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Increasing Self-Sufficiency (Reducing Poverty)

Reducing Poverty (Increasing Self-Sufficiency)

Foundational Beliefs

Any focus on poverty reduction must begin with the understanding that poverty is not just a resource problem and therefore won’t be alleviated with just a resource-only approach.

Poverty is largely a relational issue and tends to be intergenerational. People can network out of poverty (indeed it is rare to impossible to move out of poverty in any other manner). Attempting to alleviate poverty through a strictly financial response is not only cost-prohibitive but outcome-inhibitive. It leads to a burgeoning bureaucratic system that is focused on policy and costing in the millions with scant results to show.

It must become the primary role of contemporary leadership (in government, non-profit or the private sector) to innovatively seek ways to network “those who have,” with “those who don’t.”

The outcome of this effort is to create “crossable bridges,” opportunities to build relationships between the financial strata of each community. These opportunities need to be broken down to such a level that everyday citizens can respond by saying, “Well, I could do that…”

  • Spend forty minutes visiting with a foster teen living in a Group Home, “I could do that...”
  • Return a letter from an inmate in corrections, “I could do that...”
  • Babysit foster children one night a month so their parents can have a night out, “I could do that...”
  • Shovel the walk or mow one lawn for a senior in your neighbourhood, “I could do that…”

Many Northern communities are beginning to realize that the most effective way to reduce teen helplessness (youth suicide) is by empowering kokums to be effective Teacher Assistants with a focus on cultural competency in the schools. The long-term response to this issue cannot be found in bringing in more professionals that make a community externally reliant instead of focusing on the strengths of the community and building its internal resilience.

This approach minimizes creating a list of brand new programs while instead maximizes creating a host of caring relationships; programs must follow relationships, not the other way around. When we build programs first we get stuck in those programs, then build bureaucracies around them. Over time (and it doesn’t seem to take too long) the bureaucracy becomes an ideology and suddenly the effort is not about helping alleviate poverty but defending existing policy and programs.

Solution Focused

We often believe we can solve an issue by focusing solely on the problem and those most trapped in its cycles. Focusing on solving poverty by providing income assistance requires the most amount of resources to incrementally move outcomes among the least able to change. In nearly all cases of community or economic development, a strengths-focus has a higher chance of succeeding than a sole focus on weaknesses.

In a poverty-based scenario, developing entrepreneurs at the most impoverished level with a hope of creating new jobs, lacks efficacy—it is neither effective nor efficient—requiring the most amount of valuable resources; time and money. Most potential entrepreneurs are upper middle income people unfulfilled in their current roles, but too financially locked in to “make the leap” or take the risk of starting a business. Increasingly, people are waiting until after retirement to explore new opportunities—volunteer or otherwise—which is becoming the norm in an economy where people are living longer and retiring earlier.

If entrepreneurialism were more fail-safe, people would be more likely to take risks and invest effort into starting businesses they’ve considered for a long time.

GAI

Guaranteed Annual Income (GAI) is an idea whose time has come. It is simply bound to happen as an increasing number of middle-class people find the economy isn’t working for them. Increasing segments of the population are unable to make ends meet even though working full-time while the world’s highest income-earners outdistance the economy around them.

GAI is an idea that is dead in the water if it is about a minimal income for the poor pulled from the taxes of the middle class. Of total world income, 42 per cent goes to those who make up the richest 10 per cent of the world’s population, while just 1 per cent goes to those who make up the poorest 10 per cent (http://www.conferenceboard.ca/hcp/hot-topics/worldinequality.aspx).

Simultaneously, we are unable to “make good” on the promise we’ve made to many of our emerging adults, “If you get a good education, you will find a stable and lasting career.”

Ask Those Who’ve Made The Transition

There are several entrepreneurs in SK. who have broken the bonds of poverty to create semi-successful careers (making a living at what they love to do). Generally, they are enterprising young people who have turned a hobby into a profit-center.

When I have conversed with some of these young people, they talk about the meaningful support of role models and motivational support groups where they could have conversations with others who are on the same path or blazed the trail before them.

Instead of seeking the expertise of people who’ve not had to face those obstacles, let’s ask these experts—those who’ve made that transition—and ask for their insight. They are generally connected in two worlds, those who are still impoverished and those who will assist with more than just economic resources.

Incubators, Not Entrepreneurs

The leap to being an entrepreneur is too large for most people. That risk could be moderated and the learning curve less steep if people could take over an incubated business and learn a piece at a time until they realized they were running the entire operation.

Leverage Resources for Entrepreneurial Services

Entrepreneurs are often people who turned their hobbies into careers. While many of these people are good at their hobbies, they fall short of scaling it into a business. Some universities are providing opportunities for a small business to share resources that are needed but unaffordable. Human Resource Development, Attorneys, Accountants, Marketing, Web Presence, Office Management Services, aspects that are essential to a fledgling business but often unafforable.

Crowd-Source Innovation

In the books, “The Solution Revolution,” and “Drive,” the authors talk about the vast resources of people willing to commit effort to something meaningful without financial incentives. Wikipedia was entirely built on the this premise. Sadly (or prophetically), Microsoft tried to buy the resources to build an online encyclopedia (Encarta), but it went out of business shortly after release.

Innovation Fairs are opportunities for the best in the industry and those closest to the problem to come together to look for “open source” solutions.

Affordable Access to Capital

Using a credit-card or going to a PayDay Loan Store is an unacceptable (even unethical) method of raising capital, yet small businesses need access to credit lines at reasonable rates if they are going to reach a point of profitability. Microcredit loan opportunities that combine loans with business education in a local community setting have been successful all over the world and should find root here.

Social Media, Social Capital

The newest form of raising capital for a business is crowd-sourcing. Someone considering crowd-sourcing often doesn’t need more than an understanding of web-based business and marketing, plus the inspiration to take the risk of putting your idea "out there."

There are several entrepreneurs in SK that have raised funds through crowd sourcing and would be happy to share their expertise.

Many people who crowd-source typically don’t have the resources available to small businesses in the past; family loans or credit lines based upon intergenerational social capital.

High Need, Low Training Opportunities

There are many high need, low training opportunities in SK for people to achieve part-time employment. One example would be Foster Parent Respite Care with people currently on Income Assistance. EGADZ has done a lawn service that networks homeless mothers with elderly citizens needing simple lawncare. In such outreaches, the payoff is not just in cash, but also meaning, social capital and self-esteem. Key aspects needed to move beyond income assistance.

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