Cities Reducing Poverty | Bringing All Voices To The Table

By: Megan Wanless, Senior Community Animator

Poverty is a complex issue. It’s an issue that cannot be approached in isolation or solved by a select few – it effects everyone, is experienced by people in different ways, and involves a significant number of interrelated elements and stakeholders. We know this. We know that when working on complex problems, such as poverty, finding comprehensive solutions requires communities to come together to leverage and better understand their assets – knowledge, experience, skills and resources – to truly see and act on the issue from all angles.

Momentum around the importance of bringing everyone to the table to combat complex issues has been growing over the years, particularly with the introduction of collective impact in 2011 (See: Kania and Kramer, 2011). Over the last 15 years Vibrant Communities Canada (a division of the Tamarack Institute) has been building a network of cities committed to working collaboratively to reduce poverty. Cities Reducing Poverty is a collective impact movement of 57 member cities or regions who together aim to reduce poverty through local interventions at the individual and household levels and through policy and systems changes. These local, multi-sector initiatives are bolstered by provincial and territorial poverty reduction strategies and by the federal government’s recent mandate to develop a Canadian poverty reduction strategy. Together, we are in the midst of a country-wide movement to overcome poverty.

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Ancient stories, new technology: Indigenous media treads new ground

by Cara McKenna

Ryan McMahon is finding power in voices with Makoons Media Group 

Now is the time for Indigenous people to break new ground in media, says Janet Rogers, who has worked in radio for a decade. Rogers hosts a show called Native Waves Radio on CFUV in Victoria. “We’re picking up these tools on our own and without the colonized filter, we’re kind of fumbling our way towards creating and maintaining a voice through the medium of podcasting.”

It’s not a simple task, says Ryan McMahon, founder of Makoons Media Group, whose best known success to date is the Indian & Cowboy podcast network. “White people have always controlled the gaze … and that gaze has always exploited us and our weaknesses,” he says. McMahon wants to change this and is scaling up his vision of an Indigenous podcast network, with support from the Indigenous Innovation Demonstration Fund (IIDF).    

The Indigenous Innovation Demonstration Fund provides support to organizations seeking to develop or expand their Indigenous social innovation and social enterprise. The Fund was created through a partnership of the National Association of Friendship Centres, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) and the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation.

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Montreal subway cars get new life and revitalize public space

By Elvira Truglia 

Montreal’s South West is in the midst of transformation. Some residents have had roots in the borough for generations, while others have flocked to the area attracted by new housing as well as business opportunities.

Two young entrepreneurs want to create a unique space in the borough that will pay homage to Montreal’s history while opening up space for locals to mix and enjoy the arts. Brothers Frédéric and Etiénne Morin-Bordeleau are going to integrate eight Montreal métro cars, called the MR-63, into a three-storey sculpture that will house a community space, café-bar and art gallery. Montreal’s transport agency (STM) approved Project MR-63 along with six other submissions to repurpose the retiring metro cars after putting out a call for submissions in the spring.

With the brothers’ goal to make art accessible, MR-63 will be a place for emerging and established artists to exhibit their work. It’s one of the reasons South West borough Mayor, Benoit Dorais enthusiastically endorsed the project.

A new public space for a borough in transition 

Art is seen as the equalizer for the borough with mixed social backgrounds. “I think we need to be able to provide locations where there will be opportunities for all people to rub shoulders,” says Dorais. He sees MR-63 as a way “to promote the arts while respecting the history of the neighbourhood, the history of the South West, and the history of Montreal”.

Locating the MR-63 building in the Quartier de l’innovation (QI), a district in the southwest of the city that straddles Montreal’s cultural, artistic, economic, technological and multimedia boundaries, seems like a logical fit.

He thinks the innovative sculptural form of the building will act as the calling card but that people will stay and return because of its functionality.

Exhibits will give visibility to local artists who will also be given opportunities to build their capacity to market their art and run their own businesses.

