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Anti-Poverty Community Organizing and Learning (APCOL)
 

A Detailed Description of the Anti-Poverty Community Organizing and Learning Project (APCOL)

 

 


Funding
by the Community University Research Alliance Program of the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada from 2009 to 2014.

Principal Investigators:
Peter H. Sawchuk (OISE, University of Toronto)
Sharon Simpson (Labour Community Services, Toronto)

Co-Applicants:
Grace Edward Galabuzi (Ryerson University)
Stephanie Ross (York University)
David W. Livingstone (OISE, University of Toronto)

In Partnership with:
University of Toronto, Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), Black Action Defense Committee, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Chinese Canadian National Council (Toronto), Community Social Planning Council of Toronto, Downtown East Community Development Collective, George Brown College – Academic Excellence and Research, Labour Community Services (Toronto), Make Poverty History, National Anti-Poverty Organization, Toronto and York Region Labour Council, Toronto Community Housing Corporation, United Way Canada, York University–Toronto Dominion Bank Community Engagement Centre, FoodShare Toronto

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Summary of Research

Increasing poverty and growing income polarization are global problems. In Toronto over the past generation, a series of descriptive assessments have demonstrated that the number of high poverty neighborhoods as well as the numbers of poor people and visible minorities concentrated within these neighborhoods have increased dramatically. This proposal responds to a pressing need for innovation in the development of anti-poverty efforts and social policy with special attention to the role of community-based popular education and informal learning.

The Anti-Poverty Community Organizing and Learning (APCOL) project will examine grass-roots popular education and learning strategies within anti-poverty community organizing campaigns in a sample of the highest poverty neighborhoods in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). APCOL represents a partnership of community, organized labour and not-for-profit business organizations along with academics from the four major metropolitan Toronto area post-secondary educational institutions. The APCOL design allocates substantial resources for grass-roots community-based researchers and the ongoing engagement of community partner organizations in all areas of project activity.

APCOL will:

  1. Synthesize the multiple research literatures on anti-poverty policy, community organizing and popular adult education and adult learning to develop an integrative conceptual framework for application to community-based anti-poverty organizing and learning;
  2. Work closely with community members through Participatory Action Research (PAR) and case study methods to generate profiles of current local knowledge, attitudes and available resources in relation to the four major anti-poverty organizing pathways - housing, school completion, access to living wages, and nutrition/health - while co-developing organizing and educational tools for eight neighbourhood-based anti-poverty popular education campaigns;
  3. Design and conduct one of the first comparative, scientific surveys of basic poverty and anti-poverty neighborhood organizing issues in Canada, with purposive samples in each of the eight urban neighbourhoods in the study. Properly constructed sample surveys remain a rarity in studies of community organizing and this survey will be conducted in Years Two and Five to assess changes in key poverty measures, extend findings from the case studies, inform public policy, and support campaign initiatives in Toronto and elsewhere in Canada;
  4. Through the APCOL governance and participation structure, create and study expanded networks and working relationships across community groups engaged in anti-poverty organizing and popular education learning campaigns.

The proposal also addresses several conceptual and methodological gaps in several relevant bodies of research literature. APCOL integrates community-centred survey research methods with participatory action research and qualitative case study methods to deepen understanding of anti-poverty responses. These efforts will contribute new instructional materials and insights for use by community poverty-reduction campaigns in the GTA, Canada and internationally, as well as policy makers and social service agencies.

APCOL includes partnerships with eight grass-roots organizations in high poverty neighborhoods. Facilitated by city-wide, provincial and national community partners specializing in the area of poverty reduction, APCOL will disseminate training and policy materials and research findings through innovative, low-cost information technologies, accessible/applied yearly and quarterly publication, speakers series, and community forums, major project conferences, as well as conventional academic channels and relevant organizations networks.

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Research Background and Relevance

As Beach (2006) has specifically argued, the gap between rich and poor in Canada is greater than it was two decades ago (see Green and Kesselman 2006 generally). The 2006 data indicate that the richest 10% of households earn 71 times more than the poorest 10%; a ratio that has more than doubled, in real dollars, since 1976.

The gap between rich and poor families is now greater than it has been in 30 years and this is after a decade of strong economic growth (Yalnizyan, 2007). Growing levels of poverty are confirmed by reports from a range of sources: e.g. the TD Bank Financial Group, the United Way of Canada as well as Campaign 2000. Moreover, earning differences have increased across gender, age and ethno-racial lines, often resulting in the intensification of poverty within specific communities (Galabuzi 2006).

