Brock poverty research project heads into final year

A research team spanning multiple Brock University faculties and departments is entering the third and final year of its evaluation of poverty reduction work in Niagara.

Brock partnered with the Niagara Region to examine the Niagara Prosperity Initiative (NPI) and its impact on neighbourhoods across the region. The NPI provides up to $1.5 million annually to support poverty reduction and prevention activities. Since its inception in 2008, it has funded 386 projects delivered by 85 local agencies to help more than 110,000 individuals and families experiencing poverty.

“The research project, in partnership with Brock University, will help the Niagara Region develop an updated report outlining the state of poverty in Niagara, an analysis on the impacts and outcomes, and offer recommendations on best practices moving forward,” said Lori Watson, Director, Social Assistance and Employment Opportunities, Niagara Region.

The three-year research project was funded by a nearly $500,000 grant from the Government of Ontario’s Local Poverty Reduction Fund (LPRF) and will culminate in a final report to be released in 2021.

Brock’s transdisciplinary research team is led by Anteneh Ayanso (Business, Information Systems), Michael Busseri (Psychology), Antony Wai Ho Chum (Community Health Sciences), Darlene Ciuffetelli Parker (Teacher Education), Joyce Engel (Nursing), Tiffany Gallagher (Teacher Education), Kevin Gosine (Sociology), Princely Ifinedo (Business, Information Systems), Felice Martinello (Economics), Dawn Prentice (Nursing) Mary-Beth Raddon (Sociology), Dennis Soron (Sociology) and Zachary Spicer (Political Science).

The team brings together years of experience in the methods and ethics of community program evaluation and shared commitments to contributing to social justice in Niagara, along with the goal of creating employment and mentorship opportunities for Brock graduate and undergraduate students.

In 2019, the NPI evaluation team:

  • Interviewed NPI-funded project leads with a focus on the impact of NPI funding
  • Consulted experience advisors
  • Gathered statistical analysis of local and organizational data
  • Interviewed 50 NPI-funded project leads
  • Measured the impact of receiving assistance on service user life satisfaction
  • Surveyed a representative sample of Niagara residents affected by poverty
  • Evaluated NPI-funded literacy projects
  • Developed inclusive photo-reporting practices
  • Assessed service user feedback mechanisms
  • Reviewed the NPI request for proposal and review process
  • Interviewed administrators of other regional poverty reduction programs

In 2020, the NPI evaluation team will:

  • Consult other major local funders
  • Administer an agency capacity survey
  • Examine the effects of poverty on health and educational outcomes
  • Facilitate service provider focus groups
  • Develop Niagara region poverty reduction strategy
  • Community consultation sessions
  • Write final report

The NPI evaluation team has been assisted by a number of individuals and departments, such as Brock’s Social Justice Research Institute, which provided pivotal support to the research team by initiating the partnership and facilitating the grant application process.

Members of the Community Advisory Team, including Catherine Livingston, Diane Corkum, Jackie VanLankveld and Jane LaVacca, reviewed and provided valuable feedback on the project plan. Members of the Niagara Poverty Reduction Network assisted with the development of research questions and instruments, while fourth-year Sociology students conducted 50 interviews with NPI-funded project leads.

For more information, visit the NPI Evaluation project website at


This story was written by Christopher Walsh.

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