Naomi Nichols

Academic title(s): 

Assistant Professor

  • Director, B.A. (Education) Education in Global Contexts
Contact Information

Phone: (514) 398-4527 ext. 09669

Office: Coach House, Rm. 216

Twitter: @ResearchChange




Email address: 
naomi.nichols [at]
Department of Integrated Studies in Education

Ph.D., York University (2011)

M.Ed., York University (2006)

B.Ed., Queen's University (2002)

B.A. (English & Biology), Trent University (2001)

Area of expertise: 

Public policy; youth; risk; homelessness; adult education; alternative education; youth justice; child welfare; research and methods; institutional ethnography; social organization; social theory; gender and social issues; social relations of race, class, gender; higher education; social change; engaged and activist scholarship; and multiliteracies.


Undergraduate: Language Arts Education; Human Rights, Ethics and Practice

Graduate: Ethnography; Philosophy of Education; Critical Perspectives on Theory and Research in Education; Educational Implications of Social Theory; Sociology of Education; Research Methods


Teaching Approach

My research illuminates the complex social and structural factors that shape how children and communities grow and develop. Because of the applied nature of my work, I spend considerable time in practice-settings – particularly schools and youth-serving organizations. I find pre-service teachers enjoy and benefit from the practical connections I bring to our collective learning processes. I carve out spaces for students to bring their own observations and questions from their practice into our classes and I share emerging findings and questions from my own research. I teach educators to see families, community leaders and other human service professionals as knowledgeable collaborators. Educators learn to consider how the experiences of their students are shaped by their students’ other institutional relationships (e.g., with child welfare, public housing, homeless shelters, immigration processes, and the courts). Students develop consciousness about how their own educational interventions are influenced by (and influence) the other institutional processes shaping the lives of their students.


(2019). Building from Experience: Youth-led strategies for homelessness prevention and housing stabilization. Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), Insight Development Grant. Role: Principal Investigator. Co-applicants: Jacqueline Kennelly (Carleton); Collaborators: Sean Kidd (UofT/CAMH); Jayne Malenfant (McGill); Kaitlin Schwan (York). Funds awarded: $62, 279.

(2019) Promoting brain health and resilience in social work students: Implementation and evaluation of a smartphone application. Stream 1 of the Knowledge Mobilisation Program of the Healthy Brains for Healthy Lives Initiative at McGill. Role: Collaborator. PI: Katherine Maurer, School of Social Work, McGill University. Collaborartors: Michael MacKenzie, Delphine Collin-Vézina, Marjorie Rabiau, Anna Weinberg, McGill University, Christene Wekerle, McMaster University, and Paul Frewen, University of Western Ontario. Funds awarded: $19,992.

(2019) An Examination of Homeless Youths' Longitudinal Aftercare Experiences Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Insight Grant. Role: Co-Applicant; PI: Stephanie Begum, University of Toronto; Co-investigators. Funds awarded: $92,979

(2019) Data Justice: Fostering equitable data-led strategies to prevent, reduce and end youth homelessness. Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) Insight Grant. Role: Principal Investigator. Co-applicants: Stephen Gaetz (York); Sue-Ann MacDonald (UdeM); Laurence Roy (McGill); Phillipe Coté (UQAM); Nombuso Dlamini (York); Marta Kobiela (McGill); Katherine Maurer (McGill); Collaborators: Dans la Rue; Powered by Data; Open North and A Way Home, Canada. Funds awarded: $356,502

(2019) NEXTSchools: Innovative Approaches to High School Education. Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), Partnership Development Grant. Role: Collaborator. PI: Lisa Starr, McGill University. Funds awarded: $198,184

(2019) Social Research and Development (R&D) Infrastructure for Canada’s Social Mission Sector – Testing models to enhance R&D capacity. Student Fellow: Maxime Goulet-Langlois. Role: Principal Investigator. MITACS Accelerate Partnership between Social Innovation Generation (SIG) and the McConnell Foundation. $30,000 total funding ($15,00 from McConnell and $15,000 from MITACS)

(2019) Force collective de levier: logements abordables et inclusifs, obligations communautaires et collaboration. Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s (CMHC) National Housing Strategy Research Project. Role: academic partner; Lead organization is Brick by Brick. Funds awarded: $100,000

(2018) Making the Shift – Youth Homelessness Solutions Impact Accelerator. Network of Centres of Excellence, Role: Lead Researcher for the Prevention research priority area; Co-Directors are Stephen Gaetz, York University and Melanie Redman, A Way Home - Canada. Funds awarded $17,800,000.

