Vibrant Communities

Vibrant Communities—Cities Reducing Poverty

Poverty is a complex issue. There is no single cause and no one solution. Its successful reduction, ideally its eradication, require a set of linked interventions undertaken by all orders of government working in collaboration with communities.~Sherri Torjman, Caledon Institute of Social Policy

Vibrant Communities—Cities Reducing Poverty is a pan-Canadian poverty reduction initiative of the Tamarack Institute for Community Engagement, in partnership with the Caledon Institute of Social Policy and the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation. Building on the experience of the first phase (2003-2011), Cities Reducing Poverty launched in Spring 2011 with plans to engage 100 Canadian cities by the year 2016.

Participating cities undertake locally-designed initiatives led and implemented by groups comprising municipal leaders, businesspeople, community organizations, and people living in poverty. Each community sets its own priorities, but they all contain components that build individual, family, and community assets, multi-stakeholder collaboration, and strategies to learn and share knowledge of what works.

Linking these local initiatives together is a network providing support and learning—made available by Tamarack—through inter-active web sites, pod casts, webinars, downloadable tools, and in-person educational events, such as the annual Communities Collaborating Institute.

Serving as the social policy think tank behind Vibrant Communities, the Caledon Institute of Social Policy has created awareness of policy implications and been critical to surfacing, documenting, and sharing learnings.

Collective Impact Results

Since 2002, Vibrant Communities Canada and its partners have been changing how poverty is impacting cities. From St. John’s, Newfoundland to Victoria, BC there is a growing understanding that poverty is a complex issue that needs everyone in the community to become engaged. These communities have learned new ways of working together, have built on the assets that already exist in community and have dramatically improved the lives of Canadians living in poverty.

In Quebec

Inspired by the annual Communities Collaborating Institute in the Fall of 2010, 4 members—from Centraide du Grand Montréal,  Vivre St-Michel en Santé and the McConnell Foundation—participated in a training session called Leading Together in Chaotic Times. Wanting to share their learnings and new approaches highlighted during the session with Quebec stakeholders,  in November 2011 Dynamo—Ressource en mobilisation des collectivités, Centraide du Grand Montréal, Vivre St-Michel en Santé and the McConnell Foundation brought together 150 engaged stakeholders for the learning event Jongler avec la complexité. Click here for event resources. 

In 2011, the Foundation provided a three-year grant to the Réseau québécois de revitalisation intégrée (RQRI)—established in 2008 by the two Quebec Vibrant Communities sites, Démarche des premiers quartiers de Trois-Rivières and Vivre Saint-Michel en Santé, in Montreal—to support the expansion of the RQRI network in Quebec. 

Granting Total


Key Lessons

In addition to quantitative results, the evaluation of Vibrant Communities examined the factors contributing to the effectiveness of local initiatives. A wide range of factors were determined to be relevant for shaping such efforts. 

Using a comprehensive, multi-sector approach, communities can:

  • Raise the profile of poverty
  • Build a constituency for change
  • Encourage collaborative ways of working
  • Begin to shift systems underlying poverty
  • Generate changes for a large number of people living in poverty

Critical Success Factors include:

  • Influential and credible convener(s)
  • Cross-sector, connected leadership table
  • Challenging community aspiration
  • Clearly articulated purpose and approach
  • High degree of resident mobilization
  • Research which informs the work

To learn more about Vibrant Communities-Cities Reducing Poverty, visit

The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation 1002 Sherbrooke W., Suite 1800, Montreal, Québec H3A 3L6