Promoting a `Vertical Conversation` on Poverty

Report
Promoting a
‘Vertical
Conversation’ on
Poverty Reduction
John Stapleton
Metcalf Foundation Fellow
July, 2009
What is a Vertical Conversation?

A vertical conversation is a dialogue undertaken
between all stakeholders


in a particular area; or
on a particular topic

The ‘top’ of the conversation is comprised of those
closest to power, those who have the most ‘policy
currency’, and who can make and influence decisions

The ‘bottom’ is comprised by those furthest from
power and who have the least direct influence and
lowest level of stated policy knowledge but often the
most passion, moral outrage, stamina, and political
distance from those in power
2
Who is in the vertical conversation?

Government: Political ; Government: Civil Servants; Government Watchdogs: Inside

Government Watchdogs: Outside

Municipalities; Municipal Associations

Institutional Interests

Academic Associations

Private Sector

Leadership Alliances

Think Tanks

Funders/philanthropies

Agencies

Activist: Government and policy oriented; Activist: Base Mobilizers; Activist: Community

Self-help groups: Grass Roots

Consumer and Survivor voices

Media

Activist: Outside Orientation –political
3
Who has good vertical conversations?

That is:


Cohesive, respectful, consensus building, respected
by government, reliable, forceful
Wide consensus that best vertical conversations
take place in the following areas

Arts

Environment

Recreation
4
Who has challenges to their vertical
conversation ?

Housing has challenges involving all stakeholders from time to time

Urban renewal advocates are not always on same page

Poverty Reduction interests have one of the most difficult challenges by
having a series of narrow horizontal conversations among but not
between stakeholders
5
What is a horizontal conversation?

A horizontal conversation takes place when one
type of stakeholder dominates the public space in a
conversation where:

Endorsements for one set of solutions are routinely
sought from other stakeholders (but not the other
way round)

Governments are invited to hear from a narrow band
of stakeholders

Media generally covers the ‘fault lines’ between
government and the most vocal stakeholder
6
What does the Poverty Reduction
Conversation look like in Ontario?

The following slide illustrates the stakeholder level
(sector) and (sample) players (entities) in each
sector.

The shaded area illustrates the horizontal band of
stakeholders that seeks endorsement, invites
government most aggressively to take specific
action, and solicits media attention

It is also the sector with the least direct influence,
least policy expertise but greatest passion, sense of
outrage and political difference.
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The Social Policy Food Chain: A Vertical Slice for Poverty Reduction and Social Assistance
Sector
Entities
Government: & Political Side
Premier’s Office, Results Committee, Ministers’ staff
Government: Civil Servants
MCSS, Finance
Government Watchdogs: Inside
Human Rights commission, Ombudsman
Government Watchdogs: Outside
Citizen’s Advisory Groups, NCW, CCPA
Municipalities
City of Toronto, Peel, Kingston, Windsor ( i.e. activist municipalities)
Municipal Associations
AMO, OMSSA
Institutional Interests
OMA, MSF, RNAO
Academic Associations
Queens’ Policy Studies, CFC (Milway, Florida), Frontier College, Teacher’s Unions and Assoc.
Private Sector
TD Economics
Leadership Alliances
TCSA (MISWAA)
Think Tanks
Caledon, CD Howe
Funders/philanthropies
ACF, Metcalf
Food Banks
OAFB, Daily Bread, The Stop
Non-profit: (Charitable)
Settlement Houses , TNC
Activist: Government and policy oriented
25-5, Worker’s Action Centre
Activist: Base Mobilizers
SPNO, Recession Relief Coalition
Activist: Community
CSPC-T, ISAC, Scarborough groups
Self-help groups: Grass Roots
St. James Town, Crescent Town
Consumer and Survivor voices
Voices from the Street
Media
Toronto Star
Activist: Outside Orientation –political
OCAP
The Community Activist Sector - What could be
termed the horizontal group of activists that is the
visible part of the advocacy and activist sector
8
Why is a vertical conversation
required in the poverty reduction
area?

To have more influence on government

To increase policy currency (knowledge and
expertise)

To tap into evidence based research

To grow a better media strategy

To marshal credibility of other stakeholders

To Influence other stakeholders in a position of
power and influence (near and or outside
government).
9
How has a horizontal conversation
hurt the poverty reduction agenda?

Activists aggressive calls for endorsements,
government action and media coverage has
crowded out other stakeholders in the vertical
conversation i.e. They ‘claim the space’

Other Stakeholders with influence, policy expertise,
and credibility often ‘cede’ their influence to
activists by endorsing campaigns rather than
developing their own voices independently i.e. They
cede their space to others.
10
How can poverty stakeholders
work differently?

Acknowledge importance of a vertical conversation
to strengthen and inform advocacy

Convene a vertical conversation for the Ontario
government’s announced:

social assistance review;

Citizen centred approach to social policy; and

Its new social policy institute
11
How can poverty stakeholders
work differently?

Develop non-traditional solutions to recurring
problems

e.g. Welfare caseload growth during recessions,
inadequacy of benefits, stigma, welfare wall, program
complexity, asset stripping etc

Share knowledge and expertise

Set out implementable steps for government action
12
How can poverty stakeholders
work differently?

Collaboration is the key.......

Activists in horizontal conversation could be asked to
collaborate by reducing endorsement, government
confrontation and media action

Other vertical stakeholders could be asked to work
more diligently to offer solutions based on their
expertise in a more prominent and collaborative way
13
What does a vertical conversation
experiment look like for poverty
reduction?

Ask government to provide an audience to a
convened group of poverty reduction stakeholders
across sectors

Convene (invite) vertical stakeholder groups across
sectors

Stage a facilitated conversation to mine the
benefits of collaboration

Ask for a commitment to collaboration
14
What does a vertical conversation experiment
look like for poverty reduction?

Develop new solutions

Go back to government

Engage in a new collaborative conversation with
government as a potential partner

Move forward
15

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