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Wilfrid Laurier University Leaf
September 26, 2016
Canadian Excellence

Community and university members discuss the documentary.

FSW documentary looks at the merits of being a good neighbour

It was just over five years ago that Laurier's Faculty of Social Work (FSW) relocated from the main campus in Waterloo to the downtown core of Kitchener. At the time, it was a controversial decision fraught with both concern – was the downtown safe, would faculty and staff feel connected to the rest of the university, would students be put at a disadvantage – and opportunity – enhanced connections to agencies, closer proximity to the populations social workers serve, an economic influx to a core trying to be revitalized.

As the five year anniversary of the move approached, Social Work professor and director of the Social Innovation Research Group (SIRG )Dr. Ginette Lafrenière started to think about the impact the FSW has had on the community since its arrival and how the community has impacted on the FSW. "Academic units can contribute both positively and negatively to the energy in downtown communities," said Ginette. "I wanted to understand if there was mutuality in our raison d’etre in being in the downtown core".

Ginette says that she has always been inspired by the words of Luke Fusco, the former Faculty of Social Work Dean who was instrumental in facilitating the faculty's move. "He said that if the faculty is going to move into the downtown core, we have a duty to ensure we are good neighbours. I've always remembered those words and wanted to take an honest look back at the past five years to see if we have indeed been good neighbours".

Ginette proposed the idea of creating a documentary to her second year Community Capacity Building class this past January. All seven students enthusiastically joined the project never having produced a documentary thus far in their academic journeys. They spent the next three months getting ethics approval, finding a cinematographer, developing the story board and conducting 22 interviews with faculty, staff, agencies and business owners. Once the interviews were complete, the group sorted through hours of footage, putting the pieces together to tell the story.

The documentary, entitled On The Merits of Being a Good Neighbour, was launched to a crowd of close to 100 people at the FSW on March 26th.

"I'm very pleased with the way the documentary turned out," said Ginette. "There are both challenges and opportunities to a university being in a downtown core and I think we were able to capture both."

For those who missed the debut, the documentary will be shown again at the Canadian Association for Social Work Education conference being held at Laurier in May. The FSW will also be holding another viewing in the fall, as well as making the film available online within the next few months.