Queen's University IRC

How Alberta is Eradicating Homelessness through Systems Thinking and Transformation


Françoise Morissette
Queen’s IRC Facilitator

September 6, 2016

How Alberta is Eradicating Homelessness through Systems Thinking and TransformationContext

Currently, organizations, industries, sectors, and communities of all types are seeking to modernize their systems to enhance performance, improve service delivery, and ensure sustainability. This means extensive transformation: paradigm shifts, radical redesigns, strategic resets and culture re-alignment are the order of the day. Evolutionary change is neither potent, nor quick enough; revolutionary, dramatic change is called for.

Meanwhile, society in general is trying to solve large scale, chronic problems such as family violence, poverty, environmental degradation and homelessness. To quote Charles Dickens: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… it was the spring of hope… the winter of despair…. We had everything before us, we had nothing before us…” (1)

Navigating the rushing waters of transformation requires a bold vision and strong systems thinking, as well as widespread change leadership, not to mention a big dose of courage and transformation resilience.

Alberta takes a stand

Homelessness is often viewed as a daunting, if not a wicked problem. (2) Yet, Alberta has shown the way to solutions that deliver results. In contrast with other Canadian jurisdictions who favour municipal approaches, Alberta broke new ground in 2009 by defining an ambitious vision for the entire province: Ending homelessness in 10 years, instead of simply ‘managing’ or ‘reducing’ it. To achieve this audacious goal, Alberta had to dramatically alter the way it thought and acted about homelessness. Here’s how it began:

In 2007, then Premier Ed Stelmach set out to capture the state of homelessness, as the problem was escalating. What factors were contributing to its rapid growth?

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