“Amanda is a star! She has leveraged her MUN education to provide stellar research and evaluation services. She has become a trusted advisor to her clients and is a leader of Women's issues in Ottawa. She was the president of MediaAction for 8 years, has run Ask Womxn Anything for more than 5 years, and sits on the board of the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women (OCEVAW). She has owned and operated her own business for 20 years and for me, she is a friend, a supporter and a role model.”
Susan Underhill is effusive in her praise for Dr. Amanda Parriag, her current colleague and collaborator and long-time friend since university (MUN is the Memorial University of Newfoundland, where they studied psychology together years ago). Amanda obtained her PhD from MUN, but not a lot of her clients know this. She doesn’t refer to herself as “Dr.” and rarely tells people she has a PhD in psychology. That’s because when she does, she finds people behaving a little differently, choosing their words more carefully, and thinking that Amanda is psychoanalyzing them at every turn.
Not exactly her thing – Amanda is a researcher – but on occasion this response can come in handy! Amanda runs the ParriagGroup, a consultancy that specializes in research, evaluation and performance measurement. Her small business has been running for 20 years, and while Amanda is the lead on everything, she works with a team. She has six research assistants and six consultants that she pulls in at different times to complete bigger projects.
The ParriagGroup works mostly with governments and not-for-profits. Recently, she and her team worked with an Ottawa not-for-profit on a program they were doing jointly with another not-for-profit. It was a program to work with women who were potentially victims of gender-based violence, and were intersecting with the child welfare sector. The program was designed to provide an intersectional lens in supporting the women and their families. It had been running for a few years, but the group wasn’t sure they were helping the women in the way the program was designed. Amanda and her team looked at the location of the program, the governance, how it was resourced, the skill sets of the people working within the program. The ParriagGroup also did a document review to determine what had been written about how these types of programs were supposed to function.
The group took Amanda’s recommendations to heart (always gratifying!) and ran with them. They made some immediate changes, started to implement others, and looked to outsource a few more. Amanda says,
“Hopefully, because of my work, women in the community who are in this frustrating space, intersecting with the child welfare system and potentially experiencing gender-based violence, can get better support. This can help them make better decisions and move forward in a more sustainable and human way.”
This is where Amanda’s real passion comes out. She feels lucky to be living the dream – she works out of a home-based office with the rest of her team spread across Canada. She can carve her day out as she pleases. And on a beautiful sunny day, she can post an out-of-office and spent time in the pool.
And she also loves the time she can take to work in the community. The focus of her studies at MUN and Carleton was gender-based violence, and she is still doing everything she can in that field.
Susan mentioned Amanda’s work with OCEVAW, and Ask Womxn Anything. AWA gathers together amazing women from the Ottawa community to talk about their expertise on a particular topic. People from across the city are invited to come and have a discussion in a warm and inviting environment. Amanda says,
“Women are not often heralded as experts and so this is an opportunity for these women to be recognized as such, especially among our peers. And it’s an opportunity for women and men in the Ottawa community to see these experts. You can’t be what you cannot see.”
The next Ask Womxn Anything event is called ‘Black Womxn Making the World A Better Place’. They are focusing on black women because February is Black History Month, and the AWA panels are designed to be intersectional without tokenizing the participants. ‘Black Womxn Making The World A Better Place’ is coming up February 18th – at the Pressed Café, if you’re in the Ottawa area. The speakers include Deborah Owusu-Akyeeah, a feminist activist and Campaigns Officer at OXFAM. Meghan Wills, President at Parents for Diversity and current project coordinator at the Michaëlle Jean Foundation. And Maya McDonald who is an educator, facilitator, and storyteller – among many other things!
AWA is a great way for people in Ottawa to get to know experts and remarkable women. Much like Amanda herself, and Susan, and the splendid teams with which they surround themselves.