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Justin Williams

Justin Williams
Justin is the Managing Assistant with Tamarack’s Vibrant Communities team. Before joining Tamarack, he worked in higher-education and student advocacy managing research and political affairs teams. Justin is passionate about the role of governance processes in promoting community, sustainability and poverty reduction.

Recent Posts

The United Kingdom Addressing Youth Loneliness

Posted by Justin Williams on August 17, 2018

Two big announcements on youth loneliness have recently come out of the United Kingdom. First, the United Kingdom announced £2 million from its Building Connections Fund to support youth-focused initiatives to be distributed by the Co-Op Foundation. The funding announcement pairs with the launch of the report “A Place to Belong: The Role of Local Youth Organizations in Addressing Youth Loneliness,” by UK Youths which the Co-Op Foundation supported.

The Building Connections Fund is a collaboration between the Government, Big Lottery Fund and the Co-Op Foundation in response to the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness. The aim of the fund is to reduce loneliness in England. The fund contains two strands £9 million from the main fund and a separate £2 million that is targeted toward youth. The youth strand will provide £80,000 to organizations to co-develop approaches with youth to combat loneliness.

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London For All: Making Progress and Meeting Targets One Year In

Posted by Justin Williams on July 23, 2018

In May, United Way Elgin Middlesex reported that it had met 27 of its 112 targets as part of London’s anti-poverty strategy, London For All, just one year since starting its work. United Way Elgin Middlesex is the lead agency implementing London’s strategy. The United Way brings together partners to implement plans, ensures evaluation and accountability, reports back to the community, and meaningfully involves folks with lived experience of poverty in all aspects of the project.

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Canada's Smart City Challenge: Combining Community Engagement with Innovation

Posted by Justin Williams on July 9, 2018

As a point of honesty, I admit that I was skeptical of the Smart Cities concept when I first learned of it. I wrote my undergraduate thesis on the development of Smart Cities as an idea, and I worried that the concept was designed to sell products rather than make our communities better with the ultimate outcome being further division and isolation for citizens. Smart Cities and the technologies attached to them, at their best, have the capacity to improve citizen engagement, increase our capacity to collect data to inform decisions, reduce inequality, and lighten the impact of urban centres on the environment. Alternatively, poorly planned and implemented projects can further the digital divide and decrease the connection between citizens and their government.

Fortunately, Infrastructure Canada’s Smart Cities Challenge and the applications to it demonstrate that Canadian communities are utilizing community engagement and community innovation to shape their development as Smart Cities. The result is projects and proposals that use technology as a bridge to bring community together and address inequality.

The Smart Cities Challenge from Infrastructure Canada is a multi-year contest meant to encourage the adoption of the smart cities concept to promote innovation, data, and connectivity as tools to improve the lives of residents. The cities entering the challenge were encouraged to show how they would use technology to increase openness by improving access to transparent data; the integration of data to remove barriers between government units and public organizations; transferability of information through open-source and standardized platforms; and collaboration between community partners.

On June 1st during the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Annual Conference, 20 finalists were announced from the more than 200 communities that applied. These communities will receive $250,000 to further develop their ideas. In the Spring of 2019 Infrastructure Canada will announce four winners from the finalists: one $50 million prize, two $10 million prize, and one $5 million prize.

Proposals from the finalists include projects to improve educational outcomes while supporting traditional knowledge transfer and Indigenous languages; promote mental health and prevent suicide by supporting community, connective and digital access to resources and peer to peer networks; improving food security by establishing circular economic revenue through the use of big data and local knowledge; improve outcomes for Indigenous youth by reducing social exclusion while increasing a sense of identity, security and belonging; and promote child and youth wellbeing through engagement, connection, data-driven programs and learning technologies. Other finalists are aiming at addressing health outcomes, housing shortages, and energy poverty.

Importantly, the finalists of the smart city challenge reflect the possibilities that new technologies allow when cities engage their communities and work collectively to identify needs, and opportunities. As the finalists work to refine their proposals, they now have additional supports to further engage their communities to improve their results.


Read More:
Smart Cities Challenge Website
Spotlight on Smart Cities Challenge Finalists
Can Smart Cities be Equitable?

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Basic Income Re-Emerging as a Means of Addressing Poverty

Posted by Justin Williams on May 25, 2018

2018 has seen a resurgence of discussions around the concept of a guaranteed basic income. Discussions around a guaranteed income are being promoted across the political spectrum, by different levels of government, and by organizations throughout Canada.

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Lessons from Toronto Foundation's Vital Signs Report: Towards a More Just City

Posted by Justin Williams on March 13, 2018

The Toronto Foundation, a community foundation focused on pooling philanthropic resources to maximize community impact, released their 2017/18 vital signs report this month. This year’s report, Towards a More Just City, uses an equity lens to reveal the ways that quality of life can be impacted by neighbourhood, income, race, immigration status, gender, sexual identity and age in Toronto. The Toronto Foundation hopes that the equity lens, and the concerns that it highlights, provide a useful roadmap for government, the philanthropic sector, private sector and individual citizens to remove systemic barriers facing some populations in Toronto from full participation in the city.

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PEI Working to Develop a Poverty Reduction Action Plan

Posted by Justin Williams on February 27, 2018

The Province of Prince Edward Island (PEI) appointed twelve members to its new Poverty Reduction Advisory Council in February of 2018. The council is now getting to work to deliver a poverty reduction plan to the government for October.

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