(2016) Mapping the Influence of Engaged Scholarship. SSHRC Insight Development Grant, $69,933. Role: Principal Investigator. Co-Applicant is Stephen Gaetz. 

(2106) Cultivating Presence: Affirmative Art-making as Philosophic Practice. P. Lantz Initiative for Excellence in Education and the Arts: Initiatives in Arts Education, Internal Faculty of Education Award, $1988. Principal Investigator. Co-Applicants are Brian Nichols and Lori Beavis.

(2015) Canadian Observatory on Homelessness. SSHRC Partnership Grant (2013-2020), $2,502,967. Role: Co-Applicant. Principal Investigator is Stephen Gaetz

(2013)           Schools, Safety and the Urban Neighbourhood. SSHRC, Insight Grant (2013-2018), $309,000. Role: Principal Investigator. Co-investigators: A.I. Griffith and U. Anucha. 

(2013)           The Hospital for Sick Children, Innovation Award, $11,351. Role: Principal Investigator.

(2011)                Knowledge Network of Applied Education Research, research funding, $93,175. Role: Co-applicant. Principal Investigator was Lisa Romano-Dwyer. 


Selected publications: 

Scholarly Books

Nichols, N. (2019). Youth, School and Community: Participatory Institutional Ethnographies. Toronto, ON: The University of Toronto Press

Nichols, N. & Dobserstein, C. Eds. (2016). Systems-level Responses to Homelessness in Canada. Toronto, ON: Canadian Homelessness Research Network Press.

Sole-authored chapters within the volume include:
1. Preventing Youth Homelessness: The need for a coordinated cross-sectoral approach
2. Coordination at the Service Delivery Level: The Development of a Continuum of Services
for Street Involved Youth

Nichols, N. (2014.) Youth Work: An institutional ethnography of youth homelessness. Toronto, ON: The University of Toronto Press.

Papers in Refereed Journals

Malenfant, J., Nichols, N. & Schwan, K. (forthcoming, fall 2019). Chasing Funding “to eat our own tail”: The invisible emotional work of making social change. Canadian Journal of Nonprofit and Social Economy Research.

Nichols, N., Schwan, K. & Malenfant, J. (Revised and resubmitted May, 2019). Networks, Alliances and Evidence-based Advocacy: Conditioning the policy environment for change. Evidence & Policy.

MacDonald, S.-A., Côté, P.-B., Coulombe, S., Flynn, C., Greissler, É., Nichols, N., Rivard, J. et Roy, L. (resoumis, juin 2019). « Repenser l’itinérance chez les jeunes au Québec : vers un paradigme interdisciplinaire et intersectionnel de la prévention ». Revue canadienne de politique sociale.

Guay, E., Megelas, A., & Nichols, N. (2019). À qui les quartiers? Gentrification et droit à la ville à Parc-Extension. Nouveaux Cahiers du socialisme, (22).

Nichols, N. (2017). Youth “Out of Sync:” Revealing the Intersectional Social Relations of Educational Inequality. Journal of Youth Studies.

Nichols, N. (2017). The Social Organization of Access to Justice for Youth in “Unsafe” Urban Neighbourhoods. Social & Legal Studies. DOI:

Nichols, N. (2017). Youth and Technologies of Evidence: An institutional ethnography of evidence based policy and practice. Critical Social Policy. DOI:

Nichols, N. & Braimoh, J. (2016). Community Safety, Housing Precariousness and Processes of Exclusion: An institutional ethnography from the standpoints of youth in an "unsafe" urban neighbourhood. Critical Sociology. DOI: 10.1177/0896920516658941

Nichols, N. (2016). Investigating the Social Relations of Human Service Provision: Institutional ethnography and activism. Journal of Comparative Social Work, Special Edition on Institutional Ethnography, 11(1), available at: <

Nichols, N., Mistry, N., Ford-Jones, L.E., Fridman, M., & Ramadan, K. (2015). The Social Organization of Family Health Work: An institutional ethnography. Journal of Critical Public Health, 27. DOI:10.1080/09581596.2015.1119804

Nichols, N., Gaetz, S., & Phipps, D. (2015). Generating Social Change through Community Campus Collaboration. Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement, 19(3), 7-32.

