A chronic deprivation of power and resources occurs when a person is phoneless and disconnected from society. The current system requires you to phone, fax, email or google a website for advancement of any kind. Without a phone, access to employment, training, health care and housing is denied.
The City of Prince George has found a solution to the disconnection problem that has been depriving people for so long. They have launched a program called the Community Voice Mail. This program allows people to regain their power to make positive changes in their lives by connecting to services that have a shared value in reducing poverty.
The Community Voice Mail program provides free voice mail phone numbers to people without a phone. Removing the stigma, participants personalize their voice mail by using their own voice to tell service providers to “leave a message”. 25 community service providers are all connected to this program, by distributing the free voice mail numbers, ensuring that they will never lose contact with their clients.
The program has an additional feature, pulling the community together even closer together, which is the broadcast message sent out every week to inform people that are cut off from society, a list of workshops, training events, employment fairs, free haircuts, free holiday dinners and anything else that the city has to offer to address challenges. The clients and front line workers receive this broadcast and pass on the information to others. The Community Voice Mail program is a pivotal example of community engagement, born out of a need for social innovation.
The service successfully met people’s needs allowing them to move on to a better life. As people exit the program, new clients enroll, creating a new cycle, this time with success embedded into the system. Re- organization is at work here.
The Community Voice Mail has been so successful in Vancouver BC, Prince George BC and Calgary, Alberta, that there are plans to launch the program in Winnipeg MB and Terrace BC. The opportunity remains wide open for scaling up. Let us dive in further and connect the country of Canada and witness the incredible success as communities pull together.
- Learn more about the Community Voice Mail Program here
- For more on connecting community, join Tamarack for Community Engagement: The Next Generation – March 7-9, 2017 in Vancouver BC
- Learn about the Aboriginal Housing Society of Prince George (AHSPG), the host agency for the Community Voice Mail Program
- Read this media article and watch a video about the Community Voice Mail Program
- Find more resources to reduce poverty at vibrantcommunities.ca