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The Learning Agenda

Cities* Reducing Poverty: When Mayors Lead is a national gathering of all sectors and individuals interested in poverty reduction


  • Go deep with Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson as he shares his city’s End Poverty Edmonton plan to eliminate poverty in a generation, which includes a human rights emphasis, reflects his personal commitment to end racism and discrimination, and his leadership around addressing Aboriginal health and well-being.

  • Experience the work of the first Aboriginal Mayor in Winnipeg, Brian Bowman, to reduce poverty in his community through his involvement with the Winnipeg BOLD Initiative.

  • Learn about what Walter Sendzik, Mayor, City of St. Catharines, is doing in his community to address poverty, improve public transit, and reform local governance.

  • Be inspired by Cindy Blackstock who successfully led a nine year campaign to overturn the Federal Government’s discrimination against First Nation children by underfunding the on-reserve agencies charged with ensuring their safety.

  • Learn about what successes cities and regions are having in reducing poverty through strategies related to housing, transportation, living wage, and innovative social enterprise ventures.

  • Attend workshops delivered by civic, Aboriginal, and community leaders on:

    o Rights-Based Poverty Reduction,
    o Shared Measurement Approaches to Reducing Poverty,
    o Financial Empowerment and Living Wage.
    o Collective Impact from a First Nations, Metis, Inuit Worldview,
    o Poverty reduction through the lens of those with lived experience,
    o Reducing poverty in rural communities,
    o Fundraising for poverty reduction, and
    o Many more…

  • Visit sites in Edmonton focused on social innovation, affordable housing, neighbourhood revitalization, decriminalization of poverty, early childhood programming, and the integration of artists’ public murals and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, plus more.

  • Access the full 3-day schedule-at-a-glance here  (Please note: this draft agenda is subject to change).

* We use the word cities mainly to differentiate local poverty reduction efforts from provincial and federal initiatives and strategies. Please note that the event will feature communities of all sizes and we have intentionally invited smaller and rural municipalities to attend in addition to big cities.


Our Keynote Speakers



Our Learning Agenda

Our gathering will convene at 8:30am MT each day and will finish by 1:00 pm MT the last day on April 7th. Plenary sessions will feature mayors from cities large and small, indigenous leaders, inspiring provincial ministers, and a special address by Senator Art Eggleton.

See the full three-day agenda here.

Please note, this agenda is subject to change

Key Ideas** Featured at this Gathering:

  • Learn about the unique role Mayors can play in advancing your community's poverty reduction strategy

  • Increase your understanding of Aboriginal poverty reduction strategies for cities big and small

  • Meet practitioners and Mayors from across Canada who are also working on poverty reduction in their local regions (including dedicated networking sessions and learning labs)

  • Learn from voices of lived experience about how we can meaningfully engage everyone at the roundtable

  • Increase your funding opportunities: learn how to attract funding for your roundtable and sustain your poverty reduction efforts

** More ideas are forth coming and may replace some of the ideas we are currently working on.




Getting to Outcomes: What we can Accomplish

We are all on separate journeys in our goal to reduce poverty in our local communities. For many reasons, we've all had different experiences and understand the issues and solutions through our own unique lens. However, we are stronger together than we are alone. We understand that to reduce poverty, we must:

  • Work collectively and do so in really smart ways

  • Identify each of the roles we have to play with the strengths we bring to the table

  • Raise awareness about the profile of poverty among our community residents and policymakers who are not fully conscious of the scope of the issue at hand

  • Explore where we are having effective conversations and movements in poverty reduction. We will learn from each other and co-generate knowledge together

  • Take the next collective step in reducing poverty for 1 million Canadians

A Special Invitation

We'd like to invite all participants of the Cities Reducing Poverty: When Mayors Lead gathering to join us for an exclusive event at Edmonton's City Hall on Wednesday, April 6th from 5:30 - 7:00 p.m. where we will be joined by our host, Mayor Don Iveson as he delivers a special keynote speech. Stay tuned for more exciting details!


Photo credit: Edmonton Mid-Autumn Lantern Festive by IQRemix under Creative Commons license.

