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Social Innovation Researcher. In conversation with: Ann Corbold, Faculty of Social and Community Services
June 10, 2021
Written by: Anju Kakkar
We virtually sat down with Professor Ann Corbold, Bachelor of Social Science in Criminal Justice and Police Foundations programs, Faculty of Social and Community Services, Humber College, to discuss an ongoing research project. Ann Corbold is a passionate researcher and has demonstrated leadership and expertise in constitutional law, community partnerships, adult education, community policing, adjudication, and qualitative research analysis.
In 2020, Humber College received CCSIF (College and Community Social Innovation Fund) funding through grants from NSERC (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council). Ann Corbold is leading the research project entitled “Community Agency Partnerships: Best Practices for the Creation of Healthy Communities”, as the principal investigator, in partnership with local community organizations.
Follow along through our Q&A session with Professor Ann Corbold:
Humber Research & Innovation (R&I): Give us a brief synopsis of the project and challenge addressed.
Ann Corbold (AC): Youth who are at risk of entering the criminal justice system, especially those who become gang-involved, need the support of multiple community agencies. Although there is strong evidence to support implementing a network response, there is limited information on how best to do it.
R&I: Collaboration with local community organizations.
AC: Our two main partners are:
R&I: What is the course of action adopted for this study?
AC: In partnership with the John Howard Society of Saskatchewan and Street Culture Project, Humber College will be examining the characteristics of effective community agency partnership networks through this research project. We intend to analyze an existing community agency partnership network to identify best practices in creating and maintaining these types of partnerships.
Additionally, the study will evaluate existing programs aimed at youth (15 – 29) who are involved with the criminal justice system or at risk of becoming involved to determine whether they meet agency commitment to being trauma-informed, culturally sensitive, free from systemic racism, and aligned with agency commitment to reconciliation.
It is a three-year project. We are examining the network first, and the second piece is looking specifically at some of the programs that such agencies provide to ensure that they are trauma-informed, low barrier, no barrier, and reflect their commitment to reconciliation.
The overarching objective of this project is to help reduce youth crime, particularly gang violence, in Canada.
R&I: The progress so far?
AC: The study began right at the beginning of COVID19. It has been challenging and disruptive as most of the not-for-profit agencies are in survival mode. Many are
not meeting with their clients face-to-face. We had planned on conducting interviews in person, which have now shifted to an online environment. The interesting part is that this situation brings to light how tenuous these networks are and how important they are. We are relying on them to solve community problems, but we are not supporting them enough. We have pivoted to optimize and take advantage of the benefits of remote interactions (between Toronto and Regina).
My colleague, Professor Ashley Hosker-Field, Bachelor of Criminal Justice program, handles the quantitative part – the online surveys, and I am conducting the qualitative part – the interviews. We decided to drop the idea of focus groups because of the switch to online. We created a recruiting video to explain the process, and I am conducting one-on-one interviews virtually with anyone interested in any of the agencies in the network, whether they are in finance or the frontline workers. So far, I have interacted with senior-level management, those at government sectors supporting these agencies, front-line workers, and a church group member that funds community-based programming. In terms of the interview, I have kept it open-ended. I wanted to hear what they had to say regarding their role, background, the institution they were attached to, the challenges, the best practices followed, and what is important to them.
R&I: “Raison d’etre” for undertaking this project.
AC: It was serendipity that we partnered with the John Howard Society of Saskatchewan and Street Culture Project. We had an opportunity to meet their representatives on their visit to Toronto. They wanted to look at some of the gang intervention strategies here. We decided to work together. The aim was to study a network already in place – how do they do it; how do they maintain it; what are best practices; what are some of the challenges faced? We want to add to that knowledge base and address the best practices to tackle community issues on the ground.
We have seen evidence through research that says young people, particularly young people at risk of becoming involved with the criminal justice system, need wraparound support — multiple services, and no one agency can support this person. We are aware of these facts, but there is very little data to answer how we can set up a network, how do we maintain it; and importantly, how do they maintain themselves?
A critical element of many of these organizations is gang intervention. There is a significant indigenous population in Saskatchewan that needs wrap-around supports. Providing youth in these communities an opportunity to feel belonged, safe, supported, and in control of their decisions would be beneficial to steer them away from gang involvement. I have observed that part of the draw towards gang involvement is the attraction for youth to get involved in power and control, and then there is the ‘status’ aspect. Through community outreach and support, we want to be able to provide that same sense of support and belongingness.
R&I: Some observations that you would like to share.
AC: I was a Board Member for the John Howard Society in Toronto. I have immense appreciation for how hard people work to make a change. A “can-do” attitude – that is how change happens on the ground.
Part of the research project is the requirement to provide deliverables. We will share the final report and the tools (the online surveys and interview guides) with the John Howard Society channels across the country and all participating agencies. They can use these tools if they want to do a similar research project in their community.
