It’s not about the money, or is it?

It was a cold day in Calgary. The sun was hidden behind the clouds. The word was on the street, go to this youth project and get $15. Who would get on the train, ride through multiple communities just to get $15?

That question is being asked all over the world these days.

Oxfam, Unicef, The Back Door are all giving small amounts of money to people to consider how to build their lives.

Over 20 years later young people are still getting off the street and many more people are responding to the offer to make changes in their lives.

Oxfam, Unicef, The Back Door are moving ahead in ways that are unpredictable.

Over the last few years the use of contracts and bonuses has traveled to Minnesota. Each of the agencies that have used this process has seen very positive responses by the people participating. One of the interesting results deals with the statistics coming out of the Minnesota work. 43% of the contracts created are about dealing with everyday crisis. 29% of the contracts deal with finding and maintaining safe housing. The contracting has shown how people have become tenacious to continue not only setting their goals but to keep trying.

The use of money in social change has often been contested and the debate will no doubt continue.

For one moment I want to challenge the reader to stop and look at something else. In North America social programming has often failed to be empowering. The Cash Transfer concept has grown like wild fire in countries all over the world. Perhaps those thirty young people in 1988 that dared to experiment with alternatives to their life on the street have something to say to the rest of North America. Cash works.

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