Randi Ray is talented in Indigenous community planning. Currently she is the outreach and liaison coordinator for Laurentian, but Randi is thinking way bigger than her own campus. She works to bring Indigenous ways of knowing and doing into Indigenous community management; in other words, she brings people together to create plans that resonate. Randi is also pursuing her PhD, focusing her research on sustainable leadership development for First Nations governance.


We love Randi because she understands the importance of fostering an engaging environment and takes a unique approach to problem solving.


She uses “building a fire together” as a metaphor for her philosophy – it is the idea that every community or team member is crucial to keep a flame burning and growing. We sat down with Randi to dive deeper into this metaphor and a few other hot-topics.


How do you encourage innovation in your role?


“When we sit in a circle, we are all equal, no one is higher or lower than another and we respect each person’s voice, giving them the time they need to share. In Eurocentric organizations, there is often a built-in hierarchy that is to their detriment – it stifles innovation and creates an environment where only the loudest, not necessarily the best, ideas are heard.”


“Many organizations aren’t open to growth through learning and failure. As a result, we live in an environment where the fear of making mistakes or failing becomes the biggest obstacle to growth.”


Tell us more about how you integrate “fire building” into your everyday


“The fire building metaphor is useful in that it highlights the importance of being prepared. There are a lot of steps in nurturing a fire – the land must be ready and key elements such as birch bark, kindling, and logs must be gathered.”


“The components of the fire – diverse in form and substance – reminds us that each element is essential to not only starting, but sustaining the flame. This aspect of fire building speaks to the importance of every individual’s contribution – no matter how big or small.”


“Keeping the fire sustained is a skill, a teaching that I feel we need to be aware of and intentional about when planning for our communities. It is important to recognize that the flame has its own course, but that planning and preparation will ensure it is a safe place for coming together, having conversation and growing as a community.”


How can we implement some of your teachings into strategic planning?


“I think that starting every interaction in a good way is critical. In my teachings, a smudge is used to heal and clear our energy to start from a place of wellness. We smudge our head to clear it from any negative thoughts, our ears so we are open to listen, our mouths so we speak our truth, and our hearts so we are open to learning and new ways of knowing.”


“It is also important to think ahead. When we are mapping out objectives and plans, we always think seven generations ahead. This ensures that goals are aspirational and sustainable.”


What’s the Greatest Book You’ve read recently?


“Lighting The 8th Fire by Leanne Simpson and anything by Dr. Kathy Absolon.”


“I would like to add that not all books are written. I am listening more often than reading – listening to stories, laughter and knowledge sharing – soaking it all in, our ways of knowing and learning are intuitive – I am learning to embrace that.”