In Ontario over one million people earn less than $10 an hour. According to Yalnizyan‟s (2007) report over 150,000 manufacturing jobs were lost between 2004 and 2006 in Ontario and these losses have continued to grow since 2006, only partially replaced by lower-paying, more precarious, non-standard employment.

In the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) specifically, between 2002 and 2007 almost 100,000 manufacturing jobs were lost (TD Bank Financial Group 2007). At the same time, the GTA has continued to attract approximately 40 percent of Canadian immigrants overall, leading to population growth of 2% per year. However, over the last decade the economic growth rate of the GTA has consistently trailed Canadian averages by more than 50%.

As the groundbreaking Poverty by Postal Code Report (United Way of Toronto 2004) indicates: “Twenty years ago, most 'poor' families in Toronto lived in mixed-income neighborhoods. Today, they are far more concentrated in neighborhoods with high levels of poverty” (p.1). According to the 2008 Vital Signs Report (Toronto Community Foundation 2008), Toronto (along with Windsor, Ontario) were the only two major cities in Canada to experience decline in median family income since the beginning of the 2000, with more than a fifth of its households living below the poverty line in 2005 (Toronto Community Foundation 2008, pp.8-11).

Over the last decade temporary, poorly paid work has continued to grow (p.34); health for Toronto‟s poor is declining (p.14-16); secondary school attainment remains markedly lower for those living in poverty in Toronto (pp.19-20); housing evictions have sky-rocketed to an “all-time high” (p.22) while applications to subsidized housing and numbers of those seeking temporary housing continuing to grow.

Among the solutions recommended by the United Way of Toronto (2004) is the building of a stronger voice and capacity to respond to these challenges within high-poverty neighbourhoods, highlighting the need for action in several key areas: housing; education; income, employment and re-training; and, services contributing to health and nutrition (p.56-59). The City of Toronto also has responded to these issues by targeting a similar range of interventions to “priority” neighbourhoods.

The Anti-Poverty Organizing and Learning (APCOL) proposal builds from empirical evidence such as this, but is also grounded in established theories of human needs, the multiple roots of poverty, and established research on community organizing and human learning.

Theories of human needs typically postulate that there are four basic elements of subsistence that must be met before sustained attention can be given to higher order psychological abilities and requirements. In particular, physiological needs for nourishment, health, safety and security from illness and violence should be addressed before needs for self-esteem, self- and collective forms of development can be realized.

There has been a tradition of debate regarding the hierarchical nature of human needs (e.g. Max-Neef, 1991). It has become widely conceded that people living in poverty are struggling to meet basic physiological and safety needs but, across a variety of disciplinary approaches it is arguable that the psychological needs for human attachment and a sense of fairness or social justice are relevant components of basic requirements as well (e.g., Nussbaum 1992; Sullivan, Tifft and Cordella 1998; Taylor 2006; Assiter and Noonan 2007).

in the current context of accelerating polarization and isolation of poor people in neighbourhoods with few relevant services, APCOL is premised on the facts that poverty is multi-dimensional and that effective action should address four basic needs:

  1. Health/Nutrition/Food Security;
  2. Safe Shelter / Housing;
  3. Opportunity for Adequate Education; and
  4. Access to a Jobs, Vocational Training and Living Wages

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Overall Goals

The overall goal of APCOL is to develop an integrated, city-wide perspective on community anti-poverty organizing efforts in the GTA with an emphasis on the contributions of popular education and learning processes.

Our fundamental premise is that education and learning are not only the basis for a stable democratic society but – when linked with organizations having clear goals and strategies – are also the basis for successful collective action on poverty reduction.

We will document and analyze organizing efforts in both breadth and depth drawing on a combined qualitative-case-study and quantitative-survey research design involving specific measures of organizing activity as well as popular education and learning listed below.

To do this, APCOL will build from and support several carefully selected grass-roots community-based campaigns – eight campaign cases in total; each neighborhood campaign linked with a closely associated trustee or coordinating community organization who will administer case study funds. These cases offer representative examples across the four anti-poverty areas of need listed above and will be undertaken in specific neighbourhoods spread across the GTA. For example:

