2.3 Communities of Practice as Locations for Facilitating Service Systems Improvement for Northern Homeless Women

Attention to the gender-specific needs of homeless women in Canada’s North is crucial. The complexity of the issues involved warrants a whole system shift in social policy and service delivery, as well as in the way that many individual programs and professionals work. This chapter describes a participatory action research project involving service providers, policy advocates and researchers in the three northern territories who had the goal of catalyzing health system improvement to respond to the needs of northern women with mental health concerns and who are homeless or at risk of being homeless. The first section of the chapter presents the context of women’s homelessness in the North. Then the community of practice (CoP) approach employed in the Repairing the Holes in the Net project is described. The CoPs held in the three northern territories supported shared reflective practice space, where literature, women’s identified needs and ideas for repairing the net of women-serving agencies and policies could be collectively considered. The chapter concludes with an assessment of successes and challenges associated with system change in the context of the North and the potential of CoPs in supporting relational and programmatic system change.

Naomi Nichols; Carey Doberstein
Canada's North
Publication Date: 
Canadian Observatory on Homelessness