The café-bar will introduce people to locally produced food and eco-friendly vendors. The community space will also host public events, and will be available to rent for private events.

“In short, what we want to do is to use MR-63 to animate public space,” says Dorais.

 

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A Nation Healing Through Stories

By Pam Chookomoolin. 

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Photo credit: Brandon MacLeod

I’ve read that no great work can be done without knowledge. They say knowledge is power. My own path towards enlightenment and empowerment has led to both personal and communal healing through two of the most powerful tools we know: storytelling and sharing.

My first few steps down this particular path started in the spring of 2015, as the thick ice of the Winisk River began to break up and flow past my hometown of Peawanuck, ON. It was then I signed on with the Indigenous Reporters Program. Peawanuck, located 32 kilometres upriver from Hudson Bay, is one of 13 remote First Nation communities in northern Ontario where the program, developed by Journalists for Human Rights (JHR), has operated to date.

Journalism has, for me, become a very empowering tool, through which I create and share my own stories with my neighbours, community and across Canada. Journalism offered new knowledge, an opportunity to build on my own skills, and be a part of the changing landscape of Canadian media — a landscape that is slowly beginning to reflect the true history and demographics of Canada and contribute to the healing of a nation.

I did not always see the bigger picture or the critical role Indigenous journalists can play in supporting reconciliation by sharing their stories from their perspectives. Signing up, I thought it was just journalism theory, but within a few weeks, with hands-on training, we were already sharing stories and discussing the potential positive impact journalism can have.

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Is our playbook out of date?

by Vinod Rajasekaran

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Canada spends over $300 billion annually on social outcomes, according to the OECD. Our fast-evolving societal challenges — ranging from mental health, Indigenous communities’ access to quality education, and a lack of affordable housing — demand equally fast-paced and nimble research, learning, experimental and replicating approaches so people can access the best possible services, supports and solutions, no matter where they live in Canada.

 

This is where R&D comes in.

 

Canada’s not-for-profit, charitable, B Corp, and social enterprise organizations have built strong capabilities in volunteer management, donor stewardship, and program delivery, among other things. Along with an appreciation and celebration of these competencies, there is increasing consensus that social change in the 21st century requires an additional strong capacity and capability in research and development, or R&D.

Just as R&D in the business world drives new and improved products and services, R&D can also help social mission organizations generate significant and rapid advancements in services and solutions that change lives. However, currently only a small proportion of social mission organizations repeatedly incorporate a wide range of new knowledge (like insights into how the brain works and how positive behaviours can be encouraged) or new technologies (like machine learning) or new processes (like human centred design).   Read the rest of this entry »

Social Innovation and the Serious Business of Play

Guest blog by Joanne Benham Rennick, PhD, Executive Director, Schlegel Centre for Entrepreneurship & Social Innovation, Wilfrid Laurier University. This blog originally appeared on the RECODE website. It has been republished here with their permission. 

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I played a game of ping pong last week that made me laugh so hard I was in tears. It was not your typical ping pong game (should you have one). Instead, it involved three people at each end of the table. The first person served the ball, then ran to the other end to receive it back from the second person. That person then sprinted off to make the third return, and so on until there were six bodies racing around the room with tiny paddles and desperate looks on their sweaty faces. The skill level was not high so ingenuity and adaptation was critical. A missed ball had to be chased down and banked off the wall or ceiling to get it back in play. A hit into the net required a sideways grab and tap to avoid the imminent crash. Innocent bystanders had to be avoided. There was grunting, sliding, wild paddle swings, crash avoidance efforts, and high-speed dodging. One player took a ping pong ball to the back of her calf that left a small, bright-red welt. But what was most memorable about the evening was the incredible, child-like laughter that erupted.

