November 27, 2012

Why are poor people poor?

This week I am guest blogging for United Way Toronto’s Imagine a City campaign. I wanted, in my post The answer to poverty isn’t simple, to challenge some of the stereotypes we have about poor people. The solution to poverty is not, I argue, as easy as the catcall, “Get a job!” implies.

To do this, I draw on Philosophy professor Charles Karelis who has written about the cumulative impacts of poverty and who illustrates why what appears to be an irrational choice can be quite appropriate given the number of challenges those in poverty face. Other, more “scientific” research has emerged to support Karelis’ argument.

When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist. — Dom Helder Camara

Behavioural psychologists and economists are now finding that simply the stress of deprivation leads to poor decision-making — that the condition of poverty creates psychological barriers. The evidence is showing how almost any of us react within the same straitened circumstances.

Compounding these individual, psychological reasons are the wider sociological barriers,  from racism to simple access to opportunity, which get in the way of moving out of poverty easily. (Much of this blog has tried to describe those barriers.)

Finally, people in poverty have to contend with the same economic, political and ecological tides that we all do and which are re-shaping our world. As Hurricane Katrina or global capital markers show, people who are poor are just more vulnerable among wider societal forces which buffet us all. Their resources for resiliency are already depleted by the daily demands they face.

It’s too simple to say poor people are poor because of individual (de)merit, character flaws, or moral decrepitude. As always, it’s much more complicated than that.

Get a job? If only it were so easy.

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November 23, 2012

A tree grows in the road

A regal tree in the middle of a square, traffic flowing around it? Sure. (See the beauty I found in Bath, England.)

But, on a recent visit to Athens, I found a tree growing straight out of the pavement, guarded by one warning sign so that vehicles had to swerve around it. Motorcycles, cars and buses all bent around it on the narrow, one-way street.

The Lorax would have been pleased to see this tree, so respected in the Athenian suburb of Kifissia. I visited it twice in my four days there.

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Coincidentally, days after my return news from Quebec on a hydro pole in the middle of a highway. Not nearly as poetic, I suppose.

October 9, 2012

Neighbourhood centres: From the history of social justice among settlement houses to community hubs’ modern place-based approach

Photograph of early settlement house, Toynbee Hall circa 1902.

Toronto’s University Settlement House, by the Grange, recently celebrated its 100th anniversary.

St. Chris House, in the west end, has also reached the century mark. Not far away, Central Neighbourhood House, founded by students from University of Toronto, has also celebrated 100. Also, in the downtown core, Dixon Hall is eighty and St. Stephen‘s is fifty. Reputedly named after Reverend Wood and Reverend Green, WoodGreen, where I work in the east end, has just turned 75 years old.

Each of these neighbourhood centres cluster in the centre of city, reflecting the downtown area’s history as a place where new immigrants and low-income lived. As demographics have shifted and need has spread, other neighbourhood centres – and community hubs – have emerged across the city.

Over these decades, these centres opened their doors, drawing on a model from 19th century Great Britain called a Settlement House. More than charitable service organizations that focus on individual needs, settlement houses emerged from wider ideals of social justice. Settlement referred not to, in the modern sense, of working with immigrants, but rather to a call to university-educated young people to settle in poor neighbourhoods, bring their talents to bear on local problems.

In a sense, settlement houses worked to ensure the intellectual and social capital of a neighbourhood were not stripped away. They also preserved the idea of social contract between rich and poor. Most settlement houses enjoyed the patronage of wealthy donors.

The tradition of Settlement House offer a few key touchstones to modern-day hubs and centres:

Wrap-around services: As multi-service organizations, neighbourhood centres are able to address the various needs clients have. Need a job? food? compantionship? housing? They have it all. Dixon Hall, for instance, defines itself by its multi-service approach.