  • Health/Nutrition/Food Security: Black Creek neighborhood health campaign to organize for local, healthy food production with particular attention to the diet of low income seniors;
  • the Flemingdon Park neighbourhood initiative to organize for basic nutritional needs provision through the "Good Market Food‟ campaign (in coordination with Food Share Toronto).
  • Housing: the Weston neighborhood campaign for inclusive zoning to expand tenant‟s rights (in coordination with ACORN);
  • the Mount Dennis neighborhood campaign seeking to strengthen organizational capacity for emerging residents association for low-income housing (in coordination with Community Social Planning Council of Toronto).
  • School Completion: the Regent Park neighbourhood campaign to support successful secondary school completion pathways linked to the George Brown "Pathways‟ (in coordination with the Downtown East Community Coalition);
  • the North Scarborough nieghborhood secondary school completion campaign for at-risk youth (in coordination with North Scarborough resident‟s association and the Community Social Planning Council).
  • Access to Jobs/Vocational Training/Living Wage: the Central Toronto multi-neighborhood "Living Wage‟ campaign to build on successes in raising the minimum wage and combating precarious employment (in coordination with the Toronto and York Region Labour Council);
  • the Central Toronto multi-neighborhood initiative for apprenticeship mentoring for at-risk youth (in coordination with Apprenticeship Program of George Brown College).

Both the survey and the case study research will be supported by our city-wide community organization and national community organization partners in terms of contributions of expertise, resources and the facilitation of broader networks of information exchange. Our findings will be immediately relevant to the GTA and will produce outcomes useful and specifically requested by both community and academic partners.

These findings will provide detailed descriptions and analysis of the range of relevant models of anti-poverty action for other urban centers across Canada, North America and beyond. Dissemination and innovative knowledge mobilization will
draw on both the extensive (academic and community) partnerships in the APCOL team, as well as international scholars affiliated with the Centre for the Study of Education and Work (CSEW, University of Toronto) which has recently completed its second, large-scale research network project on issues of education, work and economy over the past decade.

An extensive review of research literature on anti-poverty campaigns indicates there are several important factors that determine the success of these efforts. Some recent studies of poverty in Toronto offer general contextual evidence (e.g. United Way/Social Planning Council 2004, TD Bank Financial Group 2007; Toronto Community Foundation 2008)) while others take a more detailed look at a specific neighbourhood, gentrification and spatial isolation (e.g. Hulchanski 2004) .

However, to date there has been no systematic attempt to build city-wide perspectives on anti-poverty community organizing using a combined qualitative/quantitative research design. There has been no sample surveying of community organizing. And, there have been no attempts to gather systematic data on the role of popular education and learning processes as key tools within the organizing process.

APCOL‟s detailed data on community organizing will fill a major gap in understanding this process. But APCOL has a particular emphasis on the role of adult popular education and broader informal learning practices that community members engage in as they undertake efforts to bring about positive change. Below we summarize prior research on (A) anti-poverty organizing and then (B) on popular education and learning within community organizing efforts. In each of these sub-sections we provide the rationale for conceptual choices, define terms of reference and identify core analytic terms.

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Background Research on Anti-Poverty Organizing & Key Concepts

APCOL builds on existing anti-poverty organizing and campaign efforts: effective community partnership begins from a recognition of existing interests, capacity and activity. Our scan of organizing activities within the GTA produced a listing of over 160 community-centred initiatives across the four key needs for anti-poverty organizing.

While there is a great deal to learn from existing efforts, to date they operate in dispersed ways, there is no evidence that they build or learn from each other, and there is little empirical documentation of their outcomes in terms of the popular education and informal learning dimensions of activities.

Despite the extensive and diverse range of anti-poverty organizing across North American cities, systematic research on the organizing process/outcomes remains rare. Recent research contains predominantly descriptive accounts, i.e. case studies or personal accounts of specific campaign efforts (e.g. Williams 1997; Martin 2002; Capraro 2004; Kliedman, 2004; Berryhill and Linney 2006; Foster-Fishman, Fitzgerald, Brandell, Nowell, Chavis and Egeren 2006).

Even among the most developed research on community organizing in either Canada (e.g. Tennant, 1981; Harris, 1987; Caulfield 1988; Hasson & Ley, 1994; Ng, Walker & Muller, 1990; Wharf & Clague, 1997) or the USA (e.g. King and Posner, 1990; Eyerman and Jamison, 1991; Stoecker, 1994; Stall and Stoecker, 1998; Conway and Hachen 2005), there is little evidence of comparative analysis of different forms of organizing taking place in cities, and no evidence of combined qualitative/quantitative research designs to assess anti-poverty community organizing within a city as a whole.

