In this episode, Tara Everett, Founding President of Canoe Coworking and Founder of Speak Your Truth, talks about how with inclusion and diversity, how we are changing people’s mindsets and how they go about their daily lives, thinking of others who may not be in the same life or space that they are.
And then translating that into practical things, whether that’s a handout like the handbooks, resources that people can access, or putting those lessons into action through training or activities that people can do to experience and expand their knowledge of the work that IDEA does.
Tara works to bring together communities focused on developing sustainable, Indigenous-led knowledge and practises both locally and globally and has been working as an inclusion and diversity specialist for indigenous work with Tash Koster-Thomas and the European Coworking Assembly.
Tash Koster-Thomas 0:03
So let’s get into it. I’m gonna let our guest introduce herself because I think that’s the best way. So Tara over to you. Introduce yourself and actually whatever you feel is relevant to you right now.
Tara Everett 0:18
Hey everyone, good morning. Good afternoon. My name is Tara Everett. My spirit name is Chi Nongos Kwe, which stands for big star woman. I’m joining you from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, which is right in the middle of our beautiful country. And I am the owner and founder of canoe coworking.
Tash Koster-Thomas 0:38
Amazing. I wish I had a second cool name as well to go like, that’s like my spirit self. I’m gonna give myself one of those, for sure. So we’re gonna jump straight into it. Obviously, this podcast is supporting the handbook itself. And so I think it’s really important to understand what these terms and IDEA, as an idea, means to you personally. I know we all have our different definitions and things. So can you describe what IDEA means to you?
Tara Everett 1:10
Yeah, so I got involved working and collaborating on the handbook and the work that Tash Koster-Thomas and the European Coworking Alliance have been doing, as an inclusion and diversity specialist specific to indigenous work, just because I am indigenous, and that’s my focus of my path. When I think of the IDEA work that we’re doing here in our spaces, it really kind of goes from… what I would say is… tangible outcomes compared to community expectations. So I like to focus on bringing the two together. So with inclusion and diversity, how are we changing people’s mind frames, and how they’re actually going about their day-to-day life, thinking of others that might not be in the same life or the same space that they are? And then translating that into realistic things, whether that’s a handout like the handbooks, whether that’s resources that people can access, or whether that’s putting those lessons into place through training or through activities that people can do to experience and expand their knowledge of the work that IDEA does.
Tash Koster-Thomas 2:34
Yeah, it’s a really important point, actually, I think that you raise it. So often we may be understanding the theory of this work, and potentially why it’s needed. But actually, what are the practicalities? Particularly in coworking, which is an unusual community in of itself, right? And really diverse, by definition, I guess delving in a little bit deeper around that as well. What does equity and accessibility mean to you?
Tara Everett 3:06
I find equity and accessibility can be, first of all, they’re really charged words, because they don’t mean the same to everybody. And so it can be… when you talk about IDEA, those are the real words that do the work. So I guess the easiest way of describing it for me personally, is not just access to communities or to services, it’s access to being able to feel safe and relevant in the spaces that you’re acting in. So in my line of work, that’s a lot of different things. Yeah… I always struggle with those with those specific ones, where it’s like, how do I put this into a manageable way of saying that?
Tash Koster-Thomas 4:01
And that’s sometimes the challenge with this. I think with this conversation as a whole is that, as you said, like these words mean different things to each person based on the identities that you hold, the experiences that you’ve had, the trauma you’re coming with, right? Yeah, and I get it that we talk about, particularly, equity. What does equity even mean? For how it looks to you and how it shapes your experience can be very, very different to me. I guess. I know that, obviously, you’ve mentioned a key focus of your work and the community that you work with the most is supporting indigenous folks and businesses. Can you share it around, I guess the importance of this, and what you do and perhaps even then, getting that equity piece and accessibility through that in terms of how you do that?
