Whenever I asked about story leads about Muslims in London, Ontario there was one name and one Institution which kept coming up.
Mohammed Baobaid and the Muslim Resource Centre for Social Support and Integration.
And that’s where the conversation would inevitably stop because people couldn’t think of anyone better to suggest. Well then, that settled it. I had to meet this Brother before I left the City.
The organization’s name is a mouthful! Everyone who told me about MRCSSI just referred to it as the Muslim Resource Centre.
We met in his office at 111 Waterloo Street shortly before the first Jumah of Ramadan 2013…
A little over 10 years ago, Dr Mohammed Baobaid, did a quick count and was shocked to learn that more than 200 Muslim Men in London, Ontario had reached the Court System in cases of complaints about domestic abuse.
For a Community numbering in the thousands, that was a shocking statistic.
Was that number in London because the Muslim Community is more prone than the wider community to Domestic Abuse?
Upon deeper research, that answer was “No”.
But that research revealed there was a disconnect between Newer Canadians and older legacy Social Services. Numerous things were missing.
From language to cultural nuances, to understanding how to resolve such cases without resorting to The Courts, Social Service Agencies found referring these cases to the legal system an easy out.
And then there were the kids.
Dozens of Muslim Children were caught up in Children’s Aid System, but who were they temporarily staying with? Were the Foster Parents Muslim? Did the child have access to Halal food, or respect for their Islamic religion? Were they even able to play with other children who spoke their mother tongue?
As important, was why these Muslim children were in the care of CAS to begin with?
There were too many question marks for Mohammed Baobaid.
In the decade since, he has worked on creating answers for each of them. And more.
Let’s look at a few, one by one.
In the Greater Toronto Area, I’ve heard the local Children’s Aid Society angrily referred to as the Child Abduction Society by any number of Muslims.
And I’m not talking about people living in social housing. This was coming from University Educated Professionals with plenty of alphabets after their names. They had previous or ongoing entanglements with their local CAS.
I can’t get too specific without their identity being given away.
But listening to Dr. Baobaid explain to me his system and approach, I immediately finally understood what the hell was going on with those families vs. their local CAS back in The GTA.
If anyone is familiar with the book Moneyball by Michael Lewis and the subsequent movie that it spawned, they will understand it when I say, Dr. Baobaid Moneyballed Social Service Support and Integration in London and Middlesex, Ontario.
He analyzed the entire situation, every variable not just from one side, but from all the points of view from all the stakeholders.
He identified wherever there was a breakdown in understanding, bottleneck in bureaucracy, things lost in translation, missing religious or cultural norms that just weren’t considered to begin with, and he created practices to fill in each of these gaps.
Each of these many little fixes, taken together have created an overall framework which works.
The results speak for themselves as the certificate shown above can attest.
It didn’t happen overnight. It has taken years.
I mention Blue Ocean Strategy to Dr. Baobaid.
He doesn’t recognized the term.
Yet, instinctively that IS what MRCSSI has been practicing and he has been providing Tipping Point Leadership ever since beginning this work a decade ago.
In Technology eco-systems or in Social Innovation, there is a rare personality known as the Double Connector.
This is a person who can speak to two different groups of people, who otherwise may be at a loss for communicating or understanding each other directly. Take away this person, and there is no Venn diagram. No way forward for either group the make honest progress with the other.
The number of awards atop the shelf beside Dr. Baobaid’s desk looks impressive. It is.
He didn’t get these alone.
He leads a team, including Eugene Tremblay, who worked inside the local Children’s Aid Society for decades before joining MRCSSI. Eugene is a staff member who is not Muslim.
Current staff members include a sister from the Shi’a tradition within Islam, and a newer Muslim with Chinese-Canadian heritage who as the office manager, keeps everything running as smooth as possible.
Diversity remains in the DNA of the Organization.
Looking closer, the eclectic variety of those recognitions suggests something and I need to coin a new word here…
Dr. Mohammed Baobaid is a Quadruple Connector.
He and the Institution he founded are able to speak the language of :
- The Court System to a point where cases need not reach it
- The Children’s Aid Society and its confusing-for-newcomers framework
- People escaping war or conflict zones the World over who experience culture shock (to say the least) arriving in London and Middlesex; in a word, Integration
- The religious norms of Islam from the point of view of the Imam, or Muslim Congregation
- Arab speaking (and a number of other linguistic) Communities
- Any number of non-governmental organizations self-tasked with addressing only a select part of the overall problem from the point of view of their social client
- Funding agencies, at whichever Level of Government or Private Foundation
- Social Service providers from outside Canada who are looking to London and MRCSSI for insight
- Taxpayers. MCRSSI saves the taxpayers money using preventative solutions rather than prescriptive redress, be it The Courts, or Social Service Agencies
I need to stop the list here. You get the idea.
In December of 2012, MRCSSI received $285,000 from the Ontario Trillium Foundation plus another $70,000 from the Ministry of the Attorney General.
The funds are earmarked for the Shared Journeys Project.
In short, it’s taking what MRCSSI has developed in London over the past decade On The Road.
Ottawa and Kingston are the first two municipalities to begin a knowledge transfer–this is my unofficial labeling to describe what’s happening–of the framework and system that is MRCSSI.
From the other side of the table, the South Asian community–Not the municipality–in York Region will create in partnership with MRCSSI, it’s own local flavour of what Dr. Baobaid has developed.
An Intended aspect of the Shared Journeys Project funding is to take MRCSSI from a Personality-driven project to becoming a Systems-driven organization. Being systems-driven will make it scalable in other jurisdictions, who won’t have the benefit of their having their own Dr. Baobaid.
The same thing that happened in The Game of Baseball, after Oakland A’s manager Billy Beane practiced Sabermetrics. Adopting what the A’s were doing, the Boston Red Sox finally overcame The Curse, to win the World Series.
Is Dr. Muhammad Baobaid the Billy Beane of Social Service Integration?
It looks that way to me… And perhaps to a few other people too:
I recorded a video interview with Dr. Baobaid, but it was more of a conversation to help my understanding of what he was doing. So, I ain’t going to be able to post it because there is too much depth in it.
What the MRCSSI needs is your understanding, which you gain from their website, and your financial support, which you can see in this video…
I have struggled in writing this blog post.
I want to thank Dr. Baobaid and his office staff for making time for me on a very, very busy First Friday / Jumah in the Month of Ramadan 2013.