Narratives Inc.: Weaving Stories into Peace with Somia Sadiq

Small Business Canada

Somia Sadiq, the founder of Narratives Inc., shared her profound insights with CanadianSME Small Business Magazine, illuminating the profound influence her upbringing and heritage had on her entrepreneurial and peacebuilding endeavors. Born and raised in Abu Dhabi with strong ties to her homeland Pakistan, Somia’s exposure to the post-colonial history and the enduring effects of British occupation deeply impacted her. These insights, coupled with teachings on decolonization and identity reclamation from her elders, have significantly shaped her work in Canada, especially her commitment to learning from and walking alongside Indigenous communities. Through Narratives and its initiative Kahanee, Somia harnesses the transformative power of storytelling in peacebuilding, creating spaces for empathy, compassion, and understanding across diverse groups. Kahanee, meaning ‘story’ in Urdu, Punjabi, and Hindi, is a platform for sharing experiences through music, food, art, and theatre to facilitate conflict transformation. Moreover, Narratives Inc. prioritizes a trauma-informed workplace, implementing practices like needs maps, Trauma Management Plans, and Psychological First Aid training to support the team and clients alike. By adopting an Identity-based conflict transformation model, Somia navigates and transforms conflicts by focusing on overlapping identities and fostering dialogue. Looking ahead, Narratives aims to further its impact in peacebuilding and community support, with initiatives like the Music for Peace campaign and a Peace Conference, continually learning and leading in creative conflict transformation and trauma-aware social practice.

Somia Sadiq Bio

I’m a keeper of stories, a space-maker for more women leaders who look like me, and a tenacious boundary-pusher determined to advance true peacebuilding and reconciliation. 

Stories have the power to advance diplomacy, break barriers, and promote healing. 

Since 2017, my company, Narratives Inc., has amplified the voices that may otherwise go unheard or unaddressed, especially those from racialized communities disproportionately impacted by environmental decisions they’ve historically been excluded from.

As a peacebuilder and female entrepreneur of Pakistani descent, I seek to push the boundaries of what is possible in research, policy, planning, and practice, focusing on true reconciliation, one story at a time. 

My personal and professional missions are informed by my family’s lived experience during the Partition of India and Pakistan in the 1940s, the Gulf War in the 1990s, and my own experience as a new American in Canada in the early 2000s.  

Narratives Inc. is an environmental consulting practice dedicated to ensuring that the sacred ties to our land are met with research, policy, planning, and practice that respects the social, cultural, biophysical, and spiritual fabric of the world within and around us.

I’m a Certified Environmental Professional (EP) and a Registered Professional Planner (RPP), specializing in Impact Assessment, Community Engagement, and Conflict Transformation. 

Guided by my Punjabi and Kashmiri ancestors, I believe in celebrating little things for a big impact. What started as me with a laptop in 2017 has grown into a 50+ employee firm living out our collective “why” in all corners of Indigenous territories on Turtle Island and beyond.

Can you share how your upbringing influenced the founding of Narratives Inc. and your focus on decolonization and reconciliation?

    I was born and raised in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, while maintaining very strong ties to my homeland Pakistan. I come from Kashmir from my Ma jaani’s side, and Punjab from my Baba jaani’s side. 

    Growing up, I had the honor of learning about the post colonial history of my homeland, the influence, impact, the trauma, and and the present day repercussions of British occupation in the region from elders. I carry their testimonies of loss and recovery in my DNA. I also carry their guidance on how we decolonize and reclaim our identity. Knowing where I came from, how I got there influenced how I saw myself when I arrived in Canada over 20 years ago. Growing up we were always taught etiquettes for being a guest. As a guest in someone’s home, we are to take the time to learn about our host; who they are, their relations, their journey. So that is what I’m doing. As I learn from Indigenous Elders, knowledge keepers, friends, and colleagues through my relations, I understand. As I understand, I do. As I do, I learn more. And I keep walking the path. 

    What inspired the creation of Kahanee, and how does it utilize storytelling in peacebuilding?

      I love stories. I love listening to people sharing stories. I consider myself a keeper of stories. Stories bring people together, help make our identities more accessible to each other. As a negotiator and a peacebuilder, I have seen numerous times through the course of my career how sharing a story about a set of issues can help get a point across on a much deeper, much more human level than simply relaying the issue. It helps hold space in compassion and empathy and invites story from the listener. To me storytelling is a very powerful psychosocial tool to bring people together in a way that can create space for conflicts to transform. 

      So no surprise that my firm is called Narratives and now comes Kahanee. In fact, the word Kahanee means story in Urdu, Punjabi, and Hindi!

      Kahanee will bring people together from different walks of life, geographies, backgrounds, typically those in conflict, to share stories about things that may seem more accessible than trying to articulate about the conflict itself. For example, Kahanee’s first campaign targeted for launch this fall is Music for Peace – a campaign about music and instruments – what drew them to music, the first memory of playing the instrument, who taught them, what was that like, what was their favorite thing to play when they started? As people share, it creates space to explore more challenging issues with those across the border. Future campaigns include Food for Peace (everyone has something deep fried with a filling they can talk about!), Art for Peace, Theatre for Peace – all anchored in stories and storytelling. Through engaging with people in story and reflecting on the psychological and sociological dimensions of storytelling, Kahanee aims to build our collective toolbox for a more peace-able world. 

      How does Narratives Inc. embody a trauma-informed workplace, and why is this approach crucial for your team and clients?

        We do a few things (and there is always room for improvement and nuancing our approaches as we improve our collective understanding). 

        • When onboarding new team members, we walk everyone through an exercise in building their needs map. This amazing tool comes from the Goodlife Institute. Once people build their needs map, it informs their self-care plan.  
        • Every project has a Trauma Management Plan which informs our approaches to the work and trauma management for our clients as well as our team members. These plans reflect on specific measures before, during, and after a potentially traumatic event and considers everything from community engagement, to exposure to potentially challenging digital content. 
        • Every employee receives training in Psychological First Aid during their first few months of employment. 
        • Our team meets a clinical psychologist once every 4-6 weeks in small groups to receive coaching on all aspects of trauma awareness, resilience building, and wellbeing. 
        • We offer customized training for organizations across Canada on how to become trauma-aware in their work, and everytime we deliver the training, we learn something new. We then share what we learn from delivering this training with our team. 
        • Producing thought leadership on the topic, which allows us to continually learn emerging trends on the topic. 

        In your work, how do you navigate and transform conflicts using the Identity-based conflict transformation model?

          To understand conflict, we must first take a step back and understand the people in conflict. Who they are, what is important to them, what informs their identity – be it land, ritual, story, ceremony, food, colors, connections, gender, family, religion, politics, and so much more. When we take the time to understand, we can start seeing beyond what is different between groups. We start seeing overlaps. Where these overlaps occur lies a small window of possibility of dialogue and transformation. The process itself, because it is time consuming and deliberate, creates space for some degree of humanization, tolerance, possibility even rapport to take root. This approach is very much integral to my work in any space – be it workplace conflict, or negotiations between a client and the other party. 

          Looking ahead, what are Narratives Inc.’s goals for furthering positive peacebuilding and supporting communities?

            At Narratives, we are really looking forward to continuing to establish thought leadership in creative approaches to transform conflict, in trauma awareness in social practice, in planning, and in design. We look forward to continuing to learn from all we walk with. 
            At Kahanee, it’s going to be a big year with the launch of Kahanee’s Music for Peace campaign, plans to host a Peace Conference in Winnipeg, and concurrently building the Food for Peace campaign!

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