On May 15 and 16, Falling Walls Engage Hub Canada, a stream of the Falling Walls Foundation, brought together 30 science outreach and engagement practitioners from across Canada and around the world for a special bilingual event in Ottawa called, “The Power of the Pitch: A Funding and Skills‐building Workshop for Canadian Science Engagers". The workshop was co‐designed by Under the Microscope, a non‐profit based in Nairobi, which promotes initiatives that advance science education across Kenyan and the African continent.
Event participants spanned the gamut of science outreach and engagement practitioners, from researchers and lab‐based scientists to social media experts and university communications professionals. Participants came from Alberta, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, and Saskatchewan. In addition, two international guests joined the workshop, travelling from Germany and Japan.
On May 16, participants gathered for a full day of bilingual interactive sessions designed to help them improve their ability to secure funding and excel in today’s funding landscape. Participants had the opportunity to learn first-hand what funders are looking for in a successful funding proposal and to better understand today’s funding landscape during a session featuring representatives from the National Research Council of Canada, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada – NSERC, SAi Resident Collective (virtual), Science Sandbox (virtual), and Simons Foundation (virtual).
Later that day, participants had 60 minutes to create a brand-new pitch for a current or future science engagement project. They then had the opportunity to present their pitch in front of a panel of expert judges to receive prizes and instant feedback. Samantha Fowler (Science Slam Canada, TechGirls Canada) received a prize for the judge's top pitch award and Cree Longjohn (Science Outreach, College of Arts and Science, University of Saskatchewan) won the “people’s choice” prize. Through out the day, four theatre professionals from Montreal’s Geordie Theatre used performance exercises to teach participants how to successfully engage an audience with the confidence and expertise of trained performers.
In addition, two pre-workshop events took place in the afternoon and evening of May 15. Joining virtually from Nairobi, Stephanie Okeyo, Director of Under the Microscope (UTM), led an afternoon “Toolkit Working Group: Grant Research” session, which brought the science engagers together to brainstorm on the basics of grant writing, including on topics such as the types of grants available, sources of funding, and the scouting process, as well as the different ways of presenting projects to funders. The information was collected and will be edited as part of a global funding toolkit for science engagers that UTM is currently developing.
UTM has already teamed with data analysts at McGill to identify key barriers facing science engagers in securing funding—challenges that transcend national and regional borders. The final step is using this information to develop a practical, functional funding toolkit, which will one day be accessible to all science engagers.
On the evening of May 15, Engage Hub Canada and Confabulation, a Montreal-based storytelling organization, presented “Combustion: Stories of breakthroughs, hypothesis and things going up in smoke.” During the free public event at Ottawa’s Pour Boy Pub, six participants shared personal 10-minute stories based on the theme of “combustion.” The six participants each worked with a story coach from Confabulation for several weeks in advance of the event to refine their stories before sharing them onstage.
“The Power of the Pitch: A Funding and Skills‐building Workshop for Canadian Science Engagers” was sponsored in part by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and Queen’s University, and received funding from the National Research Council Canada's Outreach Initiative program.
The two-day event was held in Ottawa just prior to the Canadian Association of Science Centres (CASC) Conference on May 17 and 18. Falling Walls Engage Hub Canada hosted a session at the conference on May 17, titled “Science Engagement Across Borders.” The bilingual panel discussion featured workshop participants Jérôme Côté (Neurosciences Sherbrooke), Stéphane Kenmoe (University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany), Akira Ohkubo (Miraikan – The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, Japan), and Sandra Corbeil (Ingenium – Canada's Museums of Science and Innovation). Malorie Bertrand (Canada Foundation for Innovation) moderated the discussion.
The Falling Walls Engage Hub Canada, launched in 2020, is part of an international platform led by the Falling Walls Foundation in Berlin, which aims to create new links between leading science engagers, local and regional networks, research institutions, and citizen scientists, with the goal of amplifying their impact across the country. As one of nine Engage Hubs around the world, Engage Hub Canada plugs Canadian science engagers into a global community where they can learn from peers, build new partnerships, and contribute in meaningful ways to address pressing global issues. An Advisory Committee oversees the work of and provides strategic guidance to Engage Hub Canada. Committee members represent the CFI, NSERC, the Tri‐Agency Secretariat, Queen’s University, University of Saskatchewan, University of Calgary, Western University, Ingenium, and the Toronto Zoo.