There is growing awareness in Canada of the importance of “place” in poverty reduction. Research shows that place matters in the quality of life for all citizens and the prosperity of nations. Place is important because it provides infrastructure, facilities, goods and services for its residents and shapes its members’ experiences and well-being. Communities are an important source of cultural, social and civic identity. Their small- scale allows residents to participate in decision-making.
Sherri Torjman, a leading Canadian expert on community-based work in Canada says that “quality of place affects the well-being and success of individuals and families. It influences local economic health and competitiveness which have a direct impact on the availability and quality of employment which determines poverty in each community. Individual communities face specific issues so a focus on place is required.” In the Action for Neighbourhood Change Neighbourhood Vitality Framework, the authors note that “neighbourhoods are well- suited to support long-term planning and community asset-building processes. Decision- making and priority setting are seen as legitimate as this level; social, economic, cultural and environmental realities are experienced; networks and social capital are found; the capacity to support citizens in developing a critical mass of assets is located; and problem-solving capacity and innovation are fostered”.
Place based poverty reduction looks at the deeper causes of poverty than traditional approaches and communities are beginning to lead the way in determining strategies to improve their own economic, social and environmental well-being. These initiatives are driving change at higher levels of government. At the same time, place based poverty reduction complements the traditional government approach of programs and services which alleviate the symptoms of poverty but never pulls people out of it. Communities recognize that services are essential, so their approach aims to enhance individual employability, create employment opportunities and ensure affordable housing is made available. On another level, those involved in these initiatives work to encourage employers to pay a decent wage, and make sure that income security programs deliver appropriate benefits and that those eligible are made aware of them.
This literature review is a basic reading guide for those involved in the Place-Based Poverty Reduction project with the Canadian CED Network. It links the PBPR project to related concepts, practice and policy from Canada, the US and the UK.