[Joseph Kunkel:] Hello, welcome to the Indigenous Homes Innovation Initiative web series. I’m Joseph Kunkel, Design Director with MASS Design Group, and also a Northern Cheyenne Tribal Member from Southeastern Montana. We’re excited to share a series of webinars that will inform you all on how to propose ideas for this initiative, and I’m really excited that this initial webinar we’re inviting Natalka to the series, and I will let Natalka introduce herself.
[Natalka Cmoc:] Hi, my name is Natalka Cmoc. I’m the Senior Director at Indigenous Services Canada. I’m very excited to be here! I’ve been involved with this very innovative approach on doing programming with the Government of Canada, and we’ve launched this in April, and we’re here to answer any questions before the launch is closed on August 1st.
This is the first of the Webinars, they’ll be four altogether and are an opportunity for Indigenous Innovators who are considering to apply to learn a bit more about the initiative.
We’ve had a couple of questions, so we’re sharing with you in a more transparent way the kind of questions we’ve received so that we’re providing the same answers to everyone on the questions. Really, the initiative is about supporting new ideas that are driven not from employees like myself but are coming from Indigenous communities from across Canada, looking at various perspectives - rural, remote, urban and Northern - in various climates, to support ideas that would be coming from those communities.
[Joseph Kunkel:] Excellent, Natalka. I'm really excited about this Initiative, especially coming down here from the States, and just listening to what you all have been kind of up to in Canada, and how this has been structured. Some of my initial questions, or initial question is to talk a little bit about the overview of this initiative and maybe, to back up a second, I think maybe give an overview of what this webinar series will provide the applicant or the potential applicant. I think we’re going to try and outline over these four short ideas why it’s important to apply, how you can submit an idea, why you don’t need to potentially have a grant writer as part of your team. This is a supportive process, and maybe you could speak a little bit to the overview of this initiative and how a community might get engaged or submit an idea.
[Natalka Cmoc:] So the idea behind this is to look at ideas from the onset, and support these ideas. So an idea doesn’t have to be fully developed. It is not meant to benefit communities that have, for example, grant writers on their team to win over others, because they have put together a polished proposal. The idea here really is to support ideas that are the most interesting, that we haven’t up until now, been able to support. And we know for a fact, that we have received ideas that are fantastic, and because of the way our programs are structured we haven’t been able to support them. So, this is an opportunity to look at those ideas and be able to support them, even an idea that is very, very nascent and hasn’t had a lot of attention and hasn’t been developed fully. By providing an opportunity here, an Innovator along with their community or support could apply - and it could just be an idea, an idea on a paper napkin - but if it’s a good idea, it will be considered, and could be supported. So, the idea then would be supported by providing support to that Innovator by pairing them up with various partners - an Indigenous architect, perhaps, to be able to fully develop that idea. On the other hand, if you're an innovator and you have really good partners already lined up, that’s okay as well - your idea will also be considered. We’re looking at ideas from various, various stages, and all of them will be considered. It won’t be people like me that’ll be choosing this - I am here to support an Indigenous Steering Committee - very talented Indigenous professionals, from various perspectives in the Indigenous housing fields throughout Canada, that had been involved by supporting the design of this initiative and will be the ones selecting the innovators as well.
[Joseph Kunkel:] Yes, and as part of this web series, we’ll be interviewing and talking to some of the Steering Committee as part of the series so you will all be able to get a sense of their ideas and their aspirations for what is to come out of this Initiative. Maybe to jump into a little of the funding, in terms of how the Initiative is going to support the communities in terms of funding, and technical expertise, and technical capacity. I think that’s important to understand, and how this might be different from other initiatives that ISC has been focused on.
[Natalka Cmoc:] So the first stage will start in the fall - so when you’re applying, you’re actually applying for both stages. You have to have your application in by August 1. You could submit it online or you can courier it to us. And then the applications will be reviewed by the Indigenous Steering Committee and they will select 24 innovators to go into the first stage which we’re calling the Accelerator. The Accelerator is to fund a concept and develop that concept, and we don’t normally support the pre-design stage. And I think this is the really exciting part of this Initiative.
So innovators are selected, are given up to 18 months support with up to $350,000 value of support, and that support could be used to fund the community involvement, it's to support the various technical experts that would be supporting the innovator depending on what the project is. So each project will probably be tailored to what they need and what stage they’re at. Based on that, a package will be created for each unique idea. We’re also encouraging various partners to apply so if you’re - especially Indigenous professionals throughout Canada - so if you’re an Indigenous Architect or Engineer, please do submit your idea. You can be partnered already with one project, and you can still be asked to support another project because what we’re really trying to support here is not a competitive process but rather a collaborative process, so we’re trying to support the good ideas, and that means that you could be involved in one project, you could be leading one project and supporting another project, because at the end of the day it’s about supporting new ways of doing things.