On-the-ground knowledge: Neighbourhood houses have also acted as early warning systems. Some of urbanist Jane Jacob’s critique of the “towers in the park” emerged  from New York contemporary and settlement house social worker Ellen Lurie, who tracked what happened to her clients who were being moved into this newer form of public housing from their old neighbourhoods. Even now, seeing the changes in its neighbourhood, St Chris House sparked the research into how gentrification was changing their downtown neighbourhood, leading eventually to the Three Cities report by David Hulchanski. After hearing more and more stories from the sector, WoodGreen supported a fight for permanent funding to control bed bugs.

Commitment to creating opportunity at the individual and system level: Recognizing that charity work and case management would not create the systemic change needed to end poverty, advocacy and community development became a core part of centres’ work. Childcare, youth programs, and adult literacy programs were all staples of early programming. University Settlement House’s Music and Art program was established in 1921. Later decades would see these social programs adopted and funded by governments at all levels. In more recent times, St. Chris House led the cross-sectoral policy table, MISWAA, which examined income supports for working age adults. In short, it’s about social justice.

Innovation: Because they are alert to changes and are able to bring a wide set of services to any social problems, neighbourhood centres also act as incubators, creating solutions to complex problems. WoodGreen, for instance, partnered with the Toronto District School Board to create the first seamless, full-day kindergarten class at Bruce Public School.

Community building: Early neighbourhood centres were the original community hubs creating links across difference, strengthening local community. St. Stephen’s Resolution program actively in neighbourhood disputes, and has trained hundreds to do dispute resolution. Multiple ages walk through their doors and learn about each other. Free, non-commercial space is increasingly precious. The community hubs springing up across the city are based on these same community development principles. Place-based approaches to problems sometimes work better than those which work with only specific client populations.

Settlement houses, neighbourhood centres, community hubs — whatever you call them — seem a tradition worth celebrating.

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September 24, 2012

Parking enforcement, ab absurdo

Neighbours stood grumbling at the corner this morning. One had found a ticket on their car, and they were trying to figure it out. “Count how many feet!” said one. “What’s a meter again?” asked the other. “How do owe know if it’s nine feet or nine meters?” one more said. “There’s no sign!”

Not that, though, Toronto parking signs are known for clarity: No parking unless it’s November, or June, in the first half of the month or the last, before 9 a.m. or after 1 p.m. unless it’s between 3 and 4 p.m. hiding the No Stopping sign. The complexity of these things is legendary. (Miss Wilmut, I think I need to go back to grade school again.)Example of a bylaw officer employed to do stra...

My uncle, in his latter years, simply resigned himself to it, announcing he wasn’t going to get upset about these things anymore. It’s the cost of an urban car, he said. While that approach may be good for one’s blood pressure, it doesn’t work at the broader level. Sure, metered parking and other small burdens are the price for a questionable urban form of transport, but when the daily administrations of the law are unclear and seemingly capricious, it does a greater community harm. It builds cynical and disengaged citizenry.

I normally let these things roll, but I too recently got stung by such pedantry.

One of my daughter’s friends biked over to our house early Saturday morning to borrow our family car (yes, not all urban dwellers own one) to take a load of friends to go do day work on an organic farm. She returned the car after sundown, parking it at the end of our block by an unseen fire hydrant. Yup, oops!

For that though, we got two tickets, one a little before midnight and the second just after 7 a.m. of the Sunday morning. Officially, two different dates, yes, but, please, only one “sleep.”

Yes, we can fight the tickets, but the damage is done. The apparently mercenary approach, this “over-policing,” breeds discontent.

It also provides an insight to a middle-class community as to how some communities “known to police” fall away from us.

(To rub salt in the wound, while this all went on, my son’s rear bicycle wheel was stolen.)

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September 17, 2012

Who are the students identified as having special education needs in the TDSB?

Are boys,Black students or students from low-income families more likely to be identified as Special Needs in the Toronto District School Board? Are children from more privileged backgrounds likely to be identified as Gifted?

A new research report from the board confirms what parents have often worried about.

This latest release confirms the racial and socio-economic backgrounds of its students are reflected in who is identified as Special Needs.

