May 21

By Sean Meyer

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Poverty is a complex, ongoing problem no matter where you are, but it’s also something that can look very different from one community to the next.

With that in mind London Poverty Research Centre at King’s (LBRC) was formally launched in 2014 with the intention of providing a Forest City-focus to the issue while also offering locally sourced data to those battling the problem.

Michael Courey is the only staff member at the centre, serving as co-ordinator since February 2017. His job is to co-ordinate the LPRC’s ongoing projects, as well as mobilize its social media campaign.

It’s also his responsibly to continue to build the organization’s data repository, which looks at poverty indicators and social assistance usage from a London perspective.

“We’re looking at how it impacts people’s experience of poverty and also how it creates challenges for people to enter the labour market as they attempt to escape poverty,” Michael said. “We wanted to keep a focus on regional data for London and ensuring the community of London has access to that information.”

The data repository is gathered through data-sharing agreements the LPRC has with about 20 organizations, such as the London Food Bank, the Men’s Mission, the city’s four neighbourhood resources centres and the Elgin-Middlesex-London Health Unit.

“Our goal is to provide a publicly accessible data set, whether for researchers or community groups or interested citizens so they can have access to high-quality data,” Michael said. “It’s based on the notion a better-informed citizen base will make better decisions together.”

Mayor Matt Brown’s poverty panel was “a large step,” Michael said, in making the issue a key focus for both the city administration and organizations across London.

With the creation of the London For All implementation group, he adds its about continuing the panel’s efforts and identifying areas where the community is able to make change, but to also show that changes have been successfully made.

“I’d say the political will in London is growing for addressing issues of inequality and social exclusion. These are issues that affect people across the socio-economic status,” Michael said. “Whether we are having the right conversations is still up in the air. One of the biggest things for us to break through is to move from understanding the problem to actually creating solutions. That’s probably the spot we’re at.”

While Londoners have acknowledged the problem of poverty, Michael said the problem — as with all collaborative endeavours — it’s difficult to agree on solutions.

That said, it is the spirit of collaboration that brought LPRC to Innovation Works in the first place.

Michael said, at an organizational level, he’s made many contacts just by sitting at my desk and having people stop by and randomly introduce themselves. It’s a great way, he adds, to continue and build a network.

Personally, he said, it’s great being in an environment where many people are looking to address problems, whether they are poverty or business related.

“My hope would be that a conversation emerges in this location, where we can bridge some kind of gap between the longstanding tensions between profit and social investment,” Michael said. “From a London Poverty Research Centre point of view, we definitely have a desire to work both in the private and public sectors and find areas of agreement to move forward from, while at the same time, we do place importance of social impact much above the profit motive.”

For more information, visit http://www.povertyresearch.ca.