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Building the Will to End Poverty in the Bay Area

Building the Will to End Poverty in the Bay Area

By Dr. Tiffany Manuel, in conversation with Sam Cobbs, CEO of Tipping Point Community

Those of us who love the Bay know that caring for each other is how this community stays strong: by nurturing big ideas, protecting our cultural richness, and being smart stewards of the natural beauty that nourishes our bodies and minds. With the cost of living in the region putting people from all walks of life — including young children, college grads, and retirees — in dire need every day, the very resilience that has kept us strong is disappearing before our eyes.

Unless we act now to rebuild and reimagine how we lift our neighbors up when they are in need, we’ll lose the future for our kids and generations of Bay Area residents to come.

‘Made by the Bay’

Tipping Point Community, a nonprofit that fights poverty in the Bay Area, knows everyone in our region has a stake in ensuring it continues to thrive, and that we must work collaboratively, over the long haul, to build more just, equitable systems that support all our neighbors. Along the way, wherever we live, we need to gather many new champions who connect to our vision and are committed to the work ahead.

Tipping Point’s Made by the Bay campaign, launched late last year, was one step toward rebuilding pride for the region and unleashing a rallying cry for Bay Area community members to stand up for the place they call home. The campaign revealed a deep thirst for an optimistic vision of the future. Media stations amplified the message, donors doubled down, and civic leaders asked how they could step up support. The response showed that when given an opportunity to come together, people responded with enthusiasm. From Pride and Hope to Action Now, the Bay Area has the opportunity to build on Made by the Bay’s success and build the will to end poverty for everyone who lives there.

Over the last year, Tipping Point partnered with TheCaseMade to conduct deep research into the ways Bay Area residents think about poverty and how to best build broad public support for the solutions that end it. We share those findings with you as we continue to do our own thinking about how to put them into practice. We know there’s not a moment to waste.

Finding #1: Keep connecting Bay Area residents to what they value about the Bay: its resilience and ability to reinvent itself.

Our research found that Bay Area residents were deeply proud of the region’s resilience, and reminding them of that quality motivated them to want to fight for the area’s future. Hopelessness and resignation because of rising costs of living are powerful drags on people’s motivation in the Bay Area right now. In order to counter these feelings, we must take every opportunity to remind people of how resilient the community and its members are now — and have been over its history.

Finding #2: Prove the solution, not the problem, by anchoring the case in positive rather than negative data.

TheCaseMade’s research across the country has shown time and time again that using negative and crisis-oriented data only demoralizes and pushes away the people we are hoping to attract to our long-term solutions. This latest research shows that is true in the Bay Area as well. To convince people to join us, data must lift up and support the benefits of our solutions.

Finding #3: Tell a bigger story and call more Bay Area residents into the conversation by diversifying the faces of poverty.

Bay Area residents who participated in our research didn’t see poverty as a thing to be fixed (though we know it can be), and they didn’t see how they would benefit from efforts to fix it. To broaden the support for solutions to poverty, we need to tell a bigger story about how an unchecked cost of living is unsustainable for everyone in the Bay Area and has already put people from all walks of life — from children to seniors, from mail carriers to college professors — in precarious situations.

Finding #4: Replace the dominant narrative that poverty is a personal failure with the narrative that poverty is due to episodic periods of vulnerability we all experience.

Residents of the Bay Area hold beliefs about poverty similar to those of people in other regions: that it is a permanent condition caused by some combination of individual people’s bad luck and bad choices. We must move people away from these old mental models about poverty and toward the truth: On our journey through life, we all face episodes of hardship during times of transition, such as the birth of a child, divorce or loss of a spouse, job loss, or retirement. And our systems like healthcare, transportation, childcare, and income, employment, and food assistance, need to be ready and robust enough to lift us safely to the other side.

As we begin to use this research to build the will for shared prosperity in the Bay Area, we’d love to hear from you, wherever you are in the country.

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