What is the end of poverty? What will it take to end poverty in Canada? If we reduce poverty to 5%, will be able to say that we have effectively ended economic poverty? Could we then target health and well-being to end poverty for all Canadians? At 5% poverty could we afford a Guaranteed Annual Income? What are your questions and ideas about the end of poverty?
On May 5-6, 2021, at Cities Reducing Poverty’s virtual summit – The End of Poverty – more than 500 people will convene to learn about how we can end poverty in our communities. We are at a unique moment in history in which cities, provinces/territories and our federal government are all converging with independent, yet interrelated, poverty reduction strategies. This national event will facilitate learning and dialogue across sectors, harness the distinctive synergies of today's poverty reduction movement, and take our collective understanding of community innovation in poverty reduction to the next level.
Tamarack and the Cities Reducing Poverty network’s primary goal since 2010 was to contribute to poverty being reduced for 1 million people. At that time we considered the goal to be a “moon shot” strategy meant primarily to inspire. However, this goal was realized in March of 2020 (pre-COVID-19). It was then that the Government of Canada officially announced that between 2015 and 2018 (the latest year for which we have comprehensive data), poverty had been reduced to its lowest level in recorded history, from 14.5% to 11.0%, and that 1 million fewer Canadians were living in poverty. Of those lifted out of poverty, 334,000 were children and 73,000 were seniors.
This unprecedented reduction was achieved through a system of exceptional programs and supports of organizations and governments that work at the local, provincial, territorial, and national levels. It has no one cause or attribution, but rather is the result of contributions made by many. Together, we are getting poverty reduction “right” and are establishing a powerful narrative for ending poverty in Canada.
The Cities Reducing Poverty Network has become a significant contributor to poverty reduction in Canada, and we are grateful for our many partners. Our regional members are having real success in reducing poverty in their cities. Between 2015 and 2018, poverty rates decreased in 10 of the 14 CRP regions where 2018-base Market Basket Measure (MBM) data is available. The most notable reductions were seen in Saint John (from 19.5% to 14.0%), Toronto (from 19.2% to 13.9%), and Winnipeg (from 15.5% to 12.0%).
Each of these three CRP members champion poverty reduction both within and beyond their own communities, as they regularly share their experiences, strategies and successes, and provide support to less advanced members of the network. When Saint John joined CRP in 2002, they had nearly 28% of their population living in poverty – one of the highest poverty rates in the country – and their explicit goal was to cut that rate in half. After nearly 20 tireless years, they have achieved their goal.
The Cities Reducing Poverty Network
Founded in 2002, Cities Reducing Poverty (CRP) has grown from 45 regional roundtables in 2015 to 80 in 2020 that now support more than 330 municipalities. CRP is a powerful collective impact movement that is supported and funded through a partnership between the Tamarack Institute, McConnell, Maytree, and the federal government. The learning community that was formed to deeply understand the work of reducing poverty grew from 1,250 changemakers in 2015 to 6,300 in 2020.
CRP is effectively the largest network of its kind in the world. Cities are leading the way! In a recent article, David Brooks of the New York Times shared that Canadian cities are working together in an unprecedented way to develop place-based approaches to ending poverty. He noted how more than 300 cities are developing community plans that engage governments, businesses, not-for-profits, and citizens with lived/living experience of poverty to work together to implement new approaches.
As cities harness the assets of their communities, they are finding new ways to end poverty. Increasingly, they are recognizing poverty as a comprehensive issue, advancing their understanding of collaboration across sectors, and nudging policy and systems change. Cities are recognizing the value of linking private sector and community solutions and are addressing the disproportionate impacts of poverty on black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC). They are working directly with local businesses and are meaningfully engaging people with lived/living experience in leadership roles and decision-making opportunities to move their work forward.
Communities are increasingly recognizing the importance of embedding a Collective Impact approach to their work. They are developing common agendas and shared measurement systems between partnering groups, working toward mutually reinforcing activities, and cultivating continuous communication and strong backbone organizations in order to realize high-impact city-wide approaches that achieve powerful outcomes.
Over the last two decades, much has been learned about the collective processes cities undertake to reduce poverty. The End of Poverty will feature impactful approaches that cities are applying to develop community plans, promising practices they are developing to manage large-scale collaborations, and strategies they are implementing to influence large-scale policy shifts and meaningful change for people living on low incomes.
The CRP network of members is engaged in all aspects of poverty reduction – from delivering programs, projects and services, to shifting community awareness and building community will, to realizing large scale systems and policy change. Our members raise collaborative funds, bridge communication between sectors, and build momentum for ending poverty in their communities, across Canada and beyond.