The Pivot: Action Research For Housing Justice

Taking a Rights-Based Participatory Approach to Community-Based Action Research to address Adequate Housing

Why we need to Pivot now

The right to adequate housing is a fundamental human right, yet in Edmonton, many live in housing that does not meet their needs and some have no housing at all:

  • At least 2681 people are experiencing homelessness – 58% of which identify as Indigenous
    (as of Sept. 17 2021)
  • Only 15% of rental stock is affordable to households earning less than 36K/year.
  • A minimum wage worker needs to work 228 hours/month – or 57 hours/week – to afford an average 1-bedroom apartment.
  • Individuals on social assistance cannot make rent payments without cutting spending on household essentials like food, transportation and clothing.

These indicators show that while an essential human right, through commodification and financialization, housing has also been a key factor of increasing inequity. “Housing systems have intensified social, economic, political and spatial inequalities (UN 2019, p3).”

To address this paradox and effectively realize the right to housing, we have to pivot by “changing the way housing is currently conceived, valued, produced and regulated (UN 2019, p3).”

What is the Pivot?

Inspired by our Access to Housing Choice Series and informed by the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing and the Shift, the Pivot takes a different approach to researching adequate housing.

The Pivot is grounded in community-based action research and takes a rights-based participatory approach. This framework centres the expertise of First Voice Advocates and individuals with Lived Experience.

Note: First Voice Advocates & persons with Lived Experience are community members with first-hand experience of housing inadequacy, housing insecurity, housing discrimination, houselessness, displacement and systemic housing exclusion.

The Pivot is a 7-step process we are piloting, designed to support the shift from “…the way housing is currently conceived, valued, produced and regulated (UN 2019, p3)” to a rights-based participatory approach.

One of our aims is to amplify and build on the rights-based capacity that has already exists in Edmonton. We see this process as another option for creating connections to move some of that work forward and take up some of the calls to action (i.e. Radical Inclusion).

Join Us for the 5 Week Hike

We are about to embark on the 3rd step of the Pivot process (virtual/online): our 5-Week Hike.

The purpose of the 5-Week Hike is to build on the work of the Pivot so far*:

  • continuing the identification of some of the systemic housing issues in Edmonton as they relate to the right to adequate housing
  • developing a list of actions that could address these issues (that will be publicly shared)
  • work together to strategize on what actions we can collectively see through–and identify next steps for actions that require additional allies, capacity and/or resources

At present, the AHSL has capacity to directly support 2-3 actions through community based action research projects.
– the decision of which 2-3 actions chosen (and fitting this research approach) will be led by participants in the hikes.
– those interested and able to continue with the Pivot past the 5-Week Hikes will be able to continue in January 2021 and will co-create community-based research teams around these 2-3 actions.

*Note: If you were unable to attend one or both of our previous events,
we recommend you review the participant guides;
Orientation Guide / Virtual Gathering Guide

As well, we have a recording of our Orientation available here and recommend you follow along with the guide (the recording for the Virtual Gathering will be available shortly).

How Will the 5-Week Hike Work?

Starting on November 15, each week the AHSL will ask participants to answer 1 – 2 questions, either online, as part of a Zoom drop-in, or phone call (more on this below). The questions are designed to require 15 minutes per week to respond, and we will repeat this process five times. We will share what we hear in a summary every week and each week’s question will be based on the previous week’s input. Your answers will be strictly confidential and the summaries will not contain anyone’s names or identifying information.

What Will Each Week Look Like?

  • Monday: Participants will be emailed the question of the week
  • Thursday: Deadline to answer the question (11:59 pm)
  • Friday afternoon: Participants will receive a summary of everyone’s input
  • Optional*: Tuesdays or Thursdays between 12:00pm – 1:30pm; participants can join one of two weekly drop in zoom sessions for discussion about the question of the week

Those Joining the 5-Week Hikes Can Participate in 3 Ways*:

  1. Online response: a written response to the question of the week through a google form link provided by email
    (if there is a preferred format to google form please let us know
  2. Zoom touchbase: The AHSL team will coordinate a weekly zoom meeting where participants who are interested can come together to have a discussion about the question of the week. If you would prefer your ideas be captured in a zoom drop-in session rather than through the online response options, an AHSL team member will collect your input at the meeting (just let us know. 
  3. Phone call: You can schedule a phone call with a member of the AHSL team to discuss the question of the week. 

*Let us know which format is most preferred when you register, as well as any accessibility requirements based on your selection for full participation.

* As well, keep us updated if you would like to change your preferred format as we move through the 5-Week Hikes.

* If you would like to participate but none of these options are accessible for you, please email

Hike Invite & Registration:

We are seeking 40 – 60 individuals to join us. We are looking for:

  • First Voice Advocates / Individuals with Lived Experience
    • ~ 50% total participants
    • honorariums will be provided in the form of gift cards for $50
  • Individuals and organizational representatives
    • with (technical) expertise of our housing system and housing provision
  • Researchers to support the work of the Pivot

    For more details on invitees, please check out this link

To learn more about the Pivot, please view the recording of our information session held on October 14:

First 3 Steps of the Pivot:

Part 1: Orientation

Thurs. Oct. 21
9am-12pm MST

  • This session will establish the core principles, key concepts and expectations for the rest of the process.
  • As a group we will co-create guidelines for our discussions centering on the concept of brave spaces.
  • Participants will reflect on how their own social positions and power influence and impact equity in accessing housing.

  • Part 2: Virtual Gathering

    Tues. Nov. 2
    9am-12pm MST

    *If you were unable to participate in the Oct. 21 event, please review the participant guide.*

  • This session will provide some background information on the current state of housing inequity rooted in the stories and experiences of First Voice advocates.
  • We will employ a triangle tool to understand how housing is part of a broader system of injustice and identify places for intervention.
  • We will explain and start the 5 week hike process.
  • Part 3:
    5-Week Hikes

    15 mins/week: for 5 weeks starting Nov. 15

    Participants will participate in 5 weekly activities where groups will reflect and refine:

  • (a) an understanding of some of the challenges and circumstances in realizing the right to housing in Edmonton
  • (b) action items/research questions to address those barriers
  • Participants will have the option of a 1-2 hour weekly discussion
  • These sessions will be consecutive and iterative.
  • *If you are interested in participating in the Pivot Process and have any questions, please contact us at