Every January, you can almost smell the optimism in the air. Fresh off holiday festivities and some restful days away from work, many of us enter the New Year reimagining the possibilities for our own lives. This month is full of resolutions and hopes for a better future, we’re exhilarated by the thought of a fresh start.
January is Poverty Awareness Month, a fresh start for advocates who work to change how our nation responds to poverty. This is an opportunity to collectively bring awareness to the dire circumstances many Americans face. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 40 million Americans are experiencing poverty in our nation today – which means that WE have a lot of work to do!
During this month, we hope to convince policymakers and the public at large to advance a more humane economic system that allows all Americans to prosper and live lives of dignity. Through our expertise, research, and thought leadership, we produce op-eds, message materials, policy briefs, blog posts, social media campaigns—anything we can think of—to make our case.
And every year, we fall short of our goal. We get ourselves mired in dead-end conversations about who deserves our help and how much help they deserve. ($600 checks anyone?) And in the process, we trigger deep-seated stereotypes—what we call “dominant narratives”— about who is poor, why they are poor, and what they need to do to get themselves out of poverty that make consensus around real solutions impossible.