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Better Together: Three Stories of Partnership from 2015

At Momentum, we succeed because of our partnerships.

Building lasting partnerships with individual participants is at the core of our work. Participants access our programs and training to move out of poverty and build prosperity for themselves and their families. The partnerships come full circle when many of them return after graduating to support Momentum and current participants.
While our work with individuals is fundamental to achieving our vision, the complexity of addressing the causes of poverty makes working at the individual level alone insufficient—whether we’re talking about individual participants or an individual organization. With tens of thousands of Calgarians living in poverty, no matter how hard we try or how much we care, Momentum alone cannot make the difference we want to make.
Making a lasting and sustainable difference involves working with our community partners. We take pride in working with over 200 organizations:

  • Referral partnerships: Organizations that are referral contacts because their participants are similar to Momentum and could also benefit from Momentum’s our programs. Organizations in this group include Aspen Family Services and Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association (CIWA).
  • Off-site delivery partnerships: Organizations where we offer our programs to their participants at their locations. Momentum facilitates workshops at locations throughout the city, including at the Calgary Public Library and the Centre for Newcomers.
  • Formal partnerships: Organizations with whom we have a partnership agreement to work together to achieve shared goals. The partnership between SAIT and our Trades Training program is our longest-running relationship of this type.

Three examples in 2015 highlight these important relationships:

  1. Meeting the demand for our Financial Literacy programs
  2. Making the right referrals
  3. Collaborating for Financial Empowerment

These stories are just a few examples of what we have learned from working in partnership with others: By extending our reach, we’re multiplying both our program work and our systems-level work. It takes action in both these areas to ultimately reduce poverty.

“Large-scale transformation occurs when enough small groups shift in harmony toward the larger change.” – Peter Block

Together we have moved closer to the goal of prosperity for all.

1. Meeting the demand for Financial Literacy

Whenever the labour market experiences a significant decline, organizations working with people living on low incomes experience a significant increase in demand. It happened in 2008, and again in 2015.
When the unemployment rate doubled between 2008 and 2009, the demand for programs in all three of Momentum’s departments—Skills Training, Business Development and Financial Literacy—went through the roof. This year, the spike in demand was felt by the Trades and Business Development departments, but not by Financial Literacy. So we asked ourselves: Why?
Since 1999 we have been offering Momentum’s Financial Literacy workshops off-site to participants of other organizations. In this way, we were able to provide money management education to far more people than just those who came through our doors. But we knew there were still many more to be reached.
In response to the tremendous increase in demand in 2008, we began to train facilitators in other organizations to deliver our Financial Literacy curriculum to their own participants. In 2015, we scaled up again. We trained an agency in Saskatchewan to train other agencies in Saskatchewan who will, in turn, train their participants.
This has made an exponential difference in our reach.
Our Financial Literacy team has delivered money management education to over 17,400 participants since 1999. Now we have also provided training for 460 individual facilitators and 135 agencies.
If even a fraction of them can provide Money Management workshops to even a fraction of the number of participants we have worked with over time . . . well, you get the picture. To date, over 9,000 participants have learned money management skills through agencies trained by Momentum.
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2. Making the right referral

It happens every year: more people want to be part of Momentum’s programs than we are able to accept. In 2015, this was the case more than ever. We had to turn away hundreds of people, referring them to other agencies.
At the same time, we found that people who had been turned away from other agencies were coming to Momentum looking for help. Often they were coming for programs we have not offered in years, or services we’ve never offered at all. Even though we couldn’t help all these people, the last thing we wanted was to send them to another agency that also couldn’t help them.
Momentum staff took extra care to liaise with our community partners. The Trades team did research to ensure their referrals were accurate. The Business Development team developed a formal partnership with The Business Link. The staff person we now share with The Business Link is the first point of contact for people looking for business training options, and can quickly discern whether the person is a better fit for Momentum or Business Link’s programs.
Knowing we were making good referrals helped our staff cope with the workload caused by the increased demand: we knew that the people we couldn’t help were on their way to someone who could.
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3. Collaborating for Financial Empowerment

Financial Empowerment is a citywide initiative addressing the root causes of poverty and the immediate needs of people living on low incomes.
Financial Empowerment’s approaches are well-tested and strategic. They create measurable improvements in the lives of people who are financially vulnerable by helping them:

  • Reduce debt
  • Grow savings
  • Build assets

Momentum is a founding member of the Financial Empowerment Collaborative, led by the United Way of Calgary and Area. In fact, the United Way awarded Momentum the 2015 Spirits of Gold Social Innovation Award for our leadership in convening, designing and stewarding the Collaborative. The 40 members of this group—including City of Calgary, Bow Valley College, Alberta Human Services and Vibrant Communities Calgary—come from every sector of the community, and are invested in ensuring that all Calgarians have the income and assets needed to thrive.
Members of the Collaborative are both mentors and mentees to one another. We learn from our partners, and we share our own expertise and experience. Because of our years of work in asset building, Momentum’s Financial Literacy staff are taking a lead role in many aspects of the initiative.
There are two pillars of work associated with building assets. The first is increasing access to education savings. We teach other members of the Collaborative the importance and process of opening RESPs based on our learnings from Momentum’s StartSmart program. The second asset building pillar is focused on increasing access to matched savings programs. Momentum is training two agencies a year to offer their participants matched-savings programs, which include Money Management training.
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