The report is drawn from a longitudinal study of the TDSB students who were in Grade 9, over 18,000 of them in 2006. It follows this cohort of students through each grade. (By now 79% of the studied students have graduated.)

According to the new Fact Sheet on Special Education:

  • Nearly 2/3 of students identified as having special education needs in the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) are male.
  • Students who live with no or only one parent are more likely to be in a special needs program (other than Gifted) than those who live with both parents. In fact, not a single student who did not live with a parent was identified as Gifted (These would include students who lived independently or with other family members). Gifted students were also most likely to have parents with a university-level education (77% of Gifted students compared to 44% of students overall) and a professional-level occupation (56% of students in Gifted compared to 27% of students).
  • Tracking the pattern of low-income Special Needs students are the racial backgrounds of students in special ed. classes. The starkest contract was for students of African, Caribbean and Black backgrounds. Black students were the most likely of all other racial groups to be identified as having a Mild Intellectual Delay (MID), making up almost one-third (32%) of those so identified even though they make up only 1/8 (12%) of the overall student population. Black students also made up 17% of those identified with a learning disability. Interestingly, Whites made up more than half (53%) of students identified with a learning disability although they represent 34% of the total population. This may be that as a result of parents paying for private evaluations.
  • Gifted programs show that those with racial and class privilege are much more likely to be accessing these supports (which include smaller class sizes and enriched materials). 77% of students identified as Gifted have university-educated parents. White and East Asian students make up 80% of the Gifted identifications although together they represent just over half (53%) of the total enrollment in the year studied. Seven percent of the remaining students were South Asian. Less than 5% of Gifted students were Black (to be proportionate there should be twice as many).

The release concludes with a summary of the Board’s commitment to review the processes which may give rise to these inequities and act as barriers to student success. Several areas for review include

  • the structure of congregated/integrated program delivery (whether students should be grouped together or supported in class),
  • the process for referral, identification and placements of students suspected of having a disability, and
  • ensuring student learning is culturally and socio-demographically sensitive (for instance, gifted girls tend to be less disruptive so are less frequently identified).

The publication page by the Board’s Research & Information Services department is a hidden treasure, deep within the TDSB’s website, under the Tab “About Us.” (About us — truer words.)

Keep watching this page. Later this year, the results from the school board’s second parent/student census will be posted.

There, we may find the evidence of what we have suspected, that our schools still reflect more the realities of our community than its aspirations.

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September 3, 2012

A clash of values within the public education system

While much of the recent media headlines have been on Premier McGuinty’s Putting Students First Act (Bill 115), another storm has been brewing on the edges of school board, one which is much more fundamental to the ideals we hold for our public education system.

“Religion, politics and education are never good friends,” was the response of one committee member at the recent TDSB Equity Policy Advisory Committee meeting.

Bill 113, the Accepting Schools Act (2012), has caused a furor among those who are strictly religious. The Act focuses on reducing bullying, specifically “To encourage a positive school climate and prevent inappropriate behaviour, including bullying, sexual assault, gender-based violence and incidents based on homophobia, transphobia or biphobia.” It’s an important public statement.

Concretely, this means middle school kids can’t call something (or someone) a “fag” because they think it’s stupid.

Leading the charge is Public Education Advocates for Christian Equality (P.E.A.C.E.), which was formed when the Hamilton school board adopted an equity policy which, following the provincial human rights legislation, includes sexual orientation as a prohibited grounds for discrimination.

The panic has spread to the Toronto area. School board staff have reported that principals have received thousands of a five-page “Traditional Values” form letters from parents requesting their children opt out of any lessons dealing with “family values,” environmentalism, ethics, gal, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered issues, sex education, STDs & condoms and/or abortion.

In one Toronto neighbourhood, up to another hundred parents have asked taken a more radical step and asked to home school. One school superintendent spent a recent Friday afternoon signing up to 20 of these permission forms. (Truancy laws require that parents demonstrate a child will be educated, within or outside the provincial school system.)

