Research, Reviews, & Updates

The ESPC provides research, reviews, and updates on a range of social issues

Our Choice For a Better Ontario: A plan for cutting poverty in half by 2020

Our Choice For a Better Ontario: A plan for cutting poverty in half by 2020.

Report by the Ontario Association of Food Banks, September 2008.
Reviewed in October 2008 Research Update

What's the role of a food bank? With their new plan on poverty reduction, the Ontario Association of Food Banks (OAFB) has stated loud and clear that their role extends far beyond providing clients with food donations. This report includes a series of core principles to guide the development of an Ontario poverty reduction strategy, complete with a set of goals that the government should establish and key actions that will help to meet those goals. These goals will be achieved through investing to achieve the four key pillars of poverty reduction: a home in a supportive and prosperous community; economic security through supportive benefits and protections; opportunity for political and economic empowerment; and public responsibility through a high-level government. This report will be of use to anybody interested in the development and advocacy of poverty reduction strategies. It can be downloaded from the website of the OAFB

We Can't Afford to do Business This Way

We Can’t Afford to do Business This Way: A study of the administrative burden resulting from funder accountability and compliance practices

Report by Lynn Eakin, Wellesley Institute, September 2007.
Reviewed in October 2008 Research Update

Funding is tough – and this report outlines why. While it may not present solutions, this report is an invaluable tool in demonstrating the need for reforming the funding process "to minimize the administrative burden and maximize the flexibility of agencies to adapt, respond and innovate, with a focus on results, not controls" (p. 45). The cost of not acting? The study concludes that if governments, non-profit organizations, and local communities don‘t come together to create new systems, the results will be less value for money, less effective systems, placing nonprofit values and mission at risk, less innovation, and weaker, disconnected, and fractious communities. This report will be useful to anybody whose work involves communication between agencies and funders. It can be downloaded from the Wellesley Institute website.

Rhetoric for Radicals: A Handbook for 21st Century Activists

Book by Jason Del Gandio, 2008
Reviewed in December 2008 Research Update


Don't be frightened away by the title of this book. Rhetoric for Radicals is a critical, easy-to-read, and thorough guide to communicating that will be useful for anybody whose work involves advocacy, education and awareness, or movement-building.

Why rhetoric? What does it mean to employ rhetorical skills – and how can it help? This book starts with an analysis of what rhetoric really means. Rhetoric is, according to author Jason Del Gandio, three things: Rhetoric is persuasive – it looks at how to establish common ground, create logical arguments, mobilize, inspire, and motivate. Rhetoric is discursive and analytical – this means that rhetoric studies what people say, how they say it, and what the effects are, for example, what are the effects of using the term "collateral damage" as opposed to "civilian casualties" when speaking about war? Rhetoric creates our realities – rhetoric shapes our lives because our language, thoughts, signs, symbols, stories, perceptions, and actions shape our lives, and rhetoric is a part of all of those.

Viewing rhetoric in this way, the author makes it clear how learning to use rhetoric can be a useful tool for those of us who work to make a better world. The book is full of strategies, tips, outlines, and explanations about how to become better at rhetoric, and how to use it in your work.
The second chapter goes over the basics of the "rhetorical package" – your message, your audience, your strategy, your goal, and the situation. It also provides tips about writing and public speaking, and introduces four different rhetorical approaches: persuasion, argumentation, invitation, and storytelling. The techniques and tools outlined in this chapter are simple yet complex, and utterly useful.

Have you ever found yourself struggling to articulate exactly what it is your campaign or organization will do? Chapter 3, on the Power of Language, might help. It discusses how language affects the message and its reception. This chapter looks at why certain phrases and terms have had such an effect while others are easily forgotten, and how we can frame our message to be powerful ones. Yes, please!

Another chapter looks at how body language works – from protests, to street theatre, to individual conversations, our bodies tell just as much of a story as our voices. This chapter offers some advice on how to observe, reflect, experi-ment, and apply different styles of physical communication.