Despite these weaknesses, some important observations can be gleaned from this literature for our purposes. Craig (2007) has demonstrated that top-down interventions led by either service agencies or governments that establish predetermined goals and strategies do not effectively generate the necessary capacities in local neighbourhoods to sustain social change. Craig demonstrates the value of developing the capacity for community organizing at the grass-roots (p.349). Research by Boyle (2005) and Melendez, Falcon and Montrichard (2004) extend this basic argument to include community partnerships with colleges or universities.

The APCOL research design follows these insights by focusing on local community initiatives and a participatory action research (PAR) approach: an approach in which the (academic and community-based) researchers are co-learners and there is community participation in the development of the research and its use for education and change (cf. Minkler 2000). Beyond these research design matters, APCOL responds to the need for a comprehensive approach to variables used to analyze organizing and a range of specific conceptual gaps in this literature. At the end of this section we offer a comprehensive conceptual model of community organizing analysis.

But first we address the contested concept of social capital. In the recent literatures on social movements, community organizing and community economic development, as well as in anti-poverty policy-making, social capital has become a central explanatory concept. Indeed, notions of „social capital‟ have now been developed in the research literature to the point that some (e.g. Halpern 2005) have announced a clear program for its study including a focus on networks, norms and sanctions, articulating levels of analysis (individual, meso- and macro-level), and shared recognition of the multiple functions of social capital (i.e. bonding, bridging and linking) (p.39).

However, in their review of literature, Middleton et al (2005) demonstrate persuasively that social capital is often used in an imprecise, generic way rather than as a clear, applicable analytical concept (p.1711).

Most research has emphasized the positive role that high levels of trust and social cohesion can play in facilitating community organizing, collective action, mutual aid and local economic development (e.g. Putnam 1993; Jarley 2004), adding that, like other forms of capital, social capital is unevenly distributed and is part of the process of reproducing social inequalities (see DeFillipis 2001).

Still others note that the emergence and sustainability of coalition work, the spread of knowledge and learning processes about problems, policies, strategies and tactics, the capacity to communicate via community ties, and the effectiveness of attempts to mobilize resources for organizing depend on forms of social networks primarily (e.g. Meyer and Whittier, 1994; Strang and Soule, 1998; Mischke, 2003).

Although subject to much debate, it seems clear that at the centre of conceptualizations of social capital is the notion that (economic and non-economic) resources are distributed via social networks (e.g. Bourdieu 1985, 1999; Portes 1998). That is, the presence or absence of social ties of various kinds shape whether people gain access to information, educational or employment opportunities, political influence and/or economic resources.

The research that is most useful to APCOL’s goals has sought to determine the impact that different configurations of social networks – as well as the place of individual activists‟ and particular organizing campaigns within these networks – can have on outcomes (e.g. Diani, 2002). Therefore, the position of anti-poverty organizing efforts within and across the networks of individuals, neighbourhoods and cities, and beyond, are key issues for this research project. The mapping of social networks in the process of their emergence and development is central to the APCOL project.

Such networks must be understood, minimally, in terms of their "density‟ (the number of network connections across participants), their "intensity‟ (the depth of connections) as well as "form‟ (the type/purpose of the connections)(cf. Diani, 2002).

To understand community organizing, however, even detailed assessments of social networks are not enough. East (2002, p.170) argues that community change research typically does not effectively take into account salient social differences (e.g. age, gender, class and ethnicity). Moreover, as Stone (1999, p.853) and Wakefield and Poland (2005, p.2819) argue, civil society cannot be meaningfully separated from economic relations, thus we see that local labour market conditions are an important factor in community organizing against poverty (e.g. Shiva 1989; Vaillancourt and Jette 1997; Shragge and Fontain 2000; Cranford and Ladd 2003; Jackson 2004).

Indeed, the necessity to attend to material/economic as well as communicative/cultural resources was stressed some time ago by researchers who debated the resource mobilization approach to analyzing social movement organizing (e.g. Jenkins 1983; Buechler 1993; McAdams, McCarthy and Zald 1996). Finally, community organizing is also dependent on processes of problem identification. That is, as Conway and Hachen (2005) and Osterman (2006) show, there is a need to understand the social process of grievance identification/construction, or rather how various conditions of deprivation are converted to an identifiable social problem.

In sum, our review of research on organizing activity indicates that five key dimensions (highlighted above) have been empirically demonstrated to have strong explanatory power, despite the fact that no research to date has effectively integrated these five dimensions in a sustained, city-wide empirical project of the scale and comparative nature proposed here.

