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Shifting the System for Collective Impact

Posted on May 22, 2019
By Elle Richards

Winnipeg-5In April, we hosted a webinar with Erika Wiebe and Pam Sveinson of the Winnipeg Poverty Reduction Council (WPRC) to share their experience of applying a systems-change model to collective impact work; specifically, in embedding it within their Indigenous Youth Employment (TRC92) action plan and engaging in employer consortiums.

Community consultations in Winnipeg revealed not a lack of desire or will to be part of the solution in increasing Indigenous youth employment opportunities, but a lack of ‘know how’ to effectively do so, particularly within the private sector. WPRC’s work has helped to bridge the gap through leveraging champions in the business community and providing connections for engagement with organizations and participants in community-based job training programs, approaching it as a relationship-based learning journey.

Working together to address Call to Action #92, the business consortium has a goal of ‘a journey toward truth and reconciliation, incorporating business-to-business learning.’ The action plan incorporates three strategies: raise awareness (about the history, the legacy and issues facing Indigenous youth), promote and support workplace education, and create new conditions for employment; the aim is to provide positive work experience within an informed, inclusive environment.

Though a number of frameworks can be useful to apply to the work, the presenters described how the Six Conditions of Systems Change resonates and that although all six conditions are important, truly transformative change can only happen when we move beyond focus on structural aspects – the policies, program and resource flows - to consider power dynamics, relationships and mental models. It is these latter components that are most powerful at ‘shifting the conditions holding a problem in place.’

Key learnings emerging from WPRC’s work:

  • Changing mental models is possible and can be transformative; challenging underlying assumptions means stakeholders understanding how their own way of thinking and acting may need to change.
  • Relationships set the stage; this includes building meaningful and respectful relationships amongst all actors.
  • Addressing power dynamics requires being thoughtful in processes, helping to build relationships, understanding, and in opening up space for growth and change.
  • The framework allows for identifying gaps in policies, programs and resource flows and conditions for success; this includes inserting an equity lens, ensuring equitable access to opportunities and removal of barriers to participation.

The work in Winnipeg has shown that making the effort to adapt this model can be both worthwhile and impactful when applied to poverty reduction initiatives. An approach that casts a wider lens on systems change can better enable inclusive collective impact.

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Poverty Reduction, Cities Reducing Poverty, Elle Richards

Elle Richards

By Elle Richards

Elle has recently joined the Vibrant Communities team as Manager of Cities, Cities Reducing Poverty. Her experience spans corporate, academic, health and community environments, and working on national, regional and local programs of work, both strategically and operationally. In recent years, Elle has focused her work around issues of food security, poverty and inequalities in health.

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