Don’t for­get our marginal­ized neigh­bours

Toronto Star - - THE POLITICS PAGE - Tif­fany Gooch

When it comes to solv­ing our most com­plex so­ci­etal is­sues — from tack­ling the roots of vi­o­lence to pro­mot­ing greater so­ci­etal in­clu­sion for our most marginal­ized neigh­bours — char­i­ta­ble com­mu­nity in­sti­tu­tions are bea­cons of light.

Re­search from th­ese groups brings in­formed so­lu­tions to the ta­ble and front-line staff in­ter­act ev­ery day with Cana­di­ans who are liv­ing on the mar­gins. It is th­ese stead­fast or­ga­ni­za­tions that are able to in­form the good pub­lic pol­icy that pro­motes eco­nomic pros­per­ity in neigh­bour­hoods across the coun­try.

We re­quire earnest lead­er­ship and coali­tions that can pull to­gether the long-term plans needed to com­bat our so­ci­ety’s long-term is­sues.

At its best, gov­ern­ment can be a pow­er­ful part­ner along­side char­i­ta­ble in­sti­tu­tions, con­ven­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions and strate­giz­ing for the great­est pos­i­tive im­pacts. At its worst, gov­ern­ment can desta­bi­lize ef­forts and dis­tract from the build­ing of es­sen­tial so­cial in­fra­struc­ture.

The po­lit­i­cal pen­du­lum swings and gov­ern­ment pri­or­i­ties shift. Changes can and do cre­ate fund­ing gaps across sec­tors. But it’s im­por­tant that progress doesn’t stop and start be­cause an elec­tion is com­ing or an elec­tion just took place.

At a Cana­dian Club speech last month, Med­hat Mahdy, pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the YMCA of Greater Toronto, de­liv­ered a ral­ly­ing cry for in­ter­de­pen­dence and in­sight across sec­tors.

The YMCA has taken a sub­stan­tial lead­er­ship role in en­sur­ing chil­dren are prop­erly sup­ported, young adults are get­ting op­por­tu­ni­ties that can bring out their full po­ten­tial and dis­placed LGBTQ2S+ youth search­ing for tran­si­tional hous­ing sup­ports are lifted.

“Toronto is one of the best places in the world to live, but it doesn’t feel that way for ev­ery­one,” Mahdy said. And it’s that be­lief that guides him.

He has ded­i­cated more than 42 years of his life to de­liv­er­ing front-line ser­vices and map­ping un­der­ser­viced com­mu­ni­ties across the GTA. He is mind­ful of how our pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions can al­ter the tra­jec­tory of lives for the bet­ter, de­pend­ing on how at­ten­tion and re- sources are fo­cused.

We need more lead­ers who un­der­stand what it means to live on the mar­gins. They make de­ci­sions dif­fer­ently. They see through a lens that can un­der­stand the wrap­around sup­ports needed to not only lift chil­dren and fam­i­lies out of poverty, but also set them up for long last­ing eco­nomic sta­bil­ity and per­sonal well-be­ing.

As we aim to en­sure those liv­ing on the mar­gins are sup­ported and that we are grow­ing healthy com­mu­ni­ties, re­search plays a pow­er­ful role in course cor­rect­ing ser­vices and im­prov­ing wrap­around sup­ports in com­mu­nity cen­tres. Be­gin­ning in 2010, the YMCA of Greater Toronto part­nered on the Black Ex­pe­ri­ence Project along­side the United Way of Toronto and York Re­gion, and Ry­er­son’s Di­ver­sity In­sti­tute and made a com­mit­ment to en­sure ac­tion­able find­ings were in­cor­po­rated into their in­ter­nal plan­ning and pro­gram­ming.

The joint re­port re­leased this year by the YMCA of Greater Toronto and Welles­ley In­sti­tute Well-Be­ing Mon­i­tor is an ex­cel­lent dis­play of col­lab­o­ra­tive lead­er­ship in mea­sur­ing im­pact and ad­just­ing ser­vice de­liv­ery ac­cord­ingly.

Of the re­search, Dr. Kwame McKen­zie, CEO of the Welles­ley In­sti­tute, in­di­cated, “It sug­gests we must fos­ter bet­ter men­tal and phys­i­cal health, help peo­ple feel like they be­long, sup­port op­por­tu­ni­ties to im­prove lev­els of ed­u­ca­tion and em­ploy­ment, sup­port im­mi­grants, pro­vide ac­cess to more child care pro­grams and in­crease ac­cep­tance for racial­ized and LGBTQ2S+ com­mu­nity mem­bers.”

Th­ese types of re­search col­lab­o­ra­tions will lead the way in sus­tain­able healthy com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment ef­forts.

Long-term com­mu­nity plan­ning re­quires long-term fi­nan­cial com­mit­ment. Where tran­si­tion­ing gov­ern­ments leave gaps, those gaps must still be filled some­how.

This week, I im­plore you to ask your­self who may be fall­ing through the cracks. Iden­tify char­i­ties that are car­ry­ing out work aimed to com­bat poverty, racism, un­em­ploy­ment, poor health and hous­ing short­ages. Mit­i­ga­tion can be achieved through di­rec­tion of cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity pro­grams, per­sonal phi­lan­thropy and a lo­cal com­mu­nity cul­ture of vol­un­teerism.

Char­i­ties are vi­tal stake­hold­ers in de­liv­er­ing front-line ser­vices and also build­ing com­mu­nity ca­pac­ity for sus­tain­able eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment that can be felt by all.

In order for their work to con­tinue, our stead­fast sup­port is a must.

Tif­fany Gooch is a Toronto-based Lib­eral strate­gist at pub­lic af­fairs firms En­ter­prise and En­sight. She is a free­lance con­trib­u­tor for the Star. Fol­low her on Twit­ter: @goocht

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