Getting to Better

Welcome to Getting to Better, our blog for stories, insights, and industry trends surrounding social innovation, capacity building, design thinking, and human-centred design.

How Might We Tackle Poverty in Canada Together?

Posted by Beth Borody
Beth Borody

If you have turned on a radio, TV, or looked at any social media over the past few months, you will know that Canada’s 150th birthday is just around the corner. We want to celebrate together and show the world how proud we are to be Canadian. We live in a great country. At the same time, we’re far from perfect. One particular area we still need to work on is eradicating poverty. While we may appear to have it all together on the global stage, one in seven Canadians still live in poverty.

In 1989 we set a national goal to eradicate poverty by the year 2000. That milestone has come and gone and although we have made steps in the right direction, we are far from a solution. These days, poverty reduction has become a government priority and one that I believe needs design thinking and human-centred design principles and processes to arrive at a solution.

We need to do something new to tackle these complex issues with a fresh lens. Design thinking and human-centred design provides a methodology that keeps the “on the ground”, affected population at the center of all decisions and recommendations moving forward. It sounds so simple, and in a way, it is. Being empathetic toward, considerate of, and curious about the well-being of those affected by poverty presents an opportunity to develop a new way to tackle this complex and messy issue. By living in the chaos and being comfortable with no one, neat, quick solution, and by engaging with our fellow community members living in poverty, we have the opportunity to find new and creative solutions together.

...by engaging with our fellow community members living in poverty, we have the opportunity to find new and creative solutions together.

I had the privilege of working in Ghana West Africa promoting economic development within communities across the country. Every stakeholder had the same goal—economic development—and every stakeholder had a different motivation. Our approach was to work in the middle of these different groups, taking a design thinking approach to listen, to hear and to co-create new solutions for revenue generation that wasn’t dependent on National Government funding. The method we developed kept community members at the centre of all decisions as we convened donors, national and local level governments. Mistakes were made, solutions underwent iteration after iteration, and incremental steps were taken without a full understanding of how the final outcome would look. Using this iterative, collaborative process, we were able to test and pilot different engagement activities and gather information that was valuable across all stakeholder groups.

At Overlap, we know that better is absolutely possible. We have that statement posted around our office to always push us to get to better. Better is possible for Canada and for Canadians living in poverty, and we believe that by applying design thinking principles locally, provincially and nationally, we can eradicate poverty together. What if we joined forces with our fellow Canadians to co-create solutions to poverty together, where people living in poverty are put at the centre of the process? Now that would be something worth celebrating.

Tags: Canada