Isolation as ideas incubation: the Arctic Inspiration Prize team wants applications

"It’s a good time to get together and come up with projects that will help make communities stronger.”

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The Chesterfield Inlet Qajaq project won a $140,000 Arctic Inspiration Prize in 2017. Glen Brocklebank, pictured at the back of the group, is now putting a call out for ideas for the next prize cycle. (Courtesy of Glen Brocklebank via Nunatsiaq News)

The Arctic Inspiration Prize team is calling on residents of northern Canada to use their time in isolation to come up with ideas that will make their communities better.

The team has been spending the last few weeks trying to decide whether to go ahead with the prize this year amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdown.

Glen Brocklebank is a past winner and is now in charge of a committee of past winners, or laureates, who look at improvements to make the prize even stronger.

“We all sort of agreed that it’s a good time to get together and come up with projects that will help make communities stronger,” Brocklebank said over the phone from Chesterfield Inlet.

He added that instead of people getting together in groups, they should get together virtually to come up with ideas or programs to submit to the AIP team in September.

The isolation time can be used as an ideas incubator. “Try to think of ideas that you may have had in the past but didn’t have enough time, because life gets in the way,” Brocklebank said.

“This is an amazing time to try and do that.”

Even at the best of times, Brocklebank said it’s really difficult in the North to leverage funds through grants.

He is speaking from experience. Brocklebank’s team won $140,000 in the 2017 prize cycle for the Chesterfield Inlet Qajaq program, which has been in existence since 2004.

The program teaches young people how to build qajaqs and how to paddle.

But it got more funding with the prize than the entire time they’d been in business, Brocklebank said. “It rejuvenated our project.”

Before the prize, he said they were using duct tape to hold together qajaqs and paddling gear.

“It made all the young people really happy that we could paddle without getting cold or soaked, and we could build more boats,” Brocklebank said of the $140,000 prize.

There are three categories in the Arctic Inspiration Prize: the youth category where up to seven teams can win up to $100,000, the AIP category where up to four teams can win up to $500,000, and the grand prize of $1 million.

The prize team is planning to go ahead with this season’s prize cycle as usual. That means teams should have letters of intent in by September, and the deadline for application will be in October.

They are hoping to be able to go ahead with the awards ceremony in Whitehorse in 2021.

“This is such a huge thing, and it can do so much good,” Brocklebank said.

For more information about the prize and how to apply, go to the Arctic Inspiration Prize website.