And in the Second phase - the build phase, we’ll start next Spring 2020 - and that is to make sure we have projects go all the way to build. And we’ll select 15-24, and when I say we, again, I mean it won’t be me selecting them, it will be the Indigenous Steering Committee, that will select 15-24 to go to build, and each will have up to $2,000,000. If the project is over $2,000,000, we are also looking for social financing. Working with various organizations in Canada, and there are many in Canada that have already declared wanting to be able to support this, that would be looking to add financing, or add funding to the project. So don’t worry if you have partially funded projects - there’s no limitation, the only restriction we have is that if it’s something already developed or done, we can’t fund that, but if it’s an idea that’s still in development and you have received other funding, we can stack funding.
[Joseph Kunkel:] That sounds really exciting, in terms of how the funding is pretty flexible, from what it sounds like, and the ability to mix and match a little bit and try and understand how that can be shared and also amplified with outside capital. That ability to make the project even more impactful. What really gets me excited about the Initiative is that in many ways, it’s opening up the doors to potential pots of funding in many ways - is that how I’m hearing it?
[Natalka Cmoc:] That’s correct, and also just to reassure the potential applicants, the innovator stays in control, though. The innovator's the one who is driving their own project forward so they will have a say obviously, of who’s on their team, who can provide additional support in terms of capital. It’s not decided for them - not in the least, they are the drivers on this project, but we are compiling various experts that they will be able to select from very good organizations that have already submitted their interest to support various projects, but it will be up to the innovator to put their teams together.
[Joseph Kunkel:] That sounds really exciting, especially this idea of a bottom-up process, allowing the community or applicant to really be in control of that process - we don’t see a lot of that here in the States, so that’s very exciting. I wanted to move on a little bit to the applicant and the eligibility of the applicant. Who might that applicant be? Who can apply and maybe talk a little about those categories of those individuals, or communities, or the organizations, I’m wondering if you can define that a little bit more?
[Natalka Cmoc:] The individual applying can be a representative of an entire group, could be a representative of their community, but it will be one innovator that will be funded including a stipend, right - so if they’re taking 18 months to develop their idea, they will receive a stipend to be able to support them through that process, but the applicant absolutely has to be Indigenous, so that means, First Nation, Metis, Inuit, on-reserve, off-reserve, urban - could be from various perspectives. That applicant could also be a representative of an organization as long as again, it’s an Indigenous organization - it could be non-profit, or it could be a private-owned organization as well. And like I mentioned earlier, an application could already come with partners, or at least some partners already there with the community that they’re supporting. We have to have a sense of what they will be working with throughout this application, but besides that, there are no other restrictions.
[Joseph Kunkel:] Yeah it’s important to underline the communities, in which this specific application is pertaining to - whether it’s rural, urban, off-reserve, on-reserve etc.
[Natalka Cmoc:] That’s right - and if they don’t have the full endorsement of a community at the onset, let’s say it’s a really nascent idea, they will be expected to get that community support before they go to build. I think that those applicants that already have community support will have a clear advantage because this is really meant to be community led all the way through, so the innovator is a representative of the community. They’ll be working directly and with the community throughout.
[Joseph Kunkel:] I’m working with communities, I often say ‘we as architects, we as planners, we as designers, we’re working with communities rather than for communities.’ And I think the Innovation Initiative really pushes the bounds of what that is and how communities are working together and working with the potential providers etc., so that’s great to hear.
[Natalka Cmoc:] And I’d like to just also stress that some of the eligible activities that will be funded, is so that the community can be engaged throughout. Again, this pre-design aspect is often not funded, but it will be through this initiative.
[Joseph Kunkel:] That’s great, and a lot of the times, as we see within Indian Country or within Indigenous communities, is really that pre-development component is so important to the overall success of the project and being able to propose an idea is really important. Moving onto this - we talked a little bit about rural, urban, on-reserve, off-reserve. Is there a targeted area of focus? Maybe if you could be a bit more specific about how this funding will be used and is there a targeted population, or so on and so forth?
[Natalka Cmoc:] We have six areas of focus, again these six areas were identified by the Steering Committee, and they recommended six areas. The first one is Traditional First Nation, Inuit or Métis Nation building styles and techniques.
It’s for the applicant to interpret what they mean by that, so we’re providing conceptual target areas but it’s up for the applicant to further refine what they mean by that in their project. So for this one, it could be interpreted as a culturally inspired design or it could mean using a traditional building technique or resources that they would like to highlight in their project. Or it could be a local material, for example, whether it’s a particular timber in the area, or limestone, for example - those are two ideas that we’ve heard.
The second one is: Using the home for empowerment, capacity building and support for local businesses.
And again this could be to emphasize sourcing local material or talent. So a lot of communities have particular artisans they want to feature, so this could be a particular opportunity to feature that within their design.
The third area is: Support for vulnerable populations. And again, this is for the community to define and depends on what that means to their communities. I have heard some communities define this as their youth or particular youth at risk they want to support, but then again whether it’s on their traditional territories, or whether it’s supporting their own community in the urban centre, this is where they have the flexibility to define them. Others have wanted to target elders - making sure they have the ability to live at home as long as they can - again, that could be another way you could interpret that. But it’s for the community to showcase their ideas and something unique here.
