E4A in Action

Building Back Better – Enough for All in action

2020 Evaluation Report highlights progress in poverty reduction

29 October 2021

Introduction

The year 2020 marked the second year of phase two for Calgary’s Poverty Reduction Strategy. The COVID-19 pandemic was the biggest ‘story’ of 2020 and the impact of the pandemic on community efforts to reduce poverty cannot be understated. Limitations in support services due to closures and reduced capacity because of restrictions due to COVID-19 have likely increased the risk that people in need of support ‘fell though the cracks’. Building Back Better: Enough For All Evaluation Report 2020 is written within this context.

The report shows progress and identifies gaps in the Goals, Levers of Change, Principles and the role of the Enough for All Champions and Vibrant Communities Calgary (VCC) in advancing the Enough For All Strategy (E4A) in the midst of a global pandemic.

In the video below, Dr. Katrina Milaney, E4A Evaluator with the University of Calgary, shares highlights from the evaluation. "One of the consistent learnings, year after year, is that poverty is not just about income, it's about inclusion and it's about dealing with trauma,' says Milaney. "This is really complex work that takes time, it takes persistence and patience."

There were some changes to the methodology for this year’s report. Vibrant Communities Calgary, United Way of Calgary and Area, the City of Calgary and Momentum worked together in 2020 on a study, Understanding the impact of COVID-19, to examine the impact of the pandemic on people living in poverty (lived experience study). Some of the information from that report is included in this year’s evaluation report. We also asked Champions and partners specific questions in our annual survey about the pandemic and its impact on organizations and the role that VCC has played as backbone to E4A. Themes related to COVID-19 are weaved throughout the report where relevant. We added a section to this year’s report called COVID-19 and Enough For All.

Poverty Trends

Low-income rates for 2020 will not be available until 2022. According to Statistics Canada, Alberta’s overall income poverty rate using the Market Basket Measure (MBM) in 2018 was 9.4% and 8.2% in 2019.i Child poverty rates were reported as 9.2% in 2018 and 7.2% in 2019. This may be attributed to enhancements to the Canada Child Benefit. However, the Alberta Child Tax Benefit and the Family Employment Tax Credit were combined in 2020 into the Alberta Child and Family Benefit. The result was an overall reduction in the income threshold, for example, once a household income reaches $41,000 they could receive $1,886 annually. Under the previous structure, a family household income of $41,000 meant the family could qualify for $3,187 in benefits. The change means that fewer families are eligible. The long-term impacts on low-income Calgarians are still to be determined, however, VCC and the Canadian Poverty Institute estimate that there could be an additional 77,000 people or more in poverty in our city in 2020.

Successes and Strengths

Highlights include the City of Calgary’s Mental Health and Addiction Strategy and the Anti-Racism initiative to develop an Anti-Racism Action Plan that will include strategies and implementation plans for The City of Calgary’s organizational, community and public safety streams of work. Both the City of Calgary’s Mental Health and Addiction Strategy and Anti-Racism Plan are meant to build capacity, increase awareness, support existing initiatives and influence policy and practice. The Calgary Police Indigenous Roadmap was not launched in 2020 but their work expanded and is meant to facilitate changes across all four of the domains we address in this report (capacity, awareness, programmatic and systems change).

Challenges

The E4A Evaluation Framework identified that challenges and successes would be reported as changes to capacity, awareness and will, programs and systems and policy, as aligned with a Goal, Principle or Lever of Change.

Continuous Improvements: Recommendations and Priorities for the Future

Results from both a process and impact evaluation led to the following suggestions for prioritizing efforts into 2021 and beyond.

Process Evaluation – Meaningfulness and Relevance of Goals, Principles and Levers of Change

  • Build VCC’s capacity as backbone by increasing engagement and coordination with Champions. While progress has been made, this has been a consistent recommendation since 2016. Strengthened engagement amongst the Champions will improve our collective efforts and our evaluation data.

  • Work with Champions and stakeholders to examine existing data that aligns with E4A Levers and goals. Seek opportunities to report on similar metrics to improve comparability and analyze gaps. Similar information could be then reported under the different Levers and might help increase participation in data collection for the Evaluation report.

  • Continue to partner with End Poverty Edmonton on collective advocacy and policy goals aligned with E4A. This creates a ‘provincial voice’ for poverty reduction.

  • Provide capacity building and knowledge exchange sessions to advance E4A Principles and seek solutions and new partnerships for the Principles that ranked lower in the survey in terms of action. Prioritize collective efforts to reduce systemic racism by building on the work and raising the profiles of the City of Calgary, Calgary Police and the Seven Brothers Circle.

  • Consider adding an annual research project with people with lived experience to determine patterns and trends over time. This would also ensure lived experience has a priority presence in the annual evaluation report.

Impact Evaluation – Adherence to Goals, Principles and Levers of Change and Contribution to Results

  • Continue to build government relations strategies and prioritize policy and system change work. Build on the momentum that VCC and Champions have initiated and continue to ‘push’ for Basic Income, Living Wage, increases to the Alberta Child and Family Benefit and expansion of social and financial supports for those with precarious employment.

  • Launch a collective media campaign with Enough for All partners to provide clear and easy to access to information about supports and services for mental and physical health and wellbeing. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Calgarians mental health is staggering. Building awareness and challenging decision makers to respond with funding and initiatives to reduce barriers must be prioritized.

  • School dropout rates will need to be an area of focus and supports may need to be enhanced in schools and community agencies who work with ‘at risk’ families to reduce the long-term effects. VCC and Champions should consider formalized partnerships with Calgary’s school boards to seek opportunities and reduce barriers to community supports for children and youth.

  • Increase capacity/attention in Goal 3. Work with Champions to determine which TRC Calls to Action from the E4A report are not being addressed and seek new partnerships and shared value agreements to fill the gaps. There is currently no direct line of sight between the Calls to Action named in the strategy and the actual work in community. VCC should prioritize Reconciliation efforts.

  • Continue to monitor the long-term effects of changes to funding, policy and COVID-19 on the sector and Calgarians.

Want to learn more?

Download the full report to learn more about the data, dive deeper into the topics, references, and more.