"ATD Fourth World constantly strives to develop the potential of people experiencing long-term poverty and enable them to participate fully in the life of their community and society at large. Over the years, we have run various projects that have supported people to get involved, have their voices heard and have a say in the decisions that affect them.
The Voices for a Change project, for example, promoted participation by means of training people with experience of poverty to conduct peer research about what support was needed to move out of poverty in London. One of the recommendations coming out of the research in 2008 was to “... promote opportunities for the participation of people living in poverty to influence policy and practice”.
Unfortunately, these opportunities are still too few and far between, which led us to act on this recommendation ourselves by developing the Giving Poverty a Voice project that was officially launched on 25 September.
The project is open to various London-based organisations, including ATD Fourth World, and the aim is to gradually build a network of grassroots participants with experience of poverty that can act as a recognised stakeholder at in local and regional decision making.
Giving Poverty a Voice will provide people with the training, opportunities and support necessary to understand the broader context linked to the issues that they face in daily life. We want to encourage participants to speak out about their experiences of poverty and inequality so that better decisions are made for them, their families and local communities.
Our experience of working alongside people in their struggle to overcome the barriers that poverty can cause has made us aware of the tools people need in order to feel confident in speaking out. As one participant pointed out, “It’s all about understanding things that otherwise go over your head.”
One aspect of the project will be capacity-building workshops, which will enable people to gain confidence in a range of skills, such as public speaking, and help participants understand how being a confident communicator can help make one's voice heard.
The project will also invite expert speakers to meetings to share their understanding of the issues as well as the processes and structures of local and regional decision making. As a result, participants will be better informed, more confident and more able to take their voice to the right platforms.
Over the summer, ATD Fourth World worked hard to talk to as many people as possible to get a better understanding of the issues that people are interested in exploring or challenging. Common themes arising from these discussions included rights and responsibilities, family life, public attitudes and housing. It is these topics, and others besides, which Giving Poverty a Voice will tackle over the next three years and it is the participants who will choose their own priority issues.
For more information on the Giving Poverty a Voice project, contact email@example.com