Edinburgh can be, cities can be – Poverty Free!

February 7, 2020

We are very pleased to see a successful start to the Co-creating Solutions series led by Dr. Hock Tan as part of the module in Business Strategy and Sustainable Development at Edinburgh Napier University’s Business School.

Commencing in the spring semester more than 80 students, primarily final year undergraduates, have participated in the 1st workshop – “Empathy walk, deep listening”.

Co-creating Solutions aims to bring real world challenges to the classroom through three phases of engagement: (1) understanding stakeholders, (2) ideation (idea generation), and (3) final pitch. Special guest speakers were invited to present their work, all connected to tackling poverty.

Rachel Green, Director of The Ripple, made the case that the root cause of poverty has not been tackled by policy makers. She referenced the societal outcomes index to illustrate that uneven wealth distribution is the root cause of the poverty. Social stigma, lack of access to resources, and unequal opportunities have hindered attempts at improvement. Rachel has called on everyone to do three things to help effect real change: ‘Do something’, ‘Check your privilege’ and ‘Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good’.

Will Barr, Manager of Citadel Youth Centre, said “1 in 5 children in Edinburgh live in households affected by poverty”. Will quoted Dr. Jim McCormick, Chair of the Edinburgh Poverty Commission, to illustrate the complexities and complication of dealing with poverty:

“Much lower rates of poverty can be achieved, but more of the same won’t do. We need to understand the lived experiences of people facing a tough time across the city, and then be willing to try new ways of equipping them with better tools and opportunities.”

Will stressed that fundamentally we need to be more empathetic and to understand the lived experience of those whose lives are afflicted by poverty. Current work done by Citadel Youth Centre can help provide basic needs for young people but much more is required to make them employment ready. Solutions will only be found through change agents working together.

Looking back over the past 30 years, Head of Management at Edinburgh Napier University Business School, Professor Brian Howieson presented his study entitled ‘The Social Exclusion of a Youth Population in Scotland: Is the ‘Framing’ of the Problem the Actual Problem?’

Facing a fuzzy and wicked problem, his joint research suggests that rather than making efforts to measure quantitative outcomes a more ‘young-people’ centric approach is required. We hope the next generation of leaders – our current students – will be agents of change!

Naomi Miller, Care Van Coordinator at Bethany Christian Trust, shared her insights – 69% of those who are homeless are of British nationality, men are more likely to become homeless than women, loss of employment, relationship breakdowns, and lack of family ties are common triggers for homelessness.

Dr. Gill Menzies, Fundraising and Events Manager of Edinburgh City Mission, revealed the shocking statistic that Edinburgh’s affluent live an average of 21 years longer than the city’s poorest residents. In 2019 alone, her organisation provided food to 3,648 individuals, of whom 1,191 were children. 60 agencies refer families and individuals for help to ensure those in need get the support they require. She also highlighted the wide range of issues causing or contributing to homelessness, for example: addictions, benefit issues, budgeting issues, ill health, debt, domestic abuse, relationship breakdown, low/no income, job loss, and mental health.

Our students has been terrific hosts to these speakers. The students introduced the speakers, chaired the discussions, and made closing remarks at the conclusion of the workshop. They did a wonderful job! There are 2 more workshops to come and then our students will get to work on developing their ideas to help tackle poverty before pitching those ideas to a panel of experts. It is an exciting project and we are confident that our students will come up with some fantastic ideas in pursuit of a very worthwhile cause.

Written by Dr. Wendy Wu, BRT Business Adviser, Edinburgh Napier University.

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