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Vibrant Communities Strategic Dialogue

In May 2010, The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation and Tamarack – An Institute for Community Engagement hosted a strategic dialogue about place-based poverty reduction efforts in Canada. Forty-six business, government, philanthropic, academic and community sector leaders reviewed the strengths and challenges of working collaboratively to tackle poverty in Canada and the United States. This web page provides an overview of the Strategic Dialogue, presentations and resources developed for the two day session. 

On this page you’ll find...

Overview of the Strategic Dialogue

The design for the Strategic Dialogue focused on the challenges of broadening civic engagement, the roles of business and government in community change efforts, impacts currently generated by intermediary organizations and maintaining momentum.  Evidence about the patterns, themes and results of comprehensive community approaches to poverty reduction was presented.

Strategic Dialogue Agenda – During the two days, participants participated in a number of challenge discussions:  broadening engagement around poverty reduction, the role of government, impact and momentum.  Find the agenda here.

Speakers Biographies – The Strategic Dialogue included speakers from diverse sectors who shared their perspectives about poverty reduction efforts in Canada and the United States.  Find their biographies here.

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Strategic Dialogue Summary

Anne Makhoul, Principal Project Officer, Caledon Institute of Social Policy and Eric Leviten-Reid, Evaluation and Learning Coordinator, Vibrant Communities Canada were invited to participate in and report on the conversations held during the Strategic Dialogue. Read the summary story here and the full report here.

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Background Resources and Presentations

A number of background resources were circulated prior to the Strategic Dialogue. These reports and papers provide an overview of the experience of place-based collaborative initiatives focused on poverty in Canada and the US.

The Nature of Poverty - This background document focused on the complex nature of poverty, the need for integrated solutions, and an overview of poverty reduction activities in Canada. Access the document here.

Comprehensive Community Initiatives: Lessons Learned, Potential and Opportunities Moving Forward - The Wellesley Institute was commissioned to provide an overview of place-based approaches to poverty reduction in Canada. This paper describes the approach, trends, enablers, and impact. The paper also poses questions about next steps. Access the paper here and the presentation here.

Community Change Initiatives from 1990 - 2010: Accomplishments and Implications for Future Work - Published in Community Investments Spring 2010, this paper by The Aspen Institute, Roundtable on Community Change outlines the results from over two decades of investment in community change efforts in the United States. Access the paper here and the presentation by Anne Kubisch of The Aspen Institute here.

Impact: The Impact of Working Collaboratively in Communities to Reduce Poverty - Vibrant Communities Canada, Community Foundations of Canada and United Way of Canada/Centraide Canada shared both the progress and results that they have achieved through their partner organizations.  Access the Vibrant Communities Canada presentation here, the United Way of Canada presentation here, and the Community Foundations of Canada presentation here.

Strategic Dialogue on Comprehensive, Collaborative Place-based Initiatives to Reduce Poverty – Minister Laurel Broten, Ministry of Children and Youth Services, Government of Ontario shared her thoughts about the importance of comprehensive, place-based initiatives to reduce poverty in Ontario.  Access Minister Broten’s speech here

Code RED: The Media’s Role in Poverty Reduction - Dana Robbins, Publisher, The Hamilton Spectator shared his thoughts on the vital role of the media in poverty reduction and community change efforts. Read Dana Robbin’s keynote address here. Access the Code RED report profiling the health and income disparities across Hamilton neighborhoods here.

On Not Letting a Crisis Go to Waste: An Innovation Agenda for Canada’s Community Sector - This paper by Tim Brodhead, President and CEO, The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation challenges the community sector to respond boldly to the disruptive changes of the current economic downturn by embracing innovation, and re-asserting its role as community builders and catalysts. Access the thought-provoking paper here.

Comprehensive Community Initiatives:  Promising Directions for "Wicked Problems" - This paper by Bob Gardner of the Wellesley Institute published in the February 2011 issue of Horizons explores how communities are tackling wicked problems like poverty, health inequity and neighbourhood revitalization. It highlights the results achieved by Vibrant Communities. It also looks at the social potential and policy impacts of working cross-community and comprehensively on a challenging social issue.  Access the paper here.

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Future Directions

The following ideas and future directions were raised by participants attending the Strategic Dialogue. Tamarack – An Institute for Community Engagement will take the lead in moving forward the next steps.

Public Awareness & Attitudes
  • Call for a Royal Commission or convene a Citizens Forum on Poverty in Canada
  • Expand public understanding of the well being of Canadians (e.g., Vital Signs)
  • Create ‘Giller-type’ Prize for Community Well-Being
Framing & Communication
  • Focus on well-being rather than poverty
  • Make the link between health and poverty stronger
  • Confirm the economic cost of poverty
Place- Based Poverty Reduction Strategies
  • Document accessible, easy to use pathways or strategies for poverty reduction
  • Identify and disseminate “low-hanging fruit” strategies for easy uptake and implementation
  • Help scale up practices that already work (e.g., the Family and Community Social Services (FCSS) model in Alberta)
Resources for Place-Based Poverty Reduction
  • Innovate with social financial instruments (e.g., social impact bonds that link investments with prevention dividends)
Policy To Support Place-Based Poverty Reduction
  • Become active in the discussions to renew the Canadian Health and Social Transfer Act in 2014
  • Work with provincial poverty reduction strategies to strengthen welfare systems for all people
Pan-Canadian Campaign
  • Develop a national campaign and structure to coordinate the work (e.g., policy, communication, targets, investment, learning networks, etc.)
  • Build on the Vibrant Communities model and experience

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Additional Resources About Poverty

The Hamilton Spectator - The poverty project is an editorial written by Dana Robbins when the newspaper launched its three year editorial commitment to profiling the impact of poverty on the Hamilton community. Read the editorial here

Bearing the Brunt:  How the 2008-2009 Recession Created Poverty for Canadian Families - Citizens for Public Justice report on the impact of the recent recession on families. This report looks at increases in child poverty rates, unemployment, social assistance and the cost of living. Access the report here

Cutting Through the Fog: Why is it so Hard to Make Sense of Poverty Measures - This Metcalf Foundation paper describes the challenges facing citizens when presented with statistics on poverty, and emphasizes the need to question the implications and assumptions underlying various poverty measures. They provide some basic information about what measures are used and illustrate how different approaches to the data can colour social realities. Access the report here.

Honest Brokers:  Brokering Innovation in the Public Sector - This booklet explores the role of innovation brokers in public services. It looks at what they are, what they do, and why they might be needed to support innovation in public services. In particular, it looks at how they broker knowledge and relationships between innovators with ideas, managers and commissioners looking for solutions, investors and policy makers. Access the booklet here

For more information about the strategic dialogue for placed-based poverty reduction or to comment on this web page, please email Liz Weaver, Lead Coach of Vibrant Communities, here.

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Shadow of family on grass

Hosted by:

The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation

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