Posts Tagged ‘Vibrant Communities’

Working with Cities, Provinces and First Nations – the Winnipeg Boldness Project

Speech delivered at the Philanthropic Foundations Canada Symposium, Toronto, October 28, 2015. 

Winnipeg Boldness

This presentation was originally called Working with a City and a Province, but I’ve modified that so it better represents the work we are doing in the Winnipeg Boldness Project, hence: Working with Cities, Provinces and First Nations – the Winnipeg Boldness Project. The lessons that we’re applying in Winnipeg stem in part from the formative experiences that we gained from two other initiatives.

Stephen-Huddart-authorVibrant Communities is a partnership that the Foundation embarked upon with the Tamarack and Caledon Institutes, and is a ten-year collective impact initiative to reduce urban poverty. Today, 47 cities and nine provinces are part of Vibrant Communities Canada.

Another initiative, ALLIES, was a successful cooperation between McConnell and Maytree to improve the rate at which professional immigrants find suitable employment. It was the first time that we co-funded significantly with governments and the private sector.

In retrospect, these successes seem clear and concise, but at times they were anything but. Working on complex challenges with cities, provinces and First Nations is, well — complex.

A commitment to positive change 

Two years ago, we were looking for a place to support improved outcomes in Indigenous early child development, possibly through the use of a social impact bond. We came to Point Douglas in Winnipeg’s North End, a community of 50,000 people, many of whom live in conditions of toxic stress. 87% of Indigenous babies born here are deemed at risk; 50% of Indigenous children arrive at kindergarten deemed not ready to learn, and 20% of kids born here are removed from their families and placed under care of the state. A completely unacceptable set of circumstances.


Why Vibrant Communities? 10 Reasons Why Canada Needs to Reduce Poverty

The following are some notes drawn from a speech I made at the Tamarack Poverty Reduction Summit in Ottawa, May 6.

Stephen-Huddart-authorJohn Wilson McConnell, who in 1935 established the Foundation for which I am privileged to work, was born in 1877 to Irish immigrants who had arrived in Canada that same year, illiterate and bankrupt. Like many in those days, and millions more since, his family came hoping to find a better life here.

We now know that the promise of plenty that brought families like the McConnells to Canada – often with the offer of free or low-cost land – had devastating consequences for others. The colonial/settler era resulted in the systematic displacement and marginalization of Indigenous peoples.

Nevertheless, it is striking to consider that, starting out from such humble beginnings, by the time he was 50, McConnell had become, in all likelihood, the wealthiest person in Canada. How did that happen?

The advantages of coming of age in the 20th century

McConnell attended public school, and even in those days, Ontario’s schools were world class. As his biographer notes, “At the Paris Exhibition of 1887, the Ontario Department of Education won awards in six categories – more than Britain and the rest of the empire put together.” When his family moved from their farm in the Muskokas to Toronto – from rural to urban poverty – McConnell found work in the bookkeeping department of a dry goods trading company. He also took night courses at the YMCA. In this way he learned about business, and he soon began trading wood, wheat and other commodities.


The Muskoka cabin where McConnell grew up would have been almost identical to this one. Photo courtesy of Walker and Kapya Riley, circa 1889.