Blog Post #14:  Tamarack Institute piece looks at our collective impact approach to poverty reduction

On the Path Out of Poverty 

Case study charts the Saint John experience

It’s been more than 15 years since Saint John started tackling poverty in a new way. A recent case study published by the Tamarack Institute, a national hub for community building, charts Saint John’s experience, key players, developments and learnings along the way.


The study reminds us of how far our community has come. It also demonstrates that we’re on the right path, and, crucially, reminds us we’re not alone when it comes to poverty reduction.


While every city is unique, there are commonalities to communities that are successful in reducing poverty. Cities Reducing Poverty, Tamarack’s collective impact movement aimed at reducing poverty for a million Canadians, has identified four key phases and shared milestones. Saint John has gone through all of them, from early development to establishing a common agenda, implementing the plan and sustainability.


The study, co-authored by Monica Chaperlin, coordinator of the Business Community Anti-Poverty Initiative; Living SJ’s Donna Gates, Ryan Pyrke and Cathy Wright: and Natasha Pei of CRP,  charts a gradual move in Saint John from well-intentioned disjointed efforts to the evolution, over nearly 20 years, of a collaborative and rigorous approach.


It’s the transition from “better poor” to fewer poor David Brooks wrote about in an editorial in the New York Times in April, contrasting Canada’s coordinated – and successful – approach (between 2015 and 2017 Canada lifted 825,000 people out of poverty) to America’s scattershot efforts.


“About 15 years ago, a disparate group of Canadians realized that a problem as complex as poverty can be addressed only through a multisector comprehensive approach,” Brooks writes.
“They realized that poverty was not going to be reduced by some innovation — some cool, new program nobody thought of before. It was going to be addressed through better systems that were mutually supporting and able to enact change on a population level.”


Brooks lauds this model, of coordinated, community-wide efforts based on best-practice methodologies, as the way to move people out of poverty, rather than simply easing its pains.  


In Saint John, we have the organization – Living SJ, a network of more than 150 partners in business, government, non-profits and neighbourhoods – and the money, including through the Social Innovation Fund, a five-year, $10 million provincial investment in new ways of tackling the social and economic scourge of entrenched poverty.


Progress can feel slow. Change incremental. We still have too many children living in poverty. But when we look at the big picture, we see not just how far we have to go, but how far we’ve come. We share our story not just for our own sake, but to show other communities how the work can unfold, and how it can, ultimately, succeed.

“A disparate group of Canadians realized that a problem as complex as poverty can be addressed only through a multisector comprehensive approach.” 

- David Brooks, New York Times