The Black Experience Project began with a central question “What does it mean to be Black in the GTA?”, and from there embarked on a journey of answering this question in a respectful and authentic way through a research lens. The purpose of the study is to conduct seminal research to better understand the nature of the strengths and contributions, challenges and opportunities faced by the Black community. It explores the lived experiences of individuals within this community (or communities), and the factors leading to their success or challenges.
The research is intended to provide valuable insight and direction that will lead to identifying policies and other initiatives that meaningfully contribute to the health and vibrancy of the Black community, and by doing so, the health and vibrancy of the entire GTA community and beyond. The project is founded on evidence demonstrating that survey research can serve as a powerful vehicle to give voice to individuals and groups who are not normally heard from, which directly links to the mission of the Environics Institute for Survey Research. Such research offers a unique opportunity to articulate positive narratives and hopeful scenarios for the future that might not otherwise be portrayed. These stories will encourage personal initiative, stronger policies, and investment of public, private, and philanthropic resources.
This project provides the opportunity to build on positive narratives around the GTA’s Black community, effectively portraying its rich diversity, successes, and contributions, and creating a better understanding of obstacles and challenges that this community faces. Project results are expected to provide a focal point for the Black community to better harness its assets and expand its successes broadly throughout the entire community, as well as help the broader community (e.g., community leaders, decision-makers, public) understand and appreciate the diversity and vibrancy of the Black community within their vicinity. The overall research design is based on the approach used by the Environics Institute’s Urban Aboriginal Peoples Study (UAPS), a national research study conducted in 2008- 2009 around another population within Canada with a long history of colonization and marginalization (for more information see www.uaps.ca).
This approach is founded on the following guiding principles:
- The research design and topics of focus are guided by input and direction from the community being studied, as well as from leading academic experts;
- The collection of data is done in a respectful way that provides individuals with the opportunity to tell their own story, in their own words;
- The study sample is sufficiently representative and comprehensive to provide for meaningful analysis by important subgroups of the population (e.g., by demographic, ethnic, and other relevant characteristics); and
- The conduct of the study draws upon the resources of the local community (especially emerging young leaders) and gives priority to building capacity.
The project consists of three phases:
Phase 1 – Community engagement (May 2011 – March 2014). A fundamental premise of the project is to ensure the research focuses on issues and questions of greatest relevance to the Black community, in order to meaningfully contribute to strengthening its capacity. To meet this objective, the first phase involved extensive outreach across the Black population, including group discussion sessions with individuals and community leaders across the GTA. This process was completed in March 2014 and a full report was published (under separate cover).
Phase 2 – Research design, implementation and analysis (April 2014 – July 2017). The rich information captured through the community engagement process guided the design of the research in Phase 2, which consisted of in-depth interviews with a representative sample of Black individuals across the GTA (The results of the survey are presented in this report).
Phase 3 – Post-study dissemination and engagement (July 2017 and Beyond). Once the research has been completed and publicly released, the findings will be publicly broadly disseminated through the media and in active partnership with project partners, community organizations, governments and the Black community generally. The focus of this process will be to engage organizations and individuals in discussions about what the study findings show and how they can be meaningfully used to advance the community’s objectives and address outstanding challenges. Plans are also underway for a national conference in 2017 on the state of the Black Canadian experience that will be based in part on the results of this study.
Research Focus – (Its own webpage under ‘About BEP’ )
The themes and topics to be addressed in this study were developed based on previous work (Phase 1 engagement with the Black community, literature review) and in consultation with the Research Advisory Group. Out of this process the following 10 themes related to the lived experience of Black individuals in the GTA were selected for inclusion in the study.
- Identity. How do individuals who identify as Black define and experience their Black identity?
- Experience with the Black community. How do Black individuals perceive and engage with the Black community?
- Personal aspirations and future goals. What are the personal aspirations and apprehensions of Black individuals for themselves and their community?
- Education and learning. What are Black individuals’ experiences with the education system, and with other sources of learning? How do these experiences relate to outcomes in other areas of life?
- Experience with institutions. How do Black individuals interact with, and experience, public institutions in their community? How is this experience influenced by individual’s Black identity?
- Treatment and representation by the broader community. How are individuals in the Black community treated by the broader community? How do they see the Black community portrayed by the broader community?
- Employment and the workplace. What are the employment and workplace experiences of individuals in the Black community?
- Health and well-being. What is the relationship between being Black and individuals’ health and well-being?
- Neighbourhood. To what extent do Black individuals feel positive about, connected to and secure within, their neighbourhood of residence?
- Connectedness and belonging to the broader community. To what extent and in what ways do Black individuals feel connected to the broader community?