Community Connects is a pilot project that came out of the Transportation Innovation Lab. Problem/Opportunity: Cape Breton Regional Municipality (CBRM) is a region with high levels of poverty and unemployment. Innovation: Taxi service, doorstep pick-up, defined drop-off points, flat rate: $7 seat. Why innovative? In short, the approach (social innovation lab) and those that were engaged (first-voice participants).
Community Context: Cape Breton Regional Municipality (CBRM) is a region with high levels of poverty and unemployment. Twenty percent of those living in the CBRM are considered low income based on the low-income measure after tax rate (LIM-AT), and the region has an unemployment rate of 17.4% (compared to a provincial average of 10%). Evidence of complexities that impact the high rate of unemployment can be observed by the fact that there are also a high number of job vacancies in the region. Thirteen CBRM employers estimated over 1500 job vacancies at the time of interviews. There are diverse and complex reasons for the persistence of both high unemployment and job vacancies, but one of the reasons is limited access to transportation for individuals living in poverty that will get them to and from work reliably, affordably, and in a timely manner.
Project Objectives and Goal:The Transportation Social Innovation Lab objectives, as given by Poverty Reduction:
Explore the following question: “What is the most effective way to provide worker transportation in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality (CBRM) in a sustainable manner?”Assess the Social Innovation Lab approach and provide recommendations and lessons learned for potential future lab initiatives. As the Lab work began, the goal of the project was sharpened by our team:
To connect under- and unemployed individuals in the CBRM with employment opportunities across the Island by identifying one or more potential transportation solutions.
Social Innovation Lab Approach: A social innovation lab is a process of bringing together members of a community to clarify an issue they are facing, and empower them to collectively create and deliver a solution. Social innovation labs put the people affected by the problem at the centre of the process, following a design thinking approach.
In designing our own social innovation lab methodology for the TIL, we identified four main categories of activity:
Generate and evaluate potential solutions
Validate the solution ideas
Recommend one or more solution idea(s)
At the core of our social innovation lab process is the belief that those affected by the problem must be at the centre of creating a solution. As such, we engaged the following groups:
Under- and unemployed individuals living in the CBRM (first voice participants),
Community organizations and advocates working to support these individuals,
Employers seeking to address labour shortages, and
Government officials and staff.
What is the Prototype?
An initial list of over 50 ideas was generated and then reduced to three final ideas for consideration: a point-to-point shuttle (P2P shuttle), a shuttle to transit service, and a communications solution. Upon conducting further research and following two sessions of voting, a single idea was recommended by the group for further investigation in the Lab process.
A shuttle for the purposes of employment would use a natural aggregation of riders to pick people up at their homes and drop them off for work or skill-building activities.
A flat rate of $5 per seat, one-way.
During the Lab, one local taxi company, who had been testing one employment shuttle route, joined the process and was able to refine and expand their model, informed by and informing the Lab process. As of August 31st, this service offering had been used by 58 unique individuals, with four individuals newly employed thanks to their newfound mobility. Local agencies, such as Department of Community Services (DCS) caseworkers, pre-employment programs, and local employers have supported their clients and staff to use this pre-prototype service.
CBRM Bylaw’s Department was engaged as soon as a solution idea emerged from the Lab to work towards clarity in defining the regulatory framework for this service, and inclusion of all taxi operators in the service expansion.
Support for the Concept
Employers: strong interest from local employers for a shuttle that would provide transportation to enable their employees to get to and from work, such as the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA), Mayflower Mall, and Convergys Call Centre (over 4100 employees represented).
Transit Cape Breton: Has expressed their interest in exploring a partnership in the future.
Organizations: Agencies that help individuals connect to pre-employment programs and work placements have found the service very useful and expressed their support.
Impact of the Transportation Social Innovation Lab
The strength of the Lab was a direct result of the breadth and mix of stakeholders engaged throughout the process. Over the five month period, 231 project contacts were made, producing meaningful engagement with: 30 employers, 32 community-serving organizations, nine government departments / bodies, and 36 first voice participants.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
Community Connects is an innovation in poverty reduction because it is:
-Generating new employment opportunities for individuals who were previously unemployed because of lack of transportation access
-Reducing barriers to and the cost of reliable transportation for current employees who do not own vehicles, enhancing their ability to maintain existing employment or take on additional hours
-Filling vacant positions for employers in the CBRM, and increasing reliability of staff
-Providing better access to skill building programs and educational institutions
-Cost savings to government and social agencies through more cost effective transportation
-A more robust transportation system, providing a sustainable model for transportation providers
What is the current status of your innovation?
