Partnering for Change – Community Based Solutions for Aboriginal and Inner-city Poverty

by Shauna MacKinnon

The Manitoba Research Alliance (MRA), a community university research partnership hosted by CCPA Manitoba under the leadership of University of Manitoba Economist Dr. John Loxley has received a 7-year, $2.5 million  Partnership Grant through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). Our proposal outlines a research program that will examine how promising community-based solutions can be supported at the institutional and policy levels to resolve deepening poverty-related problems in Manitoba’s inner-city and Aboriginal communities.

CCPA-Manitoba has been conducting community-based participatory research for the past 10 or so years.  As a result we have developed strong and trusting relationships with inner-city community organizations leading to a genuine research partnership that respects the knowledge and experience of community organizations.  This project expands our partnership to include participants from First Nations.

A total of 125 research applications were vetted through a rigorous application process.  Our community-based model and our strong record of research led an expert panel of Canadian researchers to rank our proposal the top proposal in its category.

The model that we have developed is unique in that it ensures community organizations working on the front lines are at the centre of our research, identifying research priorities and driving the research process.

Our community partners tell us what issues they are concerned about and the kinds of research that will help them to do their work better but most importantly, to effect policy changes that will improve the lives of the individuals and families that they work with.

What’s also unique about our model is that CCPA, the host organization, is situated within the community.  We provide ongoing research support for organizations and we act as a link between community organizations and university researchers. This is important because it ensures a research model that is deeply entrenched in the community, accessible to the community and centred on trusting relationships between researchers and community organizations. It means that researchers do not parachute in and leave once their research is done. It also means that our research is communicated and disseminated more broadly, beyond traditional academic circles and in language that is accessible to the general public. MRA research is used by university professors and students, governments, community organizations and charitable organizations.

One particularly important aspect of this 7-year SSHRC grant is that it will allow us to conduct much needed longitudinal research.  Tracking the progress of program participants and their families over time can give us a better understanding of where gaps in policy and programs exist, and how they can be improved.  Governments and charitable organizations are increasingly seeking evidence-based research. Our research contributes to a broader body of research that informs policy and program development, ensuring improved social and economic outcomes for populations who continue to be overrepresented among those most marginalized and excluded.  Equally important, our research is relevant to the community.

As stated by the Executive Director of one inner city program, we are “purposely engaging in active research as a means to impact public policy”.

Shauna MacKinnon is the director of the CCPA-mb.

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