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Prosperity Gateways: The City of Edmonton tackles poverty reduction on the frontlines

6 August 2020
Prosper Canada and the City of Edmonton have embarked on a new and exciting relationship integrating financial empowerment tools into critical city services through the Prosperity Gateways: Cities for Financial Empowerment Initiative. The goal for the City of Edmonton is to help people with their financial challenges and contribute to a better city through tailored financial empowerment supports embedded into existing city programs. Given the recent challenging times, innovative and impactful ideas are the necessary route to ensure valued city supports don’t become disconnected from the people who need them most and contribute to the city’s goals of poverty reduction and homelessness prevention. 
Prosperity Gateways and financial empowerment (FE) in and of itself is an approach to poverty reduction that focuses on improving the financial security and well-being of people living on low income. These activities focus on three key areas:
  • Earn
  • Save
  • Build
By embedding key financial empowerment supports through financial education, income tax clinics, benefits screening assistance and one-on-one financial help, cities and municipalities will provide support that contributes to greater impact of city programs to financially vulnerable people, improve employment outcomes, reduce homelessness and reduce poverty. 
This is achieved through the collaborative design of financial empowerment tool integration into existing city services. In this case, in conjunction with the creation of Community Navigators who will help low-income Edmontonians overcome time, money, awareness and transportation barriers by helping them access government benefits, free tax-filing services and one-on-one supports.
The development of the partnership between Prosper Canada and the City of Edmonton has leveraged a specific design model ensuring that stakeholders at all levels  have input and play a role in constructing the way the integration works so that all perspectives from client to frontline staff to city staff are taken into consideration.
According to Jenny Kain, Director, Safe & Healthy Communities, City of Edmonton, “The Social Development branch of the City of Edmonton has been really pleased to work with Prosper Canada throughout this project. They have been amazing partners; contributing time, resources and a wealth of knowledge and insight through all phases of the work from identifying opportunities for integration of FE services through to the design process and now, planning for implementation.  We are excited to move this forward to make a meaningful difference in the lives of Edmontonians living on low incomes and struggling to make ends meet - particularly now, given the additional financial struggles as a result of COVID-19.” 
Thus far, Prosper Canada and the City of Edmonton have participated in co-design and training sessions to build on current principles of creating Prosperity Gateways. This includes developing co-located financial empowerment supports in high traffic locations such as Recreation Centres, the Edmonton Service Centre, City Hall and Libraries. The City has also created the Community Navigator role; a group of city social workers who will help connect Edmontonians to essential FE supports in their community. We are currently working together to further evolve this integrated solution working with the community and City to determine which supports are most relevant and helpful to customers, which locations work best and what tools and resources the Community Navigators need.
Eunice Adekola, Social Worker, Safe & Healthy Communities, City of Edmonton, who was part of the co-design session and training with Prosper Canada, sees Prosperity Gateways as occurring at a critical time for the city given the financial crisis resulting from COVID-19 and structural changes internally. Now, being able to continue building on the City’s efforts towards investing in financial empowerment, she sees this as introducing a new avenue to helping navigate people towards the support systems that are available to them particularly in these difficult times. 
“I am really hopeful that through doing this work with Prosperity Gateways, we will be able to assist every person that we see by increasing access to financial benefits and supports," says Adelola. "Making them feel that they can achieve gains forward. Identifying how good they are doing financially and supporting them in small steps forward is so important.”
A critical element of Prosperity Gateways and the outcomes it strives to achieve is how intently working together is ingrained in the process. Simple principles of how to work together such as “using everyone’s expertise” and “always looking to the customer experience as the foundation” garner incredible outcomes. Comfort checks (checking in, receiving feedback and providing further guidance if necessary), financial literacy training and practice calls with customers, all ensure that the process is inclusive and challenges are overcome at the get-go. 
The next steps for building on the work already accomplished include financial coaching sessions for the Community Navigators, as well as input into developing the evaluation of the FE supports and assessing their ultimate impact. Prosper Canada is eager to help continue along the path to integrate FE supports into city services currently being offered and continue to work with City of Edmonton staff to refine these long-term approaches to bolster efforts to Earn, Save and Build financial security for Edmontonians.