TDSB equity staff are clear that nothing in the curriculum has changed since the Bill 113’s passage (“still age-appropriate and culturally-sensitive”), but are disturbed by the panic they see.

Student trustees are organizing a video campaign – no doubt when the rest of the system settles down.

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July 5, 2012

“Addressing Urban Injustice: The Growing Gap and What to do about it”

On a panel Wednesday night at Innis College, academic luminaries such as UBC’s David Ley, CCPA economist Armine Yalnizyan and architect Ken Greenberg were given a few minutes each to address social and spatial segregation in cities. The speed at which they whipped through their presentations made for some Tweet-able moment. (“I’m not against mixed-income communities; it’s just how we get there,” said University of Illinois Professor Janet Smith at a session earlier in the day.)

David Ley described the process of gentrification within Vancouver and found that while the socio-spatial trends are not as sharp as in Toronto, the racialization of low-income tracts will mirrors Toronto’s own growing pattern of

segregation.

Montreal Professor Damaris Rose plunged straight to the question of why the gaps are growing. Research literature describes four causes, she explained:

  • Increased desire of high income people to live in an exclusive community. This means that spatial segregation can occur without any change in the shape of the labour market.
  • The diminished capacity of low-income people to live in non-poor areas because of factors such as discrimination or the rising costs that occur with gentrification.
  • The polarization of the labour market because of the effects of globalization

These trends matter, she explained, because the growing isolation means that affluent people may be less invested in the broader public goods. Low-income people are left in poverty either in a declining environment or, alternately, within a more affluent community. Each of these brings problems.

Netherlands Professor Maarten Van Ham, given the task of describing the situation in Europe in his allotted eight minutes, presented the strongest narrative thread, connecting inequality to ethnic segregation to social unrest. He described the rounds of riots Europe has faced, from the 2001 Bradford riots which come called the end of multiculturalism in the U.K., to the riots in the banlieus of Paris in 2005 tied to youth alienation and unemployment, to the 2011 London Riots to which commentators attributed causes such as poor parenting, the austerity measures of previous years and concentrated poverty.

Even in one of the vaunted Scandinavian countries such as Sweden, 70% of immigrant children grow up to live in the same types of disadvantaged neighbourhoods as where their parents settled. This research, Van Ham explained, has been reproduced by Patrick Sharkey at NYU looking at African-Americans.

cabrini green demolitionCity planners responses has been the creation of mixed income neighbourhoods, literally blowing up buildings and creating home ownership for middle income households. Not surprisingly, Van Ham explained, indicators of social deprivation improved. Poor people had been moved out. [This gave rise to an advocacy campaign in the United States calling for “Better Neighbourhoods, Same Neighbours.”] Poor people may choose to leave, but often, they do not want to, Van Ham explained. Social networks are destroyed and their option is another poor community.

Where, then, next? he asked. The policy responses to the crises include the well-critiqued Big Society in the U.K. which ostensibly “helps citizens to help themselves,” and an emphasis on Social Innovation, an amorphous term at best.

Van Ham tried to end on a positive note, describing initiatives such as the U.K.’s Locality, which supports community-based organizations. We’re safe for the next decade he predicted as few governments will make the investment to do major urban restructuring.

Chicago-based Professor Janet Smith, in the spirit of the date July 4th, described acts of rebellion and organization which had changed Chicago’s landscape. Actively community organization at the local and city levels have been key to addressing the issues of control and control, she explained.

As discussant, Armine Yalnizyan underscored the weakness of relying on a “doing it for ourselves” model within the wider libertarian sentiments of the time in which people’s own sense of self-preservation has them fighting those with just a little more than them rather than the power-brokers who are reaping the rewards of economic growth. When knowledge is power, the fight in Quebec is much more than about a few hundred dollars of tuition, she said, and raising it is stupid.

Architect Ken Greenberg rounded off the panel discussion. Looking at spatial segregation, he quipped, urban suburbs are the “hand-me-downs” of the upper income groups, leaving them behind to those with less housing choice.

