The Role of Public Engagement in Canada's Development Sector

Background: Josephine Mary David moved to Calgary, Alberta from India in the summer of 2022 and, after a period of self-reflection, began focusing on her passions, specifically within the sector of international cooperation and development. Her search eventually led her to attend ACGC’s Top 30 Under 30 Celebration event on February 9th, 2023. Unlike most attendees of the event, Josephine was already familiar with the keynote speaker, Poornima Sukumar from Aravani Art Project, having seen Aravani’s artwork and having worked with the transgender community in India. Below, she talks about her journey since immigrating to Canada and the impact/importance of events focused on international development for the public.

Image: Josephine Mary David with ACGC Executive Director, Leah Ettarh, at the 2023 Top 30 Under 30 Event at the Calgary Central Library on February 9th.


Story written by Josephine Mary David

The world is filled with infinite information. There is no adequacy but the question is, ‘Do we have the right information and where do we find it?’

This was the starting point for me, as a new immigrant, as a mother with a career break and as a development professional looking forward to rebuilding my career in the field of development.

What do I need to know and where do I look for it? 

In the initial months of landing in Calgary, I, like so many of my fellow immigrants, searched for jobs. Any job that helps me start. Despite numerous openings, umpteen amounts of applications and hours invested in job searching, I could not find anything that I could relate to. That is when I decided to take a step back. To understand what I really wanted to do. International development has always been my interest and the United Nations is my lighthouse. I decided to start from there. The more I researched about the UN, the more I learnt about the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN. This led me to the many things I currently do. One of them was attending the “Top 30 Under 30” event by the Alberta Council for Global Cooperation hosted in the Calgary Central library.

The impact

Top 30 Under 30 acknowledges and celebrates 30 youth who do exceptional work in the field of development with a special focus on the Sustainable Development Goals. This event helped me to understand the world of international development right here in Calgary. It broadened my awareness about the issues we are trying to solve, the resources available, and the collective ways everyone could work together.

One of the most important perks of attending these events is networking. Post event, I had the opportunity to meet with the team at ACGC and some of the honorees of the event. This discussion helped me to further understand the work ACGC does in the field of international development.

Connecting threads

The event also had a keynote address from the head of Aravani Art Foundation, showcasing how their art work is helping the transgender community in the south of India. Hailing from the same place and having worked with the transgender community during my postgraduate education with Madras School of Social Work, listening to the address made me realize how far we have come and how far we have to go.

Having connected with ACGC opened up more interesting opportunities for me like registering for the Spur Change’s “Building Equity” training series which focuses on improving knowledge and capacity to effectively and ethically respond to critical trends and techniques in fundraising communications and donor relations. The training series has been a great resource for me to develop my professional capacity.

Why having development events is essential and why must it be visible?

Simply because it can be life changing and can have a greater impact for those in need of it. Events like Top 30 Under 30 by ACGC and many such development-based events focus light on the development needs, issues and the solutions through which we can make the world a better place for all.

Awareness and outreach are two crucial components if we need more people to work towards solving our global issues. Canada being a keen contributor to international development can tap on the people's potential, especially young Canadians. This can be done through such outreach and awareness events from development organizations like ACGC which is a conglomeration and reflection of many organizations. The discussions I had throughout and post-event had led me to some serious thinking and helped me to figure my course of action further. The information gap plays a huge role in the way people look at things. Especially when it comes to gender equality. Events like this broaden the opportunities for more key interactions around gender equality and pave the way for collaboration and empowerment.

My contribution towards the SDGs and Gender Equality

Based on my learnings from the event along with research and networking, I started volunteering with the United Nations Associations of Canada- Calgary chapter as a writer. I started with an article on Gender Equality: Bridging the Digital Divide for International Women’s Day. Currently, I have conceptualized and have been working on a series called, Global Issues: Local Issues - A Calgary organizations spotlight series. The idea of the series is to look at each SDG and the organizations in Calgary that work towards achieving the goal. This does not only spotlight them but helps in outreach and enables individuals and organizations to contribute for development. This opportunity also helps me to meet and discuss with amazing people from different organizations and share our points of view.

I also volunteer with an Ontario based organization called, Help Us Defend which works for internet safety for children and the most vulnerable. I contribute in committee, communications and outreach. While volunteering has enabled me to explore and learn everyday, I found my full time position with Pedesting as its Communications and Collaborations Lead. Pedesting is a tech company that strives to provide easy and inclusive access to anybody who walks and especially people with mobility challenges.

Development one step at a time

We talk about big issues most of the time but the solutions largely rests in smaller steps. Changes can be brought and impact can be made by everyone, one step at a time. Be it a conversation, taking stairs, sharing a post, or walking the talk. Lastly, I'd like to leave a quote from an interesting interview I had with Meaghon, the director of Vibrant Communities Calgary.

"If you want to reduce poverty, just check on your neighbour. That is development, one step at a time."