On September 24th, the Knowledge Equity Lab hosted its virtual Launch Party. We were pleased to welcome friends, partners, and collaborators from around the globe, from Tkaronto (Toronto, Ontario), Muisca (in Colombia), Bakata (Northeast India), Coast Salish (Vancouver); Bloemfontein, South Africa; Kampala, Uganda; San Carlos, California; Nashville, Tennessee; Austin, Texas; and more!
When asked about what came to mind when participants think about the concept of knowledge equity, we saw themes of justice, diversity, access, epistemic justice, access, love and respect, collaboration, honouring different ways of knowing, sharing power, wisdom, and more.
The first hour consisted of the Formal Launch, where we heard from the projects and people within the Knowledge Equity Lab family who have advanced knowledge equity over the years.
Lab Director Leslie Chan opened with a Land Acknowledgement, speaking to the importance of acknowledging the material physicality of the land we are on, while also being critical of the technologies in the digital space, and how biases and unequal power relations are embedded and perpetuated.
UTSC Principal Wisdom Tettey then took the stage, to emphasise the importance of the Knowledge Equity Lab to the values and visions of the University of Toronto Scarborough. He gave an inspiring and thought provoking opening about the importance of valuing knowledge not as a commodity, but as communal and shared; and as simultaneously bounded and boundless.
Next, Knowledge Equity Lab Advisory Member Isabelle Kim spoke to her work as a UNESCO Knowledge for Change Mentor and the Founding Co-Chair of the K4C Tkaronto Hub, which through her leadership led to the development of curriculum and workshops for and by community, on community-based, participatory action research.
Open Access pioneers and co-founders of Bioline International Barbara Kirsop and Vanderlei Canhos shared their history and experiences launching the open access publishing platform. Barbara spoke to the motivations of launching Bioline all the way back in 1993, to enable greater visibility of access to academic journals from low and middle income countries; and how it grew to an average of 15.7 million downloads per year.
Vanderlei of CRIA (Reference Center on Environmental Information) in Brazil (which provides server hosting, administration, and development for Bioline) spoke to the power of international collaboration and what an incredible partnership it has become over the last 30 years.
We were then graced with the poetic talents of KEL Advisory Member and UNESCO Co-Chair (of Community Based Research & Social Responsibility in Higher Education) Dr. Budd Hall, who shared with us his poem, ‘Learning to Imagine’, which he dedicated to all the attendees of the KEL Launch party.
After these refreshing performances, we were back to hearing about, and celebrating people and projects like Professor Bettina von Lieres who co-leads the Community Knowledge Learning Hub — a collaboration between the university and various community partners, with the mission of community-engaged learning by bringing community knowledge into the university through ethical and trust based long term relationships.
Associate of the Open Collaborative Science in Development Network. She spoke to the findings, learnings, and insights gained from the OCSDNet project, highlighting the Open Science manifesto in particular in shaping her own understanding of the kinds of principles and values that could underpin a truly inclusive open science that advances social and environmental well-being.
Next up we heard from recent graduates and early-career researchers Alejandro Posada and George Chen, members of the early-career research collective KnowledgeGAP. Alejandro explained that the overarching goal of KnowledgeGAP was to document how inequality was produced and reproduced in academic spaces, with his research specifically looking at financialisation in the academic publishing industry.
Last but not least, we heard from the youngest knowledge equity advocate of the day, Tasmeen Mewa, UTSC undergraduate student and founder of the Open Praxis Forum. Tasneem shared how OPF was created out of a necessity to showcase early-career-researcher work, with an emphasis on epistemic diversity (showcasing different mediums and forms of knowledge presentation) and reflexivity, so that contributors can deeply reflect about the positionality and impact of their research.
Following these highlights and celebrations of various KEL sub-projects, attendees had the honour of witnessing the premier screening of the About Knowledge Equity Lab video, produced by designer Emilia Pezzati and her team from Cooperativa de Diseno. Emilia spoke to the process of co-creating this video, with ideas, visuals, and inspiration from a heartening collaborative visioning workshop with many friends and partners, coupled with narration by our in-house storyteller Blessing Digha.
In the post-launch after-party, Knowledge Equity Lab Coordinator Maggie Huang invited everyone to join the virtual UTSC valley for a community potluck to mix and mingle and get to know each other.
Following this, participants were then invited to the virtual community garden and encouraged to reflect, map and share with each other:
Kanishka closed the evening with her thoughtful provocations:
“I’m told academia has been a historic vehicle for knowledge production, but has it? Whose knowledge is worthy enough to be taken up by the academy? Whose theory is made visible by the static, inherently exclusionary politics of academic publishing—and who, how, where is made invisible?
Oral storytelling. Spoken word. Poetry. Visual art and culture. Community activism. Everyday acts of resistance. Oral histories. Digital forms of rebellion. Workplace protests. Marches and strikes. Survival politics. Participatory learning. Consciousness raising. How can these forms of being with and through our world be captured by academia as ‘productive’.”