Ikaarvik: Barriers To Bridges

Ikaarvik youth introduce the concept of “ScIQ”–incorporating Inuit knowledge, values and principles (Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit, or IQ) and science for more meaningful community engagement and better research results. If you didn’t know what IQ is, not to worry–Ikaarvik youth are here to help!

About Ikaarvik

Ikaarvik was created in Pond Inlet, Nunavut, and is administered by Ocean Wise. It began from the recognition that, while there is a lot of research happening in the North, there is often a disconnect between that research and the Northern communities. Northern communities are rarely directly involved in developing research questions and methodologies and are often not engaged in the research as it is conducted and results are interpreted. As a result, research is often not as relevant for northern communities as it could be.

Sixty percent of Nunavummiut are under the age of 30. Youth are not just the leaders of tomorrow, but are becoming the leaders of today. Working with Elders and other community leaders, youth are on Hamlet Councils and Hunters and Trappers Organizations; they have opinions and perspectives and a desire to contribute something of value to their communities.

At the same time, scientists and researchers are beginning to recognize the importance of working with northern communities as they develop and conduct their research. Youth are in the perfect position to represent their communities’ needs while having the interest and developing capacity to ensure that the research is effectively connected and communicated to the community.
Ikaarvik works with youth in Northern Canadian communities to identify the strengths of local knowledge and the strengths of scientifically-derived knowledge, and to explore how the two can work better together to address issues of local relevance to communities. The youth work with their communities to identify issues that could be addressed through Inuit Knowledge and scientific research and then work directly with researchers and community leaders to address one or more of these issues.

Ikaarvik is about giving youth the opportunity, confidence and experience to help their communities work effectively with researchers to meet the communities’ own local needs. As a result, northern communities are able to play a more active role in research being conducted around them and the research is of more local relevance. Researchers benefit from having local “champions” for their research, more robust data that incorporates Inuit knowledge, practices and values (Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit), and a better understanding for their research’s relevance in the North.


In Inuktitut, Ikaarvik means “bridge”. It was named by youth in Pond Inlet, Nunavut who were seeking to create a program to bridge the North and South, as well as to connect Inuit Knowledge with science and research.

Identifying Research Priorities In Northern Communities

Connecting Communities And Researchers

Northern Youth And Southern Researchers Work As A Team

Ikaarvik works with both the community and researcher to facilitate ongoing work and develop good working relationships between the researcher and the youth and community organizations. The researchers spend about a week with youth in the community before starting their research. During that time, the youth provide advice to the researcher, helping them refine their research questions, methodology and terminology. They also help identify potential participants, all the while building a trusting relationship with the researcher and a sense of ownership about the research. It’s a powerful experience when youth are in a position to help inform researchers about things they should know to conduct their research better. Then the researcher trains the youth on techniques to assist with the research, such as conducting interviews, mapping exercises, taking notes and asking probing questions, etc. The youth are then a part of the research all the way through, assisting with the work, helping to communicate about the work back to their community, participating in the validation of findings and interpreting results.

The rumours are true. The youth researchers are indeed dripping with awesomeness. During sometimes intense sessions, they brought infectious energy, enthusiasm and non-stop questions to the discussions. In meetings between the Geological Survey of Canada (GSC) scientists and representatives of the HTO and Hamlet, the Ikaarvik youth researchers helped to identify areas where coastal processes were active in and around Pond Inlet, and discussed how best to develop the project and what research activities could be undertaken. Truly creating a bridge, Ikaarvik members helped the GSC gain support from community organisations and will be leading critical elements of the coastal project to investigate the sensitivity of the Pond Inlet and nearby coasts to environmental change.

–Nicole Couture and Gavin Manson, Geological Survey of Canada

Ikaarvik Is A Laureate Of The 2013 Arctic Inspiration Prize