Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The gym: summit to solve the world's problems?

One of the groups I'm involved with, interVivos, is holding an event on April 20, 2007 with Premier Stelmach. Last night, we determined the title for the luncheon: What the boom?! Is there sustainability in prosperity? Because sure we are doing well enough now, but what happens in 20-30 years when the boom is over? What is Alberta going to look like then?

I was telling Roomie K all about this when we met up at the gym. Amidst all the hulking, grunting men, we are there lifting our weights and talking about politics. Roomie K is not a political girl. She doesn't have a political background, she has not been involved in things political in the past. She is, however, involved in the non-profit sector working with persons with disabilities (before that it was working with at-risk youth). The girl is incredibly passionate about what she does, and is thoroughly loved by both the youth she has worked with in the past, and the individuals she works with now.

At the last meet-up, grab-a-drink-and-chat politics event, I convinced Roomie K to come with me. She became engaged in deep discussion with a boy on the subject of what she does, and fought his disgust as she tried to convince him that not everyone in low-income/poverty in the city wants to be in that position. Some of her kids from her previous jobs had single mothers who worked two jobs and went to school full time in attempts to make life better for the children they were raising. One woman was raising a son that was not even hers, but that her room mates (a couple) had left in her care when they disappeared one day and never returned. Not everyone in this group has the "lazy" stigma that has been associated with them. Far more of them are forced to work harder than anyone in the middle-class in order to provide the basic necessities for their families. What Krista couldn't make this very conservative boy understand, was that for many people this lifestyle is a cycle from which they have been unable to break free.

With both that job and the new one, it has become glaringly obvious just how hurting the non-profit sector is for dedicated workers. I found this when I worked at Chrysalis as well. In Alberta's booming economy, people can work at MacDonalds for more than they get paid at some of these non-profits. A lot of people are more concerned with the money than the good they are bringing to the lives of others. These non-profits are fighting for grants and government funds in order to sustain themselves and can not afford to hire staff, let alone work to keep those staff.

What we came to a conclusion last night between leg presses is this: these organizations need to stop competing. Each organization excels in different areas, some at going out with individuals into the community, some at group home care, some with certain disabilities over others... and these groups need to come together in order to be strategic. Because not only are they fighting for money, but they're fighting for staff. Organizations which pay $10 per hour rather than $12 find it impossible to get staff, and as a result, the program suffers. Rather than this be the case, there could be programs targeted towards these different facets of care and levels of disability throughout the city. Specialization: let those which have the ability to best provide the program, provide the program. The CEOs and strategic planners of these organizations need to come together to determine what is best for their clients, because in the end, it will also be what is best for the organization. Certainly, right now, everyone is feeling the pressure of the economy and cuts in funding (such as the constant decrease in PDD funding over the past few years).

Sometimes we get so caught up in the boom and prosperity of the province, that we forget that not everyone is getting positive fall-out. We need to work with the organizations which cater to the most vulnerable in our society and make them strong. A society is only as strong as it's weakest link and, in Alberta, non-profits such as these are straining to survive.


Kaye Bee said...

Only as strong as it's weakest link, reminds me of my favorite physics movie. An object is only as strong as it's weakest point. hrm.. Sure makes you think.

Elle Bee said...

Yes, but darling, isn't your favourite physics movie Disney's Ice Princess? :P