The Sprott School of Business has been fortunate to welcome Dr. Rick Colbourne onto the team of leading researchers as Assistant Professor, Indigenous Leadership and Management, early in 2019. And what’s quite extraordinary about Dr. Colbourne is not only his fascinating and eclectic background and experience, or the unique Indigenous research and teaching pedagogy he has brought to the School, but also that he is truly a passionate and humble person who is giving back to his roots, empowering Indigenous peoples around the world, and perhaps overzealous, being part of a movement that could change world views on the way we all do business.

Rick Colbourne leaning in his office chair

Rick Colbourne is an Assistant Professor in Indigenous Leadership and Management at the Sprott School of Business.

Dr. Colbourne’s research program at Sprott includes a rich overlay of work looking at Indigenous entrepreneurship and economic development, Indigenous governance and leadership, hybrid ventures, entrepreneurial ecosystems, as well as Leadership Exchange programs. And he’s found a wonderful connection here at Sprott. Colbourne moved from Vancouver, British Columbia to Ottawa to be part of the Sprott School because he wanted to contribute back to Algonquin communities in Ontario and Quebec. He realized that Sprott was authentic in their passion and desire to act on reconciliation and build collaborative relationships with Indigenous peoples, communities, and organizations. The mutual goal is to promote the acceptance and legitimization of Indigenous philosophical and intellectual traditions, pedagogies, and co-generate Indigenous-led research that contributes to community self-determination and socioeconomic well-being.

“This is completely new to Sprott and I saw a great opportunity to build Indigenous partnerships that would welcome Indigenous students into Sprott and co-create Indigenous-led research programs for and by Indigenous communities.”

With over 370 million Indigenous people worldwide, it is a sad reality that many Indigenous communities continue to experience unfavourable conditions, most notably access to quality education and restrictions to Western opportunities that have cultivated poverty and poor economic development.urne’s research and work aims to change this reality. He wants to contribute to indigenization and reconciliation efforts that provoke universities to go beyond simple territorial acknowledgements or narrow ‘indigenization’ strategies and instead have them recognize and act on historical complicities in colonialism in Canada.

Colbourne’s perspective is that Indigenous entrepreneurship is a process of extracting and contributing value that is anchored in a community’s socioeconomic condition. Indigenous entrepreneurship allows Indigenous peoples to exercise their rights to design, develop, and maintain culturally relevant political, economic, and social systems or institutions that promote sovereignty, self-determination, and socioeconomic well-being. One of Colbourne’s research goals is to create ethical spaces for engagement that bridge Indigenous ways of being and knowing with Western ones in order to challenge colonization and develop alternative perspectives and understandings. Moreover, Colbourne is working on integrating the consideration of urban, rural, and northern influences, along with territory and community values, Aboriginal law, treaty, community and corporate governance, and even the legacy of colonization into a wholistic framework for understanding Indigenous entrepreneurship and economic development.

“It’s not about helping—it’s about enabling self-determination and socioeconomic well-being. It’s about community working in their traditional territories and creating ventures that address their specific socioeconomic needs and values.”

Colbourne’s work using “Two-eyed Seeing” is a way to contextualize research methodologies in an ethical space of engagement from Indigenous perspectives. Through this work, Colbourne developed a Leadership Exchange program that brought together senior Indigenous leaders with CEOs and VPs of corporations in a transformative program that enabled each to share insights, experiences, ways of knowing, and ways of being in their communities and providing a unique opportunity for senior decision-makers to participate as equal partners. “It opens a window of dialogue that leads to acceptance of new ways of thinking. This is a pathway to decolonization and to enable Indigenous perspectives to be part of the conversation.”

Doing the research and the community outreach is only part of what Colbourne loves about his role at Sprott. He loves teaching, both undergrads and graduate students and being a part of transformational learning. He is developing new business courses at Sprott that draw on Indigenous perspectives—courses that respond to the Calls to Action nd are flipping the status-quo on its head. What’s more, he’s seeing a lot interest from students, particularly international students; “they are excited and engaged because they recognize that change is needed. I shift the talk from shareholder value or stakeholders to values, empathy, and community.”

For Colbourne, life has come full circle. An Anishinaabe, an Algonquin from the Mattawa First Nation, his father was Aboriginal, his mother German Canadian. He didn’t have a typical upbringing; travelling around a lot while his father was in the military. But, it was while working on the downtown East Side, British Columbia, as a social worker, working with people in need in the community and looking at how to enable them to improve their well-being, he found his true passion and what his mission in life was—to give back to the community.

What’s more, Colbourne has an eclectic past: if you google “Rick Colbourne” you will of course see the numerous contributions he’s made in academia, industry, and with the Indigenous communities internationally. Perhaps you’ll see that he’s earned numerous awards for his teaching and research excellence, as well as the documentaries he’s made. You’ll see he’s at the forefront of change and part of an elite group of academics who are doing essential work on Indigenous issues. But you’ll also find that he has a noteworthy musical past. For many years before entering the world of teaching and research, Colbourne was a successful songwriter, musician, and even concert producer (working with many prominent artists like Tina Turner, Melissa Ethridge, and ZZ top). He’s even made a few of his own albums—in fact, he’s quite the rocker.

Colbourne has put the guitar strings down, for now, to dedicate his time to his true passion. A visionary professor who has brought something very special to Sprott—and the world—a new value to business, one that fosters a fair and just society, and above all, sustainability. It’s all about community and as any entrepreneur, we need to respect that and give back.”

This is what business should be about.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020 in , , ,
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