Thus, our model of community organizing incorporates these five dimensions across both our case study and survey instruments:

  1. Social Networks: individual patterns of social attachments inclusive of the density, intensity and form as described above.
  2. Social Differences: demographic information including race, ethnicity, gender, age profile, family types, educational attainment, further education, income.
  3. The Character of Labour Markets Serving Specific Neighbourhoods: where and how participants are employed, wage levels, job security, advancement potential, extent of under-employment.
  4. Grievance Construction Process: issues that people perceive as individual challenges in their lives, and the social processes through which these become constructed as potentially resolvable social problems in their communities.
  5. Material, Communication and Cultural Resources: the range of material, communications and cultural supports for community organizing (e.g. financial, space and time to meet, means of / effectiveness of information sharing, established cultural traditions of responding to and frames of reference for understanding social problems).

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Background Research on Popular Education/Learning and Community Organizing

The factors for analyzing community organizing listed above are all subject to intervention via popular education and informal learning processes. The grievance construction process, for example, is fundamentally an adult learning process: it depends upon the generation of new understanding, knowledge and attitudes.

Likewise, understanding communication and cultural resources entails the dissemination, use and development of forms of information, knowledge and skill in order to be realized as a resource. The same can also be said about social networks: people must learn to construct and engage in them and they must learn from social networks to realize gains.

Finally, material resources, including those delivered through labour market participation, represent mediating factors that shape the possibilities for individuals and communities to engage in popular education and learning. Learning, in this sense, is endemic to effective community organizing, and yet there exist virtually no sustained, empirical efforts of the comparative nature we are proposing here to assess learning and organizing activities together.

In terms of popular education and informal learning research, the writings of Freire (1970), Alinsky (1972) and Lindeman (1987) have been instrumental in the development of the notion of community organizing as a popular education process. Research has demonstrated the general effectiveness of popular education as a tool for improving the lives of poor and marginalized communities.

Elements of this process have been identified (across Freire, Alinksky, Lindeman): knowledge development through participants‟ identification of generative themes based on common experiences/problems; the process of codification of these experiences; analysis of their root causes; and further knowledge development in the course of organized, collective action.

The substantive foci of current scholarship in this area, however, vary widely. In the area of public health for example, Michael, Farquhar, Wiggins and Green (2007) outline the work of a local health initiative which was successful at improving health through the application of popular education methods. Related research by Murray (2000) and El-Askari et al (1998) also point toward the important role of collective education and learning in the community organizing process around both health and community safety.

A popular education dimension also informs the processes of empowerment in the Flyn, Ray and Rider (1994) study of the Healthy Cities initiative where participatory action research methods are highlighted (p.396). Rivera (2004) demonstrates the dramatic improvement that popular education helped brings to the lives of homeless women-of-colour through gains in literacy, self-esteem, and civic participation in welfare, housing and health issues (p.209).

In addition, popular education and community organizing approaches have also been used to link university/college programming with community-based anti-poverty work by concentrating on identification of community resources (e.g. Jakubowsky and Burman 2004; Melendez et al.2004; Maldonado, Rhoads and Buenavista 2005). Research on participant education within community anti-poverty organizing initiatives aimed at school reform (e.g. Shirley 1997; Gold et al 2004) and social services (e.g. Merideth 1994; Gutierrez, Alvarez, Nemon and Lewis 1996) have likewise shown that learning new knowledge and skills are pivotal for successful outcomes of organizing initiatives.

However, as with the community organizing literature, the popular and community education literature is dominated by descriptive case studies (see the extensive review by Hall and Turey 2006). Generally speaking, current research lacks conceptual clarity and development.

Importantly, as Hall and Turey note, this learning research has rarely effectively been integrated with the full range of factors that define the outcomes of the community organizing process reviewed in the previous sub-section.

Thus, even where popular education is identified as an important factor in organizing (e.g. Hammond 1999; Lykes 1999; Berger 2000; Conway 2001; Shepard 2005; Hamako 2005), it often becomes poorly distinguished in relation to the organizing process. That is, on the one hand it is treated as virtually indistinguishable in analytic terms, or on the other popular/community education is treated simply as a categorical means or outcome rather than an active process to be investigated in detail itself. Neither treatments are adequate in our view.

Another limitation in the popular education literature on community organizing is the virtual absence of recognition of what is known as informal learning. While popular education efforts build from people‟s experiences to generate curricular supports and strategies, much less is known about how – outside of a specific popular education interventions – people engage in learning in their everyday lives: vital processes which either support or undermine these interventions significantly (e.g. Sawchuk 2003, 2006a, 2006b; Livingstone and Sawchuk 2004; Hall and Turey 2006).