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June 25, 2012

Student graduation rates in the TDSB showing improvement across the board

Research staff at the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) are producing a series of fact sheets to give an early peek at some of their drop-out data, and, as elsewhere, it’s good news: Student graduation rates are up.

Of the more than sixteen thousand students who started grade nine five years ago, 79% had graduated, up 10% from a comparator group seven years earlier. Those doing a “victory lap” held pretty well steady at 7%, so the decrease was in the number of students dropping out, down to 14% of the group in this study from a high of 23% in the earlier cohort.

However, while the groups examined are all showing an increase, not all groups of students are performing as well as each other. These research snapshots show some the differences among student performance within the system.

Board staff were also, for the first time, able to link these students profiles to the student census data.

Further analysis and more reports will be produced over the coming months, looking at issues like special education, race and ethnicity, and sex. This first brush looked at a wide range of variables: academic level, gender, age in grade nine, sexual orientation, racial background, language, and region of birth.

The numbers are more confirming than surprising. Eighty-eight percent of academic stream students graduated on time, compared to 59% of applied-level students. Girls had higher graduation rates than boys (83% vs. 75%).

Straight students had an on-time graduation rate of 82% compared to self-identified LGBTQ2S students of 69%.

Students who spoke English as a first language had a below-average graduation rate. Students who speak Chinese, Hindi, Serbian, and Bengali had the highest on-time graduation rates. Those who speak Spanish or Somali had the lowest rates.

The racial categories showed similar variation, but are less reliable because factors such as poverty or parental level of education were not controlled for. However, the numbers confirm that schools are not graduating Black or Latin American students in the same proportion as other racial groups.

The third fact sheet shows similar patterns when looking at the students choices around post-secondary education. 2005 and 2006 were the first years that a majority of TDSB students applied to post-secondary education on-time (the researchers measured rates of application from 17-year-olds).

The most interesting findings in this third fact sheet confirm how parental occupation and education levels seem to be major drivers in students going to university. 65% of students with parents in professional occupations confirmed an Ontario university after graduation, while only 46% of those with parents in “skilled clerical” occupations and 38% of those in unskilled occupations. These numbers are almost mirrored when looking at parental levels of education.

English: Missouri S&T Students at Fall'08 conv...

Students at Fall’08 convocation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Similarly, while one out of eight (14%) of students from professional families chose not to apply to university, one-third of students from unskilled/clerical families chose not to.The pattern for college applications did not show such stark contrasts.

TDSB staff plan to continue to release these early glimpses into the student and parent census over the course of the next school year.

Next up for release is a report on Special Education and how socio-economic demographics interplay with those identifications. Subsequent reports will look at student engagement; LGBTQ students; Aboriginal students; the Black student diaspora (with York’s Professor Carl James); and at continuing education (52% of the current cohort have taken at least one summer school or night school class).

May 28, 2012

Toronto maps: An incomplete index of interactive maps on the internet

Web-based mapping is fun, interactive and informative. Toronto has a great share of web 2.0 maps to enjoy.

Graphic representation of data is one of the best ways the internet has changed the way we access information. Geographic information specialists, like the amazing and proliferative Patrick Cain, are now welcoming non-experts into the fold (with Google maps and open source programs), and a wonderful range of maps about our city has emerged. Most are point-level data, the locations of places. Some are more complex. A few are quite strange.

But they’re worth a wander – feel free to share ones you’ve found!

Alcohol (retailers), Beerhunter

Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, AA Toronto

Animal rescues (domestic & wild), Toronto Star

Artists, Neighbourhood Arts Network, Toronto Arts Foundation

Baby Names, OpenFile

Backyard sharing, Growing for Green

Bed bugs, Bed Bug Registry (self-reports)

Bed Bug reports, Patrick Cain, Toronto Star

Bike routes & accident rates, Toronto Open File

Business Improvement Areas

Capital construction (planned), City of Toronto

Car ownership, Patrick Cain, Toronto Star

Catholic schools, Toronto Catholic District School Board

Census 2011: Population, Pop. growth, Density, CBC (select Toronto)