Rhetoric for Radicals differs from a lot of other how-to books. It doesn't stop at being prescriptive – telling us what to do. Instead, it explains how and why we need to harness rhetoric in our work; and how and why it will work. This book provides our sector with another tool in the toolbox for change: uncovering the power of rhetoric, learning how to frame messages powerfully and practicing strategic communication skills can elevate the profile of the important work of the non-profit, social agency sector in our community.

For open-minded readers, this book can be a valuable tool, but it is by no means neutral, and takes a bold political stance. It examines history, it critiques our current political reality, and it openly and unabashedly puts the political project of radically changing our society front and centre. This book is part of a revolutionary project, as the author puts it, “Above all, I hope this book starts a revolution. [...]Rhetoric is not the be-all and end-all for social change and Rhetoric for Radicals is not a blueprint for revolution. But rhetoric is a necessary component and this book can help us move in that direction. With that in mind, I say to everyone: Radical rhetors of the world, unite!


More Than Bricks and Mortar: A rights-based strategy to prevent girl homelessness in Canada

Report by Asia Czapska et al, Justice for Girls, May 2008.
Reviewed in October 2008 Research Update

This report is based on interviews with young women who were homeless or had been homeless as teens, interviews with activists who had worked with homeless girls, and visits to youth and women's housing organizations across the country. Justice for Girls is a Vancouver based organization founded on a vision of social justice and equality for teenage girls, which operates with the belief that young women how live and have lived in poverty must define the solutions to girl homelessness.

The report describes the unique situation of teenage girl homelessness and poverty, discusses the inequalities that lead to girl homelessness, and accounts some of the consequences experienced by young women that are homeless, including male violence and exploitation, addiction, disease and death, difficulties accessing education, criminalization, and life in Vancouver‘s Downtown Eastside. The report then outlines the ways in which various levels of government have failed young women in preventing or adequately addressing the conditions which lead to teenage girl homelessness, and the crisis that now exists.

A rights based approach based on feminist principles is outlined in this reports strategy to address girl homelessness. The strategy includes measures to prevent homelessness, government actions, access to education, community and feminist actions, actions at the international level, and includes recommendations for working with girls who have been sexually exploited and for developing a feminist housing strategy within communities.

This is a powerful report that begins and ends with the voices of girls who have experienced poverty and homelessness. It is a valuable resource for organizations working with youth, women, and girls in poverty.


Immigration and Integration in Canada in the Twenty-first Century

Book edited by John Biles, Meyer Burstein, and James Fridires, 2008.
Review by Jaylene Ellard in December 2008 Research Update


They say you can't judge a book by its cover, so with my good judgment I would say that the cover, a finger-painted mosaic of colours alluding to Canada‟s variety of cultures, is a perfect match for the book.

Immigration and Integration is a collection of articles that address immigration and integration through the scope of politics, economics, culture and social spheres of Canadian society. There are three foundational principles that the editors stress are fundamental to recognize when dealing with immigration policy. The first is that immigration and the series of outcomes that are products of it represent a choice that Canadians made and have more or less adhered to for over a century. The second foundation of this collection is that all modern societies receive some form of migrants, not just because of lively immigration programs but also because they have made choices in other areas of domestic and foreign policy. Third and finally, after making such choices leading to a great deal of immigration, Canada has positioned the integration of immigrants as a “societal endeavor”. This endeavor is defined as a “two-way street” where it is both the responsibility of immigrants and current citizens to adapt to one another in order to ensure positive outcomes for the political, economic, cultural, and social spheres of society.

The book is divided into two parts: the first four chapters include recent research on controversies, debates, and assumptions about integration. Every chapter in this section includes recommendations and measures for evaluating the relative success of the "two way street" of Canadian immigration and integration.The second part of the book uncovers related information about immigration so that the reader may benefit from a greater understanding of integration in Canadian society. The five chapters highlight the ways in which integration can be understood as a societal venture. There are chapters on media coverage and public opinion polls that indicate that more education is needed surrounding immigration. Two chapters on integration policies suggest that better collaboration and coordination might lead to better integration outcomes.

This book is a wealth of knowledge on integration and im-migration. With the collaborative efforts of the editors, authors, and other advisors in the immigration, diversity, multiculturalism, and Canadian studies fields, this 278-page book provides the reader with not only knowledge, but ways to put that knowledge into action!