5 Questions with Diandra Oliver, Research Coordinator for the Making it Work Project

Diandra is a former staff member of PAN.

We’re happy to welcome Diandra Oliver, who recently joined the Research and Evaluation department as Research Coordinator for the Making it Work Research Project. Read the Meet the People at PAN series.


What are you looking forward to in your work over the next year?

Joining the Making It Work team at PAN has been a breath of fresh air into my working life. I have been inspired by the care-full intentions of this project, the welcoming staff at PAN and the kinships that are forming among the study team. In most of my work life I’ve been an initiator—designing and starting projects with communities—so it’s unique for me to come into an established project and I’m looking forward to growing generative and emergent relationships with the team. For me, research is an opportunity to strengthen our shared social justice commitments to the communities we live in and alongside. This means that as I look forward, I am fired up by the opportunity to explore alternative, joyful futures for communities in the work we are doing together with the Making It Work research project.

What kind of impact do you hope your work has on the “real world”?

I never felt like I was outside of the “real world” until I started my PhD in 2016 and quickly realized how out of relationship academic institutions could be with the communities they are in. A big part of my PhD has been exploring, asking, reading and learning about how to bridge the gap between my community identity and academic expectations. I’ve always felt that academic “impacts” are disingenuous and dilute the magic we are out here living in community. I am trying to bring this attitude to my work with the Making It Work research project by remembering that communities know what they need. They have the skills to leverage systems of power to further their community’s goals even if they are in opposition to what is “expected” for them. I hope in some small part I can continue to work alongside communities in the “real world” to recognize emergent strategies and put them into play.

If you had unlimited funds, what parts of community work would you invest in? (research, outreach, training, etc.)

In our house we often play the imaginary “if we win the lottery” game and I’m always thinking of ways I’d give away my fantasy money. The ideas currently in my dream rotation are funding Indigenous land defenders at a variety of scales and places, building abundant no-cost, clean and safe housing for people in my community and making sure that fat, BIPOC folks in the outdoor community have access to any and all of the gear they need to go hiking, camping, cycling and other outdoor activities they want to do. It’s obvious to me that the provision of these things should be engrained in the world we already live in and it really sucks that people having their land, housing and the tools they need to recreate outdoors has yet to be part of the economic system we live under.

If you were to write a book about work life, what would its title be?

Jenny Odell recently wrote a book called “How to do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy” and her dreams for how we could be in the world, embedded in the ecology of the places we are in, really captured how I felt like I wanted to be and work in the world. The title also sounds like a nap, which would be lovely.

If you were stranded on a desert island, what two foods would you want to have?

My desert island foods make me feel like a traitor to my fellow bad-fatties out there, but hands down it’s “salad” in all of its forms and Peach + Pear La Croix.