Acting Together

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For its first two and a half years I was the “knowledge dissemination adviser” for the Acting Together research project. Based at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and funded by a federal Social Sciences and Humanities Research grant, the project’s goal was to identify “positive” characteristics that help Surrey, BC-area teens stay out of gangs. My role involved helping to create the project’s website as well as various other multimedia materials, including a video program shown on Shaw Cable TV. This week the project is hosting its “capstone” conference.

From the news release:

This week, over 200 researchers, policymakers, police officers, parents, youth and community members will meet to discuss how to reinforce strengths in youth that will prevent their involvement in violence and gangs.

Building on research conducted over the past five years, Acting Together (AT-CURA) – a federally funded research project based at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) – is hosting a three-day conference in Surrey that will focus on the sustainable ways in which communities can empower youth to make positive life choices.

Titled Youth Strengths and Prevention of Delinquency and Gang Involvement: Academics and Community Acting Together, the conference will present research, strategies and ideas to a sold-out audience on topics including: how focusing on strengths equips youth for lifelong success, how to build strengths in youth, the work of Acting Together, nurturing youth resilience and ending gang life. The conference will end with a moderated panel on bridging policy and practice.

“Our youth are our future. Ensuring their well-being is our collective responsibility. Parents, police, policymakers, teachers, front line workers and academic researchers must all work together to protect our youth from wandering down the dark alleys of a dangerous life in gangs,” said Dr. Gira Bhatt, the project team director and principal investigator of AT-CURA. “This conference will offer an opportunity to collectively share knowledge, research, expertise and experiences on how we can best target violence and gang-prevention.”

“CIBC is proud to be the presenting sponsor of this conference that is tackling this difficult topic head-on as it is only through the collaboration of all of our community stakeholders that change will happen and young people will be empowered with the skills and strengths they need to make positive, healthy choices…and reject violence,” said Mike Stevenson, senior vice-president and region head, B.C. and the Northern Territories, retail distribution, CIBC. “With a focus on helping young people reach their full potential, we believe it is by educating and engaging young people as they work through the many challenges of adolescence, that we will not only save kids from a life of violence but also build stronger communities.”

Keynote speakers and plenary session leaders include academics internationally recognized for their research, professionals with decades of experience working with youth, and individuals who have experienced first-hand the consequences of when violence and gangs meet a lack of awareness and education.

“The remarkable work of the AT-CURA project and academic researchers at KPU, in conjunction with the support and partnership of the various police agencies in B.C., and community leaders in the province, has resulted in the development and implementation of a number of gang-prevention initiatives in the community,” said RCMP Acting Assistant Commissioner Dan Malo. “By arming the public with information derived from years of research, we are empowering the community to take a stand against gangs, as well as deterring youth from falling prey to organized crime.”

Dr. Bhatt and Dr. Roger Tweed, co-investigator and lead research for academic studies with Acting Together, will lead the conference programs.

They are joined by the RCMP Chief Superintendent Dan Malo; Dr. Michael Ungar, an internationally recognized youth resilience researcher based at Dalhousie University and co-director of the Resilience Research Centre; Dr. Robert Biswas-Diener, author of several books on positive psychology for professionals, happiness and courage, and; Dr. Kimberley Schonert-Reichl, applied developmental psychology and associate professor in the department of educational and counselling psychology and special education at UBC.

Author Katy Hutchison will be the event’s community forum keynote. Now a professional speaker, Hutchison has shared her story of forgiveness at TEDx, and across Canada via print, radio and television. Her book Walking After Midnight: One Woman’s Journey Through Murder, Justice and Forgiveness details her journey through the trauma of family tragedy and healing. Hutchison has been an advocate for educating youth and communities of the risks associated with unsupervised alcohol consumption by young people.

Conference sessions and presentations will take place July 24 and 25. A reception and opening ceremony, with a welcome address from Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts and greetings from BC Ministry of Justice Deputy Minister Lynda Cavanaugh, will kick off the event this Wednesday.

For more information, visit: The conference program  is available here.

Acting Together received a $1-million Community-University Research Alliance award from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada in 2009. The project’s research has identified factors that potentially protect youth from violence and gang involvement, and has helped develop community-wide strategies derived from those findings. The KPU-led project has championed and led unprecedented collaboration between service agencies, community organizations, government and academic institutions across the region. Learn more at:

Kwantlen Polytechnic University has been serving the Metro Vancouver region since 1981, and has opened doors to success for more than 250,000 people. Four campuses—Richmond, Surrey, Cloverdale and Langley—offer a comprehensive range of sought-after programs, including business, liberal arts, science, design, health, trades and technology, horticulture, and academic and career advancement. Over 19,000 students annually have a choice from over 124 programs, including bachelor’s degrees, associate degrees, diplomas, certificates citations and apprenticeships. Learn more at

(Cross-posted at basil.CA)

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