It Takes A Village

As 2018 winds down, I’ve been giving more thought to the events that have helped define the last 365 days. In a similar vein to my previous post, none of the events that made this year what it was would have been possible without an incredible team of people working with me.

This is particularly relevant when I consider the number of people who came together to help me and Dr. Jason Ernst draft the Wireless Mobile Mesh Technology To Address Canada’s Digital Divide research proposal. The final submission, which was more than 70 pages and almost 40 thousand words long, would not have been possible without the collective efforts of students, staff, and faculty at the University of Guelph, numerous employees at Left, and our partners and research leads in Nunatsiavut.

Of course, it all began as a conversation between me and Jason regarding the digital divide in northern communities. This led to a successful application for funding from the Canadian Internet Registration Authority’s Community Investment Program, and was followed by another successful grant application (NSERC Connect) to bring together the various partners in January of 2018 to begin imagining what a multi-year research program might look like.

After this, Jason and I sat down and got to work, but we couldn’t have finished the draft without the input of a great many people. After I don’t know how many hours of writing, editing, and rewriting, the draft was finished. Or so we thought.

We shared the draft with numerous people for review, and I’m so glad we did. Huge thanks to Nick Déry (Manager, Research & Graduate Studies, College of Engineering & Physical Sciences) and Gregor Lawson (Manager, Industry Liaison, Research & Innovation Office), because I have no doubt that their comments, edits, and advice made a significant difference to the final proposal. And of course, we also benefitted from the advice of Sherry Zhao (Account Manager, Business Development), and Rebecca Bourque (Strategic Accounts) of Mitacs. I’m sure they each answered about a thousand questions from both Jason and me, which I know has saved a lot of time and headaches.

We then waited as the proposal was evaluated by the Mitacs Research Council. Fortunately, we didn’t have to wait too long before they came back with a list of insightful questions and comments that they asked to be addressed in a revised document. Again, I don’t doubt that this has improved the work that we will be doing over the next five years.

To revise the document, Jason and I called on Frazer, Keefer, Marshall, and Nic, all students in my lab or students who have been working with the RightMesh project for some time. Each gave time to help draft responses and update the overall proposal. Some helped find extra academic references to support decisions, while others contributed to the development of our broader approach to research that integrated and incorporated local and Indigenous knowledge within the context of the projects. Despite so many cooks in the kitchen, everything came together incredibly well.

Our revised proposal was submitted, and before long we were chatting directly with the Mitacs Research Council to clear up any remaining questions. I can’t thank them enough for accommodating the fact that I was in China at the time. That is, where another group might have asked that we postpone our last conversation until I was in Canada and in the same time zone, they happily worked with me so that they could make their final decision and hopefully allow us to get the research started.

When the funding was initially approved, I was so much more than happy. I was elated, and suddenly aware of how much weight the process brought with it. More than that, I was aware of how lucky I was to have so many supporting players throughout the journey that helped us across the finish line. That is, the final approval was not and should not be considered a Jason and Dan success. It is the success of an incredible village of people who gave so much time and energy to get us to where we are today.

Anyway, as the year comes to an end, I’m reminded how fortunate I am to work with the people that I do. It has been a fantastic year, and I can’t wait to see what 2019 brings with it.

Happy New Year everyone.

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