Decent Lives and Strong Neighbourhoods

Building an Assessment Framework for Decent Lives


Responsive Leadership Forum

Since summer of 2016, together with the Centre’s Community Social Planning Council, we have worked on an assessment framework to help understand what the life was like for people in urban neighbourhoods in the region. The overall assessment framework has two profiles, one for Decent Lives and one for Strong Neighbourhoods. Two domains have been identified for Decent Lives Profile and four for the Strong Neighbourhoods Profile as shown below. Each domain has elements and sub-elements that further define important aspects of each domain (full details not shown here). The greatest value of the framework is that it was built completely grounded in the experiences people shared with us during kitchen table and small group conversations. Decent Lives conversation continues since then. Talking to many community leaders, organizations and action groups, the context for Decent Lives project was set in neighbourhoods.
Basic Indicators Strong Neighbourhoods

We are continuing with identification of data sources and data compilation while working to define a suitable approach for calculating indicator scores. At the same time, we are developing an online mapping tool for an easier overview of the indicators. 

Initial calculations will be at the level of geography that is defined by the formally defined planning districts across Waterloo Region, while data is being gathered at the lowest geographic level possible (location or Census Dissemination Area) so that customized sub neighbourhood reports can be created for future work on neighbourhood specific priorities and community development program.  

Why Decent Lives? Since discussions about poverty too easily slide into a moral debate that creates a divide between low and high income earners, poverty elimination has been reframed as decent lives. Thus, the focus is on how to make neighbourhoods stronger to support everyone to live a decent life. 

There was much consistency in what was heard from over 600 people engaged between October 2014 and July 2016. Based on what was learned from this community input, a decent life is defined as:

Being able to meet all basic needs for shelter, safety, healthy food, health, and transportation.

Having opportunities to improve your life situation and being independent and in control. 

Participating in meaningful activities.

Feeling that you belong and having good, positive and supportive relationships.

Having a voice to influence decisions that affect your life.

Why Strong Neighbourhoods? We recognize that people who face challenges to full participation in the community benefit most from supports and opportunities right where they live. Living on low income or with a disability, we do not have many privileges that other have, such as mobility, access to services or influence over decisions that impact us. 

strong neighbourhood is defined as one where people, at all life stages and situations, can live a decent life:

A good place to live - safe, clean and healthy, has amenities, activities and an overall environment where people’s needs can be met, where people support each other, where people put down roots;  

Thrives on diversity - does not require homogeneity of income, housing type, lifestyle etc.;

Has responsive leadership – one that listens and works with the people of the neighbourhood;

Has initiatives that improve the neighbourhood – address what is needed and creates opportunities for participation in decision making to address people’s needs. 


Three streams of activity were recommended based on what was learned from the community input: 
1. Assess and monitor the decent lives and strong neighbourhood status of neighbourhoods. 
2. Set community wide priorities for the community infrastructure development.
3. Intentional community development programs that reduce inequity and/or enable people to address the important issues in their neighbourhoods. 

"Everyone deserves to live a decent life." Marvyn Novick

Marvyn Novick Decent Lives Forum

"Canadians have a deep sense of decency. People recognize decency and will support the collective stewardship of our shared resources to invest in healthy communities that create opportunities for everyone." 

The late Marvyn Novick has been a valued partner 
in our local discussions on poverty. His thoughtful analysis will be missed.

Hear what our guests at the May 2015 forum, Marvyn Novick and Peter Clutterbuck, offered for discussion and read how residents of Kitchener-Waterloo responded.

Take a look at what was said at the forums and conversations we hosted:

Decent Work, Decent Income Forum with the Social Planning Network of Ontario, May 2015.

Kitchen Table Talks Summer 2015 Summary

Decent Lives Community Forum with Crossing Borders and Good Hearted Women Singers, June 2015.

Form more information and to get involved contact us at