Nichols, N., Phipps, D., & Johnstone, W. (2014). A Case Study from York University’s Knowledge Mobilisation Graduate Student Internship Program: Planting the seeds for change. Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship, 7(2).

Nichols, N. & Gaetz, S. (2014). Strategies for Sustaining Complex Partnerships. Scholarly and Research Communications, Special Edition on Community-Based Participatory Research, 5(3).

Nichols, N., Phipps, D., Gaetz, S., Fisher, A., & Tanguay, N. (2014). Revealing the Complexity of Community-Academic Collaboration. Canadian Journal of Higher Education, 44(1), 69-94.

Nichols, N., Anucha, U., Houwer, R., & Wood, M. (2013). Facilitating Equitable Community-Academic Research Collaborations. Gateways, International Journal of Community Research and Engagement 6, 57-76.

Nichols, N., Phipps, D., Provencal, J. & Hewitt, A.  (2013). Knowledge Mobilization, Collaboration, and Social Innovation: Leveraging Investments in Higher Education. The Canadian Journal of Nonprofit & Social Economy Research, 4(1), 25-42.

Nichols, N. (2010). Learning Across the Borders of Community and Academy. Pedagogies, 5(4). 313-324.

Nichols, N. & Griffith, A.I. (2009). Talk, texts and educational action: An institutional ethnography of policy in practice. Cambridge Journal of Education, 39(2), 241-255.

Nichols, N. (2009). Strange Bedfellows: A Transformative Community-Based Research Project Inspired by Hannah Arendt and Dorothy E. Smith. Theory and Action, 2(2), 61-73.

Nichols, N. (2008). Gimme Shelter! Investigating the Social Service Interface from the Standpoint of Youth. Journal of Youth Studies, 11(6), 685-699.

Nichols, N. (2008). Understanding the Funding Game: The textual coordination of civil sector work. The Canadian Journal of Sociology, 33(1), 61-88.


Chapters in Scholarly Books

Nichols, N., McLarnon, M., & Griffith, A.I. (Submitted to Editors). Community-based and Participatory Approaches in Institutional Ethnography In J.Reid and L. Russell (Eds.) Perspectives on and from Institutional Ethnography, UK: Emerald Books.

Nichols, N. & Malenfant, J. (Submitted to Editors). Youth Experiencing Poverty in a Neoliberal Canadian Context. In M.A. Fallov, & C. Blad (Eds.) Social Welfare Responses in a Neoliberal Era: Policies, Practices and Social Problems. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill Publishers.

Nichols, N., Gaetz, S., & Dyck, M. (Forthcoming, 2017). Both Sides Now: The Social Organization of Community-Academic Collaboration. In L. Bisaillon (Ed.), The Impact of Policy on Everyday Life: The Policy Stories That People Tell. The Netherlands: Springer.

Nichols, N., Griffith, A., & Fisher, A. (Forthcoming, 2017). Outside Looking In: Investigating the Mainstream Public Education System from a Standpoint on the Margins. In L. Bisaillon (Ed.), The Impact of Policy on Everyday Life: The Policy Stories That People Tell. The Netherlands: Springer.

Nichols, N. (2016). Development in Context: Housing Instability, Homelessness, and Youth Work. In Mizzi, R., Rocco, T., & Shore, S. (Eds.) Disrupting Adult and Community Education: Teaching, Learning, and Working on the Periphery. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

Saul, R. & Nichols, N. (2014). Canadian Teacher Training Reconsidered: Community-Based Education as a Response to Changing Times. In D.E. Mulcahy, D.G. Mulcahy & R. Saul (Eds.), Education in North America (pp. 95-115). New York: Bloomsbury.

Nichols, N. (2014). Research and Development Work at an Ontario Youth Shelter. In Griffith and Smith (Eds.) Under New Public Management: Institutional Ethnographies of Changing Front-line Work, Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Nichols, N. (2013). Nobody “Signs out of care:” Exploring Institutional Links Between Child Protection and Homelessness. In Gaetz, O’Grady, Buccieri, Karabanow & Marsolais (Eds.). Youth Homelessness in Canada: Implications for Policy and Practice. Toronto, ON: Canadian Homelessness Research Network Press.