The fourth area is: Culturally-inspired urban spaces. The department has traditionally been limited in how they can support this. So we have built in the terms and conditions with the Privy Council, to make sure we can support some of these ideas, and again it would be for the Indigenous community to define how they would like to represent housing in urban centres, and we know this is a real challenge for a lot of communities, so again this could be an idea to propose something forward.
The fifth area is: Safety, security, and accessibility. And this could be to make sure that housing could be accessible for their entire population, or a particular subset of their population. And the last category is: Energy independence and efficiency! (SLIDE) This is often a very expensive initiative, so if a community or an individual innovator has an idea they would like to prototype or test, this would be the initiative to try this. Again, we’re partnered with some universities that are interested in exploring these new ways of doing things, so a project could be a prototype to test something that would often not be considered in a lot of projects because often we’re looking for cost-effectiveness - but if a project needs to be tested or prototyped, this might be a way to do that.
I know that the Steering Committee is also looking for reliability so depending on your project you might either want to feature why this is worth prototyping, or the opposite, and say why your idea is worth testing to replicate in other areas.
[Joseph Kunkel:] That’s great, it's good to spell that out and try and understand how and why an application could be successful.
We’re coming up around 20 minutes, and I wanted to sneak in some potential questions that have been coming in from various communities, and a few sample questions that might be easier to talk about. So I’m going to ask a couple of questions to you, Natalka, and maybe you can respond and elaborate more. So a question that we’ve seen come in (Q&A SLIDE)
“My community has already received money from another program for our proposal, would we still be eligible?” NC: There are no stacking limits for this initiative, therefore your project would be eligible, and could be considered under this initiative. However, funding will not be provided for work that has already been completed. That’s the only limitation - if something is only in development, it will still be considered.
[Joseph Kunkel:] I mean, that’s great, the ability to amplify a project's impact - that might be in development, that might be an amazing idea but the ability to amplify that is exciting. Another question, “My community’s project is fairly developed and won’t need the Accelerator to be built; can we move straight into the Implementation Phase?”
[Natalka Cmoc:] Yes, the Indigenous Steering Committee will look at various ideas, and build support based on how developed the project is. We said up to 18 months, that doesn’t mean that every project will need 18 months in that phase. Some could move really close to the build, and maybe just have a month, for example. I think projects will still be encouraged to at least spend and take advantage of what the accelerator stage will offer, because you will have access to various talent across Canada that could still add value to your project. But each project will be tailored to that particular case.
[Joseph Kunkel:] So, again, uplifting and talking about the flexibility of what this Initiative is trying to push forward.
[Natalka Cmoc:] I’d just like to say that one of the things we hear from various communities, very often, is that they can’t afford some of the Indigenous architects that work for the private sector. Through this initiative, we have Indigenous architects that would be providing their time or are funded through the initiative so you would have this opportunity to work with an Indigenous architect, or an engineering firm that could add to the project - even if it’s just to consult with them. It’s an exciting opportunity.
[Joseph Kunkel:] Moving on to my next question that I have: “What happens if we have an existing partnership with an outside organization? Would we be able to bring that person or organization to the table?”
[Natalka Cmoc:] Absolutely. Again that’s a project that’s thought through and has already developed certain partners, that would be taken into consideration and the Accelerator support would be adjusted. Of course, it would be a conversation with the Innovators, with their ideas selected, they would have a conversation with the steering committee on what they would like to include as part of that phase.
[Joseph Kunkel:] So a little bit of matchmaking?
[Natalka Cmoc:] Yes!
[Joseph Kunkel:] So the last question: “Do ideas need to be unique to my community to be considered Innovative under this program?”
[Natalka Cmoc:] I think they’re going to be looking for different and something new, so the more unique or pushing the barriers, the more likely you will have a better chance. That would be my advice - I think we are going to get great ideas! I do think also though, you’ll see in the application that there’s a place to indicate if you’d be willing to work with other Innovators that might have other very similar ideas. Again, the idea with this is to really stimulate the innovation in the field here. Let’s say you have a project coming from a community in Northern Canada, and one coming from BC for example, and they’re looking at exploring a very similar idea. There could be an opportunity there to bring those two projects together so that they could build off of each other in a collaborative way. They could both be considered and encouraged to work together in a way that makes sense.
[Joseph Kunkel:] Right, that’s great. Natalka, thank you for going through this. I think this is very helpful - it’s helpful again for me to hear, and I’m sure it’s helpful for all that are listening. Are there any last comments that you’d like to share, or any other information?
[Natalka Cmoc:] On the website, there is a place where you can put in your questions, so if there are additional questions, or if this conversation has led you to further questions please don’t hesitate - we will answer all questions!
[Joseph Kunkel:] Excellent, and I also wanted to share again that this is the first of four webinars that we’re putting out there so that the viewer can put together a successful application. So we’ll interview Indigenous architects, Indigenous developers - coming up with some innovative ideas, hopefully, you can find inspiration from them. So we’re excited to share more information from upcoming webinars, so please look out and please, if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to the Indigenous Homes Innovation Initiative directly. Thank you all, and thank you, Natalka!
[Natalka Cmoc:] Thank you, Joseph!