How do you change a statistic? Especially one as entrenched as poverty? One steeped with so much bias and misunderstanding that the will to change it may be one of the biggest hurdles?
I’m inviting you to roll up your sleeves and put your elbows on the digital kitchen table with me. Let’s figure out how we might “Change the Story”.
Join me in a “Scouting Party” to explore communities that are engaged in doing exactly that. We can start in our own communities by asking “what’s working?”. We can bring those things back to our digital kitchen table and work together to find the best ways of sharing that innovation more broadly, and scaling it up.
Do you believe that single mothers on welfare are irresponsible deadbeats who set a bad example for their children because they are too lazy to get out and earn a living?
If so, you just wrote off Joanne Rowling, better known as the creator of Harry Potter. Coming through the death of her mother, domestic abuse, divorce and abject poverty, Jo rose from being on social assistance to become a multimillionaire in less than five years. She’s now a generous philanthropist and one of the most influential women in Britain, with TIME magazine naming her as a runner-up for its 2007 Person of the Year, noting the social, moral, and political inspiration she has given her fans.
During the dark years following her mother’s death and the need to file a restraining order against her first husband, Rowling was diagnosed with clinical depression, and contemplated suicide. Her illness inspired the idea of Dementors, soul-sucking creatures introduced in the third Harry Potter book. Applying for welfare benefits she described her economic status as being “poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless.”
If you believed the assumption I shared at the top of this page, then you also would have written off another of the women that inspired me. Barbara Sher, also divorced, penniless and supporting two children, had to turn to welfare assistance to survive. She went on to write “Wishcraft” ( a book that changed many lives, including my own), now in it’s 30th year of publication. Barbara became another “rags to riches” story. You can draw on her inspiration free of charge, as she placed the book online.
There are lots of reasons that people require social assistance, and why so many of them are women who become “welfare dependent”. In testing your assumptions, it might be helpful to consider the following:
“The term ‘welfare dependency’ is itself controversial, often carrying derogatory connotations that the recipient is unwilling to work. Historian Michael B. Katz discussed the discourses surrounding poverty in his 1989 book The Undeserving Poor, where he elaborated upon the distinctions Americans make between so-called ‘deserving’ recipients of aid, such as widows, and ‘undeserving’ ones, like single mothers, with the distinction being that the former have fallen upon hard times through no fault of their own whereas the latter are seen as having chosen to live off the public purse. Drawing this dichotomy diverts attention from the structural factors that cause and entrench poverty, such as economic change. Instead of focusing on how to tackle the root causes of poverty, people focus on attacking the supposed poor character of the recipient.”
This is at the heart of what our Scouting Party sets out to explore. When asking “what works?” we must first understand who we are serving. Here’s where we start:
“Lone mothers are usually at the highest risk for extreme poverty because their income is insufficient to rear children. It then lowers their children’s possibilities for good education and nourishment. Low income is a consequence of the social bias women face in trying to obtain formal employment, which in turn deepens the cycle of poverty. As the number of unmarried women increases, the diverse causes affecting their poverty must be examined. Poverty is multidimensional, and therefore economic, demographic, and socio-cultural factors all overlap and contribute to the establishment of poverty. It is a phenomenon with multiple root causes and manifestations.”
Which leads us back to the challenge, and our invitation …
⯈ Join the Scouting Party to Help Break the Cycle.
Change the Story. Change the World.
This spring we’ll be launching our very first digital kitchen tables, and inviting you to put your elbows on there with us!
They will be spaces to connect and collaborate around things that we’re passionate about.
There will also be opportunities to participate in “Scouting Parties“. These will be small teams of people that come together around a particular project to help “change the story”.
What are Scouting Parties?
Scouting Parties are groups of women that come together around an “uplift opportunity”. We’ll be digging in to to find out “what works” when it comes to empowering women in communities around the world, then finding ways to share those things broadly so we can do a whole lot more of that!
How Do They Work?
Scouting parties use a variety of tools to discover, harvest and share ideas, resources and allies. Expeditions might include in-person community meet-ups, and/or using the internet to find and share things from communities far away from our own.
We’ll be inviting you to participate in a handful of Scouting Parties this spring, starting with an exploration of women in poverty, and how communities are changing the story. [more here…]
We’ll also be creating and sharing simple courses to help you organize and/or participate in scouting parties around the things YOU’RE passionate about. [more here …]