The best hosts preside over dinners, conversations, salons, interviews, broadcasts, town hall forums, dialogues and meetings with a style that brings out the best in everyone. Paul Born is one of them.
He'd be right up there with Martha Stewart, Vicki Gabereau or Eleanor Wachtel except his convening has a nobler but less pop culture purpose – reducing poverty. For ten years Paul and his team at Vibrant Communities have been convening conversations in 13 Trail Building Canadian cities. Their ultimate goal is practical – develop and act on local, poverty reducing strategies.
However, they are wise enough to realize they must convene representatives from all sectors of the city around the table – those experiencing poverty; those doing something about it; those who want to help and those with resources and connections that would help.
But even that isn't enough. You must also bridge gaps of understanding and create opportunities to learn and work together. All this is prologue to trust.
With trust Paul believes you can do most anything – change laws, affect attitudes and lay the base for profound change.
A ten year evaluation of Vibrant Communities reveals some impressive results:
- 320,000 poverty reducing benefits to 170,ooo households in Canada
- 1700 organizations from business, government and civil society collectively partnering in the Trail Builder communities – along with another 1000 individuals either experiencing poverty or wanting to help
- $20 million invested in local community activity
- 35 substantive government policy changes.
Paul approaches convening as an art. Like all great artists he combines discipline plus passion. Those who know Paul understand there is a graciousness to his hosting. There is also determination, intentionality and faith. Faith that talking leads to a multi-dimensional understanding of poverty. Faith that artful hosting will heal the broken relationships among people.
Paul's vision of convening is more like that of Nobel Prize winner Lester Pearson. Andrew Cohen in his Extraordinary Canadians biography of Pearson describes the former Prime Minister's role in resolving the Suez crisis as that of midwife. "…more about tactics than strategy. Process mattered….Patience, empathy, and the ability to understand another's reality." (pages 122-127 Lester B. Pearson by Andrew Cohen.)
As mid-wife Paul would be the first to acknowledge his partner Mark Cabaj and the folks conversing around each table in the original 13 cities. However this kind of trust nurturing is infectious. Led by Quebec, six Canadian provinces now have formal Poverty Reduction Strategies. And an additional 14 cities beyond the Vibrant Cities initiative, are also taking action to reduce poverty.
This is surely enough evidence to banish the artifical distinction between talk and action.
This is the tenth in a series on poverty. Click Poverty to access the others.