What do we need to do between now and the Gathering?


We need to build the critical mass. We encourage you to use this event as a catalyst; to start conversations with local leaders in your community about getting involved in poverty reduction. Several resources are available to help you start the conversation with your city councillors, mayor, aboriginal leaders, business community representatives, and others you wish to invite into the conversation.




We are thrilled to be offering participants a vibrant variety of poverty reduction workshop topics to choose from. Two workshop streams will be offered on April 5th and another on 6th. As you are preparing to join us in Edmonton, please take a look at the learning opportunities available below.

Please note that these workshops are subject to change and new workshops will continue to be added to this list.



Up Close and Personal with Dr. Cindy Blackstock

Workshop Leader: Dr. Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director, First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada

Dr. Blackstock is a Canadian-born Gitxsan activist for child welfare and Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada. She played a major role in the January 2016 Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling that acknowledged the federal government’s longstanding underfunding of child and family services on First Nations reserves as a form of racial discrimination that must be stopped. This is your opportunity to hear the comments that Dr. Cindy Blackstock could not fit into her keynote address, to ask her questions, and engage in a deeper dialogue about her work with aboriginal communities.


Collaborative Governance for Poverty Reduction: The Whitehorse Story

Workshop Leaders: Mayor Dan Curtis, City of Whitehorse; and Chief Doris Bill, Kwanlin Dun First Nation

Relationship building, trust, and collaboration are key to creating successful community change initiatives, but this work can often be challenging. In this workshop, City of Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis and Chief Doris Bill of Kwanlin Dun First Nation will share how they have worked together to improve their inter-governmental relationship, based on a shared vision for a healthy and vibrant Whitehorse.


Enough for All: The Development of the Calgary Poverty Reduction Strategy

Workshop Leader: Derek Cook, Director, Canadian Poverty Institute, Ambrose University 

In 2011, The City of Calgary, in partnership with the United Way of Calgary and Area, launched the Calgary Poverty Reduction Initiative, a multi-sectoral task force mandated to develop a strategy to meaningfully reduce poverty in Calgary. With a broad-based stewardship group and a network of over 200 stakeholders, the initiative adopted a collective impact approach to produce the report Enough for All which was unanimously endorsed by City Council and the United Way in June 2013. This workshop will provide a critical overview of the process that was undertaken to develop that strategy and participants in this workshop will gain an understanding of the practical aspects of building a broad-based poverty reduction coalition leading to collective action for long-term impact.



Windigenous – Aboriginal Innovation in Winnipeg, Manitoba

Workshop Leader: Damon Johnston, President, Aboriginal Council of Winnipeg Inc.

This workshop will explore issues, challenges, and community development solutions to poverty for urban indigenous people living in Winnipeg. Our social and economic context is shifting, and urban centres are learning to restructure to incorporate these changes. Join this discussion to learn from the experience of the Aboriginal Council for Winnipeg and the newly formed Winnipeg Indigenous Executive Circle, on their approach to building stronger relationships amongst the community, with the municipality and the province, and how the Collective Impact model is informing the work.



Aakim miis ma ta piiks (Be Kind to People)

Workshop Leaders: Amanda Ens, Aboriginal Strategist; and Roy Bear Chief, Aboriginal Strategist, Vibrant Communities Calgary 

This workshop is particularly applicable for individuals who are or are working with indigenous people on poverty reduction, and are interested in learning about best practices around programming or engagement strategies for indigenous populations. Special attention will be paid to the synergies between the First Nations, Metis, and Inuit worldviews and the collective impact approach to community change.



Cities Reducing Poverty: An In-Depth Look at the Guide 'TEN'

Workshop Leaders: Brock Carlton, CEO, Federation of Canadian Municipalities; and Paul Born, President, Tamarack Institute 

Based on the new publication, “TEN”, written by Paul Born and Brock Carlton, this workshop will take a closer look at how cities are shaping local poverty reduction efforts. Participants will hear about success stories from cities large and small across Canada, learn about a high impact assessment to measure your poverty efforts, and gain information about national and regional resources that can help groups with their poverty reduction strategies.  



