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September 20, 2012

Diary of an Advocacy Associate: The 25 in 5 Network is back in Action


About 5 years ago, a group of anti-poverty advocates got together and asked the Ontario government to create a poverty reduction strategy.  The group called themselves the 25-in-5 network and asked that any poverty reduction strategy the government put forward aim to reduce Ontario’s poverty rate by 25% over five years. 


Well guess what, the group actually had quite a bit of success!!

In 2008, following a lot of activity from the 25-in-5 network and other partners, Ontario’s government implemented the province’s first poverty reduction strategy.   Though the strategy solely targeted child poverty, it was a step in the right direction.  As we've noted in previous posts, child poverty decreased by more than 6% from 2008 to 2010.  This is nowhere near the 25% target, but it is certainly something.  If nothing else, it shows that action against poverty can have results, especially if governments stick to their commitments and stay on target. 

Not only did the government offer a strategy, but the Poverty Reduction Act was unanimously voted into law in 2009.  The Act stipulates that Ontario strive to be a leading jurisdiction in poverty reduction and that Ontario renew its poverty strategy at least every 5 years.

As a side note: the current five year plan is quickly coming to an end (it officially expires Dec. 2013).

You must be wondering why I am telling you all of this – well, two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to meet the good people of 25-in-5 and (if all goes according to plan) become a part of the network. 

I’ve been trying to find a way to make a meeting in a basement at  Family Service Toronto sound exciting, but it’s not happening.  Never fear: I’m going to tell you about it anyway.

Many of the people in the network have known each other for years and have worked together on many different events, activities and issues that relate to poverty, inequality and marginalization. 

After sitting around the table for about an hour, I looked around and finally took notice of the amazing thing that was happening.   People from all sorts of different groups - from think tanks to religious organizations, from not-for-profit associations to direct service agencies - we were all sitting at a table together, acknowledging the many places where we have common ground and where we can work together towards a better Ontario for everyone.

See how nice collaboration can be?  Here I am
collaborating with Simon on how to organize
our research efforts.
It was actually a bit remarkable.

One thing that I learned from participating in this group even for a short time is that collaboration, though it might move slowly, results in higher quality products.   Just take a look at some of the documents the network has created in the past:  they created a blueprint for economic stimulus and poverty reduction in Ontario – and just look at the number of people who supported the work (check out page 2, the list is LONG!) can you imagine getting that many people in your community to agree on every aspect of a 25 page document?

The network has also created progress reports (1, 2 and 3) to outline the success and shortcomings of the government’s efforts in poverty reduction, based on the government’s own strategy, to keep our political representatives accountable for the promises made and to outline the work that still needs to be done.  

Over the coming months, I will be privileged to work with this group to prepare the 4th Poverty Reduction Strategy Progress Report - I'm really looking forward to it. I've never attempted to find common ground in a group this large before, and I expect that it might be a bit frustrating at times (mostly because my ability to be patient has been slow to develop, not because the groups are difficult to work with), but in the process I'm going to learn more about poverty, I'm going to learn about research, I'm going to learn about writing and communication and, most importantly, I'm going to learn about collaboration and how to do it well........

1 comment:

  1. Hi Kaylie,

    Great post. Last night I participated in a meeting of Kairos Grand River at First United Church in Waterloo, ON. We viewed the documentary Poor No More. (www.poornomore.ca) During the discussion, I asked if anyone knew of provinces that had a poverty reduction law. No one knew Ontario actually has a law that requires the government to work to reduce (if not eradicate) poverty. Here is a link to Ontario's Poverty Reduction Act -- http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/source/statutes/english/2009/elaws_src_s09010_e.htm

    It is short and pretty much in plain English. It is worth reading.

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