Census 2011: Demographics, Global News (drop-down list, opens to Mother Tongue)

City Wards, City of Toronto

Child Care locator, City of Toronto

Commercial Kitchens (versus Community Kitchens), Food Forward & Housing Services Corporation

Community meeting space

Community gardens, Toronto Community Garden Network

Community legal clinics, Settlement.org

Convictions for sale of tobacco to minors,Toronto Public Health

Crime, per capita, by neighbourhood & type, CBC

Criminal Charges, 2010 Toronto Star

Cycling

Culture (okay, this one is Mississauga)

Demographics (This is a cheat – it’s the City’s Wellbeing site)

Dog breeds, Global Toronto

Doorings, Doored.ca (map at bottom of page)

Donation boxes (charities)

“Eater Heat” (popular restaurants)

Farmers’ Markets, Toronto Farmers’ Market Network

Free Meals programs, Toronto Meals Programs

Free Parking

Food Premises Inspections, City of Toronto

Grow-ops, Global

Gun ownership, Toronto Star

Health, Toronto Community Health Profiles (another cheat – static, but comprehensive)

Heat vulnerability, Toronto Public Health

Heritage plaques

High Rise Construction, The Grid, 2011

Historical businesses and institutions, 2014

Historical photos, Blog TO, 2011

Home price increases, Macleans, 2014

Homicides: 2012, 2011, Victims since 1990, Toronto Star

Hot Dog/Street Vendors, Canada.com

Housing Assistance, Settlement.org

Immigration history, Toronto Star

Kisses

Little Free Libraries, Little Free Library.org

Military recruiting, Toronto Star

Neighbourhoods (administrative), City of Toronto

Neighbourhoods, Tourism Toronto

Neighbourhoods (self-organized), Toronto Star

Neighbourly-minded neighbours, 5 Blocks Out

Non-Profits, by Ontario riding boundaries, Ontario Non-Profit Network

Ontario wines at local farmers’ markets, Ontario.ca

Open Plaques, “Museum of the Streets”

Parking (Green P), City

Parking ticket hotspots, Global

Problems with municipal services, The Fixer, The Toronto Star

Public Art

Public Libraries

Public schools, TDSB

Public transit

Road Restrictions

Residents’ Associations & Neighbourhood groups, Dave Topping

Rental housing (Craigslist & Kijiji)

Running routes

School Suspensions & Expulsions for Drugs and/or Violence (TDSB data: CTV News)

Service Ontario Kiosk or Centre, Government of Ontario

Settlement Services, Settlement.org

Smells

Smoking, Toronto Star

Smoking Violations/Sales to Minors, City of Toronto

Spice City reviews of “ethnic” restaurants

Street Map (Open Street Map wiki)

Subway playlist (The Stationary Grove), MAP Communications Consulting

Sweets & treats, Yummy Baguette

Tech Start-ups, #madeinYYZ

Towing (where your car gets taken)

Trees, Matthew Brown

United Way Toronto member agencies

University of Toronto

Walking intersections (highest volume), Openfile

Walkscore (including Bikescore)

Waterfront

Watertesting, lead (Toronto Star)

Wellbeing, City of Toronto

Working Poor, Globe & Mail, Metcalf Foundation report, 2012

Zoning, City of Toronto

May 17, 2012

Resilient neighbourhood economies in an age of austerity: No big lessons

Geoff Mulgan

Geoff Mulgan (Photo credit: Kennisland)

Ten years ago or thereabouts, the U. K. government undertook an ambitious program of neighbourhood renewal focused on 2,000 British communities. A decade later, independent evaluations are “somewhat positive,” according to  Geoff Mulgan, Chief Executive of the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts (NESTA) and former CEO of the Young Foundation. Recent efforts have been trying, in a way, to put right mistakes of the ’70s and ’80s, when richer people moved into re-habituated buildings, Mulgan told a group of Toronto community funders and organizations at a meeting organized by the Metcalf Foundation earlier this month.

