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Blog Post #5Working 4 Change: Learn & Go is a project of the Social Innovation Fund

Empowering people in their communities,

 Program gives participants a voice, and the skills to share it

The project’s success was apparent at a lunchtime event, when its most recent cohort of community change-makers presented their ideas to a packed room.

 

The audience of around 50 at the Nick Nicolle Centre heard from four groups who’d formed in the fall with the goal of improving their neighbourhoods.

 

Presentations included a recycling initiative in Crescent Valley, traffic calming measures in two north end neighbourhoods, and playground upgrades on Anglin Drive.

 

Working 4 Change, formerly known as Learn and Go,  is ramping up. It’s an initiative of the Saint John Women’s Empowerment Network, a non-profit that helps to improve the lives of low-income women.

Taking its successful model for driving community change and personal empowerment, the Social Innovation Fund is scaling its impact with more staff, more sessions and by adding participant coaching for six months after it wraps to maintain momentum.

Working 4 Change: Learn and Go is one of eight projects of the Social Innovation Fund managed by Living SJ. This investment by the Province of New Brunswick of $10 million over five years supports new approaches to fight generational poverty in Saint John.

Angie Power is an engagement coordinator with Working 4 Change: Learn and Go. 

 “It shows them that they’re capable of making a change, that they do have skills, that their voice does matter.” - Angie Power

Tara Parlee is an engagement coordinator with Working 4 Change: Learn and Go. 

The program starts with six weeks of skill-building workshops on subjects like communication, team-building and pitching. From there, the groups meet regularly to develop their projects with the support of mentors from the community and Irving Oil, a long-time supporter of the program.

 

“They start to see different things about themselves,” says Tara Parlee, the other engagement coordinator. “A lot of them don’t see their potential.”

 

Being in the program is not easy for participants, she says.

 

“A lot suffer from isolation,” Tara says. “They have anxiety. But once they step outside their box, they end up feeling part of the group.”

 

Jodi Campbell was a member of the Anglin Drive playground-improvement group.

 

“My motivation was to get out of my house,” she says. “I’m unable to work, but I love helping in my community.”

 

There were times during the program when she thought of quitting, due to personal issues.

 

“I don’t have time for this,” she thought. But she stuck with it. She couldn’t let the group down. “I’m not going to give up on my team,” she says. “You have to be really committed. Don’t give up.”

If you or anyone you know may be interested in taking part in Working 4 Change: Learn and Go, contact Tara or Angie at tara@sjwen.net or angie@sjwen.net. The program is supported by many partners, including Irving Oil, the Economic and Social Inclusion Corporation and Living SJ.