Partnerships for poverty reduction in Saint John, NB

Submitted by Natasha Pei on December 15, 2014 - 11:19am

Last week the CFICE Poverty Reduction Hub partners took our face-to-face meeting to Saint John, NB to support Vibrant Communities Saint John in the launch of their social renewal strategy, Living Saint John.  The annual meeting of partners brought together nine of us from Hamilton, Waterloo, Ottawa, Windsor, Saskatchewan, and Saint John. 

On my first trip to Canada’s East Coast, the beauty of the island struck me from thousands of feet in the air, and continued with the welcoming manner of everyone in the city.  Barry Galloway hosted our group in the local Community Health Centre, and supplied us with veggie soups, sandwiches, and baked goods from a local start-up kitchen. 

Our two-day discussion allowed us to learn about Saint John’s collaborative partnership, evaluate our work, revise our models of community-campus engagement, and engage in mentoring between the ongoing and the new project partners.

Besides learning about Saint John’s reversing falls, my top three learning points this week revolved around relationships, celebrations, and deeper collaboration. 

On relationships, we found them to be a common theme on several levels.  Good relationships are important to getting the work done at the university and in the community; between partners, within hubs, between hubs, and across organizations.  Personal characteristics can make or break a partnership or project, and the influence that our partners have are key to us pushing our agenda forward. 

By sharing our narratives, we identified a gap between the importance academic members place on relationships with others, and how community partners strategically use relationships to get work done.  How big of a challenge is this disconnect for the work of community-campus engagement projects?

On celebrations, we discussed the need to appreciate the work we have accomplished and recognize the work of our partners.  In the face of seemingly never-ending work we do off the side of the desk, we need to pause to celebrate how far we’ve already come and thank those who have helped us.  Celebrating can positively motivate us to reach forwards and accomplish more, rather than being pushed from behind by piles of work.  To kick off the conference, we presented Liz Weaver with a certificate of appreciation for her time with CFICE and wished her the best in her new role at Tamarack!

My last point, on deeper collaborations, highlights great things collective impact can do.  One of our Business PhD research assistants completed a living wage study (attached) with employees and employers using common, standardized tools to measure impacts of a living wage in terms that employers are concerned with (ex. intended turnover).  While none of us had heard of these scales before, they are widely used and recognized in the private sector.  This living wage project’s credentials and arguments are stronger because we mobilized our existing resources at the university.  This is just one example, but suggests to me there are lots of other opportunities to be discovered if we collaborate more, and trust our partners to do what they do best.


Interested in community-campus partnershps?  See the blog on VC's 2014 Gathering of Cities for a project overview of the Poverty Reduction Hub's research.

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