When Mayor Don Iveson formed the Mayor’s Task Force to Eliminate Poverty a few years ago, I had two reactions. First, I knew the Mayor would be admonished for thinking poverty could be eliminated (which he was). Second, I wanted to get a seat at that table (and I was blessed to receive an invitation to join).
If you believe poverty and its myriad negative impacts on people and their families and communities will always be with us, I get it. I imagine there was a time when society could not imagine eradicating smallpox from the planet or that cures for malaria, polio, tetanus, and typhoid fever would come to fruition. Thankfully there were people and organizations who believed otherwise.
Critics of the word, “eliminate” in the Task Force’s name suggested reducing poverty by some achievable number (like 10 percent) made more sense. A few said, it was a waste of time to even form the task force. Imagine if those who developed cures for the aforementioned diseases would have been satisfied to cure only 10% of those suffering from such afflictions.
Poverty is a societal disease. It harms people’s health and debilitates hope. It separates us from one another. It betrays the human rights of everyone. It has to go.
While the call for a local community development corporation has roots going back 30 or 40 years ago, it never got its legs until it emerged as a game-changer strategy in 2016 of the Mayor’s Task Force that was unanimously endorsed by its members. You can read about the journey elsewhere on this site, but the quick story is that today, in early January 2018, the ECDC officially begins its journey and I am pumped to be its first executive director.
I don’t imagine it will be easy. Overcoming the complexity of poverty’s hold on us does seem to be an impossible aspiration. After all “easy” may be a red button one can push to order office supplies, but we don’t have an easy-button for poverty elimination; if there was one, we would have pushed it long ago.
What we do have is a growing movement across communities and across all sectors to move beyond band-aiding social problems and doing what it will take to improve lives and conditions that cause and perpetuate poverty.
You can see our mission and vision in the sidebar. The ECDC exists to collaborate with residents in those neighbourhoods who not only face daily the socio-economic problems of low income, inadequate housing, and an general lack of basic services, but also seem to be forgotten communities or worse.
Working with residents, their leaders, as well as other community leaders, change-makers and advocates, the ECDC is committed to authentic community engagement and community conversations, shared visioning, and getting things done that contribute to overcoming poverty.
I believe that’s possible. What about you?