Tara Everett 4:53
Yeah, so in Canada, and I mean around the world, we all for the most part have indigenous populations. Here in Canada, however, our indigenous people have faced a lot of barriers to economic participation. And that’s kind of a, what I would say, a piece of what is considered a genocide of our people is not only their lifestyles or their teachings taken away, but also their capacity to bring in income, or to bring in meaningful work. So when you look at coworking being this really… and that’s one of the reasons why I got involved in the space was because I felt very strongly that the people behind coworking had the intentions to make these spaces safe and accessible and open. So I started canoe five years ago now… wow five. And really, since then, I have seen a change, not specific to indigenous, in the world’s sphere, but specific in my community. There’s a call for people to be active in their communities and to make these spaces accessible. And that’s where I got my start. And that’s really why IDEA work and inclusion, diversity, all of those things continue to be really front and centre in the work that I do, because that’s the work that needs to be done for our community.
Tash Koster-Thomas 6:33
And just to give, I’d really love it. I think it’s really useful when people can have actual really tangible things, as we were saying earlier, right? If there are practical steps, what are some of the things that you do at canoe that help to support this?
Tara Everett 6:46
Yeah, so again, we talk about making sure that the work that we’re doing is in line with what people need at the moment. So depending on whom I’m working with, that can be something as small, I don’t, well, not even small, because the first steps are sometimes the biggest steps, right? So that can be reaching out and sharing our resources, whether that’s teachings or workshops, learning that people can understand a bit more about our story, then it really translates to, if I’m working with large organisations or companies, we’re talking about strategic planning, we’re talking about making sure that those policies and those ways of doing the work are just as important and just as steadfast as the people’s intentions behind it. So it really truly does run the gambit between something as easy as a touch point, a conversation, kind of like what we’re doing here today, to something really community oriented and impactful.
Tash Koster-Thomas 7:57
And I guess some, we obviously see a lot of challenges, various challenges within the coworking community and our communities as a whole. What do you think are some of the key challenges within the coworking community that you see and experience and I guess, twofold, both within your immediate community, but also, when we talk about coworking as a global movement? What are some of the challenges or barriers that you see?
Tara Everett 8:24
Yeah, so I mean, I start.. while… I was hoping to start a physical workspace when I started canoe, but thankfully, I didn’t because the pandemic rolled around. And that really, you know, when I look at, for me, personally, that was a huge, a huge lifesaver. But since the pandemic, I feel there’s been a really big push for people to come together again, and do it in a way that’s more in line with their own work style, and their own vision, and what they want to get done. So, post pandemic, when I look at the world stage, I’m always so proud and so happy to see all the work that’s being done around the world, not only an IDEA work, but also just including people and asking the questions that need to be asked. So, are we mindful of IDEA work? Are we mindful of our hours? How are we making things accessible to people? Locally, that’s our coworking. I would say, offerings haven’t changed substantially in the last few years. But what I have really brought and noticed about the community is there’s definitely a lot more partnerships happening. So people are taking less responsibility singularly for the work that they need to do and they’re reaching out and asking for help from the right people. And that’s such a huge step in the right direction, because that means people are feeling comfortable with asking those questions, or to bring those intentions forward in a meaningful way. So locally here, we still have a few coworking spaces, physically and then I know across Canada, there’s been a lot of interest. Coworking in Canada sometimes gets aligned with a lot of the startups and a lot of the like big tech folk. So when you look at the indigenous specific coworking spaces, a lot of them are either sistered, or working together with economic development operations. And that’s really exciting, because that means they have the support that they need to succeed, but they also still have a community in which to do that work.
Tash Koster-Thomas 10:47
Wow, I kind of want you to speak a little bit into that, because I know that so often, we have conversations around coworking, and I guess, in some ways, the sustainability of coworking like we all understand that it’s a way of working, that’s really positive. But when society tells us that these major corporations are how we should operate, it can sometimes be really hard to find ways to… first of all, bring that vision to fruition, but then also to keep it, like it’s incredible, that canoe has been going for five years that in of itself is an achievement, which I’m sure there’s a lot of coworking, owners founders, going – what five years?- How was it? How did those links come to be? What were some of the things that you put in place to create those relationships?
