The COVID-19 crisis has undoubtedly intensified vulnerabilities across communities. Saskatoon's Inter-Agency Response was created out of recognizing the unique challenges the pandemic would bring to agencies supporting vulnerable people. Born out of initial discussions through the Safe Community Action Alliance, it emerged into a comprehensive operation with over 65 organizations.
The response was structured with multi-sector partners and their diverse assets, and an Incident Command at the helm. Organized around specific actions and activities carried out by the response, the Incident Command Structure offered everyone on board incident command 101 training and implicit trust in carrying out their roles. As part of the process, a COVID-19 Vulnerable Sector Strategy was developed in order to chart a path of supports on priority areas of vulnerability, and prioritized support for agencies focusing on issues of deep food and housing insecurity – two key areas vulnerable people have been most affected by in the crisis and the two key areas that ensure people are safely isolated.
A number of important insights have been illuminated:
This experience has seen a re-writing of a social contract whereby community is being valued for their knowledge and experience in adapting services and support. The response has now moved from an Incident Command Structure model into a maintenance committee resuming a Collective Impact model – one in which all stakeholders have consensus with a common agenda.
Saskatoon has a long history of paving the road to equitable change through collective impact efforts. Saskatoon’s Inter-Agency Response demonstrates what is possible when collective will and action come together. Moving forward, Saskatoon’s Poverty Reduction Strategy 12 Bold Ideas is being re-worked, taking into account the effects of COVID and in commitment to better outcomes, applying learnings from COVID-19 to poverty, including a call to make poverty an urgent public health crisis.
A special thanks to Colleen Christopherson-Cote in Saskatoon for her contribution to this article.
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