Evaluating Community-Wide Poverty Reduction Efforts

Workshop Leader: Mark Cabaj, President, Here to There Consulting 

Join Mark Cabaj to discuss how to effectively evaluate community-wide poverty reduction efforts and their impacts on communities. Mark was the first Executive Director of Vibrant Communities initiative (2002-2001) and was instrumental in leading the evaluation of its first phase. He will explore some simple rules for evaluating complex community change efforts as well as highlight several key techniques and methods.



Financial Empowerment for Poverty Reduction

Workshop Leaders: Adam Fair, Prosper Canada; Jeff Loomis, Momentum; and Joanne Currie, United Way of the Alberta Capital Region

Learn more about the ‘five pillars’ of financial empowerment and innovative, proven solutions that are helping people in poverty across North America to boost their incomes, stabilize financially, and build their wealth. Explore how collective impact approaches are being used to mobilize municipal governments, funders, private sector, community agencies and other stakeholders to improve the financial health and reduce poverty in Canadian.



Working to Live or Living to Work: How the Living Wage Can Create More Vibrant Communities

Workshop Leaders: Tom Cooper, Director, Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction; and Adam Vasey, Director, Pathway to Potential

This workshop will explore the Living Wage as a poverty reduction strategy. Participants will learn about the origins of the living wage, how to calculate a living wage, discuss what the current uptake of the living wage looks like across Canada, and explore how municipal staff and elected officials can get involved in supporting decent work policies for Cities.


Social Enterprise Solutions to Urban Indigenous Poverty

Workshop Leaders: Shaun Loney, BUILD Inc., Michael Toye, CCEDNet, and  Nicole McDonald, The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation

This workshop will feature a case study about Building Urban Industries for Local Development (BUILD), a social enterprise in Winnipeg created by Ashoka Fellow Shaun Loney that provides trades-based training for people with limited formal labour market experience. BUILD highlights the fact that business does not always have to be driven only by profit, but success can be profound when driven by values.



TO Prosperity: The Toronto Poverty Reduction Strategy

Workshop Leaders: Deputy Mayor Pam McConnell; City of Toronto, Denise Andrea Campbell, City of Toronto; John Stapleton, Open Policy; Nauman Khan, United Way of Toronto and York, and Effie Vlachoyannacos, Maytree

TO Prosperity: The Toronto Poverty Reduction Strategy: The newly launched Toronto poverty reduction strategy sets out a bold vision, recommendations and actions prioritized by Toronto residents with lived experience of poverty during a 3-phase engagement process. Come learn about the strategy and the co-creation process from Deputy Mayor Pam McConnell, City of Toronto Policy Director Denise Andrea Campbell and members of the Toronto Poverty Reduction Advisory Committee.



Ending Poverty the “Rights” Way: A Human Rights Approach for Local Communities

Workshop Leaders: Elizabeth McIsaac, Maytree and Effie Vlachoyannacos, Maytree

Access to shelter, healthcare, food, income and political decision-making are some of our basic human rights — rights often denied to people living in poverty. However, much of the work being done today to reduce poverty focuses on scarcity and needs alone and rarely addresses people’s rights. Participants of this workshop will learn about what human rights are, what the commitments of federal, provincial and municipal governments are, and how to embed principles of human rights into strategies on poverty reduction.



Meaningfully Including the Voices of Lived Experience at the Decision-Making Table

Workshop Leader: Celeste Licorish, Strategic Advisor, Hamilton Community Foundation

This workshop will explore how we can more deeply and meaningfully engage people with lived experience at policy decision-making tables, to have real collaborative impact for poverty reduction. Presented through story-telling, a retrospective look at the success of Hamilton’s Speak Now! Speakers bureau, and an open dialogue, participants will unpack and consider solutions to the challenges we are facing in engaging and sustaining participation of citizens across Canada.



