As President & CEO of United Way Centraide Canada, I have the tremendous privilege of speaking with non-profit leaders across our country every day. I hear about the issues facing our communities – poverty, youth unemployment, a lack of affordable housing. And I know that these big issues affect us all, from coast to coast to coast, in each local city, town and neighbourhood.
Through these conversations, I have come to realize the power of United Way. Of what it means to be a movement for social change. And I am reminded of the great value of collaboration – between government, labour, non-profits, philanthropists, business and all Canadians – in creating the best living conditions possible for all of us. I have learned how we can multiply our efforts by working together, and how we can innovate to build our collective capacity to change lives in our communities.
As our federal government moves toward growing the middle class through ambitious social change, such as a National Poverty Reduction Strategy, this commitment to collaboration between Canadians, their government, and the corporate and non-profit organizations that serve them is critical to our nation’s success. With close to 15 per cent of Canadians living in poverty, we must maximize our efforts by working together to address these key issues.
A key example of this collective strategy in action can be found in the National Housing Collaborative, in which United Way has been a key participant. United in the belief that all Canadians should have access to affordable and adequate housing, this group of stakeholders from across the housing system – public, private, and non-profit – have come together to develop transformative and innovative policy solutions to Canada’s housing problem.
The group pooled resources toward the achievement of one common goal – changing the landscape for the 3.3 million Canadians who cannot access housing they need at a cost they can afford. Speaking with one voice has allowed for more coherent and comprehensive research and policy development, and will facilitate continued dialogue between the non-profit sector and government, business and community leaders as we work together toward this goal.
Collaboration also manifests itself every day at the local level. When we, as Canadians, come together to invest in creating the conditions for social change, everyone benefits. Creating a great country starts with each of us, and our work towards a common goal of improving lives and building better communities for everyone. When we work together, we leave no one behind.
Indeed, the value of this work is evidenced in very human ways. We see it in the renewed energy of a widow who accesses a seniors’ program that connects to her community. In the strength of a young woman who is lifted out of homelessness and into a meaningful job. In the growing confidence of a child who gains new skills thanks to a local music program. And in the restored hope of a man who leaves addiction in the past to plan for a bright future.
And so, no matter what issue faces us, what sector of the economy we represent, or what community across Canada we live in, one thing is for certain. Together, we can ignite social change. Together, we are possibility.
Dr. Jacline Nyman
President & CEO
United Way Centraide Canada