The complexities of poverty run deep, so how can it be addressed?

In Central Alberta, the Central Alberta Poverty Reduction Alliance (CAPRA) collaboratively finds local solutions to make a real difference in poverty. Formed in 2010, CAPRA uses a multi-faceted approach that embraces community engagement and develops strategic partnerships to build capacity in the community.

With the support of the CAPRA, the Alberta Health Services (AHS) Health Promotion Facilitator partnered with Red Deer College (RDC) and the City of Red Deer. Through these relationships, a project emerged titled “Poverty Reduction Needs: A comparison of experiences with poverty between service providers and those with lived experience in Red Deer.” An RDC student, supported by the Head of Psychology at RDC, worked with this project along with the students in her cohort.

The Plan

Utilizing post-secondary students to address local issues as part of their education experience benefits the community while providing a real-life learning lab for students. Involving students has the potential to create passion and fuel this generation to lead system changes, as exemplified through this quote “As a student, I hope to continue to work with those who are less fortunate and to be an advocate for them. Furthermore, as a community member, I will begin to devote more of my time volunteering at organizations such as the Mustard Seed to help those who are struggling every way that I can.” 

The key to establishing this project was an ongoing partnership with a college instructor who has an interest in community learning for students.  Patience, persistence and waiting for the right student to support this project was important.  Once onboard there was significant front end work to define and organize the project.

In terms of the context of the project, there were a series of focus groups and one-on-one interviews to listen to the challenges and perspectives of individuals experiencing poverty.  To gain alternate perspectives there were separate service provider focus groups to gain insight and perspectives on the challenges. The student diligently worked on theming the data from these interviews and focus groups.  This information will provide the foundation for a final paper as well as a presentation to the University of Calgary and to CAPRA.

The Outcomes

Early connections between academia, communities, and student interest allowed this project to happen.  As a result of this:

  • Students were given opportunity and heard the challenges of poverty from those who have lived it;
  • Service providers were brought together to identify challenges and establish a common understanding;
  • Data and information has been generated with the intention of informing CAPRA and future poverty reduction strategies; and
  • Those experiencing poverty and providing services for it have been given a voice.

Relationship building and communication about possible shared interests is key in health promotion. With patience, this project came to fruition and demonstrates the ongoing possibilities of working with community partners and post-secondary institutions. 

Learn more here.

 

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