inResponse - Jacquelyn Cardinal

"inResponse" is a program in partnership with What I Wish I Knew to explore how people, business owners and our communities have been impacted and how they’re handling COVID-19. We’ll interview local leaders and businesses to gain insight into how they cope with challenges like the current pandemic. 

We’re on the hunt for answers, information, and solutions and will look to share these so each of us can turn this challenge into an opportunity.

For this inResponse, Jodi Goebel chats with Jacquelyn Cardinal, Managing Director of Naheyawin and Co-President and Director of Social Awareness Group, about the impacts COVID has had on the consulting firm and the pivots Naheyawin is making to adapt to these new challenges.

Naheyawin offers sustainable, practical, Indigenous-based solutions for the improvement of diversity and inclusion in businesses, organizations and institutions through interactive workshop sessions, equity audits, and public engagement design and facilitation. 

Much like most of the world, the consulting and facilitation industry came to a grinding halt when COVID started appearing in our communities. Multi-person indoor workshops and sessions were no longer possible. Naheyawin’s focus on processes of engagement and collaboration could no longer be utilized in it’s the regular person to person form. Here are some highlights from the interview as well as the full 45-minute discussion below.


JG - Can you start by telling us about Naheyawin?

JC - Naheyawin was started by myself and my younger brother (Hunter Cardinal) back in 2016. I had a bit of history in entrepreneurship and technology and my brother has history and experience in acting. We got to a point in our careers where we thought we could continue on our current path, but had a conversation about “what kind of impact do we want to have on our communities”

JG - How has 2020 changed the work you are doing now?

JC - It’s been really tough and continues to be really tough. We’ve been on an interesting rollercoaster. In mid-march when things began shutting down, waking up one morning to contracts getting cancelled and postponed. In-person workshops just got wiped. Months and months of coordination and planning were just wiped away. We took a weekend to plan what is next and what our next move is going to be. Luckily I have a good experience with technology and we were able to put our courses and classes together online. Our courses have elements of gamification so people can really interact with the material. We’re realizing we don’t physically need to be in the room with the groups we’re collaborating with. It has actually been neat how it’s opening up avenues for people outside of Edmonton and Alberta.

JG - How would you describe the purpose that drives you?

JC - I’ve always gone by the adage of “be who you needed when you were younger and I think that drives me the most growing up. Growing up in Southwest Edmonton, often being the only indigenous person in the room and feeling alienated from the others was hard. Up until now, it’s been this journey that I, as an indigenous woman, am visible in the work that I do...and other potentially young indigenous girls growing up right now can see me and be like “Ok, that means I can do that”, that means the world to me.

JG - What does indigenous based engagement feel like now, during the COVID age?

JC For us, it highlights how important the preparation is. The great thing is we can engage a much wider variety of people because we are having things remotely done. We’ve been getting some interesting perspectives in the room we aren’t usually able to because finding childcare is challenging, getting to the place is challenging. It’s been challenging to read the room online, but it has forced us to really nailing the preparation for these sessions and being careful to prepare people when inviting them and engaging them before the sessions. In sessions, keeping it as tight as we can, and leaning heavily on the circle, allowing everyone to still speak and have their time. We also still like to have a teaching or story at the beginning of each session to set the tone for the time. We’re really trying to lean into the online tools we have and still have conversations. 

Check out the full interview with Jacquelyn from Naheyan above and follow them on social media:

Instagram - @Naheyawin

Twitter - @Naheyawin

Facebook - Naheyawin