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.
To confront the huge challenges facing us in America today, we simply must do better.
This year, we must reclaim the conversation about poverty and reimagine how we get to justice. And it starts by repeating early and often that WE as a nation created poverty by failing to invest in the power and capacity of our people. To reverse the effects of poverty, and fully empower our people and the communities in which we live, WE as a nation must invest in shared prosperity through EVERY policy decision WE make.
Throughout January, @TheCaseMade will be highlighting examples from our partners who are reimagining how justice wins. They are pivoting from harmful dominant narratives on poverty that blame people for their circumstances, to making a strong affirmative case for what shared prosperity looks like. Follow along on at: www.TheCaseMade.com.
Instead of This:
Here’s a better example from the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute.
Why This Report Works:
It centers on people: ALL Georgians benefit from a different look at how prosperity is won.
It has a strong We/Why: It reminds Georgians of what matters most and what advantages are to be gained for all of us when we tackle the tough issues that contribute to poverty.
It makes systems and equity visible: There is a focus on what systems need to change and how those changes would benefit everyone.
Data supports solutions, not problems: Data and facts presented in the full report are all positively framed and highlight the benefit to all Georgians.
Follow Tafia Butler's work at Georgia Budget & Policy Institute