Last week at Council’s Community Services Committee we received an an update on progress of the REACH Edmonton Council for Safe Communities initiative, and the business case for the 24/7 service delivery model (summary). This week it comes to Council for approval.
I probably should have written about REACH previously, and the important precursor work of the Mayor’s Task Force on Community Safety. All credit is due to the Mayor and to Councillor Amarjeet Sohi for their leadership on the task force. I’ve been very supportive of the work when it’s come before Council.
They key is to bring together existing agencies and programs under one roof, with community buy-in, and lining it all up to reall ymake an impact on prevention. The only catch? Patience. Here’s the pitch from the Reach Report:
IN ONE GENERATION
If adopted and shared, this strategy can ensure individuals, families and neighbourhoods work together with social agencies to address the root causes of crime in Edmonton. This report acknowledges that we need law and order to bear on the results of crime, but it is grounded in the belief that the best results, the greater efficiencies and the greatest social returns come from preventing crime.
One of the most interesting aspects is the emphasis throughout the process on Social Returns on Investment. In essence, this means estimating the long term impacts of up-front investments in programs to, for instance, help kids steer clear of gangs, or help families deal better with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Another recommendation that is particularly appealing is the focus on ‘Schools as Hubs’ for high-needs families, children and youth. With approval this week of the 24/7 Service Delivery model five of the nine recommendations will have been addressed.
Representatives of some of the agencies who spoke at the committee were very optimistic. Liz O’Neil from Big Brothers and Big Sisters reminded us that we all know we need to work across silos and jurisdictions on 30 year projects but that with the City brokering these conversations with the province instead of agency by agency we’ll make much greater progress. Sandra Bromley from iHuman noted that under the REACH umbrella agencies will be collaborating instead of competing for grants as they have historically.
So REACH is shaping up nicely. As they develop their monitoring and, in particular, their Social Return on Investment measures, I look forward to reporting more.