Collective Impact for Poverty Reduction

Workshop Leader: Paul Born, Tamarack

Paul is the founder of Vibrant Communities and has help dozens of cities launch their poverty reduction initiatives. This practical, hands on workshop will help early stage collective impact practitioners (and those wanting to assess their start up) to view the start-up phase through the eyes of a board chair. What you are going to do, the outcomes you will achieve, the risks you are taking and what exactly you will accomplish in your first year are all topics that will be explored. Shared by someone who has done this work in poverty reduction, this workshop takes the mystery out of collective impact and brings the work into clear focus.



Poverty Reduction from the Funders Perspective

Workshop Leaders: Mark Holmgren, Vibrant Communities Canada; Elizabeth McIsaac, Maytree; Anne Smith, United Way; and Andrea Cohen Barrack, Ontario Trillium Foundation

This advanced conversation will focus the funders role in poverty reduction. Panel members will share stories of how they have invested in efforts to reduce poverty, whether through supporting direct services, investing in collaborations around learning and policy development or addressing homelessness. The funders will share lessons learned and their perspectives on what it will take to foster innovations that impact and reduce poverty in Canada.



Aligning Efforts to End Generational Poverty

Workshop Leader: Cathy Wright, Living SJ

In Saint John, child poverty remains stubbornly high and generational poverty is concentrated in five neighbourhoods. Fifteen months into our renewed poverty reduction strategy using a collective impact approach, Living SJ is taking stock of its efforts and impact. This workshop will discuss how the collective impact approach is fundamentally challenging us to achieve different results, how we are leveraging collective leadership to align our efforts and what is needed to achieve lasting solutions.



Upside Down Thinking: Disrupting the Status Quo

Workshop Leader: Mark Holmgren, Vibrant Communities Canada

Explore Upside Down Thinking – a method that utilizes unconventional propositions to allow people to think and problem solve creatively and collectively. This way of thinking challenges habitual thinking, sacred cows, cognitive biases, decision-making protocols and the core elements of an organization’s or community's work, motivating us to redefine how we currently think and how we see our own identities in our work. This session will help participants explore complex issues and help move groups toward transformational change around poverty reduction.



Community Bridge: Lessons from a Homelessness Prevention Prototype

Workshop Leader: Gary St. Amand, Bissell Centre

Participants will be taken on a journey through the development and process learnings from a novel and innovative prototype that has demonstrated a significant SROI using a person-centred approach. From the very beginning, the development of this concept by Mark Holmgren (former CEO of Bissell Centre), took a build, learn, evolve approach that sought to let the evidence form the criteria and the practice of the program. The result - some exciting lessons about preventing homelessness at a low cost compared to homelessness or housing homeless individuals, and shifting Bissell Centre’s service design and development thinking.



Youth Action Project on Poverty in Edmonton: Reconciling with Poverty

Workshop Leaders: Renée Vaugeois, John Humphrey Centre for Peace and Human Rights and Solon Birch Hiro, Filmmaker, Photographer and Human Rights Renegade

In 2015, the Youth Action Project (YAP)on Poverty, an initiative of the John Humphrey Centre for Peace and Human Rights, presented four hard hitting recommendations to the Mayor of Edmonton's Task Force on Poverty. Over the next year, rather than sit and wait for the municipal government to take action, YAP mobilized to put its recommendations into action. Learn about the evolution of the Youth Action Project as a movement of young people committed to building a human rights city and how they are working to address poverty in their community and beyond.



Dealing with Disorder: The Vulnerable Persons Approach

Workshop Leaders: David Veitch, Edmonton Police Service

In order to respond to the growing demands for service and increasing crime rates, the Edmonton Police Service introduced the Violence Reduction Strategy in 2011, which addresses the places, precipitating factors, and emphasizes work with people at greatest risk of crime and victimization. A number of initiatives have followed, including an innovative vulnerable persons approach that addresses Heavy Users of Services (HUoS). A collaboration with community and provincial services providers, HUoS identifies those people that have the highest interaction with emergency service providers, in addition to frequently accessing services and programs. Participants will be provided with a theoretical foundation to the model, follow the development and implementation of the vulnerable persons risk matrix, explore how to create an integrated case development table for case plan development.