Reflecting on the experience a little later, I realized with some surprise that I hadn’t laughed that hard in a very long time. I am very fortunate to do a job I love with people I respect and appreciate. I get to work with students and colleagues that are full of energy and enthusiasm for generating positive change. We work on big, complex issues and we take our work seriously. We think a lot about poverty, inadequate social supports, climate change, species loss, discrimination and all the other complex issues our society faces. We work unceasingly to support students and community members trying to innovate solutions that are transformative yet achievable. When I thought about that ping pong game I felt a little ashamed that I got so much pleasure out of such a seemingly unproductive activity.

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Getting to Reconciliation: why tension and discomfort is a step forward

Last week I attended the second Building Reconciliation Forum. This annual two-day gathering examines the role of post-secondary in implementing the recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I was there to listen and to learn.

The Forum was an eye-opening and heart-wrenching experience, with speaker after speaker outlining the impacts of Canada’s colonial and genocidal treatment of Indigenous Peoples. These testimonies were in both first and third person, and they were always from the heart. I am grateful and appreciative to have been there and humbled by the courage of the survivors who shared their stores.

Truth be told, I am just starting to understand the extent to which the trauma of residential schools permeates so much of present day Indigenous lives. In the words of University of Alberta Deputy Provost Wendy Rodgers, “awareness of residential schools and the impact of colonization is less an epiphany and more of a quiet awakening”.

Simply put, we are on a journey together and can’t independently get to solutions, let alone reconciliation.

What was also an eye-opener for me was the consistency with which the pathway to reconciliation was identified as a two-way street. This being an academic conference, there were many definitions of reconciliation put forward, but all agreed that authentic relationships will be at the heart of reconciliation. Simply put, we are on a journey together and can’t independently get to solutions, let alone reconciliation.

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Students bring their talents and skills to community projects through Vancouver’s LEDlab

By Elvira Truglia

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This fall, the Local Economic Development Lab (LEDlab) gave the green light for a new group of students to start working on community projects in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. An award-winning community-university partnership between Ecotrust Canada and RADIUS Simon Fraser University, LEDlab works with community partners to jump-start ideas by matching graduate students to non-profit organizations for eight months. Students use this incubation period to help launch or scale new and innovative ideas. The added human resources LEDlab provides allows the community partners to try new things in a safe environment and to learn from and support each other in the process.

“One of the largest reasons that ideas don’t take off is it is difficult to access funding to develop the idea, and dedicate staff or resources to them,” says LEDlab’s manager, Kiri Bird. “We provide the human capacity to advance the idea, sometimes with a technical or business skillset that the non-profit might not have in-house.”

Brandon Toews, an MBA student at SFU with an arts background, is one of the four students in the cohort, funded through Mitacs, a national non-profit supporting research and training across Canada.

Before joining LEDlab, Brandon Toews says he was extremely troubled “to see the lack of resources that were available to marginalized and vulnerable communities and to see how often they were overlooked or outright ignored”.

He’s now happy to be involved with the Binners’ Project, a grassroots initiative in the Downtown Eastside with the goal to become “a project once led by support staff, that over time becomes one led by the binners and for the binners.

“I want people to know that binning is a legitimate living, people work hard for it,” says Michael Leland who has been collecting redeemable containers in the Downtown Eastside for the last 11 years.

Now a team leader with the Binners’ Project, the 58-year-old former commercial fisherman wants to remove the social stigma associated with “binning,” the term for collecting and reselling recyclable materials.

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Cities for People + Getting to collective impact

Read the original article, Ten Key Ingredients for Collective Impact: Powering Town Halls for Societal Change, by Indy Johar, Imandeep Kaur, and Orestes Chouchoulas on Dark Matter Laboratories.

