STORY – Innovation and Social Inclusion: Enriching lives through new experiences at Kudoz

Ben is enjoying many new experiences thanks to Kudoz.

Ben is enjoying many new experiences thanks to Kudoz.

Ben often spends his time at a day program and although he enjoys it he also says, “I’m looking for a change. Sometimes it’s boring and you don’t know what things to do.”

Ben signed up to participate in Kudoz, an innovative adult learning exchange recently trialed in Burnaby, Coquitlam, New Westminster, and Vancouver. Kudoz connects adults with developmental disabilities with people in their community who have an interest or passion to share. Individuals like Ben can choose from an online catalogue of learning experiences, and get recognized for their learning with badges.

In three months, Kudoz recruited 100 volunteer hosts, from small business owners to retirees, who offered over 130 hours of one-to-one learning. Experiences ranged from film-making to opera appreciation to dog training.

Kudoz was born from the work of Sarah Schulman, a founding partner of InWithForward, an organization that makes, tests, and spreads social services and neighborhood networks. She and her research team moved into a housing complex in Burnaby for three months to live alongside individuals with developmental disabilities and explore experiences of social isolation.

The team discovered that many individuals and their family members were isolated from new learning and life experiences. They wanted a space for their own lifelong learning.

To address this gap, InWithForward partnered with the Burnaby Association for Community Inclusion, the Simon Fraser Society for Community Living and posAbilities. Community Living BC funded the coordination of the research phase and worked with the service providers to allocate some of their funding to the project.

For Ben, becoming a Ku-doer has opened new doors.

“I like dogs, cats, snakes, and I want to know how to take care of things,” says Ben, whose first experience saw him spending time at Sophie’s Pet Palace with host Lise Wright, the store’s owner.

Ben’s other Kudoz experiences included learning about the backstage operations at the Massey Theatre, taking stunt lessons from a professional stunt double, going on a botany walk with a biologist, and rock climbing.

Success for Kudoz is an increase in Ku-doers’ sense of choice; their confidence and competence; their capacity to reflect and engage in fresh conversations; and a wider professional network. At the end of the trial period, Ben reported changes in all of these areas. He earned a badge for ‘Getting over fear of heights.’


To learn more about Kudoz, and see stories of Ku?doers and hosts, visit:

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