ALT/Now residencies spark community-driven innovations to tackle economic inequality

The challenge of widening economic inequality in our communities

Over the past 20 years, the income and wealth of all groups in Canada has risen, but those who are well off have experienced greater wealth increases than those in the middle or at the bottom. The result is a growing gap between the rich and the poor, polarizing society and impacting the opportunities and well-being of Canadians and our communities in general.

How community leaders are building innovative solutions

Community foundation leaders are tackling the challenge of widening economic inequality through innovative projects being piloted, built and tested through the ALT/Now residency. ALT/Now, an initiative of the Banff Centre, was created to offer community builders, leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators a unique opportunity to build and test solutions, and learn, fail and grow together in a supportive environment with guidance from a network of experts.

Over 10 months, the ALT/Now program is delivering intensive coaching to its 21 participants, and hands-on guidance during three in-house residencies in January, March and May. The program will culminate in each participant presenting their project to a panel of experts at the inaugural ALT/Now Summit in October to respond to the challenge of widening economic inequality, with the goal of attracting impact investment.

Community Foundations of Canada is grateful for its partnership with the Banff Centre, which led to two people from the community foundation movement being accepted into this first-of-its-kind program. We caught up with Angela Bishop, Executive Director, Community Foundation of Nova Scotia, and Meseret Taye, Manager, Grants and Community Initiatives, Vancouver Foundation, to hear about their ALT/Now learnings and initiatives.

Meseret Taye, Vancouver Foundation

AltNow Residency 1 216

What have you focused on during your ALT/Now residency?

My challenge statement is  “how might we create affordable and accessible childcare options for working families?”

What was your biggest discovery or learning?

The biggest learning for me is the recognition and appreciation of the  power of community, sense of belonging and social capital and their pivotal place in responding to economic inequality in Canada.

What impact do you hope your project will have in your community?

If successful, the neighbourhood-based childcare cooperative I am proposing will create an alternative/new affordable and accessible model of childcare that parents could rely on. This will address the high demand, unaffordable cost, long waitlist and inadequate childcare space challenges.

In addition, parents, mainly women, will be able to go back to work after maternity leave because they have affordable childcare option that allows them to continue to develop their career and financial security. Stay home parents and those who are working part time or have flexible work schedule would be able to generate or supplement their income by caring for 1-2 children in their homes.

Last but not least, the parent cooperative could leverage its social capital to benefit parents in various ways including influencing discounts on products and services, creating mechanism for revenue/profit sharing, collective savings plan or subsidizing childcare for low income families.

What needs to happen for this outcome to become a reality?

There will need to be a buy-in to this model of childcare from parents. Parents will need to see that it’s safe to use this option. We’ll need to have enough users of this model so we can sell the idea based on their experience.

Angela Bishop, Community Foundation of Nova Scotia

AltNow_Angela

What have you focused on during your ALT/Now residency?

From the beginning I was focused on discovering and exploring ways that the Community Foundation of Nova Scotia (and other foundations) could support the convergence of an evolving philanthropic environment and the changing needs and opportunities in communities. I’ve been working with a focus on the philanthropist as a key actor or customer in system of philanthropy, always asking what does this group need and what motivates them.

What was your biggest discovery or learning?

In the process of speaking with philanthropists, I learned about the reverence many of them have for young adults, holding the belief that this group, their grandchildren in many cases, will change the world.  The big insight came when I realized that the power that young adults have could be leveraged to affect the system. They can be placed as intermediaries in the system of supply and demand of philanthropy.  Another thing I learned is that philanthropists that made their fortune as entrepreneurs are “deal makers” who like to bring friends to the table for partnership on risky ventures. This is something can be built into a portfolio of investment options for philanthropists.

What impact do you hope your project will have in your community?

All of the Alt/Now participants launched with a “how might we” statement.  My work has been guided by “how might we accelerate the catalytic power of philanthropy for change in communities”. The answer to this would see wealth redirected from traditional investment opportunities to initiatives that offer a balanced return. The intention is not to redistribute the philanthropic pie, but to make in larger.  The project has focused on the “philanthropist”, but with the pivotal role for young adults, an additional impact is the space and opportunity for them to put pressure on the system to change.

What needs to happen for this outcome to become a reality?

Relationships are key to the success of this initiative. An intermediary or advisory role is a trusted one. Acceleration will also depend on the earliest participant philanthropists emerging as champions and bringing their peers into the new deal for communities.

Over the past 20 years, the income and wealth of all groups in Canada has risen, but those who are well off have experienced greater wealth increases than those in the middle or at the bottom. The result is a growing gap between the rich and the poor, polarizing society and impacting the opportunities and well-being of Canadians and our communities in general.

Learn more about the program

For more information, visit the Banff Centre’s ALT/Now program.

To see other participant’s experiences, view these Storify recaps:
Residency 1 
Residency 2
Residency 3

For more news & updates, subscribe to our mailing list, visit us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter