The Poverty Reduction Research Group (PR) is a group of faculty, students, and community members with a commitment to addressing poverty through community-university research partnerships which will inform social policy. From a social determinants of health perspective, poverty and income inequality (and the policies that promote either) are the root causes of many social and health problems. As such, public policy change has been identified as a central strategy for poverty elimination. The mission of the PR Research Group is to shift social policy through community–engaged research, policy analysis, knowledge mobilization and advocacy. The main initiative of the PR group at this time is the Poverty Policy Project (P3). P3 is an action research project conducted by doctoral students in the Community Research and Action (CRA) course in Laurier’s Community Psychology program in partnership with Opportunities Waterloo Region. Opportunities is a local charitable organization committed to the prevention and reduction of poverty through multi-sector collaborative efforts involving people with lived experience of poverty, government, business, and the non-profit sectors. CRA students and professors have worked collaboratively to design and conduct a community-based participatory research study to examine the role of policy in poverty reduction. Methods include: document review, focus groups with people experiencing poverty, and key informant interviews with local service providers and Municipal government staff. The CRA group, Opportunities Waterloo Region, and the Awareness of Low-Income Voices (ALIV(e)) network will identify policy recommendations that will be integrated into an existing Regional poverty reduction strategy and shared with all levels of government.
Poverty Policy Project (P3)
Effecting Change through Community Research and Action:
The Role of Service-Learning
Redesigning a PhD program to incorporate a significant three year, community engagement and action component in the curriculum strengthens the University’s mission for increased expression of its civic responsibility while mentoring doctoral students in community-engaged research. When Dr. Terry Mitchell initiated a restructuring of the PhD seminar to involve three years of service-learning by each student and a 10 year commitment to a single community organization, identifying a community partner was the first challenge. The doctoral students conducted an environmental scan of community organizations in Waterloo Region, Ontario, considering their compatibility with Community Psychology values and then invited three organizations to meet with them for a consultation. After a complex consensus decision making process Opportunities Waterloo Region was invited to partner in this innovative service-learning initiative with the newly designed doctoral course.
Committed to reducing poverty through collaboration involving government, business, the voluntary sector, and most importantly, people living in poverty, Opportunities’ organizational priorities include the working poor, youth, policy advocacy work, community input, and changing societal attitudes toward poverty. In the first stages of our partnership, CRA students and professors have worked collaboratively with Opportunities to identify study priorities and research questions that could benefit their work and organizational goals, while providing opportunities for both student and community capacity-building. A research proposal was written, university ethics approval obtained, and data collection has begun (Dec 2008).
The purpose of this community-based participatory research study is to examine the role of poverty as a systemic barrier to social inclusion in Waterloo Region. From our data, we will work collaboratively with people living in poverty (and their advocates) to develop policy recommendations that will be integrated into an existing Regional poverty reduction strategy and shared with all levels of government. Methods include a document review, focus groups with people experiencing poverty, and key informant interviews with local service providers and Municipal government staff. Policy-makers from various government ministries and programs will also be contacted for consultation. A framework analysis approach will be used to organize the findings in terms of the specific poverty-related policy, the government department responsible for the policy, how the policy is implemented, how it interacts with other relevant policies, and whether the policy facilitates or inhibits a person from escaping poverty. From a social determinants of health perspective, poverty and income inequality (and the policies that promote either) are the root causes of many social and health problems. As such, public policy change has been identified as a central strategy for poverty elimination.