Tara Everett 11:42
Well, I mean, my relationship started because I had a background in economic development within my community. So there was already a sense of trust and a sense of understanding and belonging, when I went from nonprofit organisations into self employment. I was having that initial foundation of knowing where I was going, so to speak. I knew I had a journey, and I knew that depth… stepping my feet into the water would only get me deeper into the water. With regards to how is this a sustainable space? The reality is, I don’t have a physical workspace, I do my work for the communities that asked me to come in, which is a little bit different than hosting my own space. That being said, I feel that we talked about the intangibles and the tangibles, and the community, and seeing people is just such a helpful way of getting your work done. But also, this is something that I’m sure people that have experienced trauma and in other life events, or from other places around the world can explain it, I guess, identify with is that sometimes the work that you’re doing can be really heavy, or there can be a lot of background or history to that. And so to be able to have a community that you can come to do that work and feel safe and share that or have a moment to yourself where people really do understand, you’re not just writing a report, but this report might be really triggering, because there’s a trauma event, as submitted with it, or there’s something that happens in the community. And instead of being alone at your desk, suddenly you have this entire group of people that are also in business, but also understand that we’re human, we’re not just at work, we’re not just at home. And for especially I find for myself specifically, but also for a lot of indigenous folk. When you talk about intention, and walking the walk and talking the talk that intertwines us and that closeness in both our life and our work, and our purpose is really what is and how our coworking spaces and our communities are built on. Is that connection to others and being able to collaborate?
Tash Koster-Thomas 14:19
Yeah, I’m sure a lot of people listening can agree with that, regardless of I think for a lot of people, maybe where they are now in terms of their space. Absolutely. The intention or original intention of where they want to be is that connection to people and collaboration. And I guess that brings me to the next question: what’s your vision for the coworking community? And you can interpret that however you would like for the sake of this one.
Tara Everett 14:53
That has changed so much over the last five years, really I would say at the beginning my idea would have been, well I want to get my space started up, and I want us to be successful and my immediate community to reap the rewards of all of my hard work. And that’s really changed into the message which is that there are indigenous people, there are people that are neurodiverse, or differently abled, we are all shapes and sizes, and how are we going to make the coworking space, more accessible, more open to those individuals moving forward, especially post pandemic, because things change in our community so much. And now it feels like that’s a real focus is getting people to be coming together. I guess, as a self-employed person who does a lot of the consulting side of the work, I’ve seen the work starting, and we’re having these conversations, you and I were having these collections in these meetings. And I really just… I strive to hope that and I know that there’s a group of incredible we proud activists and people behind us, but the work that we’re doing to include inclusion and more people in our spaces, regardless of where we are, is being really pushed to the forefront. So it’s kind of our I want to say war cry, where we’re just like, all the people can come assemble.
Tash Koster-Thomas 16:44
Justice league assemble!
Tara Everett 16:47
Tash Koster-Thomas 16:52
And I think I know that some people will listen to this, and maybe be somewhat in their journey already, talking around IDEA and having the discussions and the conversations, and, for some, people will listen to this. And it may be right at the beginning. And somewhat overwhelming. It’s a lot, there’s a whole conversation happening at a local level, a societal level. And coworking spaces tend to be a microcosm of society. What would be maybe one, or two, or three things that you think are a good kind of starting point, or things to consider when you are wanting to really focus on IDEA within your community, things that maybe you’ve already done, that you’ve seen done work for you, or that you, over the years have been considered being really important, and we didn’t think about it in the beginning. But it’s been a real key part of how we operate now.
