A Workshop on Inequalities Using the Escalators Metaphor

In 2003, a group of persons living in poverty compared society to a landing from which one escalator goes up and another escalator goes down. “Poverty,” they essentially told some parliamentarians, “is like having to go up a down escalator. Instead of trying so hard to help us go up escalators that are going down, just fix the escalators.”

In order to stimulate exchanges around this metaphor, the National Collaborating Centre for Healthy Public Policy (NCCHPP) presents in collaboration with Vivian Labrie a Presentation Kit for the facilitation of a workshop on inequalities using the escalators metaphor. This kit provides the following basic materials: a facilitator's guide found in the next sections of this document detailing the experience acquired relative to the “escalators workshop,” a poster template to be reproduced for use during the workshops, as well as a series of slides to be shown.

The purpose of this facilitator's guide is to share the practical experience in using the escalators metaphor that has been acquired in various contexts and with various groups. It begins by describing the continually evolving nature of this process. Next, some work tools are proposed:

  • A one- to two-hour training session to introduce organizers or facilitators to the metaphor's potential and briefly produce some examples;
  • The concrete details of a workshop conducted at the Journées annuelles de santé publique du Québec (JASP) (Québec's annual public health days) in 2008, which allowed for the sharing and cross-over of knowledge between various actors, including persons living in poverty;
  • The accompanying text for a slide presentation of about five minutes that can serve as the introduction to a group workshop; and
  • A brief description of a few other contexts in which experimentation with the image of escalators—or stairs—took place.
  • For good measure, this “take charge” document ends with an antidogmatic heads-up, recalling both the limits and the potential of the metaphor.

The objectives of this document are essentially very practical. It is to be used as needed. It can be adapted for use in varying contexts, to the issues being addressed, and to the planned scope of an event. The idea is to allow for the exchange of practical knowledge, so that others can also use the fertile concept of social “escalators” to harvest insights which can be applied to their efforts to bring about social transformation that reduces inequalities.

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