Integrated Social Development (ISD) in the Charlevoix region

Behind the picturesque landscapes "between river and mountain" of Quebec's Charlevoix region lies a complex socio-economic reality. Charlevoix has the highest deprivation index in its administrative region of Capitale-Nationale. Data from the Institut de la statistique du Québec show that in 2014 the average disposable income of the two MRCs (municipalité régionale de comté or regional county municipality) in Charlevoix was $23,645 per capita, right at the low-income cutoff, which was $23,647 in 2015.

A few facts

  • Large territory of a little over 6,000 km2
  • Relatively small population of just under 30,000
  • Low population density
  • 2 MRCs (Charlevoix and Charlevoix Est)
  • 13 municipalities
  • A rural and touristic economy combined with precarious, seasonal work and higher unemployment in the winter
  • Average per capita income is borderline low-income: $23,645

Although poverty has affected some municipalities more than others, the most striking development over the years has been the growing gap between the have and have-not zones. This increase in socioeconomic disparity has an impact on the quality of life and well-being of the population, while exacerbating social inequalities in health.

In addition to having the lowest per capita annual incomes in the entire Capitale-Nationale region, the Charlevoix territory is currently dealing with a major demographic challenge. The region's young people are faced with numerous obstacles in the areas of employment, transportation and education. These problems, combined with the difficulty of acquiring property that prevents them from staying or putting down roots in the region, give them no option but to leave-a phenomenon that only fuels the region's already very high aging trend.

A common desire to harmonize efforts in order to improve collective intervention

Starting in 2007, and since 2013 in the entire territory of Charlevoix, the region's actors in social development have recognized the importance of harmonizing their efforts in order to have a powerful impact on complex issues like poverty and social exclusion. They have embarked on a process called an "integrated territorial approach" to avoid duplicating parallel collective initiatives and over-soliciting partners.

Despite the abolition of the Conférence régionale des élus de la Capitale-Nationale in 2015 and budget cuts in the areas of health, education as well as local and regional development, the partners-in the interest of maintaining gains achieved-decided to continue to pursue this innovative initiative and mandated their MRC to find financial partners. It was in this context that the Lucie and André Chagnon Foundation was approached, just as it was beginning to think about updating the framework of its philanthropic support. A dialogue was opened on the possibilities of collaboration.

Today, Integrated Social Development (ISD) has mobilized close to 50 partners from such diversified sectors as municipal, economic, social and health, education, workforce training, youth integration and legal services, as well as community organizations and citizen associations. Together, these partners decided to set up sustainable social projects (called "chantiers" or, literally, "construction sites") to respond to previously identified issues, such as communication, food security, access to transportation, affordable housing, employment, recreation and others.

By improving the environment in which the children and youth of Charlevoix are growing up, all of these chantiers will have a positive impact on their lives and their educational success. Some, however, focus particularly on issues that affect young people:

  • Chantier jeunesse, whose goal is to synchronize stakeholders' efforts in order to have a greater impact on the health and well-being of young people and their families. For example, as part of this project, the participatory action research Collectivités amies des jeunes (CADJ) has provided a platform for the voice and analysis of young people.
  • Chantier politiques familiales, working to update and implement family policies in the 13 municipalities that make up the MRCs of Charlevoix and Charlevoix-Est, focussing particularly on socioeconomic inclusion. Citizen consultations have helped to enhance and prioritize actions in each municipality as they are rolled out progressively.  

Many projects are growing out of this initiative

"For an integrated social development project like this to be credible at the local level, there has to be an ongoing connection with action. There has to be tangible added value for partners right from the outset."

Émilie Dufour,
Coordinator of the Charlevoix Integrated Social Development initiative

The Projet école-communauté, for example, was created to foster student retention and educational success by discouraging risk behaviours (drug abuse, violence, etc.) and helping Charlevoix students to reach their full potential. Its goal is to ensure the availability of a sufficient number of trained personnel, especially among disadvantaged youth, in their living environments, at school or in the streets during the summer. Another example: thanks to a CADJ study to identify the needs of young people living in the region, the mayor's councils for the MRCs of Charlevoix and Charlevoix-Est have made a commitment to setting up a collective, efficient and inclusive regular transportation system by 2018. 

What is the Foundation's role in this collective endeavour?

The Foundation remains convinced that although young people's educational success is a society project, it is also a community project. It is therefore important to take into account specific territorial features and communities' detailed knowledge of their networks, their realities, their capacities and their limits in order to offer young people equal access to resources and improved learning opportunities.

The Foundation consequently intends to adapt to the needs, sense of belonging, leadership and dynamics of the partners that share its commitment to action. These Charlevoix partners have the best knowledge of their territory, and some of their principles reflect the concerns of the Foundation:

  • Remove obstacles that stand in the way of young people's educational success and a fulfilling life path
  • Reduce inequality of opportunities among Charlevoix youth
  • Work together to build a fair and inclusive Charlevoix that stands together to help young people realize their full potential.

In addition to providing financial support, the Foundation also hopes that by showing openness and a willingness to listen it will be able to participate in the process in a spirit of co-construction.

Find out more about Integrated Social Development in Charlevoix (in French)

Thanks to Émilie Dufour, coordinator of the Charlevoix integrated social development initiative, for her generous collaboration in writing this article.

We believe

"We believe" is a short video that uses images to illustrate our constantly renewed desire to prevent poverty for the good of future generations in Quebec.