Thriving Communities


I wanted to let you know of a recent project I have been working on.

The Northwest Area Foundation last month released results of a nationwide survey that reveals an America acutely aware of people’s financial struggles, yet optimistic that the number of people struggling can be reduced. Almost all survey respondents (92 percent) said it would be a good idea to get together with people in their communities to discuss ways to help people who are struggling, the foundation reports.

To help communities do this work, the Northwest Area Foundation worked with Study Circles Resource Center to develop a discussion guide to help communities work on poverty. The result is Thriving Communities: Working together to move from poverty to prosperity for all, a guide that helps people look at poverty in their community and discuss what it looks like, why it exists, and what can and should be done about it. I helped write it.

From the introduction:

People in communities across America want to live in a place where they have the chance to thrive. This is true in all kinds of places: small towns, rural areas, urban neighborhoods, American Indian reservations, and others.

People talk about it in different ways. But when they talk about what holds their community back, one thing that comes up is poverty.

Poverty is everywhere. It may look different in rural places than it does in cities or suburbs. It may look different on a reservation. But there are things about poverty that look the same in all these places.

Poverty may look different to each of us. A single parent may see the cost of housing in terms of how many jobs it takes to pay for a place to live. To a senior who lived through the Great Depression, poverty today may not look all that bad. For people who live on tribal lands, losing their culture and land may be worse than lack of money. People new to the United States may think life here is not as hard as it was back home. For those who live in a community where almost everyone is poor, it is hard to imagine what life without poverty would look like.

This discussion guide will help us talk about the kind of community we want to live in. No community is doing well where there is poverty. If we work on getting rid of poverty, we can have a better community. And, by working on making our community better, we can help reduce poverty. These two important tasks go hand in hand.

Poverty affects us all. Even wealthy parts of the community are touched by poverty. We need to share our vision of what kind of community we want. We need to take action to change things so that we all can thrive.

We worked hard on this discussion guide, testing a draft in 11 communities with over 500 participants, and incorporating their feedback in the final version. I am very excited about it. It’s available as a free download from the Study Circles Resource Center here.

Thank you to SCRC and NWAF for the chance to work on this important issue.