Tara Everett 17:52
You always start with yourself first. So are you ready, like you said, people are at different places in their journeys. And I guess one thing, I always tell people is that it can be… it’s a journey, and you can be gentle with yourself, and you can be kind to yourself, and you can recognise that either maybe you’re coming from a place of privilege, or maybe you’re coming from the opposite, where you’ve experienced a lot of trauma, or a lot of barriers, and you have questions, or you’re trying to expand your knowledge. That first step is something we as other humans can’t do that’s within yourself. That’s the intention side of the work that we do. And the desire to do more about that is so… I can’t put a price on people willing to do that kind of hard work in that labour. Because it is a lot of work. And some of these questions, just open cans of worms that you never expected to happen. So really you look at the individual, and then you look at the space itself. So like you said, sometimes, if you have a space that’s operating, whether that’s… you’re noticing maybe that people with accessibility issues aren’t really using your space and why is that? Or workshops are only being held by white men, and nobody is organising Black Lives Matter or other kinds of IDEA work related things. So, is there an issue of safety within that space where “how are you representing those people?” And then really, the organisation side of things is just making the intangible tangible so are you reaching out to your community? Communication is so important for us, but it can be really hard to have those conversations, like you said, so how are you making it accessible for those conversations to happen for the people that want to use your space that are using your space actively, or those that are already in it? Yeah, just like I said, the biggest and the hardest step is just having that desire and that willingness and that strength to make that first step.
Tash Koster-Thomas 20:27
I think that’s one that I’ve never really thought about. But it’s also one that when I, obviously I deliver a lot of training, and I always talk about is it self reflection, this work, like we think about it like facts and figures and seeing demographics. And certain people, actually, a lot of it is around, reflecting on yourself, your own identities, your own experiences, how you perceive the world. And that can speak to a lot of the behaviours that you operate with, and therefore a lot of things that then play out as a result of that. But yeah, you’re right, you can’t put a price on someone having intention and wanting to take on this. It’s big, it’s really big. It’s huge, it takes like, you can’t get your arms around it, the more you know, the less you know, I’m gonna say that right now. But it’s incredible that I think that’s why you have to find the support system right in it, and a team of people that you can connect with. I want to ask something, thinking about making the intangible tangible, what are some of the resources that you can suggest to our audience to learn more, and this can be specifically around indigenous folks, or the broader conversation of IDEA or things that have helped support you in your journey of learning? So feel free to flag now for anyone?
Tara Everett 21:49
Yeah, absolutely. Well, first and foremost, we’ve got this handy new guide coming.
Tash Koster-Thomas 21:54
Ah, yeah, it is shameless.
Tara Everett 21:57
Shameless plug, there we go. No, in all actuality, resources tend to be specific for the communities. Again, I always say this, I’m like, yeah, it depends. The way I say it is, you’re looking for the resources that have been, I want to say accepted by the communities in which they’re working with, you want to make sure that those are reputable places, safe places that you’re getting your information from. So with IDEA work, that’s specific to making sure that they have the right qualifications, or they’ve done the work before, this isn’t an individual who is decided that coworking or inclusion is suddenly their number one line of income, this work isn’t something that you just jump into, and you hope and pray that it works. So finding like you said, finding the right people, and honestly, a lot of that time, it’s asking within your existing communities, because people are such wealth of knowledge and resources beyond what we can expect. So for indigenous, specific to Canada, because we know that there’s a lot of folk, there are a lot of online learning resources. There’s things like MOOCs, Massive available online content, which are kind of like indigenous in Canada, one on one, what happened to us? Why are we experiencing these impacts generations after things happened? And then there are… I always start with reading, because I like to read. And the way I say it is you start with your knowledge base, so you’re reading, or connecting with studies, or resources that you can find yourself because part of this work is doing the work yourself and not expecting somebody to do it for you.
Tash Koster-Thomas 24:10
I am sure that a lot of people like plugging in a chip and downloading it if they could.
Tara Everett 24:15
Absolutely. But I think that takes away from the actual learning part of it right is so yeah, specific to that. It’s really online. And again, connecting with the folks in your community that are doing the work that you want to follow or look up to. So there is a community here that is really great with social innovation, and I connect with them because they are a self employed person. The social innovation side for me is really important, but they’re the experts. So by being able to say you know what, I’m an expert in coworking. I’m not necessarily an expert in this or that you can then look for the right places.