“Big strategies won’t work, there are no silver bullets. Lots of small initiatives work best,” Mulgan said. Instead, he elaborated, the focus should be on schools, social capital, job opportunities, and simply getting money to circulate within neighbourhoods, creating a multiplier effect, and, the current times of austerity mean agencies and funders are looking for an impact in new and interesting ways.

Mulgan also challenged old-time thinking about taking projects “to scale” (growth), saying funders and agencies would do better to look at replication (spread). While Mulgan was arguing that small is beautiful, it goes against the push from many funders for mergers.

To prove his point about the need for multiple, smaller inventions, Mulgan offered a top ten social innovations from his own work on these issues:

  1. Last year, the Young Foundation looked at Birmingham to see what makes a city resilient. It compared low-income communities with similar demographics and their social networks. Communities which were more diverse were doing better than those with two or three dominant groups — different than what researchers expected.
  2. The Young Foundation also created a program which taught resiliency to 11-year-old in schools, focusing on those who in stressed communities. Results showed lower levels of depression and better schooling. The new finding was that resiliency could be taught.
  3. Deciding that the focus on improving schools was not enough because even the best schools have high rates of truancy and drop-outs, the Foundation developed a new form of schooling, a “studio school” where learning occurred through practical team-based projects. The move away from abstract pedagogy led to better student motivation and was particularly effective with students from low-income families. Piloted in Blackpool, the government is now using the model across the country.
  4. Young, Somali female colleagues convinced Mulgan to develop the Uprising program for 18 – 25 year olds.  Participants have to run a community campaign which is then connected to national level. Three years later it is now spread in neighbourhoods across eight cities. Mulgan noted that recruiting men and White people has been a challenge. This program sounds like very much like Toronto’s Diversecity.
  5. Mulgan explained his fifth example was important as money was disappearing. His organization, NESTA is very involved in time banks. Within Toronto, Timeraisers has used this as a model for volunteering among those who want to bid on art, but Mulgan described a model that acted more as a parallel economy in low-income communities. Bartering, he explained, is useful in communities without much access to resources and money. Linking the program to local institutions, such as housing or schools, local residents earn credits which they can then “spend” among themselves.
  6. Mulgan and his colleagues became concerned about the high number of young people with advanced university degrees who were having difficulty access jobs.  So they set up “finishing schools” which offered intensive training in everything from voice coaching to self-knowledge. Employment rates doubled. While this might not work in Toronto which has less of class stratification, the approach to explicit teaching of social/cultural skills and mentoring are valuable, Mulgan explained.
  7. NESTA  found that buildings and physical plants are not enough for non-profits, but that they needed media platforms as well. In contrast to “big media,” hyper-local media platforms emerged, attached to community organizations or secondary schools (where youth supported the work) within communities, creating hubs for economic and social exchange. Mulgan predicted these would be widespread within ten years.
  8. Urban farming, connected to local schools offers opportunities for apprenticeships and entrepreneurialism. Mulgan gave the example of one Australian school where students raised fish, learning biology, and then sold them door-to-door. Mulgan described pockets of land transformed from “boring grass” to fruit trees.
  9. In their work with Muslim youth, the youth identified the need for advice on daily matters that was Koranically-correct. So the website Maslaha, meaning”Public Interest,” was created. A group of Imams offers this “real-world” advice, helping youth straddle between secularism and Islamists, offering on-line advice on issues ranging from speed-dating to diabetes.
  10. Attempts at measuring resiliency through the development of a new tool: Wellbeing and Resilient Measurement (WARM). Community and individual levels, covering a range of topics from employment, happiness and readiness for the future. Started in Birmingham, this is being piloted in a few other European countries as well. The tool creates space for discussions about local priorities.

Ever pushing boundaries, Mulgan lobbed a final idea when responding to questions from the audience. Too much time is taken up for non-profit staff writing reports which often don’t get read when they are sent in. If funders, want to have a real impact, and ensure truth and transparency, program reports should be done by blogging.

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