Many advocates believe it will take a community of change to end poverty in Alberta.
About 60 individuals came together to build that community of change as part of the Alberta Summit on Poverty and Prosperity at the Black Knight Inn last week.
In roundtable dialogues and small group discussions, they addressed the question: “Living in Alberta is pretty good for most of us. Maybe life in Alberta could be better for all of us?”
Participants from across Alberta in the education, health, economic development, municipalities, community organizations and justice communities joined the conversation.
Kim Pasula of the Alberta Community Economic Development Network played moderator in the two-day “unconference” where everyone was a participant and not simply a listener as seen in most traditional conferences. By bringing a diverse group of individuals together, he said, the organizers hoped to identify some future opportunities.
Pasula said it is not a situation that can be managed by one agency alone or one government. Rather, it needs to be a broad undertaking by the community as a whole. Provincial programs like Housing First and others that provide workplace training and jobs are just a few pieces of the puzzle.
“We want to raise the bar,” said Pasula. “It’s such a wealthy society . . . I think we can find a way to reduce the number of people that are living in poverty.”
Pasula said reconnecting with the people in our communities is one step in the right direction. Pasula said many people see poverty as part of an economic concern but it is also a matter of social exclusion. He said they need to look at ways to build the social capital and reconnecting to others.
Joe Ceci, a provincial poverty reduction co-ordinator for the Alberta Inter-City Forum on Social Policy, along with the Family and Community Support Services Association of Alberta, are pressing for the province to implement a provincial reduction strategy. Alberta is one of three provinces in Canada without a provincial strategy. He was in Red Deer last month to promote the creation of a strategy before city council.
This time Ceci and Dan Meades, a director with Vibrant Communities Calgary, hosted roundtable discussions during the unconference.
“Working together, hopefully we can create enough momentum on the call for a provincial strategy,” said Ceci. “We really want the province to be at the table with us.”
Meades added other provinces have realized in the long run it is significantly cheaper to drastically reduce poverty than it is to continue to perpetuate and cycle poverty.
“I think, sadly, Alberta considers itself a very fiscally conservative province but on this particular issue, they are not taking what would truly be a fiscally conservative route, which would be addressing poverty at its root cause and decrease the number of people who live in poverty,” said Meades.