With 5 years of facilitation experience, Aida is skilled at bringing people together to discuss critical topics, create new possibilities, and transform the way that teams interact with one another. She is driven by her mission to connect and empower youth through transformative educational programs. Aida’s roots in Kenya, upbringing in Gambia and experience in Canada inform her desire to shift the narrative about misunderstood places, people, and systems in order to positively shape how we engage with the world around us. She currently runs her own facilitation business in Vancouver and is the Director of Operations and Partnerships at Ethos Lab. Learn more about Aida and her journey in the interview below!
SIA: Tell us a bit about your journey. What are you doing now and how did you enter this space?
Aida Mwanzia: For the past 3 years, I’ve been working in the education field and non-profit space. This has involved working as a Youth Outreach Worker for Pathways to Education, as the Coordinator for Global Initiatives and Youth Engagement at the YMCA, and as the Director of Operations and Partnerships at Ethos Lab. For the past 5 years, I’ve been doing facilitation and consulting work as a contractor, and recently launched my facilitation business this year. My facilitation practice is dedicated to supporting transformative spaces for young adults to learn and shape the world around them in ways that are aligned with principles of social, environmental, economic and political justice. The two programs I’ve most recently facilitated are the LEVEL Youth Public Policy Program hosted by the Vancouver Foundation, and the City Shapers program hosted by CityHive. I currently spend half of my working life as a freelance facilitator, and the other half working as a staff member at start-up called Ethos Lab.
I knew that I enjoyed working with youth and young adults from my experiences working as a Teaching Assistant and as a Global Lounge Community Animator at UBC, and a mentor of mine referred me to Pathways to Education where I interviewed and successfully landed my first job out of university. While at UBC, I was selected to be part of a program that trained us in a methodology of participating in ‘concentrated conversations’, and ever since I’ve been drawn to all of the meaningful ways I can bring people together to discuss and act on some of the most pressing issues of our time.
SIA: What is your definition of impact?
AM: In the fields that I work in, impact is relational. I cannot assess whether or not I’m making an impact unless I hear directly from the people that I’m serving. Consent is also a key component when measuring impact, and so I regularly ask myself: have I been invited to work with this community? If not, do I have their informed consent to work with them? Is the impact of this work the impact that they intended me to have? If not, how can we pivot to achieve the intended outcome?
Impact is also just as much about how you do the work, as it is about the work that you’re doing. This is a key learning I’ve gained from working in the non-profit space for a few years, and from the author adrienne maree brown. If your work is benefiting a particular community but you are completely burned out, working in a toxic environment, or feeling like you never have enough time to intentionally plan or reflect on the work that you’re doing, then there’s something important missing!
SIA: Did you always want to work in the impact space?
AM: I’m not sure I’d necessarily consider my work as part of the impact space, as much as I’d say that my work is dedicated to social justice and liberation. Coming to the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh peoples for university really accelerated my learning about decolonization and
how to engage in positive social change from a framework that understands how systemic change is necessary to eliminating the forms of descrimination that are so prevalent today including ableism, racism, classism and sexism to name a few.
SIA: What are some of the issues that you care about that you’re able to contribute to with your work?
AM: One of the main issues that I’m passionate about is education reform, and representation of Black & Indigenous histories, current affairs & ways of knowing in curriculum at the K-12 and post-secondary level. A key component of education reform that I’m also passionate about involves guiding young people on how to engage in responsible social change, and a foundational understanding of how the systemic inequities in our world today came to be. Literacy in colonization, slavery and the establishment of capitalism will encourage people to move away from the charity mindset, and be more concerned with seeking collective liberation for all.
SIA: What’s next for you, what are your long-term goals?
AM: The future is open and exciting for me! I have found that luckily, through the work that I’m already involved with, I’m attracting values aligned clients who are providing me with more opportunities to design and facilitate transformative programs and workshops for young people. My goals are to eventually work full-time as an educational consultant and facilitator, and to complete a Masters of Education within the next 3-5 years. A more immediate goal is to launch my website for my facilitation & consulting practice.
SIA: Could you walk us through a typical workday?
AM: There is no typical work day for me! I would say that my schedule is adaptable and flexible, based on the needs of my clients and the boundaries I put in place. On a typical day, I’ll do work for two different clients. I separate my work into blocks of time, so that the morning will be dedicated to working with one client, and after lunch I’ll complete work for another client. Work-life balance is extremely important to me, so I ensure that I still get weekends, time with friends and family, and when a commitment does arise outside of regular working hours (i.e. an evening), I take the following morning off to re-set. Since I mainly work from home, I like to break up my workday with walks, breaks, and find that I’m able to be really present when I am working.
SIA: What parts of your job do you find most challenging?
AM: Maintaining a schedule that allows me to meet the needs of all of the organizations that I work with is the most time consuming and challenging part of my work. Systems that I’ve developed to make this easier are sharing my calendar each month with my clients, maintaining a privacy setting so that each client knows when I’m busy and when I’m available. This helps them know when they can book time with me, and what I’m able to commit to.
SIA: Are there any misconceptions about the space you’re in?
AM: I would say that one of the main misconceptions about my field is that it doesn’t really exist, except as a side-gig or something that people do for free. This is definitely not the case! More and more, people are becoming sensitized to how important facilitation is to balance power within teams, provide a container for building team cohesion, and guide participant-centered learning amongst many other benefits.
SIA: What are some skills required in your position on a day-to-day basis?
SIA: What are some personal characteristics that you value in someone?
AM: Integrity, humility, openness to learning and respect.
SIA: Knowing what you know now, would you have done something differently with respect to your career?
AM: Absolutely not! I have learned so much from each and every place and person that I’ve worked with, and continue to maintain those relationships to this day.
SIA: Could you share with us the best life or career advice you’ve received?
AM: In today’s economy, personal branding is really important in building your career. Building relationships is critical, but it’s even more important for people to know what to turn to you for! Once you establish yourself as the go-to person for a certain skill or area, people will start coming to you with opportunities for work. I have found this to be extremely relevant for my career path.
We feel lucky to learn from Aida’s wisdom and story. A few insights that stuck with us are:
We are so grateful to Aida for sharing her experiences with us. If you want to learn more about education reform, education consulting, or facilitation work reach out to Aida on LinkedIn!