Design Thinking – MAC to promote fostering in Muslim community

Fostering a child or a youth gives you an opportunity to make a difference in their life. It can also be one of the most rewarding experiences for a foster parent as they positively impact another person’s life. While it’s ideal that every child is placed with a foster family from the same faith and cultural background, it’s usually impossible to do since the resources simply aren’t available.

Foster children placed in the care of families from different cultures may experience additional trauma from being ‘thrown’ into a new culture. Recognizing an urgent need for matching children with families from the same faith and backgrounds, a group of eight women from the Muslim Association of Canada (MAC) came together to brainstorm ideas to ensure Muslim children and youth are placed with families from the same background.

“Last year, some of us got together to talk about Muslims in Canada and the needs of our community. While brainstorming ideas, we realized an urgent need for Muslim families to be part of the fostering system to support the Muslim children in the system. And additionally, to also support those families who are fostering Muslim children to be aware of the needs of a Muslim child,” says Memona Hossain from the Muslim Association of Canada. “While we had an idea and a reach in the community, we were not sure of the next steps or how the project would actually look like,” adds Memona.

This is where Capacity by Design came into the picture. Capacity by Design is a design-thinking program developed by Capacity Canada to help social good organizations rethink how they approach problem-solving. Capacity Canada has developed its knowledge and skills in Design Thinking through the generosity of the Lyle S. Hallman Foundation. The Suncor Energy Foundation has provided the resources for Capacity Canada to build resilient communities across Canada through Design Thinking. The Muslim Association of Canada submitted an application to the Capacity by Design team that was accepted.

What followed was multiple meetings and a design sprint to build a prototype to support the organization’s idea. “The process helped us slow down, step back, be meaningful, and carefully think about what was required. During the discussions, we focused on the best way to address the identified needs,” adds Memona.

Last month, Capacity Canada’s team successfully completed its design sprint with the MAC. As a result of the sprint, two prototypes were created by the non-profit to help support our diverse communities in different ways.

The team of eight women from the MAC focused on developing culturally responsive solutions intended to improve the experience of Muslim youth in foster care. They successfully developed two prototypes – one focusing on creating a youth champions program and the other focused on creating an online interactive guide called “Hope Away from Home.” The guide explains the fostering process and provides alternative ways for the Muslim community to support Muslim children in care.

With the youth champions program, the group wants to get Muslim youth involved and champion the cause. “We want the Muslim youth to become the voice of this cause,” says Memona.

Now that the two prototypes are ready, the group is looking to move to the next steps that may involve looking for funding opportunities and tech support. “Our prototype has the capacity to go national. We will present it to the national committee,” adds Memona, who believes the design-thinking process was also a professional development opportunity for every participant. “The practical experience will help us use design thinking as a process in future for other programs. Initially, I was skeptical of how we could do this virtually. However, the teaching techniques used by Liz Dennis and Hugh Munro, the mentors from Capacity Canada, were incredible. They were modified to fit the virtual world.”

Memona further added, “Liz and Hugh offered great strength to the team. They are great mentors who can think from an outsider’s as well as an insider’s perspective. The learning experience was helpful and driven around guiding the group towards its goal and objective.”

Muslim Association of Canada

The Muslim Association of Canada is a Canadian charitable organization and a grassroots social movement. It focuses on serving Canadians by educating and motivating Muslims in Canada to put their faith into action for the benefit of everyone. Currently, MAC has 13 chapters across major cities in the country, serving over 150,000 Canadians annually.

The organization provides spaces, services and programs for holistic education and personal development for Canadian Muslims. MAC focuses on building communities and strengthening neighbourhoods through enabling and providing the required services for individuals to build strong families and building effective and sustainable institutions that provide the wide range of services needed within our community.

What is Design Thinking?

Design thinking is a flexible and powerful framework for innovative problem-solving. Designing for Impact was developed by Capacity Canada with support from the Lyle S. Hallman Foundation and Suncor Energy Foundation. Throughout the process, facilitators from Capacity by Design support and guide team members to develop solutions to the issues close to their hearts that bring a positive change in the community.

“It was the commitment and passion of the people who came together to work on an issue that made this sprint so successful,” says Hugh, Designer, Capacity by Design. According to Hugh, this work would not have been possible if the MAC was not passionate and devoted to its cause.

Design Sprint Hosted Virtually

This year, the design sprint was held using an online platform. “We were not sure how the program would work without meeting in person. It was surprising to see the level of engagement and excitement we were able to generate on a virtual platform. This is the first time the design sprint was held virtually, and the online medium was definitely not a barrier,” says Liz, Designer, Capacity by Design. As per Liz, the program’s success was a result of the dedication of the participating non-profit.

Capacity Canada invites applications from social good organizations across Canada that want to benefit from the program every year. This year, the project received more than a dozen enquiries and indications of interest. After careful consideration, five non-profits were selected. The Muslim Association of Canada was one of the social good organizations selected this year.

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