One of the things that defines FNEE and sets it apart is the co-creation approach underlying each and every one of the courses. To give us a better idea of how this works, we talked to Philippe Forest and Cyrille Sardais about the process involved in developing the workshop entitled “Effective collaboration strategies and tactics.”

FNEE: Can you shed some light on how you built and are moderating an FNEE workshop together as a team?

Philippe: Constructive collaboration is ubiquitous at FNEE, and it’s one of the objectives we share with HEC Montréal. From the get-go, I was struck by how open Cyrille was to working together. Already, the opportunity to engage in co-creation was a dream come true, especially given the benefits it held for all concerned (the cohort and beyond). But with a colleague like Cyrille, whose interest and enthusiasm were clear right away, the whole thing was practically effortless.

FNEE: What was the co-creation process like? Did you have to adjust anything to be in line with the FNEE concept?

Cyrille: We came at the process from several different angles, but in the end everything was directly linked to the structure of the training itself. There’s quite a difference between a hierarchy-based approach, using the conventional top-down pyramid, and the collaborative system of sharing knowledge that is typical of Indigenous communities.

What I find particularly interesting is that the areas where First Nations are re-examining their practices is where others who generally embrace a more conventional model are leaning more and more toward Indigenous practices.

So our respective visions are converging and we’re at a point where we can compare them and make them more efficient.

Philippe: I’ll start by saying that I’ve worked under some very hierarchical structures in my career. Today, my approach is much more aligned with the goals of the circular economy. The hands-on exercise we’ll be doing with the cohort touches on both.

What I really like is the idea of learning by doing. It’s one of the aspects of the training that really resonated with me.

But when we started out, I was a little thrown by how open Cyrille was. We don’t often hear questions like “What do you think?” or “How do you see this?” His approach was much different than what I’ve experienced in the past. I’ve really enjoyed how he goes about things, even though it takes a little getting used to.

Cyrille: A game-based, experiential approach is already being used at HEC Montréal, but where Philippe really made a difference is in opting for a new approach with more specific content.

What’s changed is that the intent is very different. The lesson plan, the way workshop is facilitated, and the intent and objectives of the learning process have been reworked to be more clear-cut than they usually are. The collaborative construction approach has radically changed the lesson plan for the game.

FNEE: From a practical perspective, what’s it like to facilitate these courses? Describe the experience for us.

Cyrille: Because it’s a very hands-on approach, it really depends on the participants. It’s not like everything is written out in advance. It takes place over two days. We start by explaining what the game is. Then participants answer a few questions on their phone. Then we get the discussions going, start analyzing the answers and so forth.

Philippe will be facilitating the workshop and take the lead. That’s the way it needs to be, anyway. I think he’s in the best position for that. I’ll step back a bit and play a more supportive role during the analysis.

Philippe: So right there is a prime example of how Cyrille keeps surprising me (laughter). Like I said before, he’s given me a lot of leeway.

This interview emphasizes one of the unique features of the new FNEE school. The learning is shaped by First Nations and non-Indigenous pedagogical leadership alike.

The result involves more than adapting or “Indigenizing” the HEC Montréal curriculum. It is a comprehensive co-creation process developed “for and by First Nations” using key academic concepts. This unique approach will undoubtedly contribute to the success and positive spinoffs of the program.

About Philippe Forest, Ojibway, Peguis First Nation, Business Development Manager, First Nations Finance Authority (FNFA)

Philippe Forest has worked closely with First Nations communities in Canada throughout his career. He has served as an Indigenous liaison officer for the federal government, a team leader with the RCMP Emergency Response Team and a senior health care services manager for First Nations and Inuit. He has also worked to help position First Nations in the business world, contributing first to the First Nations Financial Management Board and then to the First Nations Finance Authority.

He is currently Director of Business Development and Indigenous Partnerships for Growcer.

About Cyrille Sardais, Professor, Department of Management and Holder of the Pierre Péladeau Leadership Chair, HEC Montréal

Cyrille Sardais’s research primarily looks into the issues of leadership and decision-making. He has been teaching undergraduate- and graduate-level courses in both subjects and management skills at HEC Montréal since 2006.

In 2008, he won an award for the best case published in the International Journal of Case Studies in Management. The next year, he was honoured with HEC Montréal’s Alma Lepage Award and Teaching Innovation Award. He served as the head of the School’s Department of Management from 2012 to 2014.