Virtual platforms can be effective in nurturing connections, fostering collaboration and facilitating the sharing of culturally relevant resources among First Nations communities. Mary Deleary, Training and Education Manager, and Jody-Ann Henry, Instructional Design and Development Specialist, from the Thunderbird Partnership Foundation showcased that work at the Ninth Healing Our Spirit Worldwide Gathering.
The Thunderbird team highlighted the significance of online communities where like-minded individuals with common goals or interests can come together to exchange ideas, knowledge and support.
Their presentation took a deeper dive into Thunderbird's own online community of practice (CoP); it was launched in early 2020 to bolster training programs. Over time, this virtual space evolved into a dynamic platform for dialogue, learning and knowledge exchange.
Fostering Cultural Connections amidst the Pandemic
In response to the pandemic and the need for innovative solutions to maintain cultural connections and support systems within First Nations communities, Thunderbird launched the Community Wellness Hub (CWH). This offered community workers a place to come together virtually, find encouragement, share resources and strategize to increase wellness in First Nations communities.
The CWH is grounded in the underlying principles of the First Nations Mental Wellness Continuum (FNMWC), Indigenous Wellness Framework (IWF) and Honouring Our Strengths (HOS) Framework. At the core of Thunderbird's CoP and CWH are four pillars: hope, belonging, meaning, and purpose.
Deleary emphasized that these pillars are the cornerstones of wellness. Wellness happens when we have hope for the future, foster a sense of belonging, recognize the meaning in our lives, and find our purpose—whether that discovery arises from education, employment, caregiving activities, or cultural ways of living and doing.
Empowering Workplace Connections
The workshop highlighted the significance of workplace connections through the CWH, where sharing personal experiences, challenges, and successes played a pivotal role in creating a supportive environment. The CWH encourages active engagement, enabling members to connect with one another via likes, comments, messaging, friend requests and followers.
Lessons Learned and Best Practices
In reflecting on their journey, the Thunderbird team concluded the workshop with a set of insightful takeaways and recommended approaches.
The success of online communities extends beyond the creation of a digital platform. By embedding culture in the foundation, the platform promotes a culture of knowledge sharing, collaboration, and networking opportunities – and celebrates the contributions of members.
If you are inspired by this transformative workshop, visit Thunderbird Partnership Foundation's website for more information.