Tash Koster-Thomas 25:07
I think it’s really key that in terms of what you’re saying at the beginning of finding resources that are either accepted or approved by the community, or written and created by said community. I think we underestimate… it’s funny, we often look for scientific and that more theoretical. And I guess, I don’t know, we put a lot of emphasis on education and degrees and thesis and everything like that. And actually, when it comes to this work, I find the most valuable learning comes from hearing someone’s lived experience, what it was to be that identity, entering this space, or operating in this community society, and understanding those challenges and barriers that we could read a study that says X, Y, and Z, but the thing that you really remember is not the facts and figures of a study, it’s that person I spoke to, and they shared this story with me. So yeah, absolutely. When you find the community that you’re in, you’re wanting to learn more about, and you hear directly from them. Anything else that you think is important to add for our people here today?
Tara Everett 26:24
I mean, it’s always a pleasure to talk with folks from around the world and across the pond. You talk about lived experience, and hearing that story. And truly, as somebody who came to the coworking space, initially five years ago, looking for a community that I felt safe in and looking for a community that was willing to listen and to do the work. I mean, the coworking space is as a whole phenomenal. The people that are active in these spaces are leaders in these spaces. I mean, I’m blessed. Some of them have become family, some of them have become friends, and to be operating in this space for as long as I have and to see what we would call slow. But what is progress? Yeah, as progress is progress. And we’re still asking these questions. And I mean, Tash, you’re across the pond, and I’m here in Canada, and we’re having these great conversations about IDEA and inclusion. And I remember having these conversations at the beginning and coming into the space and thinking this is my people and being in the space and saying this is my people, it is two different things and to feel safe and to operate in coworking for as long as I have, has really shown has given me the opportunities and blessed me to see that people are still willing to do the work and are still willing to go out of their way and learn more about others not just in their space, but across the world and say how can we do better. And I just don’t think that other industries necessarily have that as much as we do. And what an awesome place, what an awesome place to be a part of and to work together with, even though I don’t have a physical space of my own. The energy that the community provides is what coworking is, when you look at the spirit of what we are, is we’re bringing people together and we’re growing in the right way. So I’m really excited to see the finished handbook, the finished work that you’ve been doing, and everyone’s been doing. But I’m also really excited to see what the next five years brings, because we’ve come so far and I really feel like coworking is taking a lead in the IDEA work and how we’re being able to make these spaces accessible and applicable to everybody involved. And if you have specifics like me, my focus is on indigenous people, my focus is on people that might have different socioeconomic barriers to entry. It doesn’t really matter who your target market is, because at the end of the day, everyone wants to feel like they belong, and everyone should feel like they can be present in their work in the way that they want to show up. So seeing that really nurtured and brought forward has just been… I talk about it a lot to my family and friends who aren’t necessarily in the coworking space. I was like, no these people are incredible. Like they keep me going. They inspire me just as much as I hope I inspire them. And I’m just really excited to see what the next steps are going to be and how we can keep moving this conversation going forward because it’s already happening in this space. So how do we keep it happening?
Tash Koster-Thomas 30:05
I love that. I’m just going to let it finish beautifully there. Thank you so, so much Tara for sharing your wisdom, your time, your energy and actually your heart on this podcast because I really feel that too. Where can people find you if they do want to reach out to you? Feel free to share your socials now and we’ll also put a link to them but go for it.
Tara Everett 30:32
Yeah, so I’m easiest to find either on LinkedIn just with my first and last name Tara Everett. I have a fancy, very forward website called canoe coworking, and if you by some miracle, find me on socials. I’m under canoe coworking at Facebook and Instagram. So I’m around and happy to connect and to chat with whatever means possible.
Tash Koster-Thomas 30:59
Amazing. Thank you so so much again. So folks, I hope that was interesting for you. I know it was for me so, even if you didn’t find it, I found value in that. Be sure to go back and join us for our next one. You will have to wait and see who that next special guest is. But I hope you enjoy the rest of your day, wherever you are. Thank you and goodbye from me.