The Poverty Primer from the Tamarack Institute is a foundational tool for communities who are considering the start-up of a place-based poverty reduction effort. The resource describes the essential elements of a convening framework including: the core building blocks of understanding poverty; building a community base; leveraging community capacity; and, ensuring that there are adequate technical and financial resources to support this community-wide effort.


This Primer is designed for people and communities of all sizes interested in developing and sustaining a long-term, local effort to reduce poverty. The Primer describes the ‘work’ of a convening group – a new type of collaborative organization established to plan, manage and sustain a comprehensive, multisector effort to reduce poverty.

This booklet will give readers an understanding of the four key areas or building blocks of a convening group’s work, the four different phases of unfolding a poverty reduction campaign, the key challenge a convening group might face in each major phase of its work and, fi nally, some of the environmental factors that will infl uence a community’s work. Much of the information in this booklet was initially infl uenced by our experience in the Opportunities 2000 project – an initiative in Waterloo Region, Ontario, from 1997-2000 that strove to reduce that community’s poverty rate to the lowest in Canada. We played a principal role in Opportunities 2000 and, thanks to our work there, we learned a great deal about what it takes to mobilize a community to reduce poverty.

We know that our experience in Waterloo, however instructive, represents only one way to go about this important work. This booklet is, therefore, also based on research on other initiatives in the United States and Canada that are crafting communitybased efforts to tackle poverty – or some other local issue – in more strategic ways. This Primer also refl ects what we have learned from the dozen or more communities across Canada that have developed their own place-based poverty reduction strategies and participated in the Vibrant Communities Pan-Canadian Learning Community. In this newest version of the Primer, we are also including a section on Collective Impact as a framing approach for collaborative community change efforts. Collective Impact represents some of the newest thinking on comprehensive community change.

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