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  Engaging Businesses in Local Efforts to Reduce Poverty
 

All across Canada, communities are creating multisectoral collaborations or networks that are developing long term, comprehensive approaches to reducing poverty.
The local business community is a natural partner in this effort:

  • As Community Citizens, businesses can contribute financial, technical and human resources to community initiatives (e.g. community volunteers, grants to poverty reduction projects, joint marketing campaigns).
  • As Employers, businesses can train and hire unemployed or underemployed workers, pay good wages, and offer supplementary employment benefits (e.g. child care, flexible work schedules).
  • As Purchasers, businesses can buy goods and services from local enterprises that employ unemployed or underemployed workers (e.g. subcontract to a community training enterprise).
  • As Producers, businesses can strive to ensure they provide quality services for low-income communities (e.g. financial services, housing, transportation). In order to tap into the enormous potential of the private sector to significantly reduce poverty, member communities in Vibrant Communities strive to develop a better understanding of how to build the case for business involvement and the specific strategies and techniques for engaging and sustaining businesses in poverty reduction work over the long term.

On this page you'll find:

Learning Objectives

The “Engaging Business to Reduce Poverty” Learning Initiative is designed to support local networks associated with Vibrant Communities learn how they can engage businesses – from small to large -- to assist a large number of low income residents in their journey out of poverty.

The specific objectives of the Learning Initiative are:

  • To identify different motivations for businesses becoming involved in local poverty reduction efforts and the various options for their involvement (e.g. hiring, wages & benefits, volunteers, etc.)
  • To explore how to engage and sustain business participation in poverty reduction efforts, including “building the business case” for their involvement and connecting with business leaders
  • To provide practical resources (e.g., tools, research paper, learning forums) to assist communities to integrate high-impact, best practice strategies and initiatives in their work

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Seminar #1: Leveraging Businesses and Markets for Low Income Families and Communities (pt 1)

This session introduces a general framework for understanding why businesses might be involved in local efforts to reduce poverty and explores a step-by-step framework to guide local networks in engaging the business community in their work. Highlights include:

  • The drivers for encouraging businesses to get involved in local efforts to reduce poverty
  • The six options for business involvement in reducing poverty and the business case for each option
  • Five steps in the process of engaging and sustaining business involvement in reducing poverty
  • Understanding the variety of different local businesses (publicly traded versus shared, small to large, etc.) and how that affects their approach to local efforts to reducing poverty.

John WeiserThe session features a conversation with John Weiser, co-founder of Brody • Weiser • Burns, a leading thinker and facilitator of corporate involvement in expanding opportunities for low income communities, and the lead author of the Ford Foundation’s groundbreaking new report, Part of the Solution: Leveraging Business and Markets for Low-Income People

Resources from the Seminar:

Related Links & Resources:

  • Win-Win Partners – a website that promotes strategies for corporations to improve their business performance and improve the lives of low income groups and communities.
  • Canadian Business for Social Responsibility – a website for a non-profit, business-led national organization of Canadian companies that have made a commitment to operate in a socially, environmentally and financially responsible manner.

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Seminar #2: Creating Employment Opportunities for Low Income People in Growth Sectors - The Case Study of Winnipeg

Garry LoewenThis session explores how communities, governments and employers can work together to prepare and link unemployed and underemployed persons to good paying jobs in areas of local skills shortages.

Highlights include:

  • The characteristics of a comprehensive workforce development system in bridging persons seeking work and areas of skills shortages
  • The role of workforce intermediaries in supporting a comprehensive workforce development system
  • The central place of the business community in workforce development
    The session features an interview with Garry Loewen, one of Canada’s most experienced Community Economic Development practitioners, to learn more about ”best practices” employment development programs from across North America and the “case” for business involvement in customized training.

Resources from the Seminar:

Related Links & Resources:

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Seminar #3: The Reality of Hourly Wage Workers

One day, two committed employees working for the same company experience a flat tire on their way to work. The full time, well paid employee, manages the mishap easily while the financial security and career prospects of the hourly, lower wage employee are put at risk.

Jennifer SwanbergThis is the story that provides the background to the groundbreaking research initiative, Increasing the Visibility of the Invisible Workforce: Model Programs and Policies for Hourly and Lower Wage Employees. Sponsored by Corporate Voice for Working Families, and carried out by the Boston College Center for Work & Family, this report explores in-house programs of 15 companies from a variety of sectors designed explicitly to improve the work-life for a critical component of their workforce.

This seminar features an interview with Jennifer Swanberg, co-author of the report, and explores the highlights of the study, including:

  • A Profile of Hourly & Low Wage Workers
  • The Value of Hourly & Low Wage Workers to Companies
  • The Issues Faced by Hourly and Low Wage Employees
  • The Five Different Models - Dependent Care, Employee Development, Financial Assistance, Financial Incentives, and Scheduling/Leaves - and the business case for each of them
  • Obstacles to Designing and Implementing Programs
  • Lessons Learned & Recommendations for Companies Considering Such Programs

Resources from the Seminar:

Related Links & Resources:

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Seminar #4: Leveraging Businesses & Markets for Low Income Families & Communities (pt 2)

In this final session of the Engaging Businesses series, we return to the question of how to engage and sustain private sector involvement in community-based efforts to reduce poverty. The discussion centers on ground-breaking research by the Ford Foundation.

In particular, the session focuses on two areas of central concern to Vibrant Communities’ partners:

  • Steps and helpful tools in building the case for business involvement in poverty reduction initiatives
  • The capacities that poverty reduction networks and community-based organizations need to build in order to effectively work with the private sector on poverty reduction initiatives

John WeiserTo assist in the discussion, we meet again with John Weiser, co-founder of Brody • Weiser • Burns, a leader in the field of business involvement in community issues, and lead author of the Ford Foundation’s report, Part of the Solution: Leveraging Business and Markets for Low-Income People, and other insightful resources on the topic of corporate engagement.

Resources from the Seminar:

Related Links & Resources:

  • Seeing is Believing – a British program designed to engage business leaders in complex community issues that is being replicated in Canada.
  • Workforce Intermediaries - Powering Regional Economies in the 21st Century new report – a report that describes the role and structure of workforce intermediaries

  • Engaging Business in Social Change Efforts - A seminar with Garry Loewen and John Weiser – experienced practitioners – and a comprehensive tool [hyperlink to Garry’s tool] focused on engaging businesses in tackling complex social issues. Access the seminar here.

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Audio Description

Leveraging Businesses and Markets for Low Income Families and Communities - Lessons From the Ford Foundation’s Corporate Involvement Initiative

Run time 01:01:17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio Description

Creating Employment Opportunities for Low Income People in Growth Sectors -
The Case Study of Winnipeg

Run time 01:01:11

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




 


 

 

 

 

Audio Description

The Reality of Hourly Wage Workers

Run time 01:09:03

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Audio Description

Leveraging Businesses and Markets for Low Income Families and Communities - Lessons From the Ford Foundation’s Corporate Involvement Initiative (2)

Run time 01:06:30

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sponsors:

The Ontario Trillium Foundation

Maytree