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Lessons from PEI's Poverty Reduction Plan

Posted on April 11, 2019
By Natasha Pei
lighthouses-3656858_1920-1The Government of Prince Edward Island launched a poverty reduction action plan for all Islanders last November. The action plan makes important commitments such as:
  • Developing a Poverty Reduction Act and identifying responsible parties
  • Monitoring key indicators such as the number of Islanders experiencing poverty and attachment to employment to measure progress
  • Convening a poverty reduction council comprised of community and government leaders
  • Large increases to social assistance rates
  • A new 211 help line for individuals and practitioners to find available services
  • And more

Read the action plan here.

Yet, a strategy or plan is only as successful as the individuals, families, organizations and communities that stand behind the recommendations and implement the actions.

The process for developing PEI’s poverty reduction action plan was lengthy, informative, and brought everyone along on the way. While it took less than a year to create the action plan, it took more dedicated time than anticipated, but they made an investment in doing things right rather than doing things quickly. This process of collaborating with the community to establish goals, identify what’s already working well, and find innovative solutions, is a key aspect of being able mobilize everyone to turn poverty reduction goals into reality.

Deborah Bradley, Director of Planning, Policy and Innovation for Government of PEI’s Family and Human Services, took some time to reflect with us on their group’s insights following the release of the strategy. Planners from other provinces/territories, cities and communities in Canada may benefit from the learning as you begin or renew your own work:

What we learned #1: It takes more time than you would think. The key critical investments of time for the PEI poverty reduction action plan were building relationships/partnerships and doing research. This included having a government champion – a Minister – advocate for the work and obtain a high degree of commitment and leadership from all levels of provincial government.

  • The relationship and partnership building required fostering relationships that did not already exist as well as maturing existing relationships. This included relationships between provincial departments; with the advisory council; and with other individuals, groups and organizations throughout the community.
  • The action plan itself, as well as the table’s practices, policies and processes are all based on evidence from across Canada and internationally. There was so much to learn about, they created a Reference Task Group, whose group members did background research on issues such as sustainable governance structures and evaluating poverty reduction activities. Establishing the Reference Task Group was a very effective and efficient practice that they will continue into the implementation phase.

Reflect: How important is your estimated timeline to you, your roundtable members, and to the community at large? 

How can you and your group prepare for the conversation with different stakeholders if developing the community actions takes an extra few months to a year to launch?

What we learned #2: The importance of flexibility and nimbleness. We must start the work knowing that plans are likely to change. There is lots of new information to learn along the way, so the process has to be flexible enough to adapt to this new knowledge. The trust that is built with partners is important for participants to remain engaged throughout the process as changes inevitably happen. Be honest from the beginning about the messiness, and keep decision-makers from all departments included or informed all along the way. 

Reflect: How open are you and your roundtable members to learning new information along the way and adapting your plans, processes, policies, programs and projects? Do you have a means (ex. evaluative framework) for receiving this information regularly? 

Have you included an equal amount of people from the business, government, non-profit and community sectors in visioning and identifying solutions?

What we learned #3: Poverty and poverty reduction has multiple layers of complexity

Reflect: Have you looked at what the statistics say about the profile of poverty in your community and heard from people who have lived or are living in poverty about what that looks like in real life?

What we learned #4: Leaders in the community will naturally emerge ready to take on the poverty reduction work.

Reflect: Do you have a variety of mechanisms for community members to share their feedback and innovative ideas that support people with varying capacity to contribute?

PEI’s multi-sectoral Poverty Reduction Council has now been established and is comprised of 13 members. 9 represent the business community, community-based organizations, and people with lived/living experience; as well as 4 Deputy Ministers representing the Education, Early Learning and Culture, Health and Wellness, Family and Human and Workforce and Advance Learning government departments.

Work has already begun on gathering information for the 211 system and social assistance rates increased earlier this year. Next, they are excited about legislating the Poverty Reduction Act, developing an evaluation framework, working with communities, and establishing a Minister Responsible for Poverty Reduction.

Take Your Learning Further:

Natasha Pei, Cities Reducing Poverty, Poverty Reduction Strategy

Natasha Pei

By Natasha Pei

Natasha Pei brings online content to life and engages our members in the Vibrant Communities learning centre for poverty reduction. Natasha's involvement with Tamarack began with the Communities First: Impacts of Community Engagement (CFICE) project, where she worked as a Research Assistant in the Poverty Reduction Hub, studying effective ways community-campus engagement can be undertaken to have real benefits for the community.

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