Listening, Learning, and Collaborating to End Poverty in Edmonton
by Meaghan Trewin, Faculty of Extension
Creating a city with no poverty and where all have equal opportunities to thrive: that’s the goal the EndPovertyEdmonton Task Force is striving to achieve within one generation. After presenting their strategy to city council on September 22, they will begin developing a 10-year plan for action.
Chaired by Mayor Don Iveson and Bishop Jane Alexander, the Task Force brings together a diversity of city stakeholders; including business leaders, lawyers, frontline service workers, advocates, policy-makers, and academics, including several Faculty of Extension researchers and affiliates from the Community-University Partnership for the Study of Children, Youth, and Families and the Centre for Public Involvement.
As members and consultants on the Task Force, Extension researchers brought to the table their expertise in research process, policy development, community engagement, and collaboration. Part of this work involved drawing on information gathered from 1,200 low-income families during the Families First Edmonton study, a project that was concluded in 2012 and left a rich legacy of information on the barriers impacting low-income families in our city, as well as strategies for working collaboratively across community agencies and government to make a positive difference in their lives.
According to CPI executive director Fiona Cavanagh, who served as chair of the Information and Research Round Table: “A core commitment, foundational to the work done by the task force, was that research supporting the development of a strategy to end poverty must be community-based and participatory, that is, done in true partnership and collaboration with individuals and families living in poverty. This is research that fully honours the expertise and diverse insights and knowledge of people who are living poverty daily. Their stories are central and drive inquiry.”
For Maria Mayan, assistant director of Women and Children’s Health at CUP, Extension’s involvement in the Task Force is a sign of an important shift in the policy development process. “When it comes to community issues,” says Maria, “the really exciting thing is that research was welcomed at the table; research was considered important in community matters.” Similarly, the Faculty’s significant investment in this work is a great example of its own strategic priorities. “This kind of work is very close to where our values lie as a Faculty, and as researchers,” says Maria, citing Extension’s commitment to community engagement, collaboration, social justice, and research-informed policy.
Extension’s commitment is also echoed in its educational offerings, including a newly launched Master of Arts degree in Community Engagement, as well as several courses and programs in community-based research and community leadership. These programs, like the Faculty of Extension research, focus on inquiry as an engaged process that builds capacities for people and communities and gives back to the publics we serve.
Extension researchers and affiliates involved in the EndPovertyEdmonton Task Force included: Laurie Schnirer, Maria Mayan, Laura Templeton, and Jeff Bisanz from the Community-University Partnership for the Study of Children, Youth, and Families (CUP), and Fiona Cavanagh from the Centre for Public Involvement (CPI).