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Opinion

Five signs of hope for 2013

Published on 23/01/2013

The beginning of the new year is traditionally a time for resolutions or wishes, but let’s start off 2013 with five signs of hope for the year ahead, based on some things we know are going to happen. These five initiatives bring together good ideas in the public interest by serious organizations known for the quality of their work and their devotion to building Canada.

1. On March 20, Maytree’s Building Blocks will host CollaborAction: Building Blocks Learning Exchange to engage and support leaders who want to make change in highly diverse, low income communities. Participants will hear local leadership success stories and connect with and learn from others. They will leave with ideas and practical information to build civic literacy and promote engagement and participation in their community. Keynote speakers include former Toronto Mayor David Miller and Deena Ladd from the Workers’ Action Centre.

Building Blocks calls on neighbours to “create possibility where you live.” The initiative offers a civic literacy primer in communities across the Greater Toronto Area to demystify how governments make decisions.

It is delivered in partnership with organizations that stretch beyond serving needs to involving residents in finding solutions to the challenges they face where they live. Each organization has identified a leader and Building Blocks staff train them to, in turn, train hundreds of others.

if you’re interested in creating change where you live.

2. The Caledon Institute for Social Policy will launch The Canada Social Report in 2013, which it announced at its 20th anniversary conference in October 2012. This responds to the demise of the National Council of Welfare (NCW), stripped of its support by the government, which put in jeopardy two key reports that defined poverty in Canada, Welfare Incomes and Poverty Profile. These two reports had been compiled by the NCW for decades, collecting data from the provinces, and were the basis for the development of policy and programs to assist low income Canadians.

While Caledon believes it is the duty of government to inform its own policy development, it sees the necessity of filling the gap that has been created. It will continue the production of the two key reports, and augment The Canada Social Report with other key data, some from other discontinued public reports. Caledon is acting because it believes Canada suffers when its policy and programs are not designed on sound factual grounds.

3. The Tamarack Institute for Community Engagement will focus on how cities can develop poverty reduction strategies, building on the fast start of its Vibrant Communities: Canadian Cities Reducing Poverty. This initiative is well on its way toward the goal of having 100 cities developing poverty reduction strategies and actions. The hallmark of Vibrant Communities was action and across Canada a large number of real programs to reduce poverty were developed. Evaluating Vibrant Communities 2002-2010 (PDF) summarizes the collective results achieved by 13 cross-sector community roundtables focused on poverty.

In 2013 Tamarack will develop a city charter and business case for poverty reduction, a shared policy framework, and a shared evaluation framework. Like all of Tamarack’s work, these will be developed collaboratively with communities and, particularly, with people living in poverty.

Look also for a Tamarack/Vibrant Communities learning opportunity in your area, and visit the online Learning Centre. Tamarack’s Communities Collaborating Conferences are highly regarded, and one of the key venues for learning and for meeting others working on poverty issues.

4. The Workers’ Action Centre will continue its fight against wage theft, the malign practices of bad employers to deny the earned wages of Canada’s most vulnerable workers. Because of inadequate laws to protect workers, and a lack of enforcement of the ones we have, workers are being victimized.

Today, one in three jobs is temporary, contract, part-time or self employment. These kinds of work leave workers with low pay, no benefits and little job protection. Many workers are struggling with job insecurity and poverty. All too many workers are also facing unpaid wages, unpaid overtime and less than minimum wage, or “wage theft.”

The Workers’ Action Centre, a worker-based organization committed to improving the lives and working conditions of people in low-wage and unstable employment, has long been campaigning against wage theft.

Under its campaign banner Stop Wage Theft, WAC members can be seen at rallies and community events, marching in solidarity with other social justice and labour organizations. WAC is speaking out about the poor working conditions and unfair labour practices facing so many workers in Ontario.

In 2013, the Workers’ Action Centre will continue its strong advocacy, and look for support to amplify its work and impact.

5. For 2013, the Mowat Centre’s Not-for-Profit Research Hub is embarking on an ambitious research agenda with the sector and other stakeholders. The Hub was established to provide evidence-based research and analysis on structural, foundational, and systemic issues facing the voluntary sector in Canada.

Their research agenda will focus on three areas:

  • Sector opportunities: exploring policy challenges and opportunities in the sector, identifying policy solutions, and facilitating knowledge exchange.
  • Structures and foundations: examining the core elements that shape how the sector interfaces with provincial governments, identifying the opportunities and foundations for a pan-Canadian framework.
  • Sector signals: identifying trends/issues that are having an impact on the sector and finding simple indicators that will help define the scope of the issue, provide directions for further research, and/or inform opportunities for action.

Mowat will release a series of actionable reports each year and will work with hub partners to convene a sector-wide dialogue. This first full project year will help answer the questions: will Mowat succeed in moving the sector forward in a cohesive direction to address the myriad of issues facing us? Will we ultimately create the strong sector voice needed at the policy level? Can a public policy approach ensure that informed change comes from sector funders?

Summary

In 2013, these five initiatives will work towards building and strengthening our nation.

Topic(s)

Cities and communities, Civic engagement, Employment and labour, Evidence-based policy, Non-profit sector, Poverty