcomes new Education Director to the team

  17 September 2020

In our fast-changing world, staying on top of the latest information and resources to keep your co-op running smoothly is more important than ever. But at a time when work and learning are moving online, how do we ensure everyone stays motivated and engaged?

CHF BC’s new Education Director, Katy Bigsby, has more than a few ideas! Katy joins us from Victoria where, when she’s not working from home or CHF BC’s beautiful capital location, enjoys creating music and riding the Galloping Goose trail with her son and partner.

Q: Welcome to CHF BC! We’d love to hear more about your background in education and what brought you to this role.

A: I actually just finished my Master’s of Education at the University of Victoria; it has a focused specialization in adult education and community engagement. A lot of the consulting work I’ve done and that I really love has been around educational design – it focuses on how people learn differently. One of the principles of adult education is that as learners there’s a facilitator and a learner, but the learning journey is something that’s co-created. It really empowers all of us, whether it’s a formal experience with a degree or if the setting is in the community. The idea with adult education is, “How do we engage learners, and how do we design that education that will meet different learners where they are?” And that’s what brought me here at the beginning of August! There are a lot of different education avenues in CHF BC – there’s the workshops, online webinars, lots of great information on the website.

Q: How do you think CHF BC and the co-op housing sector will be different from other education work you’ve done?

A: My background in education design was more in the area of K-12 education and health – I worked on an after-school sport and art initiative – so this is a new sector for me. When you look at education though, a lot of the pathways and systems are similar, so you could have a different sector but the ways in which you deliver strong services and support – there are a lot of parallels.

Q: Why do you see education as being important for individuals living in co-ops, and for the co-op housing sector as a whole?

A: Impactful education lays the groundwork for increasing knowledge and awareness, which then further builds connections with and empathy for others. That impacts both individuals from a personal and professional growth perspective, but also communities as a whole – and that is so important for co-ops.

Q: How is the COVID-19 pandemic changing what co-ops need to know, and how they learn it?

A: The challenge with education during COVID is how to keep up the engagement piece, how to keep the dialogue and discourse happening. If learners are really at ease and comfortable, which most of us are in person, when you bring in the technology piece how does that change for both facilitators and learners? One thing I’ll be doing with our educational consultants that deliver online workshops and webinars is training in how to take that in-person session and bring it online. I want to ensure that the online learning isn’t just knowing the tech, it’s also really understanding how to, in a very quick amount of time, build that rapport and connection with learners online. If learners go away with two or three things they’ve learned, this is huge. It’s a thoughtful process of how to set up learning experiences to increase engagement and meet learners where they are.

Q: What does that process look like when it comes to planning education for the co-op sector?

A: We have a couple of education town hall meetings coming up for the education committee members, and I’m really looking forward to meeting them and getting feedback around what’s working, and what’s really impactful in what CHF BC is offering – and what would be strengthened or changed up. I’m really interested in any new ideas people might have. Those are happening later this month, one focusing on workshops and webinars and the other around our website resources. I believe that’s part of a really strong education for our end users, that they have ways and agency over what’s working and what’s not working and that we feed into that cycle of where things could be improved and more impactful.

Q: What are some of the new themes emerging in education for the co-op sector?

A: One theme we’re really moving towards is the theme of “beyond diversity” – moving to anti-racist practices and how to support those. Diversity can be seen as a token piece but what we’re interested in is how to create effective conversations around privilege, acknowledging that privilege as part of anti-racist work, and most importantly changing things especially when they get hard or unfair or unjust. The fall conference will set that awareness piece, but this is a lifelong journey. Members have also been reaching out and looking for education around inclusion, diversity and anti-racist practices and we are absolutely working towards developing these sessions.

Meet Katy at the upcoming virtual Fall Education Conference on October 31, 2020, or send her a message at Keep your eyes peeled for the conference flyer and registration details coming out next week!