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Engaging Lived Experience in Toronto's Municipal Strategy

Posted on July 3, 2019
By Alison Homer

TorontoResidents of Toronto with lived experience of poverty were active participants in the development of the City’s poverty reduction strategy, TO Prosperity, particularly through the Lived Experience Advisory Group (LEAG).

Launched in 2017, the LEAG is one of The City of Toronto’s poverty reduction strategy reinforcing accountability structures. Members apply personal lived/living experience with poverty to inform the development, implementation, and monitoring of TO Prosperity. The group provides an avenue for individuals with lived/living experience to participate in city processes. This helps balance the voices of lived/living experience with staff accountability.

The LEAG was formed based on an equity-based application and selection process. Its membership is inclusive of residents from various equity-seeking groups and represents a vast range of Toronto’s perspectives and identities. Members apply a number of principles that have strong connections to community development to ensure that engagement processes related to the strategy are inclusive and meaningful.

The LEAG’s mandate focuses on advocacy, education and awareness, and monitoring and evaluation. Members participate in a wide variety of City policy, program, and service-development processes. They act as a conduit between City staff and communities, and organize and participate in presentations and conversations with City divisions, the private sector, community agencies, and residents. They also contribute insights into a range of programs and issues, including Ontario Works, unemployment, systemic discrimination and the impacts of violence.

LEAG members participate in policy and program development processes with City divisions in charge of implementing the Strategy, sometimes through one-off consultations, and other times through or longer term, co-led work. For example, members supported the roll out of a new service model for Ontario Works by facilitating workshops and explaining to frontline staff the positive impact the new model could have on the lives of social assistance clients. 

The LEAG meets monthly as a group to deeply learn about TO Prosperity initiatives, build individual and group capacity to lead and support these initiatives, and participate in consultation and facilitation opportunities with Toronto’s Poverty Reduction Strategy Office (PRSO) and other City divisions. The group also engages in monthly meetings with the PRSO that offer opportunities for members to build capacity, gain understanding of municipal policy and budget processes, and dive into specific issues.

The LEAG’s coming together represents the culmination of years of input from community members who demanded better access routes for people with lived/living experience to participate in City processes. The group’s success in pushing public participation to a more collaborative and empowering place stems from a strong commitment to an equitable and inclusive process by all parties.

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Topics:
Alison Homer, Cities Reducing Poverty, Poverty Reduction Strategy, Lived Experience


Alison Homer

By Alison Homer

Alison works with Tamarack’s Cities Reducing Poverty as Manager of Learning and Western Cities. She has been involved with Vibrant Communities since 2012 through her previous role as Director of Vibrant Abbotsford.

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