Skip to main content
McMaster University Menu Search

Poverty Initiative Statement of Vision and Purpose

Revised January 2016

The focus of the Initiative’s work is on enhancing understanding of the meaning and consequences of poverty, and on its intersection with differences related to race, gender, class, immigration status and ability - in order to inform and advocate for the systemic changes needed to eliminate it.

Particular attention will be given to pressing policy questions and to gaining commitments to action and change.  We recognize that we cannot address local experience without also considering the provincial, national and global processes that create and perpetuate the conditions for income insecurity.

A Social Justice Framework

By committing to use a social justice framework, we agree that:

  • Everyone has a right to live in dignity, health, and wellbeing. 
  • Poverty is the result of economic, political, and social inequalities.  Poverty always means having inadequate income, but it does not only relate to a lack of economic resources.  Discrimination, social exclusion, environmental and political injustice can all contribute to poverty. 
  • We understand poverty as based in structures rather than individual choices.  Therefore, meaningful change occurs through challenging the systems and structures that oppress people. This contrasts with much charity work which places the ‘giver’ above the receiver and transforms social and political problems into personal issues which can be solved by individual acts of generosity.
  • Interlocking systems of oppression mean that there is not one single experience of poverty.  We strive to be attendant in our work and strategies to the ways racism, hetero-patriarchy, ableism/sanism, immigration systems, colonialism, and other types of oppression change both how poverty is experienced and the work needed to address poverty in its different forms.


  • will be undertaken in collaboration with communities

  • will build upon existing strengths, skills and resources in the university and the community:
  • the knowledge, priorities, strategies of communities and individuals.
  • the formal substantive and methodological knowledge of faculty and students .drawn from as wide an array of disciplines as is possible and useful.


  • students will be involved on many levels: educationally-driven service learning, student research projects and volunteer work.
  • Activities will build on existing strengths, skills and resources in the university (e.g. models of service learning, experiential education, field education etc that are already well-established in some parts of campus), and in the community (e.g. approaches to community development, critical consciousness raising).


  • knowledge will be produced for use in pursuit of social change.
  • Activities will draw on existing skills in action/ community-based/ participatory research, in knowledge transfer/ exchange, and in social justice work and activism.
  • on campus, the contributions and interest of all constituencies (students, staff and faculty) will be explored and engaged.