Acknowledging a shared responsibility for solutions, comprehensive community initiatives are premised on the importance of collaborative models of governance. This case study from the Tamarack Institute is focused on the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction and provides a window for learning and reflection, especially around the role assumed by the City of Hamilton as both convener and partner.

Shared Leadership –– Collaborative Governance:
Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction

Vibrant Communities (VC) initiatives are dynamic processes, bringing community leaders from business, government and the nonprofit sector to join with low-income residents in developing and delivering strategies to reduce poverty, foster inclusion and improve quality of life. How might representatives of government –– federal, provincial, regional, municipal –– participate most appropriately and effectively in such initiatives? How might a department’’s or organization’’s objectives be pursued while also linking immediate objectives with longer-term goals? This series of VC stories explores these questions and the engagement of governments in four VC sites: Saint John, Hamilton, BC’’s Capital Region and Calgary.

How can governments participate in the messy task of addressing complex, multifaceted issues? Poverty is commonly referred to as a ““wicked”” challenge –– for reasons beyond its harmful effects. It is often understood as more than income deprivation. Multiple factors, including poor health, low education levels and poor housing, frequently combine with poverty to make its effect more profound.

In order to respond more effectively to the complexity of the challenge, many communities are embarking upon comprehensive community initiatives. These efforts generally seek to engage diverse sectors in working together on a collaborative basis, over the long term, to tackle a wide range of interrelated issues [Torjman and Leviten-Reid 2003]. Multiple actors have unique roles to play in these initiatives; many policies and programs designed and delivered by all orders of government have an impact upon poverty, and thus each becomes a potential focus for intervention.

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