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Financial literacy training brings communities together 

1 August 2019
Author: Wendy Abbott-Serroul
Collaboration literally means co-laboring or working together. It is truly the essence of teamwork when people come together to accomplish a common goal.  At a time when non-profits and social service organization are being impacted by budget cuts and facing increased needs among those they serve, many groups are realizing that they cannot achieve their missions without building new alliances. In the spirit of capacity building and collaboration,
 the Shooniyaa Wa-Biitong Training and Employment Centre came to Prosper Canada looking for support to enhance their financial literacy training abilities. Shooniyaa Wa-Biitong wanted in-person training rather than online training to deliver expanded financial literacy tools to their clients.   
Upon evaluation, Prosper Canada recognized that although we could not directly support them given timing, travel costs and location, we were confident that, our Ontario Financial Empowerment Champion (FEC), Thunder Bay Counselling (TBC) could support Shooniyaa Wa-Biitong to achieve their goals. We were hopeful that they could expand their capacity and provide financial literacy support to even more organizations as they develop and expand their own skill set through use of Prosper Canada tools and resources and TBC’s coaching on how to facilitate workshops. 
TBC embraced the notion of partnership and collaboration firstly, recognizing that becoming an Ontario FEC offered them an opportunity to build on their established debt management services with enhanced financial planning services. Prosper Canada was able to bring the suite of tools under the financial empowerment framework to the table. Being an Ontario FEC has allowed for cross referrals from partners as a result of their increased capacity in the field of financial empowerment, offering full scale financial literacy training for clients via workshops. As well, TBC has appreciated the added credibility an association with Prosper Canada has afforded them. TBC were in the best position to provide their services with Prosper Canada as a partner rather than being solely stand alone. Prosper Canada brings an awareness to the financial support landscape they did not have before. In this capacity, TBC was set up to successfully support Shooniyaa Wa-Biitong.  
With over 25 years of experience, Karen Shalley, a financial counsellor at TBC acknowledges that, “partnerships are key especially as it relates to funding support. Partnerships and collaboration are key to growth for First Nations communities – having someone understand the region, the history and the nature of the community being served is instrumental in moving forward to serve those in need. Offering what one can do and not duplicating other services – presenting to other community service organizations and meeting people and partners where they are at builds trust. It is important to be flexible working within First Nations communities – partners are extremely important.”  
First Nations communities work well with partners when they feel they are respected. They appreciate taking time to consider who they collaborate with. TBC recognizes there is no cookie cutter answer and that every community has different needs, different expected outcomes and expectations of the process. The process is an exchange, both organizations engaging with each other to discuss and share ideas.  
TBC took the time to learn about the participants and the communities so the financial literacy training could best benefit them. It is not just about being able to present the resources available but also understanding the needs and adapting accordingly. There are a range of people and a range of requests. In some cases, in these types of organizations, the roles are not always full time, so it is a matter of how to tailor them to the uniqueness of the client and community need. It has to be collaborative to be successful.  
For all involved, it became clear that TBC's support of Shooniyaa Wa-Biitong worked very well. Karen presented the modules and then took a second day to discuss what and how the tools should be used. TBC was able to adapt the training so that participants were able to contribute to how the session itself should proceed and ensure that everyone had access to the correct information. The materials and presentation resources offered by Prosper Canada enhanced the already wide-range of resources offered by TBC.   
Karen recognized that in all likelihood they might not have had the opportunity to engage with Shooniyaa Wa-Biitong without Prosper Canada. It is important to acknowledge the value of referral partnerships, the accessibility of additional tools and the added layer of credibility that TBC was able to leverage.  
From the perspective of Shooniyaa Wa-Biitong, Glenda Henderson, the Eastern Area Program points out that the engagement piece was critical. “It was a great transition from Prosper Canada to TBC. The communication was clear and the "Managing your money” books were ordered easily. The flow was smooth with both organizations. It was really convenient, the follow up was fast and questions were handled well.”  
Space allowed for group and individual work enabling well-rounded participation. The feedback was positive and very collaborative in terms of what would make the next session even better. The stories people were able to share were also important – there were many flavours in different communities and stories helped bring those needs and views to life. Glenda also noted that it is vital to set expectations, especially as it related to the financial literacy world.  Knowing the audience was instrumental.  
TBC listened to Shooniyaa Wa-Biitong’s needs, especially in that they wanted to touch on all modules included in the Prosper Canada’s training. TBC was very accommodating and brought extra resources, which was very helpful.  Being able to have access to the credit report and Equifax information handouts was useful along with the financial health checklist (and introduction to financial literacy). These types of documents were especially helpful as a door opener to get the ball rolling with the participants. Other resources such as the Dealing with Debt and Managing your money samples were a great resource. Karen was able to share a power point presentation as a resource, which was clear and easy to follow.   
Shooniyaa Wa-Biitong clearly sees the value of this collaboration and partnership; accessing the tool kit and resources, having a face-to-face facilitator support the visual, hands on experience. Most importantly, being able to have discussions in person with frontline workers, and sharing experiences and insights was extremely valuable. The classroom interaction allowed for an experience that they would not have gotten strictly online. The sharing continued through Facebook once the workshop was completed, where friends and colleagues continued to ask questions and share learning.   
Any successful collaboration and partnership between two established organizations must be grounded in relationship building and trust. The collaboration between Shooniyaa Wa-Biitong,TBC and Prosper Canada shows us that there are more purposeful ways to approach and engage in collaborations in which there is shared benefit and improved outcomes for the partners. Efforts such as these will not only benefit in the moment, but also open the door to accelerate more innovative and effective partnerships moving forward.  

Thunder Bay Counselling offers one-on-one financial counselling to help you achieve your future goals. Their trusted and professional counsellors take the time to understand your personal situation and recommend supports that will improve your finances for the long-term.  
They have helped hundreds of clients, including seniors, newcomers and people on low incomes, to set spending plans and work towards a better financial future.  
Thunder Bay Counselling is an Ontario Financial Empowerment Champion working in partnership with Lakehead Social Planning Council. 
Shooniyaa Wa-Biitong Training and Employment Centre  acts as the mandated training and employment delivery agency for the Treaty #3 Area providing education and training skills for individuals who are unemployed. They also provide training in upgrading existing skills for employed individuals and new skills training for individuals in low paying jobs and seeking opportunities for advancement.  


Wendy Abbott-Serroul is the Senior Marketing and Communications Officer at Prosper Canada. She works closely with the entire organization to identify communications needs and supports the efforts to increase awareness and the profile of Prosper Canada.

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