System model of poverty in Toronto

For the capstone project of my Master’s degree in Strategic Foresight and Innovation, I have built a large model of the many systemic effects on Torontonians living in poverty.


The Poverty Reduction Model contains over 550 elements, with cause-and-effect linkages across the subject areas of employment, finances, social assistance, housing, newcomers, physical & mental health, childcare, child welfare, education, training, transportation, recreation, criminal justice, as well as cross-cutting issues of economics, service delivery, and personal dignity.  The model combines information from the most recent Ontario and Toronto poverty reduction strategies with expert knowledge from the Yonge Street Mission, my partners in this project. Although the model was designed for Toronto, most of it applies elsewhere in Ontario, Canada, or large multicultural cities in developed countries.

As an example, the housing section of the model gives us some insight about housing mobility. People sometimes want to move to better-quality housing, or to live closer to their workplace. However, some rent subsidies and social services are attached to particular dwellings, which might prevent someone from moving to take a job, and thus keeping them stuck on social assistance.


This system model can be further developed and customized for any organization that is interested in developing policy or programs, finding high-leverage interventions, and checking for negative consequences. Please leave a comment to inquire about workshops to build your systemic understanding of poverty.


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