This post was provided by Nadia Duguay, Co-founder and CEO of Exeko, as part of the Ashoka Canada Fellows: Social Innovation Demystified series.
Exeko works to foster and promote inclusion and development of marginalized populations through innovation in culture and education.
Our Starting Point
I co-founded Exeko in 2006. Having been overwhelmed in life many times myself, I was looking for a larger understanding of life, looking for a track that would help me understand and act directly on unequal opportunities.
How to provide people with the necessary tools to safeguard freedom of choice, thought and action beyond the misleading constraints a sometimes so hostile world imposes? This is the reason why I came to understand creativity as a protective driving force and a channel to freedom. Considering creativity of the act through art and creativity of mind through philosophy has become central to the way I approach social inclusion: mine or the one of people at risk of exclusion.
Inclusion: The Core of Our Mission and Beliefs
Exeko’s mission is to build creative and reflexive spaces for all, including those cut off from society – First Nation people without homes, people within prisons, people with special needs and Youth at risk. Our actions are based on the belief that each and every person is the intellectual and cultural bearer of the same potential, but not everyone has had the same opportunity to act on that potential.
Society is not built under the aegis of one or several leaders: each and every person is, equal to equal, the builder of the society he or she imagines – a society in which everyone has his or her own place. The presumption of equal intelligence and cultures, which guides Exeko’s activities, is based on the very notion of each and everyone’s will: you, us, we are all the actors of this transformation, craftsmen of a more inclusive society in which each citizen can take part in the well-being of all.
Through our different programs (theatre and tales with First Nation youth, critical analysis with homeless people, art with people with special needs), and through an approach based on intellectual and cultural mediation, we connect with individuals who are often excluded from mainstream society. We discuss philosophy and art, we think, we create. Above all, we act together on a peer-to-peer basis, looking into each other’s eyes. Whether it is in the streets or in refuges, we always recognize each and every person’s potential to be the citizen they decide to be.
Exeko In Action
To date, we have set up more than 110 projects, from co-creative projects between professional and emerging artists with special needs to our idAction projects, which in 2013 had 600 participants in shelters, to day centre and work in Aboriginal communities. Our projects are supported by a team of almost 40 people and more than 120 volunteers. They are citizens, and workers who all are ambassadors of their own society. They are determined to meet up with and respectfully discover the diversity of identities, ideas and experiences.
Our actions have reached more than 6500 participants in three Canadian provinces. Through partnerships, we hope to share Exeko’s practices throughout the country.
We already share reflexive practices with organizations, institutions and governments who, like us, are convinced that the building of our world and the large-scale deployment of these values is everybody’s job.
A participant told me about Exeko one day: “It has given me the taste to be part of something bigger than me”. It reaffirmed my convictions. What about you?
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