One of the goals set out by the Cities for People initiative during its inception over three years ago was to shake up the ways in which we work in cities. How? By approaching big issues from a thematic, collaborative, multi-sectoral angle, rather than on a project-by-project (setting out objectives and following a linear timeline to tackle one facet at a time) basis. The ‘experiment’ laid out in the first phase of Cities for People, which wrapped up in summer 2015, was to see how taking a thematic approach would enable us to identify ways to scale up, out, and deep – on the kind of ‘wicked problems’ cities are faced with, from inequality to housing to public spaces. Underpinning this effort was the belief that lasting change comes from individuals and organizations, often in different sectors (public, private, nonprofit), working deeply together to drawing out commonalities and symbioses that lead to breakthrough moments. This concept is easy to agree upon, but can be difficult to put into practice: how do we actually work in this way to transcend traditional partnerships that quickly become removed from the problem with which they’re trying to address? This article lays out ten essential pieces of the collective impact puzzle necessary to develop a practice of deep collaboration.


 

The energy behind collective action (referred to variably as Collective Impact, Collective Innovation, and Collective Change) is fundamentally rooted in the understanding that meaningful change is increasingly not in the hands of any single organisation. No single actor is able to bring about structural impact in terms of addressing life outcomes, health outcomes, alleviating poverty, or even creating new connected products and services. Whether seen from an interventional perspective or a political and organisational legitimacy perspective, the complex interdependencies at the heart of our largest challenges are not addressable by agents acting in isolation. It is increasingly recognised that impact at these scales requires us to build open, large, diverse, multi-sector coalitions committed to a shared mission, common accountability, allied political intent (small “p” politics), and change at a systems level. These open movements seek to work beyond individual agendas, missions, and activity to leverage our collective capacity for organised and coordinated agency but also to manage and moderate the “unintended aggregative consequences” of our siloed individual decisions.

When many citizens and organisations band together in pursuit of common objectives they generate new kinds of power, agency, and innovation.

Some see Collective Impact as nothing new?—?just partnerships rebadged and rebranded. We would argue that this misses the point. Collective Impact is not about partnerships between a handful of key institutions sitting in a closed board room but rather about a new architecture for movements of citizens and organisations numbering in the hundreds. Collective Impact is a fundamentally different social scaling theory that changes everything. Collective impact represents a different politics of change that transcends partnerships between a sample of stakeholders and looks to all-embracingmovements.

Therefore, inevitably Collective Impact requires new models of planning, organising, and financing. While we continue to invent them, we have identified a few key ingredients:

1. An authentic invitation to a shared challenge

The core momentum behind mobilisation en masse comes from a genuine and authentic invitation to address a shared challenge that many of us face consistently. There is beauty and great potential in the energy generated by individually motivated participants joining forces.

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Indigenous Innovation: The Moose Hide Campaign

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In 2011, during a father-daughter moose-hunting trip along BC’s Highway of Tears, Paul Lacerte and his daughter Raven – members of the Carrier First Nation – were discussing the issue of murdered and missing Indigenous women, and what they could do to help. “What if we could invite men to wear a moose hide patch in recognition of the need to protect women and children from violence?” they wondered. Five years and 250,000 moose hide squares later, they are about to bring their successful Moose Hide Campaign from BC and Alberta to the national level. On the eve of its October 5 launch in Ottawa, Paul and Raven speak about the journey so far…

“We were cleaning out a moose and talking about all of the murdered and missing Indigenous women. We wanted to do something, to be part of creating a safer place for Indigenous and non-Indigenous women and children,” Raven explains.

That day, Raven and her father decided to take the moose hide home, tan it, and cut it into squares that men could wear to demonstrate that they were taking a stand against violence. When men wear them, they are pledging accountability to the women and girls in their lives. Wearing a moosehide square also leads to conversations with strangers about the need to end violence. As the movement grew in BC, men began forming regular discussion circles. The BC legislature joined in, and the BC Regional Division of the RCMP has joined the campaign.

“It was powerful to have the RCMP take part”, says Paul. “Spousal abuse is not unknown in the force, and this acknowledgement, along with officers’ commitment to wear the moosehide patch, shows how seriously they take their role in reducing violence.”  Read the rest of this entry »