As of this submission date of April 11 the first pilot officially begins April 23, 2019. For a community with such high levels of unemployment and poverty, the ability to fill the gap in transportation services was noted as an area of future interest for its potentially high impact. The point-to-point transportation service will be called Community Connects, as the transportation service will be to connect the communities within the Cape Breton Regional Municipality (CBRM), a municipality whose own slogan is, “a community of communities”. The slogan for Community Connects is Be Driven, a reference to both the transportation service, but also to the goal of the project to support individuals in their aspirations to access education and join the workforce.
Collaborations & Partnerships
First-voice participants (citizens experiencing poverty), municipal and provincial governments and local, existing transportation service providers were engage at each phase of the lab process. While all collaborators brought something to the table, by-far the most impactful group was the first-voice participants; shedding light on and advising what services have worked/not in the past and what their overall barriers to employment were.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
This will be determined once the pilot service launches, but the impacts from only the lab portion on the first-voice participants (those experiencing poverty) include: learning about transportation options. Two Lab Team members have secured full time employment. Two Lab Team members have explored enrolment at the Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC), one has started classes. Two Lab Team members have requested CGS be available as a reference as they seek employment.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
Current: First voice participants learned about transportation options and an increased sense of confidence and inclusion. Two Lab Team members have secured full time employment. 2 Lab Team members have explored enrolment at the Nova Scotia Community College. 2 Lab Team members have requested CGS be available as a reference as they seek to find new opportunities in the labour market.
Anticipated: Generating new employment opportunities for individuals who were previously unemployed because of lack of transportation access.Reducing barriers to reliable transportation for current employees who do not own vehicles. Filling vacant positions for employers in the CBRM, and increasing reliability of staff. Providing better access to skill building programs and educational institutions. Cost savings to government and social agencies through more cost effective transportation. A more robust transportation system, providing a sustainable model for transportation.
Challenges and Failures
1) Gathering representation from multiple stakeholder groups is demanding: In our approach to the Lab, we defined four stakeholder groups we hoped to engage: under- and unemployed individuals, employers, community organizations, and government representatives. While the Lab process demonstrated how essential it is to engage all of these groups, it also illustrated that engaging them is difficult and time consuming. 2) It takes time for a community to adjust to new ideas: Given the relatively short duration of a Social Innovation Lab, most of the people who will choose to support the Lab and participate are early adopters. While this is expected with any innovation, it has challenging implications if certain stakeholder groups are predisposed to be later adopters. While municipal representatives were invited from the outset of our project, it was not until three quarters of the way through the process that we began to have real success in engaging them.
Conditions for Success
1) Go to where people are, when they are there anyway, with people they trust: When consulting with first voice participants, it is essential to host initial meetings in places people are already comfortable. Ideally, initial meetings are hosted during times when first voice individuals would be at these locations anyway and are co-hosted with people that first voice participants already know and trust. 2) Valuable shared understanding happens in multi-stakeholder group meetings: The most impactful moments during the Lab process were when people from vastly different contexts listened to and were heard by each other in group meetings. Whether it was framing the problem or considering a potential solution, these moments grounded the discussion in the realities that both groups were experiencing and provided an opportunity to develop shared understanding. 3) Importance of inter-governmental dialogue.
Common Good Solutions is currently undertaking this Lab process with two other identified challenges in communities in Nova Scotia: Lack of Childcare options in Tri-county and African Nova Scotian Youth Unemployment. Based on the success of this lab process we feel strongly that both will also reach the pilot phase with successful launches. The key to success in all being that those experiencing the challenges are engaged at the onset and act as key advisors in the process. It cannot be driven solely by Government.
At this time we would just like to reiterate the conditions of success listed above.
1) Go to where people are, when they are there anyway, with people they trust
2) Valuable shared understanding happens in multi-stakeholder group meetings
3) Importance of inter-governmental dialogue.