Recently Martin Johnstone, the secretary of the Poverty Truth Commission, was invited to visit Leeds to discuss the possibility of Leeds doing something similar to the Commission in that city. Andrew Grinnell from Leeds shares his thoughts about how the process could be used there:
"I first heard about the Poverty Truth Commission in a meeting for a charity I used to be a trustee for. Just as we were about to start the meeting a fellow trustee thrust a copy of the commission’s findings into my hand and one quick glance through got me asking 'what if we were to do this in my city of Leeds?' There was something about the approach that caught my imagination. By valuing the opinions of those who were directly facing poverty it enabled them to articulate the issues as they saw them and built dignity as they testified as to how this had impacted their lives. Whilst at the same time it allowed decision makers the opportunity to look at the issues from a different angle, to build relationship with people who were affected by their decisions and to collaborate with them on effective responses to poverty.
From my experiences of Leeds it seemed like an appropriate way of discovering a meaningful response to the wide levels of inequality within the city. I’ve listened to people in my neighbourhood who have many opinions about how things need to change but struggle to know how to make them heard. I’ve listened to council workers and officials who desperately want to increase the positive impacts they are having upon the city but don’t quite know how best to work with local people. I’ve seen how businesses within the city want to bring positive and lasting change not only for the good of their business but also for the cities residents. Our hope in Leeds that as we move from asking ‘what if we did a poverty truth commission’ to ‘what are we discovering about poverty through this challenge’ is that as people from all sectors encounter one another, deep and lasting responses to the poverty we face may be found."
The Poverty Truth Commission will continue to support those in Leeds to take up this piece of work.