The Women's Research Centre, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, works with women's groups and individuals to assist them in getting information, analysis, and skills to take action on issues. The focus is action research. In 1976 the Centre, working with the Northern British Columbia Women's Task Force on Single Industry Towns, did community research resulting in a report, a conference, and the National Film Board documentary "No Life for a Woman." At the request of northern women the centre was further involved in a study, completed by community research teams in Fort Nelson (B.C.) and Whitehorse (Yukon Territory), of the impact of the potential construction of the Alaska Highway Gas Pipeline on women and their families (Women's Research Centre 1979). The community women participating in the research went onto become involved in various commissions and planning groups concerned about the development of mega-projects in their regions.
In 1986 the Women's Research Centre used its decade of experience to put together a kit on Women and the Economy (Women's Research Centre 1986). The kit contains articles, analysis, an annotated reading guide, and a set of grounding assumptions about women's relationship to the economy. The grounding assumptions in this article are taken from the kit. We use them as handouts for discussion groups, as the basis for talks and workshops, and for helping other groups to develop their own grounding assumptions to reflect their particular community.
When the answers to these sorts of questions are compiled, the women ask themselves, What are our assumptions about this?" and develop a set of basic statements of belief, sorting through the material of the first discussion to pull together common ideas and develop new understandings.
The basic statements they arrive at are their personal grounding assumptions on women and the economy. From this point, participants can identify strategies ranging from action research for community economic development strategies, to lobbying or forming discussion groups.
One group in a small resource town found through discussion that they were not as anti- industry as they had thought, and a resulting strategy was the formation of a new advocacy relationship between the group on the one hand and the local industry, the government, and labour on the other.
The major benefits of the process are empowerment and grounding. Women find it empowering to actually see and understand their role in the economy and the ongoing strategies they develop are grounded on their own stated needs and experience.
What those needs and experience tell us is that without realistic action on child care, without appropriate access to training, without paying women a living wage, and with- out consideration of the depth of work women already do (and its impact on women's potential involvement in the labour force) economic development initiatives - no matter how innovative - will not work for the average Canadian woman.