Our review of research on popular education and informal learning suggests a focus on the following dimensions:

  1. Community Organizing Popular Education: peoples‟ participation/exclusion from popular education initiatives linked to specific organizing campaigns, with a focus on (i) knowledge, skill and attitudes brought to these interventions; (ii) knowledge, skill and attitudes generated from these interventions; and (iii) the effectiveness of application of knowledge and skill in organizing initiatives.
  2. Community Organizing Informal Learning: gather and analyze data on (i) peoples‟ participation/exclusion from relationships (in the home, with friends, in the course of campaign activity, etc. outside of popular education interventions) that demonstrate the development of knowledge, skill and attitudinal changes related to anti-poverty organizing; (ii) the frequency of (how often), intensity of (how deeply) and the time-devoted to (how long) these informal learning processes; (iii) the form (e.g. locus of control) of these informal learning processes; and (iv) the resources/content of knowledge, skill and attitudes learned by informal means.

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Research Questions

The summary reviews of literature above serve to specify our core research concepts, our rationale for selecting them, and how we intend to apply them within our research.

Our case study and survey instruments reflect these conceptual foci: first, the five conceptual dimensions of community organizing; and second the two key dimensions of education/learning in relation to poverty issues. These will generate data in relation to life in geographically defined neighborhoods suffering from high poverty leading to a city-wide perspective on organizing/learning development.

With these conceptual foci in mind, APCOL is guided by three specific research questions:

  1. What is the nature and effectiveness of community-based anti-poverty organizing in the GTA?
  2. What is the nature and effectiveness of popular education/informal learning in supporting community-based anti-poverty organizing in the GTA?
  3. How can community-based anti-poverty organizing efforts in the GTA engage with, support and learn from one another?

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Methodology

GTA Neighbourhood Anti-Poverty Survey: APCOL is informed by prior debates about the challenges to combining qualitative and quantitative methods in poverty research (e.g. Kanbur, 2003; Ravallion, 2003; White, 2002) and by the few extensive efforts to combine them in sustained ways, most notably the work of Verner and Alda (2004) with Brazilian youth in poor urban neighbourhoods.

Sample surveys of poor neighbourhoods remain a rarity in studies of community organizing to date. In the first year, APCOL researchers and community partners will cooperatively develop a survey questionnaire.

Pilot studies will identify specific generative themes based on discussions in the neighbourhoods. The subsequent questionnaire will address demographics as well as actual conditions and attitudes towards the four basic needs, local labour market experiences, social networks, grievances and access to cultural/material resources.

Three different measures will be used to identify poverty: lacking socially perceived necessities; being subjectively poor and having a relatively low income (Bradshaw and Finch, 2003).

APCOL will conduct a two-phase face-to-face survey, in Years 2 and 5. The survey will be based on purposive sampling in eight of the poorest neighbourhoods in GTA (United Way, 2004). These samples (N=8x100=800 people) will be drawn from households in neighbourhoods in which the case studies are being conducted and will include people identified as poor on at least two of these measures in Year 2.

The surveys will be conducted by teams of academics, graduate students and community members themselves. The resulting data on material conditions and attitudes will establish benchmarks and allow estimation of changes in poverty conditions as well as community-based anti-poverty organizing and popular education/informal learning activity over this three year period.

Participatory Action Research Case Studies: This component will involve the eight case studies in community-based anti-poverty organizing initiatives representing the four basic pathways for anti-poverty action identified above. The case studies will include in-depth semi-structured interviews as well as focus group dialogues with neighbourhood volunteers centred on themes related to the basic need that is the priority of the local neighbourhood campaign.

The case studies will be carried out by teams of academics, graduate students and well-trained, equipped and paid community members. Using these qualitative data on all of the identified issues, descriptive and analytic accounts of organizing/education/ learning activities will be prepared and shared.

The semi-structured interviews will provide quantitative measures to link to survey data as well as more specific emergent themes. Prior experience of the research team on the topic indicates that a participatory action research approach is an effective way to ensure that case study research contributes to positive change processes (e.g. Martin 1995, Livingstone and Sawchuk 2004). Each case study is co-led by a community representative and one or more academic co-leads.

Both the case studies and the surveys will provide substantial opportunities for students to develop their research skills and future employability in this important policy area through community engagement as well as through contributions to original research. Moreover, the close linkage with the development of academic courses in this area shall enhance curricular, teaching and educational materials.
 

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Reference List (PDF file)

 

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