Publications, opinions, and speeches
Poverty and Poetry
Published on 03/06/2015
This paper is the text of a keynote address for the closing session Reclaiming Our Humanity Together at the National Poverty Reduction Summit hosted by the Tamarack Institute in Ottawa on May 6-8, 2015.
Caledon first became involved with Vibrant Communities through a project called Opportunities 2000. That modest effort scaled up into a major initiative in which 14 cities came together in a pan-Canadian learning partnership to find local solutions to reduce poverty.
The first challenge facing Opportunities 2000 was to raise awareness of its poverty reduction goal. A public event was organized with speakers, brochures and media. In the frenetic days before the main event, a typo was spotted on the forthcoming announcement: NEW PROJECT SEEKS TO REDUCE POETRY IN WATERLOO REGION.
That action would have been a big mistake! Reducing poetry would not have advanced the poverty agenda. In fact, it would have had quite the opposite effect. The community would have been far less rich, both culturally and emotionally. Reducing poverty and enhancing poetry actually go hand in hand.
Poverty is a complex problem with no single cause and no magic-bullet solution. But a substantial evidence base points to three powerful policy levers that pack a powerful punch. Decent affordable housing. High-quality education and training. Good jobs and income security.
Yet tackling poverty means more than just meeting basics. It means paying deliberate attention to the equally important human values of respect and dignity.
Many of our policies, programs and processes have been missing one crucial ingredient: humanity. We need to add poetry to our efforts to tackle poverty. Poetry in this context means designing for voices. Designing for the soul. Designing for dignity.
We reduce poverty through proven policy interventions. We reclaim our humanity when we add the poetry.
ISBN – 1-55382-646-9