"Oh the Places You Will Go..." Collective Impact Model & Literacy

About a year ago it was brought to my attention that due to low literacy rates in North America, the generation that is currently in elementary school will not be literate enough to carry our economy forward.  Low literacy, is what Horst Rittel would call a, Wicked Problem.  As I have explored this issue as part of the Give to Grow Fund I have come to realize that literacy isn't just about the ability to read.  Literacy directly correlates to:

  • access to local language (English as a Second Language training)

  • health and nutrition (kids can't learn on empty bellies)

  • access to banking services (parents can't learn financial literacy without the tools)

  • seeing employees as part of the revenue side of the equation by investing in their professional development (employees can't advance in their field if employers aren't investing in them leading to economic growth)

  • acculturation and integration (language nuance and social norms)

  • supplies in schools and quality education

  • access to literature outside of the school and work environment (book deserts)

Just to name a few.  So how do we go about addressing this?  We have 20 years before this young generation enters our workforce - it's time we get started!  An approach to addressing this issue could include layering solutions from: education system, healthcare system, business sector and human services where infusions of knowledge and expertise, financial capital, human resources and ties to other networks can be leverage at critical points along the literacy continuum.  

This is what the charitable sector calls collective impact.  It’s not a solution that is foisted upon charities or government, rather it is a series of solutions that are approached from multiple industries and perspectives with the same end goal in mind.  

In the case of the Give to Grow campaign the planning organizations came together and said that they want to push the literacy rate up by 1% in four to five years in Calgary.  Bringing together business organizations - the Chamber of Commerce and Calgary Economic Development alongside charities that address literacy from different angles - The Calgary Public Library, Calgary Reads, Further Education Society of Southern Alberta, and CanLearn Society we believe that the layered solutions offered will be able to push the needle on literacy rates.

January 27th is Family Literacy Day and celebrations will be carrying on throughout the month. If you are interested in participating in some  of these programs or volunteering for one of these charities below is a list of upcoming opportunities:


TD Community Book Drive January 23-31, 2016 - All Calgary TD branches (43 branches) will collect books, CDs and DVDs in support of the Calgary Public Library


Calgary Public Library: Family Literacy Day and special events throughout January - Read, Sing & Play - "Grow a Reader" and celebrate Family Literacy Day with interactive stories, songs and rhymes that will be fun for all.


Calgary Reads: Reading Rally on January 27th at Col. J Fred Scott School. This event is being supported by Junior League of Calgary.


CanLearn Society events calendar


Further Education Society 

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Collective Impact
Calgary Public Library