I have had conversations with representatives in Ontario about a similar previous report. We are contributing to the knowledge base and cocreating to examine best practices to ensure the best results. I would like to expand this research in the future to investigate other aspects that could benefit our youth and foster healthy communities.
“This is my first big research project. I have been involved with other projects. I have been a co-investigator and the principal writer for some projects, but this is the first big one that I worked on for the research grant and connected all the pieces. It has been a huge learning experience.” – Ann Corbold
R&I: Involvement of Research Assistants and Learning Outcomes.
AC: Currently, we have two research assistants – Yuliia Fedorenko from Regina who is indirectly working for us through the John Howard Society, and Thiviya Subramaniam from Humber College. They are making outstanding contributions to the project study, and it is impressive to watch them apply their research and analytical skills towards a social cause.
I am trying to allow my students to think critically and come up with actionable solutions. I stand by the fact that you cannot change culture unless you work and train and learn together. Immersing myself and my students in this kind of research informs and builds my teaching practice. I can better explain social concepts, and communicate a better and broader understanding of social innovation to my students and encourage them to make real change happen.
Background and Expertise:
Ann Corbold acquired her Bachelor of Arts in Law and Justice from Laurentian University, Ontario, in 1997; Master of Arts in Education from Central Michigan University, US, in 2011; and Master of Laws in Constitutional Law from Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, Ontario, in 2015. She is a Professor at the Bachelor of Social Science in Criminal Justice and Police Foundations programs, Faculty of Social and Community Services at Humber College. Ann brings vast experience in policing and community partnerships. Ann aims to teach her students about the need for ethnographic and immersive research and experience being one with the demographic.
Ann Corbold’s history as a Police Sergeant from 1985 to 1999 plays a significant role in her outlook and involvement with community and social policy. She proclaims that those same years cemented the concept of ‘helping people, especially the youth’. Family commitments encouraged Ann to reinvent herself as an entrepreneur, which is also when she decided to go back to school part-time, yet again reinventing herself and soon answering her calling to pursue education. She worked as a professor in a part-time capacity and as an adjunct professor with several colleges in Ontario before joining Humber in a full-time capacity in 2015. “I love Humber. I really like the vibe here, and I am glad I found my way back to it”, exclaims Ann. Ann also performs as an Adjudicator – Discipline, and Fitness to Practice Committees at Ontario College of Trades since 2018.
“When it comes to crime control, you have to be willing to listen and address the social issues that cause crime. You have to understand both sides and accept that the tension might not fully go away, yet have the patience to work in an adversarial situation.” – Ann Corbold
We probed Ann to share her experience with research. She informs us of her past involvement as a collaborator on an interdisciplinary student learning experience in 2013 – “Grand Rounds” – simulation participation learning for students. She has contributed to developing quantitative and qualitative surveys, initiated and implemented a pilot project, and supervised several research assistants. Ann has also previously worked in collaboration with police services and community agencies to conduct research. As a field placement coordinator for the Bachelor of Criminal Justice program at Humber, Ann developed new placements and worked with over 100 students to understand their goals.
“It is an understanding; it is knowledge; it is contextualized real life; that is research to me. I like working with communities and people. I want to understand what that issue looks like in real life. When you do that passionately, then you can recommend change – change without instability and change that can benefit the whole community.” – Ann Corbold.
In 2018, Ann Corbold was designated as the Humber point of contact for a research project, “Creating Constructive Alternatives for our Youth”, a project in partnership with Toronto Police Service, Yorktown Family Services, and John Howard Society, Toronto. Ann presented initial research findings at the Toronto Police Frontline Gang Intervention Symposium in March 2018.
We thank Ann for her valuable contributions and look forward to supporting her through the research project. This is what Ann had to say about her involvement with the Humber Office of Research and Innovation (ORI):
“The support I receive from the team at ORI allows me to focus on my research and not be bogged down by the accompanying administrative tasks. Camila, Ozan, and Aarthi are always available to answer my questions and support my project any way they can.”
We know you want to get to know Ann a little better; here are four things you did not know about her, in her words:
- When I’m not at work: I love being outdoors. I enjoy gardening, walking the dogs, or simply getting out for long walks.
- A favorite book or two: I love reading, and I have a reasonably broad interest base. Currently, I’m reading ‘The Nocturnal Brain: Nightmares, Neuroscience, and The Secret World of Sleep’ by Guy Leschziner, and ‘Spycatcher’ by Peter Wright.
- A website I visit most often: I appreciate the aspects of social media. However, it’s not my preferred method of interaction.
- Coffee or Tea: Tea! That’s my afternoon break routine.
Wise words from our Social Innovation Researcher:
“The resilience and persistence of front-line community workers are why change happens. They never give up because they know full-scale change takes time and commitment. Obstacles like lack of funding and resources become challenges. They adapt and keep going. They aren’t doing it for money or acknowledgment; they are doing it to make their communities a better place for everyone.” – Ann Corbold